Sunday, October 25, 2009

A standard battery charger will benefit individuals, organizations and society

We discuss the importance of standards whether they are developed by a dominant company, an industry trade association, a professional society, a government or international organization, or they begin as an Internet Request for Comments.

The International Telecommunication Union has released a recommended standard design for chargers for cell phones and other portable devices, and a number of large manufacturers have committed to supporting it in the near future.

This standard takes on added importance with recent innovation in and rapid growth of the market for smart phones and other mobile Internet access devices.

Of course, we are still stuck with a variety of sockets to plug our chargers into:

It's too bad someone did not standardize sockets before nations deployed electrical
networks (click the image to enlarge):

How will this new charger standard effect manufacturers of phones and other portable devices? How will it effect the consumer? How will it effect the environment? Will any individuals or organizations be harmed if this new standard catches on?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Software refinement -- from research to products -- an image processing example

We have discussed the birth of image processing with Ivan Sutherland's Sketchpad program in the 1960s. As we see in this video, Sketchpad could draw, rotate, resize, copy and combine images.

Since Sutherland's research, there has been tremendous improvement in hardware technology and innumerable engineering refinements to image processing software.

Software refinements require research and the development of prototypes before they become product features. Consider, for example, the PatchMatch algorithm developed in collaboration between Princeton University and Adobe Systems. Here we see a paper describing the algorithm and some demonstration videos. The paper was presented and the videos shown at an academic engineering conference.

Successful research like the PatchMatch algorithm is subsequently incorporated into commercial products. Here you see a demonstration of tools that use PatchMatch for image retargeting, completion and reshuffling integrated into Adobe Photoshop. The tools are being demonstrated at a trade show, and it is probably safe to say they will be in the next version of Photoshop.

This is typical of engineering refinements to software. A prototype is developed in a research lab and it later becomes a product.

Researchers typically work on things that are too demanding for the technology of the day. Some of the Princeton videos are shown at 5 times actual speed because it takes time to compute the new images. By the time these features are released in Photoshop, hardware will have improved and they will execute rapidly.

Note that Sutherland's work was a pure university effort, but PatchMatch was a joint effort between a university and a company. Many significant advances have come from industrial research labs. Can you find some interesting prototypes and projects at Microsoft Research?

Microsoft's answer to Google Apps for education

We have seen that universities like Northwestern, Arizona State and Abilene Christian have adopted Google Apps and Mail.

Microsoft's answer to Google is their Live@Edu program, and they have just entered into a long term agreement with the University System of Ohio for "cloud" services.