Edinburgh Stories September 30, 2014

Google Glass trialled in Scottish airport after earlier Virgin Atlantic tests

When you’re trying to assist large numbers of people, all of them in a hurry, having instant access to the information required seems like a good idea – hence the interest in Google Glass being shown by the aviation industry.

Following an earlier trial by Virgin Atlantic at London’s Heathrow airport, customer service staff at Scotland’s Edinburgh airport are now testing the headset, reports Engadget.

Staff will be fed real-time flight information, language translations and information about the local area, allowing them to provide assistance to travellers throughout the airport and not from behind a check-in desk. The airport says it will test Glass until December

While anyone in the US and UK can now buy Glass, the product still has no official launch date. There was, however, a recent clue in revised terms & conditions for Glass suggesting that the headset may be close to launch – and at a lower price than the current $1500.

Image credit: JetBlue

Edinburgh Stories June 3, 2014

Police investigate when someone reported an apparent axe-murder spotted on Google Street View

Police in Edinburgh, Scotland, were called out to investigate when someone using Google Street View thought they’d spotted an axe-murder, reports the Independent. The series of images apparently showed someone being struck with an axe and the assailant walking away from the lifeless body on the ground.

The scene turned out to be a prank by a couple of quick-thinking mechanics who said they had 20 seconds to think of something to do when they spotted the Google car approaching.

“It was in the spur of the moment,” Dan Thompson said. “It seemed like the obvious thing to do so I threw myself on the ground and Gary [Kerr] grabbed a pick-axe handle from the garage.

“We only had about 20 seconds – it was all we could think of.”

The way that Google stitches Street View images together, which often leave visible breaks, added to the illusion, seeming to show a chopped-off hand.

The pair of jokers said that fortunately the two police officers who turned up to check it out saw the funny side.

They were already pretty certain it was a joke because one of their colleagues gets their car serviced here. They thought it was a really good laugh and in five minutes they were gone.

Certainly beats mooning or a couple getting amorous.

Edinburgh Stories June 26, 2012

NYT: X Lab Googlers built a ‘brain’ that identifies cats in YouTube videos

Google X Laboratory scientists have worked on a simulation of the human brain for the last few years, and now they are using it to indentify cats.

According to The New York Times, Google researchers created “one of the largest neural networks for machine learning by connecting 16,000 computer processors, which they turned loose on the Internet to learn on its own.” More specifically, Google turned the “brain” to 10 million images found in YouTube videos about cats:

The neural network taught itself to recognize cats, which is actually no frivolous activity. This week the researchers will present the results of their work at a conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Google scientists and programmers will note that while it is hardly news that the Internet is full of cat videos, the simulation nevertheless surprised them. It performed far better than any previous effort by roughly doubling its accuracy in recognizing objects in a challenging list of 20,000 distinct items.

The research is representative of a new generation of computer science that is exploiting the falling cost of computing and the availability of huge clusters of computers in giant data centers. It is leading to significant advances in areas as diverse as machine vision and perception, speech recognition and language translation.

Google’s brain eventually constructed a digital patchwork of a cat by cropping general features from the millions of images that it identified. The method could eventually prove useful in image search, speech recognition, and language translation. The Googlers maintained caution, however, about whether their research is, as The New York Times put it, “the holy grail of machines that can teach themselves.”

The research project is no longer a part of Google X laboratory, but rather search business and related services.

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