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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Google, Siri, and Mind Control

Google v Oracle

Sadly it looks like Google has beaten Oracle at the patent game.

There are some interesting comments here on the case.  The jury foreman Greg Thompson said "Some of us had an underlying feeling that Google had done something that wasn't right" and on Google's reliance on a Sun blog about the Google efforts: "We felt like it wasn't a good business practice to rely on a blog."

Quoting from the arstechnica article Thompson "suggest[s] there was a general sense among some jurors that Oracle's intellectual property claims might not be in the public's best interest."

Ultimately all the jurors obviously felt that Google hadn't done anything wrong.

I find the last comment interesting - Oracle's intellectual property claim "might not be in the public's best interest."  I suspect that this was not one of the charges given the jury by the judge - deciding on the public's "best interest."

In any case I predicted that Google would fail and I was wrong.  I doubt Oracle will be able to do much on appeal but you never know.

Siri - Stealing your IP?

I found this link at "Technology Review" about iPhone's Siri.  If you work for IBM and bring you iPhone to work Siri won't come along - IBM's blocked the Siri function.

The reason is that when you ask Siri a question Apple's "EULA" clearly states that arbitrary information from your phone will be sent to Apple North Carolina data center for processing so that Sire might respond correctly.  IBM is rightly concerned that this could include all sorts of their intellectual property (emails, calendars, meeting notes, etc.)

I foresee that in the not-to-distant future Siri will be on the witness stand in court cases because of this - testifying that a spouse was asking where their lover was, for example.  Similarly asking Siri preposterous questions might get you into trouble as well because there is no recorded context.  For example, teenagers joking about killing someone and asking Siri for comments for fun could be turned into something far more serious in court.

Mind Control

There have been a number of recent news articles on researchers building "mind control" devices.

Both stories like this about a iPhone mind controller for games as well as this about wheelchair controls for paraplegics.

For the last few years there have been a number of companies selling various sorts of mind "controllers" for games and general use.  Most appear to work by measuring brain activity: busy thoughts, quiet moments, and so on and don't really resolve down to things like objects or actions, e.g., pick up the block and move it from A to B.

But this limitation is being overcome as well.  This post from last year describes monkeys using mind control to select specific objects and manipulate them.

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