My Grandfather’s Skeleton

Paul Raven @ 22-06-2011

It’s been half a year since I had to stop buying fiction to publish here, and it still nags at me every time I come to check the site for comments or write a new post. I’m very conscious that Futurismic filled a rather unique niche in the sf ecosystem; strictly near-future, almost Mundane science fiction stories still seem pretty rare elsewhere, and I was proud to be giving a place to interesting writers, new or old.

Still, I have hope that a change in my employment patterns over the next six months will allow me enough spare cash to start publishing new stories once again… though I have no idea how I’ll find the time to manage the slush pile alongside everything else I’ll be doing. In the meantime, though, I can at least link out to the sort of thing I migth have published, had I been in a position to do so… things like “My Grandfather’s Skeleton” by Kiyash Monsef, which he emailed me a link to not long ago. It’s simple, poignant and not too long, and I think you should go and read it. Here’s the animated ‘cover art’ for it, and the first few passages:

Grandpa was missing.

Sometime in the night, he’d gotten up, unhooked himself from a variety of instruments and medicated drips, and walked out of the hospital, and no one knew why, and no one knew where he was.

Dad and Mom, after getting the phone call at three in the morning, told me I should just go to school as usual and let them handle it. That morning, while my parents gave a description to a pair of police officers, I rode my bike to school, half expecting to see Grandpa sitting by the side of the road somewhere in a hospital gown.

I kept my phone on all morning, but there was no news. Grandpa Lucas had disappeared, and with his heart already feeble, each passing moment made it more and more likely that we would not see him alive again. It was impossible to pay any attention in class, and at noon I gave up and rode home.

Go finish it. Go on.


You can write your own connective gag for these two links

Paul Raven @ 09-03-2011

Via Hack-A-Day, the oddballs at Backyard Brains demonstrate a prototype technoexoskeletal assembly for the remote control of insect pests on the move. Shorter version: RoboRoach!

RoboRoach

And via Kyle Munkittrick, (software) RoboLawyers:

The most basic linguistic approach uses specific search words to find and sort relevant documents. More advanced programs filter documents through a large web of word and phrase definitions. A user who types “dog” will also find documents that mention “man’s best friend” and even the notion of a “walk.”

The sociological approach adds an inferential layer of analysis, mimicking the deductive powers of a human Sherlock Holmes. Engineers and linguists at Cataphora, an information-sifting company based in Silicon Valley, have their software mine documents for the activities and interactions of people — who did what when, and who talks to whom. The software seeks to visualize chains of events. It identifies discussions that might have taken place across e-mail, instant messages and telephone calls.

Then the computer pounces, so to speak, capturing “digital anomalies” that white-collar criminals often create in trying to hide their activities.

For example, it finds “call me” moments — those incidents when an employee decides to hide a particular action by having a private conversation. This usually involves switching media, perhaps from an e-mail conversation to instant messaging, telephone or even a face-to-face encounter.

I should probably stop being so publicly disparaging about the legal industries, really, lest these expert systems crawl all my online witterings and decide to set me up for a fall…


Bionic legs put wheelchairs on notice

Paul Raven @ 19-07-2010

OK, so the wheelchair won’t be obsolete until the REX system and its inevitable competitors are a great deal cheaper than US$150k, but I feel safe in assuming that won’t take too long in the grand scheme of things. Even so, as a proof of concept for technology that will allow people with paralysis of the legs to walk – actually walk, not just get around some other way – this is some sweet hardware; as a commenter at MetaFilter put it: “Jokes aside, even though the functionality is fairly constrained, the smile on his face says it’s worth it.” I’m inclined to agree.


Cyborg walk-assist legs in action

Paul Raven @ 25-05-2010

Does what it says on the tin; you can find words and pictures of Odelia Lee’s encounter with Honda’s new walk-assist machines (or “cyborg legs”, if you want to be kinda blunt and cyberpulp about it) at Gizmodo, but here’s a short video clip that neatly captures the mix of “man, that looks weird as all hell” and “let me have a go”:


Get your Ripley on with the Power Loader exoskeleton

Paul Raven @ 01-10-2009

Remember me comparing the HAL exoskeleton to the cargo-loader from Aliens? Yeah, well, so this is me eating my words – this thing is the real deal. Ladies and gentlemen, the ActiveLink Power Loader exoskeleton suit:

The so-called “Power Loader” suit — which takes its name from the fictional hydraulic exoskeleton suit appearing in the sci-fi classic “Aliens” (1986) — is built on an aluminum-alloy frame and weighs 230 kilograms (500 lbs). Described as a “dual-arm power amplification robot,” the exoskeleton suit is currently equipped with 18 electromagnetic motors that enable the wearer to lift 100 kilograms (220 lbs) with little effort. In addition, the Power Loader’s simple, intuitive control system employs direct force feedback, allowing the operator to directly feel the movement of the robot while controlling it.

There’ll be a version on the market by 2015, apparently, so start saving your pennies.


Next Page »