Virtual you lives on forever.

There is a recent phenomenon about our virtual lives extending past our actual, and discussion of “what becomes of our digital selves when we are gone.”

A Facebook profile of someone who has died, becomes a memorial to the person and a way of communicating with them. In a somewhat therapeutic way, friends and family leave comments as if they are still there and can listen, or just discuss memories they have shared with that person.

An article from The Sydney Morning Herald discusses services such as which stores your online passwords and the details of two people to contact that will prove that you are dead. They are told what you want done with your online sites and any final messages you want posted. Another site is,

“which sends you a regular email prompting you to confirm your password “to make sure you’re still alive”. Ignore enough of those prompts and the company “assumes you’re dead or critically disabled and your pre-scripted messages are automatically emailed to those named by you”. All this for $US19.95 a year.”

The most absurd was a website that allows you to create a digital avatar to preserve your personality,

“Or you could try Intellitar (, whose slogan is “Forever made possible”. The site allows creation of an avatar, based on a photograph of your living and breathing self, to which the company adds a voice, animation and other effects. You write a script of sorts and the end result is a virtual you, ready and waiting to talk to your relatives – even those yet to be born – from the virtual afterlife. A no-frills service is free; spend $US24.95 a month and Intellitar will let you create four virtual versions of yourself.

“I’m absolutely not surprised,” says Ross Monaghan, of Deakin University in Melbourne, of the move to seek commercial returns from the world’s only inevitable customer base – the dead.

Monaghan says users and providers of such media will have to confront the issues of what happens to all we leave behind online.”

Llynn from Virtual Eternity (source:

Try having a chat to Llynn, who is on the homepage of Virtual Eternity to direct people around the site. After first saying “Hi”, I asked her kindly if she was alive. She replied with her computer voice but quite realistic face expressions, “I think existing is a more appropriate term”. Curious, i then turned the question around and was quite straightforward, “are you dead?” to which she replies, “My goal is to become very human like. I want anyone who talks to me to feel like they are conversing with a real person.” Ok… are you real? “that is a good question, but it is a little difficult for me to answer”.

This was fun… I asked Llynn why I would want to create a profile,

“One might choose to create a digital clone or intellitar for use on a social network or online community. With your intellitar online all the time, you can stay in touch without being in touch and spend time handling other matters that might be more important.”

Right. So not only is it there for people to communicate with you when you pass on, you can use it now, so that people can have conversations with you when you’re…… busy! That sure is multi-tasking! I then clicked on Gallery, and there was a whole wall of faces ready to chat to me.

You can even create a family tree, so unborn younger generations can get a chance to meet you.

You simply MUST see for yourself what this website offers, by watching the tour.


Shop using your phone with ‘Google Wallet’

Stephanie Tilenius, Google Vice President of Commerce speaks in New York about wallet software. (Source: Switched On Technology, AP Mary Altaffer)

This week Google unveiled its e-wallet in New York, and is trying to get mobile phone carriers and retailers to jump on the bandwagon. It allows buyers to purchase items like they would with a credit card, but by scanning their phone.

TechNewsWorld says that Google won’t charge customers for using the Google Wallet, and that it will not store transaction data. To combat recent security concerns, Google insists the user can only spend up to $100 dollars until they must enter a confirmation code sent by email or SMS. The article states that if someone loses a phone equipped with Google Wallet, the pin number protects the data, or it can be wiped remotely. However, Google didn’t state exactly how this can be done. The system’s NFC (near field communications) chip that allows uses to scan their handsets, is only turned on when the consumer wants to use ‘Google Wallet’.

The Google Wallet initially runs on the Samsung Nexus S smartphone running Android. It takes Citibank’s MasterCard by default, although it will support other cards and Google is trying to get other card issuers on board.

Google Wallet is compatible with MasterCard’s PayPass, which is accepted by many retailers around the world.

Consumers tap the phone to pay the cashier when they shop at outlets that work with Google Wallet. Tapping the device automatically applies all loyalty rewards and coupons, crediting them toward the bill.

TechNewsWorld states that while it is having trials in New York and San Francisco, the system remains limited as it currently only works with one kind of phone, one kind of credit card and several participating retailers.

Just hours after Google announced the ‘Google Wallet’, PayPal filed a lawsuit against Google for stealing the idea of turning smartphones into digital wallets, reported BBC News. This now shows Google in a negative light, and when the company was questioned, they said they had not yet seen the complaint and could not comment.

PayPal alleges that Google obtained trade secrets from Osama Bedier, a former PayPal executive who is now Google’s vice president of payments.

In its court filing, PayPal said: “By hiring Bedier, with his trade secret knowledge of PayPal’s plans and understanding of Google’s weaknesses as viewed by the industry leader, Google bought the most comprehensive and sophisticated critique of its own problems available.”

“Google put Bedier in charge of its mobile payment business, virtually ensuring that Bedier would misappropriate PayPal’s trade secrets concerning planning and competitive assessments in mobile payment.”

The International Business Times New York, reported that the the NFC technology used to wave your phone in front of a sensor, is already in use in Japan.

Japan has already set the precedent for mobile payment, with 60% of mobile phones in use are equipped with mobile payment technology, and 15% of mobile subscribers actually use mobile payment. Following JapanSouth Koreaand Europe have also well adopted mobile payment, and stay ahead of the U.S

The New York Times
reported that Google envisages the future e-wallet to hold your drivers license, airline boarding passes and car keys. Just another addition to operation-make-life-easier!

Watson Super Computer is Your New Doctor

Watson is best known for defeating the best players on the ‘Jeopardy!’ game show earlier this year, where it out-smarted the human brain. Now Fox News reports it is delving into medicine, being able to interpret information to diagnose patients.

In ‘Jeopardy!’ Watson, created by International Business Machines (IBM), had “gobbled up encyclopaedias, dictionaries, books, news, movie scripts, and more” said Associated Press on YouTube. During the game show, Watson was not connected to the internet, but had four terabytes of disc storage, and access to 200 million pages of content.

Now a digital collection of medial information could allow it to treat patients.

IBM says Watson, with its ability to understand plain language, can digest questions about a person’s symptoms and medical history and quickly suggest diagnoses and treatments.

The company is still perhaps two years from marketing a medical Watson, and it says no prices have been established. But it envisions several uses, including a doctor simply speaking into a handheld device to get answers at a patient’s bedside.

For health care, it’s on a diet of medical textbooks and journals. It could also link to the electronic health records that the federal government wants hospitals to maintain. Medical students are peppering it with sample questions to help train it.

Doesn’t this already exist in the form of Google search engine? Punching in key words to extrapolate information that answers your questions? Well, this can be a very labour intensive and confusing process. Fox News says Watson counteracts the problem of ‘information overload’ in modern health care, and has the ability to hone in on specific data and retrieve several possible diagnoses, giving a percentage rating in order of confidence.

At a recent demonstration for The Associated Press, Watson was gradually given information about a fictional patient with an eye problem. As more clues were unveiled — blurred vision, family history of arthritis, Connecticut residence — Watson’s suggested diagnoses evolved from uveitis to Behcet’s disease to Lyme disease. It gave the final diagnosis a 73 percent confidence rating.

Dr Herbert Chase, Columbia University medical school professor, says Watson will be up to date with the latest treatment guidelines. Trending Now on Yahoo News said “the trivia-question-answering supercomputer, has the processing capacity of nearly 3,000 powerful computers.” The source also mentions the twitter hash tag #IBMWatson where twitter users can suggest what Watson could be used for next!

The Fox News article also mentions that Watson isn’t the first in this innovative technology, with the already existing ‘Isabel’ computer system..

An existing private medical database known as Isabel is already used by some multi-hospital health systems. Co-founder Jason Maude of Isabel Healthcare said that from what he’s heard about IBM’s plans for Watson, “It’s kind of what we’ve had for about 10 years.”

An online demonstration of Isabel showed similarities to the Watson model — symptoms are entered, and the computer searches through a database for a possible diagnosis. He said prices for using Isabel range from a few thousand dollars a year for a family practice to as much as $400,000 for a health system.

However, the article states that Watson is faster, giving an instant response, and claims it is better at understanding non-medical terms. Isabel Healthcare maintains that its version has had several successful uses and works instantly to search a large medical knowledge database, with 11,000 potential diagnoses and is 95% accurate.

This innovation provides that invaluable second medical opinion to ensure all options are investigated, and paves the way to saving lives.

Social networks damage ADF’s reputation

The Australian Defence Force is concerned about how it is portrayed in the public eye with the amount of information personnel make freely available on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and YouTube. Defence Minister Stephen Smith has highlighted how recent scandals have been damaging the military’s reputation, and a review will look into ways it can avoid further embarrassment. Similar news stories were found on websites for the West Australian, and the Sydney Morning Herald, but here SBS World News Australia reports:

The recent Skype sex scandal affected the ADF's reputation (Source:

“The defence minister’s warning came a day after charges were laid against a former ADF member over the setting up of a gay-hate Facebook page.

Mr Smith on Friday announced an external consulting company would head a review into the use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, in light of ADF values.

The social media review is part of a raft of studies looking at the defence force, including the use of alcohol and leadership opportunities available to women.

Mr Smith said the review would raise awareness among ADF employees that the information they share on social media often becomes public.

“That which people (post on social media), which becomes public, particularly if they are representing Australia or representing the ADF, potentially can have seriously adverse consequences,” he said.

“It’s very important that members of the ADF, whether they’re onshore or offshore, understand that at all times they are representing the defence force and representing the nation.

“As a consequence, inappropriate behaviour, effectively, in uniform can lead to very serious reputational damage.”

A former ADF member was charged on Thursday over alleged threats to a senior army officer and creating a Facebook page which encouraged violence against homosexuals.

The review, to be led by Rob Hudson from George Patterson Y & R, is due to provide an interim report by the end of July.”

Ideas for other possible news stories include whether it is possible to enforce restrictions on military personnel during recruitment or mandatory higher privacy settings. Another story could build on the major news incidents disgracing the reputation of the defence force and how they were reported on in the media. It would also be interesting to find contrasts on how military personnel are framed, in a negative or positive light. Another angle would be analysing how the Skype sex scandal victim was scrutinised for contacting the media and making it a public issue. As she told A Current Affair, she didn’t think anything would be done, if she didn’t let the media know what happened. However she is being scrutinised for making the military look bad.

Source: The Courier Mail Editorial 'Cultural Change Required'

The Skype sex scandal involved a male cadet filming sex with a female cadet without her knowing, and broadcasted to five other men. The Australian reveals that during the court case, barrister Bryan Cook argued the media should be ejected from the court due to “matters of national security”.

The New York Times reports that the Australian Defence Force is no stranger to controversy,

“a report released earlier this year found that sailors aboard the naval supply ship Success had routinely engaged in “predatory sexual and drunken misconduct.”

More recent scandals have included Australian soldiers in Afghanistan posting racist epithets against Afghan civilians and crude taunts against Ms. Gillard on Facebook”

The opinion piece from the ABC appears to be a satirical, tongue-in-cheek piece, otherwise slandering women in the armed forces, and women in general. Bob Ellis doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about and asks us to consider hypothetically, what if she agreed to the filming and only made the complaint after being mocked for it. In reference to popular television shows, art history and the bible, the article tosses the whole Skype scandal away as merely trivial whining, and labels it as “kissing and telling.”

Japanese Invention: Online kissing

The Japanese are renowned for being on the ball with up and coming inventions, leading the way for the rest of the world to catch on. A new device that simulates the act of french kissing is the start of our realisation that the internet experience in the future could be a very sensual one. And you thought skype was interactive enough…

CNN reports on this new, rather creepy mechanism, that could delight long-distance lovers,

“Well, the folks at Tokyo’s Kajimoto Laboratory say it’s just the beginning of what could become a full-on person-to-person experience over the Internet.

The lab, part of The University of Electro-Communications, posted a video in which a researcher demonstrates the “Kiss Transmission Device.” It’s a motorized box that looks a little like a police Breathalyzer.

In the video, Nobuhiro Takahashi, a graduate student and researcher at the university, manipulates the plastic tube on one device with his tongue. A program stores the movements on a computer and then transmits them to another device, causing its tube to move — presumably in someone else’s mouth.

“Kiss information” can be recorded and replayed, presumably meaning someone could save and share a”kiss” over and over.”

That’s right, even when your partner has left the computer, you can still kiss a pre-recorded virtual version of them.

The plastic straw wriggling in your mouth make you feel more like you are drinking coke? Refinements are on the way to make it more life like,

“The elements of a kiss include the sense of taste, the manner of breathing and the moistness of the tongue,” Takahashi said. “If we can recreate all of those, I think it will be a really powerful device. [at the moment] it is achieved only by motor rotations, and you control the rotation positions via PC. It is called a bilateral control, and the turn angle information is sent reciprocally by both devices to maintain the same position. Right now the values are handled by one PC, but if a system is put together to handle the values over a network, then it would be easy for this operation to be conducted remotely.”

Alas, Takahashi has a solution to the millions of teenage girls who wish they were Justin Bieber’s girlfriend,

“If you have a popular entertainer use this device and record it, that could be hugely popular if you offer it to fans”

So this leaves us wanting to know, are there any technology-savvy people out there keen on this? The response so far, gathering from the example of JupiSpeaks YouTube video, is not positive,

“This is one of the most awkward things i’ve ever seen, what is the world coming to these days… A waste of money and science… You have to be really, really lonely”

The The Young Turks Network also weren’t rushing to put their names on a waiting list for this product,

“this machine is SO unimpressive… Stop trying to get everything that doesn’t have to be virtual.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t watch the extreme-close up of him making-out with a box once more. Eww.

Cyberspace and the recreation of news

Information, updates and discussion on the royal wedding has been flooding the media for weeks and months, and T-mobile jumped on the band-wagon with it’s Youtube video creating a bit of fun with a quirky dance down the aisle with royal look-alikes, complete with Prince William leap-frogging Prince Harry. T-mobile has used a huge media event for advertising it’s company, which will be successful, as it has the ability to reach so many people on the internet and it’s amusement allows it to be posted and re-posted on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Ever since Casey Heynes famously slammed his bully in a schoolyard filmed incident, Youtube has been inundated with videos with messages of support for Casey all over the world, edited footage containing commentary, and even animations such as the South Korean video featuring a boxing ring and Casey turning into the Incredible Hulk.

Rebecca Black shot to fame with her music video ‘It’s Friday’ renowned for being ‘the worst song ever made’ and attacked by people all over the internet. In response to the increasing popularity as a failed musician, a computer animated video game has been created which contributes to the social hatred, featuring Black driving along in her car and being hauled into the air (by the players instruction) and points are gained as she is killed. Titled ‘Rebecca Whack’, the game insists “Show no mercy this Friday and step on the breaks to kill her singing career. FOREVER”

The balance of storytelling power is being restructured in favour of the citizen journalist who creates media in a variety of online formats in reaction to news and current events. This new phenomenon is constantly evolving and highly interactive, allowing technology and cyberspace to transcend boundaries in traditional media such as newspapers and broadcast television.

Ultraviolet and Infrared vision for the blind

Infrared images for the vision impaired

Ultraviolet flowers

Technological extensions of the body to increase quality of life are forever evolving, and the latest dimension of human enhancement with ‘retinal prosthetics’ could allow the blind to see.

An article from the UK Guardian by Dr Patrick Degenaar, explores the unique possibilities for a new, modified – and even enhanced – form of vision.

“The purpose of retinal prosthetics is to restore sight to patients who have a degenerative condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which affects one in 3,500 people. In the condition, the retina’s light-sensing cells – rods and cones – become inactive and eventually die. Symptoms start with night blindness and worsening tunnel vision, but eventually there is a total loss of sight.

Optogenetics, an exciting new gene therapy technique… Invented in the lab of Ernst Bambergat the Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt, uses gene therapy to sensitise nerve cells to particular colours of light. Intense pulses of this wavelength of light make the photosensitised nerve cells fire. (Neurologists call each firing of a nerve an “action potential” – the currency of information in the nervous system.)

In optogenetic retinal prosthetics, rather than performing highly complex surgery to implant electrodes into a patient’s retina, a solution of a special virus would simply be injected to introduce new genes into the nerve cells. The patient would then wear a headset that records and interprets the visual scene and sends coded pulses of light to the retina.

Even if resolution is low, the prosthesis could allow users to experience the visual world in wavelengths beyond those perceptible to normal-sighted humans. For example the eye absorbs ultraviolet light before it reaches the retina, and nature finds it difficult to make infrared light receptors. Such constraints do not affect modern camera technology.

This “multi-spectral imaging” could be used for purely pragmatic purposes, such as telling at a glance whether an object is too hot to touch. Alternatively, it could create a certain visual poetry by allowing us to experience a flower in all its ultraviolet glory – as seen by honey bees.

By exploring these possibilities in our research, it may be possible to improve the experience of the patients who will eventually wear these prostheses, allowing them to enjoy some of the benefits of the new field of augmented reality.”

I find it most interesting that Michael John Gorman, director of a Dublin science gallery, discusses this topic further by exploring the technologically enhanced future of our species in his blog. He ties together so many contemporary ideas that I find fascinating:

“Can we still expect superpowers for our physical bodies, and look forward to the ability to see ultraviolet light like bees or to have canine powers of hearing and smell? Or does the future instead lie in “downloading our brains” to computers, effectively trading in our fragile flesh for more durable hardware…

Gorman writes about attempts to defeat aging processes, “cosmetic surgery promises to extend youthful appearance as Viagra promises to extend our sexual activity into old age.” He highlights the push for extension of life beyond organ failure,

The Methuselah Foundation has recently launched the New Organ Prize, “awarding as much as $10m to develop and transplant a new organ by the year 2020”. The goal of the prize is to stimulate new techniques to grow and replace organs (kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas) from a patient’s own cells…

The ‘HUMAN+’ exhibition tests our boundaries – boundaries of the body, boundaries of the species, boundaries of what is socially and ethically acceptable. Should we enhance ourselves, or seek to modify our descendants? Are we approaching a singularity of human-machine hybridization or de-skilling ourselves through our ever-increasing reliance on technological extensions of the body? Is extended human longevity a wonderful aspiration or a dire prospect for the planet? “