Archive for the 'speech recognition' Category

Virtual Navel Gazing.

April 11, 2008

I haven’t updated in a long time.  Mostly it’s been an issue of energy.  I have been putting all of my daily energy into real-life activity.  I have neglected my virtual life.  Even now, I’m lying here, in a hotel room only managing to write this with the magic that is voice-recognition software.

I’m still in playing with new technology.  My solar powered Bluetooth headset is waiting for me at home.  It is my fondest hope that I’ll be able to use that with this voice recognition software so that I can dictate from a distance without a cord.

Perhaps by beginning to write here again I will unleash the energy I need to blog with abandon.  At any rate, it’s a start.

I have been playing with Twitter a lot.  I was on Twitter a year ago, when it first came out.  I got bored with it pretty quickly.  But now there are a lot more people on it and it is genuinely fun.  Plus, I’m using my real life persona with it.  That’s different too.

I created this Internet persona some four or more years ago so I could have some level of anonymity.  However, it’s also a pain.  To the extent that I can use new media and social media in real life, it is far more enjoyable.  That’s another reason why I haven’t been writing much here.  The bang for buck isn’t as great.

Conversely the more I participate in Internet friendships and activity with my real identity, that identity begins to be subsumed into the cloud.  In other words, instead of a schizophrenic Internet life/real-life the two begin to merge.  Someday maybe I’ll abandon Thaed altogether.

It sounds heavy but what it really means is that I spend more time plugged into my laptop.  In fact my laptop becomes my constant waking companion.  I’m liking that a lot.  I dwell less in the basement but spend more time online.  What could be better than that?

Weizenbaum and Artificial Intelligence.

March 15, 2008

In the Wall Street Journal of all places, I read that Joseph Weizenbaum had died. He created the ELIZA computer program that simulates human interaction. While not a sophisticated program, it is always mentioned (and always will be mentioned) in discussions of artificial intelligence and Turing tests. With his simple program, Weizenbaum immortalized himself as an AI pioneer.

Even though artificial intelligence has its critics, it is already ubiquitous. Just today, I called UPS and spoke at length with a computer. It used voice recognition technology quite effectively to identify my package number. Even now, I am writing this with NaturallySpeaking 9.5. This voice recognition program is inherently based on artificial intelligence algorithms.

But artificial intelligence is not voice recognition alone. AI “perceives its environment and takes actions which maximize its chances of success.” Weizenbaum, clearly a gifted man, gave up computer programming and the field of artificial intelligence altogether later in life. In a way, he was better off than two recent leading authorities in the field. However, based on what I’ve read about him and his work, he really felt that humans shouldn’t rely on machines for decision-making. Of course, now, we do that every day. Pilots use AI to fly airplanes. People rely on AI in their cars without even knowing about it. At some point, people will rely on AI to make decisions about their lives. In one’s PDA, one will have a virtual psychiatrist/business planner/personal coach always at one’s fingertips. I suspect that Weizenbaum would not approve of this, but I think it’s better than, say, relying on Astrology for that same advice.

Weizenbaum was particularly put off by the fact that when ELIZA came out, people really took it seriously. Some people really couldn’t distinguish a simple pattern recognizer from a human being. If you have played with ELIZA, you may find this hard to believe. But remember it came out in 1966. No one had much experience with such things back then. No one had much experience with computers at all. This is how far ahead of his time Weizenbaum was.

At the same time, I think his dismay at how stupid people can be was misplaced. Artificial intelligence, in the form of an interactive program designed to pass Turing tests has not progressed much in the last 42 years. That is not to say that artificial intelligence has not progressed much, it has. However people have not built an interactive program designed to mimic humans with much more efficacy than ELIZA does. There have been some recent attempts and perhaps this is now becoming vogue once again.

Instead of worrying about people who can’t distinguish a computer program from a real person, think about how much these people can be helped. Look how many of the videos on YouTube are made by people who cannot see the consequences of their actions. A quick check with one’s personal digital mentor, might prevent the disastrous outcome from the typical “hey y’all watch this” YouTube adventure. Or Weizenbaum, who was clearly smarter than I am, could be right and such AI development could lead to a Terminator-style apocalypse. I suspect, however, no matter the outcome, such AI is inevitable in time.

Building a Quad Core Q6600 machine.

March 1, 2008

Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Quad-Core Processor, 2.40 GHz, 8M L2 Cache, LGA 775
On Thursday I went to Microcenter to buy the external monitor for my damaged laptop. Microcenter was having a sale on Q6600 processors. I could not resist. The thought was that I would use the chip, memory, motherboard power supply and chip fan to build a new video server.

When I got home I realized that the video card from the old video server would not work in the new computer. So I decided to buy a fairly decent video card for the quad core machine to replace my current flagship machine. The goal has always been to have two really fast machines. I have been waiting for the new Penryn chips to come out. I figured though that I could spend a little money now and still have enough money to build an even faster flagship machine later.

Silly boy. I ended up spending way more than I wanted to.

I did however get to spend last night building a new machine. Even a casual reader of this blog knows that I enjoy building computers so yesterday was very special. This is not to say that it was easy. I had hoped to overclock it. I bought a special fan to help keep the chip cool. However, had I had a great deal of difficulty installing the fan. Ultimately I ended up using the stock fan.

While the new machine started on post, after I loaded XP I had many problems. I stayed up until past midnight but I didn’t figure out what was wrong until this morning. I traced it down to a piece of software that was causing the machine to be unstable.

That is why I enjoy building computers. You never know what types of challenges will arise I enjoy the finished product as well. For example I’m using NaturallySpeaking 9 to write this blog. The new machine runs this program faster than any machine I’ve ever used previously. That being said, the overclocked dual dual core machine I built almost two years ago is still comparable to the new machine. It is no longer 4 GHz, but even at 3.2 GHz, it’s not too shabby.

Then again I have not been able to overclock this machine because I had to use the stock cooler. I may try again at a later date to overclock it. However, right now, I don’t have time. I haven’t been playing with the new computer much today as I have been busy working.

I now also have a philosophical quandary. In my home office, I now have two powerful computers. There are two other not so powerful computers (and my daughters two computers). The quandary is this: I don’t need another computer. I realize that my hobby is not about need, it’s about want. However, even I have my limits. As I sit here today, I have no idea what I would do with two quad core machines and an overclocked dual core in addition to all my other computers. Not building another computer solves the budget problem. If I don’t build the new flagship machine I was planning on, then the current spending spree wasn’t for naught.

I could still use a laptop. Maybe I should start saving for that.

Ultra Hal Assistant and Microsoft Speech Recognition.

January 24, 2008

I’ve been messing around with Microsoft Speech Recognition in conjunction with Ultra Hal Assistant.  At some point in time, talking to your computer will be a great way to get things done.  That point is not now.  I have to give the folks who make Ultra Hal some credit for trying something that is essentially impossible.  However, I grew frustrated with the assistant almost immediately.

You can use Microsoft Speech Recognition to enter voice commands in the text box.  It doesn’t work very well.  I’m also playing with Dragon Dictate right now and that is a usable program.  MSR is nowhere near Dragon Dictate in terms of accuracy.

I abandoned the speech recognition part and just typed in the chat box.  I did get it to launch a program, but the rest of it was just inane computer banter.  I think a person would have to be high to get any enjoyment out of this.  In terms of usefulness, it’s far easier to click icons.  This program is a start, but it’s going to have to get a lot better before I’d try to use it again.

Right now, it’s hard for me to imagine that programs like this will be commonplace anytime soon.  Then again, when windows first came out, I thought it was just a gimmick and that the command line was far more useful.