Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The value of contextual search

Over the last couple of weeks, Google launched a couple of interesting search experiences: one for the Beijing Summer Olympics (what an Olympics!), and one for the upcoming U.S. Elections. Each of these sites has a Custom Search box on the top right corner that promises to make it easier for you to find relevant information fast!

Search for "bolt" on the Olympics search engine, and then on your favorite web search engine. One gives you a big Bolt smile, while the other will likely give you a page with little to do with Usain Bolt. Context!

(Note: try it today, as this behavior will change in the future with web search updates)

Try searching "roe v wade" with the Elections search engine and on your favorite web search engine. The first gives you John McCain and Barack Obama's positions on the issue. The other ... general information. Context!

My point? Context does make a big difference! That's why I'm a big believer in search personalization as well...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bolt, Lewis, Jordan, Armstrong or Phelps?

Who's the greatest athlete of all time?

Notice that even soccer greats like Pele, Maradona and the Ronal-dos and -dinhos are not on my list, so Tiger Woods is surely a long shot, and I'm not considering Kasparov.

Bolt? Remember this - 9.69, 19.30! No fancy suit, or drag-saving pools.

First to hold gold in 100 and 200 meters since Carl Lewis in 1984 (who also won the long jump and relay). He smashed Michael Johnson's 12-year old 200 meters record in style! And he's apparently clean of drugs too (ironic/sad that that's the first thing that comes to mind these days!)

See the full picture? Look at it again - it is in plain sight - see the space between them all - no hundredth's of a second finish here!

Whats' in a name? How long will it last?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Invisibility Cloak? Check!

Now that scientists have invented invisibility, the only thing left to invent is "Energize" technology (first documented in Star Trek), which will make travel instantaneous and (hopefully) painless. At least you won't have to pay the airlines for water!

Scientists at Berkeley and Duke have been messing with creating the technology for Harry Potter's Invisibility Cloak, and they're knocking on the door (tying the final knot?).

This one is interesting - but most applications that I can think up are sorta "negative", i.e., military, espionage, subterfuge, voyeurism, etc. The one positive one I thought up was entertainment, but that's already been covered by magicians!

Can you think of interesting applications that are positive?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Drama and moviemaking at the Olympics?

If you're among the BILLION people who saw the Olympics opening ceremony, you should be resigned to not seeing a grander one in your lifetime. Why?

It is not just about the planning, or the money spent, or the large number of participants. It is about the combination of all these with a couple of ingredients that only a couple of other countries in the world can provide - deep, rich and varied culture and imagery, and a discipline that is almost impossible to reproduce. Take 2008 performers and ask them to practise more than 8 hours a day for 4 months, and you'll see what I mean.

Of course, they're also spiritual enough to ward off rain!

Now couple all this with a little "creativity". Add a touch of moviemaking to the multimedia, and you have a pretty face with the song, and you can blow away the smog. It has now been revealed that the little girl who "sang" at the ceremony was a face for another voice! And the amazing fireworks footprints we saw thudding to the Birds Nest stadium in high definition were actually...er..."previously recorded animated footage".

All in all - give Beijing an A+ for hard work, national pride, impeccable performances and ....creative moviemaking!

They selected director Zhang Yimou for a reason.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The real hero!

If you watched the 4x100 freestyle relay yesterday, featuring Michael Phelps on a historical medal bid, you just saw one of the most unbelievable athletic performances of all time, and it wasn't from Phelps. In fact, Michael should just hand off all credit for this gold to Jason Lezak, who, ironically, has just about been discovered.

With less than 50 meters to go, being 0.59 seconds behind the world record swimmer Alain Bernard, who was himself on a record-setting pace, I actually mentioned to my family that the race was over! Rising from the surface of the water like an acquatic Phoenix, Lezak did the impossible, smashing real and conceptual limits, winning by 8 hundredths of a second, handing more fame to Phelps :-) (you don't see Jason's photo in an article about him). Who is the real hero?

In this race, the worst team shaved more than a second off the pre-Beijing world record!!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Browsing for fun!

Just when you thought that the browser wars had concluded, and that Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari (for Mac and iPhone) had settled into their market share buckets, you hear about some really cool stuff happening in the browser world. (I'm sure there are other browsers like Opera, and custom browsers for mobile devices, but really...)

Check out Pogo from AT&T, built with the help of 3-D visualization technology from Vizible. The Mozilla folks have started putting out cool new concepts for Firefox - Aurora, Bookmarks and the Mobile browse experience.

If you've used PicLens from CoolIris, you'll see some similarities with these efforts - that's probably where it is headed. Now - is there much point trying to create yet another browser today? Maybe there's still room for innovation after all...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Terraforming a new home?

The discovery of water on Mars is exciting, and is probably going to encourage scientists who believe in Terraforming Mars into a human-friendly habitat. What this means is that when all the hills in Silicon Valley are covered with new million-dollar homes, and we run out of space to build more, we can hop on a NASA or Virgin Galactic flight from Moffett field (after our Mars innoculations and injections) for the open-houses in the Victoria Crater or Mariner Valley, Mars, GX 004.

Pause for thought, though, given the very important point that if we can't change the environment on our own little blue planet, how are we going to paint the red planet green?