Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Finding Ada and International Day of the Girl 2012

2012 International Day of the Girl fell on 11 October 2012 while I was in Brussels at a Turing conference, and yesterday was 2012 Finding Ada Day. I'm combining both events to recognise a true heroine of our times, 14-year old Pakistani girl Malala Yousufzai shot in the head, for daring to speak out to be schooled, by a Talebanist who undoubtedly sees educated women as a threat and prefers his women-folk to be subjugated and subservient to men. Unfortunately this sentiment and thinking is not confined to the Taleban.

Image from Upworthy Facebook page

On one trip to Pakistan, Islamabad in January 2000 sitting on the balcony of my sister's apartment in F11 district I could hear (Mosques, on 'every corner' as pubs once were in Britain, appear to have the best hi-fi systems in the world to ensure no-one misses the call to prayer) distinctly, from a number of other Mosque moralisms, one particular Maulvi/Cleric's rantings, and they were rantings, planting at the feet of all women all the problems of the world, drugs, etc., since she decided to leave the kitchen and throw-off her family carer garb. With my younger sister I wondered how the men in the Mosque would treat their female family members once they returned home; would harsh words, or worse be spoken to a daughter wanting to pursue further education?

Pakistan has slipped down the liberal-thinking ladder since 9/11; it is not the same country as it was back in 2000 and I was shocked at the Islamabadian cleric's clear misogyny then. However, Malala Diary of a Pakistani School Girl Yousufzai's shooting in the head was a stab in the heart for all, not just in Pakistan, who demand rights for girls, that they be given the same access to opportunity as boys, regardless of prevalent social and economic thinking.

In the first year of International Day of the Girl Child Malala Yousufzai is my Ada 2012 - her recovery will fuel girl interests in all subjects of study, including science, computing, engineering, maths and physics. Governments of Pakistan-like nations must ensure these girls are availed with the opportunities they deserve as human beings on this planet.

Malala Yousufzai official website:

News reports for Malala Yousufzai:

Amnesty International


Other links:

Finding Ada:

International Day of the Girl:

UN General Assembly Resolution adopting International Day of the Girl Child:

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Games Maker's Thank You to LOCOG for a great London 2012!

Thank you to LOCOG for granting me the privilege to volunteer during London2012, and thank you to everyone appreciating Games Makers, including Eddie Izzard:

Difficult to describe what an incredible experience Games Making at London 2012 has been, from working alongside highly organised, efficient, and importantly, great fun colleagues at the O2 Arena dubbed North Geenwich Arena hosting gymnastics, trampoline and the later stages of the basketball, to watching awesome athletes, and 'washing' in the enthusiasm of the spectators, it was truly memorable. Here are some of my pictures:

Soldiers at the Venue-specific training Sunday 22 July 212

Amazing Technology PRD colleagues at North Greenwich Arena

Gymnastics in North Greenwich Arena

Brave soldiers helping to keep London 2012 safe at North Greenwich Arena/O2
North Greenwich Peninsula's Emirates Cable Car looking like a scene from Thunderbirds!

View of the O2 Arena from Emirates Cable Car

Spectators include Team GB gymnasts at North Greenwich Arena

BT London Live in Hyde Park 

Basketball North Greenwich Arena

Games Maker Dining Room wall display North Greenwich Arena

Skyline leaving Games Making shift, North Greenwich Arena


Tower Bridge during London 2012

Victory Ceremony finals of Men's Basketball: US Gold; Spain Silver & Russia Bronze
Of the many Games Making highlights at the North Greenwich Arena, seeing the formidable Arnold Schwarzenegger (in the Olympic Family Lounge with Boris Johnson), the 'Terminator who fought the Predator' at the Men's basketball final, US vs Spain, was great! [No pictures taken of him, on Games Making duty!]

BT London Live in Trafalgar Square - Paralympics 2012
Agitos - National Gallery

Was lucky enough to get tickets for the Paralympics swimming and athletics; humbled by the Paralympians and what they achieved, inspirational! Also very special were lovely spectators in the Olympic stadium - bumping into them at Tower Bridge a few days later was fluky :)

Swimming - Aquatics, Paralympics 2012

Independent article on greatest Paralympian, Oscar Pistorius

Olympic Stadium
Athletics inside Olympic Stadium for Paralympics

Short video clip of atmosphere in the stadium

After-sports entertainment: Mariachis in the Olympic Park

Lastly, one of my best moments in the Olympic stadium, and one my favourite non-Team GB paralympian athletes, was the blind Chinese Triple Jumper Li Duan who urged us spectating in the stadium to silence before entertaining us with his 'tracksuit strip' prior to his triple jump, he earned a silver medal :) See it on Youtube here:

Read more about Lin Duan's athleticism here.

Facebook pages for Games Makers to keep in touch:

Games Maker event 27 July 2013 Games Makers One Year On

Going to Rio 2016 blog by Games Maker Ian Kershaw:

Addendum: received 'thank you' letter from PM David Cameron for volunteering as a Games Maker at London 2012 :)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Newsnight's Drone_Robot-copter and Privacy Issues

Thursday 30 August 2012 episode of BBC2's Newsnight had Gavin Esler attempting to discuss serious concerns over drone-hovering and information-capture, all without the consent of anyone caught by an offending drone's cameras, with robotics Professor Noel Sharkey and cyberneticist Professor Kevin Warwick.

Gavin Esler interviews Professors Noel Sharkey and Kevin Warwick*
 * picture from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Watch a clip of the discussion on BBC's News Technology site here.

Drone Robot: School of Systems Engineering, UoReading

Articles about the Newsnight programme include:

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism's "More drone than debate: Newsnight loses track of issues at handhere.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

IET: Era of Social Robots

IET Robotics and Mechatronics Network Talk on 'Era of Social Robots'
 - given by Professor Shuzhi Sam Ge
Social Robotics Laboratory 
The National University of Singapore & University of Electronic Science and Technology of China
 21 August 2012, Bristol, UK
Control & Automation channel

Era of Social Robots

Professor Shuzhi Sam Ge

From: Era of Social Robots, 21 August 2012, Bristol, UK
2012-08-21 00:00:00.0 Control & Automation Channel

"About the presentation
Social robots are envisioned to become an integral part of our social fabric as we embrace the coming “silver†society. Across continents, governments have foreseen the needs of an aging population and funded a number of leading groups in universities and research institutes to focus on the research and development of social robots for improving services, healthcare and productivity.
In this talk, I will first present a brief history of social robotics and the state-of-the-art in research and development. Then, I will introduce three social robots developed at the Social Robotics Laboratory of the National University of Singapore, including Carine for interactive edutainment, Adam for hospitality service, and Nancy for human robot collaboration. To appreciate the advanced technologies in making social robots possible, I shall describe the core technological modules, or building blocks, including locomotion, intelligent control, visuoauditory interaction, and artificial skin. Deeper understanding and further advancements in the modules can help us to make social robots become more appealing, more engaging, and ultimately better companions.
As a community, we are working hard to make social robots help our "silver" society more vibrant, connected, and productive. Let me illustrate part of this big picture by presenting a few robots for different issues such as security, mobility, and productivity. Finally, I would like to conclude my presentation by giving a few futuristic scenarios how human and social robots live, work, and enjoy life together happily."
From: The IET Robotics and Mechatronics Network: here.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

Robert Medeksza's Ultra Hal 'actor' in Secret Cinema Prometheus event June 24, 2012

Last month's London Secret Cinema event on Sunday 24 June 2012, the day after Turing100 at Bletchley Park, featured Chatbot Developer, Robert Medeksza's Ultra Hal conversation assistant as one of the 'actors' in the spaceship 're-enactment' and galaxy journey from, unknown prior to the event, Prometheus the movie!

Ultra Hal conversation at Secret Cinema event

With Marc Allen, creator of the MATT message-by-message Turing test protocol, I was lucky enough to be Robert's guest at Secret Cinema Sunday 24 June 2012:

Robert Medeksza (left) Marc Allen

The Secret Cinema event was an incredible experience culminating with a video message from Ridley Scott before a screening of Prometheus in 3D (not as awesome as at BFI IMAX but a wonderful surprise) in a secret location, a huge building behind London Euston train station:

"Most impressive of all was the warehouse’s transformation into a spaceship. Walls were painted white with maps of the ship’s emergency exits everywhere. Hypersleep chambers were laid out in the middle of the room. Loudspeakers droned the message, “Thank you for investing in a brighter future” on repeat. Labs with plants and biology experiments were around every other corner. The 195,000-square-foot space had been entirely changed, and we were given a couple of hours to roam the premises, order cocktails or eat at the space restaurant that was set up.
By the time a warning alarm sounded and the ship employees began ushering everyone into the three screening rooms, many were guessing the movie would be Prometheus. (It was.)"

Read more:

And ...
".... the point of Secret Cinema, nobody is supposed to know what they will be doing or which film they will be watching before they turn up.This time it is truly epic in scale. A 190,000 sq foot space has been transformed into the world of the film. Props from the actual movie have been flown over, driven up the M3 and bolted into place. It's completely immersive from the moment the audience gathers a statue of Robert Stephenson at Euston station from where they are led to the venue."
 - from The Telegraph.

And Wired reported:
"The event has a dark feel, figuratively and literally -- you'll navigate floors of sparse, dimly-lit corridors, room after room of unusual installations, research labs, terminals and interactive environments inspired by the film. Smoky, sports-hall-sized garages contain life-sized vehicles and props to investigate, and all are backed up by sound pumped from an enormous audio system.
Certain areas are more vibrant than others, however. Within one of the bars, dozens of sweet-smelling flowers hang from a roof to form a ceiling with an overpowering aroma. Once you reach the bar itself, complete with its actors serving drinks and fellow cinema-goers in costume, you're surrounded by metallic grey walls and bright white panels of light that illuminate the flowers overhead.
Then you sip a blue cocktail, have a sit down, maybe reflect on how weird your evening has become.
Elsewhere, a large restaurant exists to seat a couple of hundred people or so, sells food and drink, and serves as a sufficient resting place from the sensory overload that's thrusting away behind you. It was here, when I attended the opening night, that an emergency klaxon erupted in tandem with an explosion of red lights, and we were "evacuated" by actors to safety -- it was 9pm and finally the film was about to be screened.
Then you breathe, enjoy a movie, and leave at 11pm feeling like you're ready to get back to reality."

What Future Cinema wrote:
"..... a Central London warehouse was converted into a futuristic spaceship for a month to bring to life in a new format – Live Cinema.
Opening on 1st June, Secret Cinema’s production of Prometheus launched in tandem with the movie’s national theatrical release for the first time anywhere in the world, with full endorsement from director Ridley Scott.
Live Cinema, the format defined by Future Cinema – creators of Secret Cinema – allows the cinema goer to step inside the film and creates a unique experience and journey, far beyond a traditional 2D or 3D viewing experience. The line between actor and audience member is blurred. 
Secret Cinema were esteemed to have collaborated with Radiohead on creating a soundscape to score the parts of the experience using the track “Everything In Its Right Place” from Kid A in multiple dark spaces around the ship..."

Watch their 'live cinema' record below:

My pictures of the experience, from meet-up in front of Euston station to inside the secret venue below:

BBC article here on Ridley Scott's cinematic quest to know the origins of humankind:
"During his extensive research ahead of the film, Sir Ridley says he discovered that not even in the science world is there overwhelming agreement.
'I had a really great lunch with about 12 scientists and half of them believed in God and the other half roared with laughter said: 'Cobblers'."

Watch Prometheus trailer: