2:00 a.m. March 4, 2002 PST
Scholars Who Dig-itize Gutenberg
By Kendra Mayfield
When people think about the printing revolution, one name comes to mind:
But what if Gutenberg didn't actually invent the revolutionary technique
of mass-producing words as we know it today?
Scholars will soon get a chance to examine in exquisite detail what is
considered the first book printed with moveable type.
A project is currently underway at the Library of Congress to digitize
its copy of the Gutenberg Bible. The library has partnered with Octavo
to photograph, scan and digitize every binding, endsheet and page of the
"We're hoping to take digital technology as far as it goes and bring
this book to life," Elaine Ginger, editorial director of Octavo,
said. "We hope to make this book more accessible than even Gutenberg
did "Using contemporary technologies to preserve and capture
the images has an importance for preservation, the historical record,
and the symbolic meaning of what is taking place in electronic communication
technologies," agreed Czeslaw "Chet" Jan Grycz, CEO of
Octavo. The Gutenberg Bible "represents the first adaptation of moveable
mechanical processes for print reproduction, and it represents a phase
of human communication," Grycz said.
The Library of Congress' early 16th-century copy is just one of three
perfect examples printed on vellum that are known today. The British Library
in London and the Bibliothèque Nationale in France have the other
two perfect copies.
Few can access these copies, which are kept under lock and key in temperature-controlled
storage vaults where even imaging specialists aren't allowed to turn the
But digitization projects have opened up these rare texts to the public.
The British Library's Gutenberg Bible drew 1 million hits in its first
Now, Octavo will post pages of the Library of Congress' copy of the Gutenberg
Bible as it is being imaged on its website beginning March 5.
Digital cameras will capture every original detail, from typography to
paper surface. Octavo's technicians will use cool, low intensity, full-spectrum
lights and custom cradles to protect the book's bindings and text while
photographing each page.
As the images are captured, they are automatically transported to an online
storage system, so users can see the progress of digitization in real
time. Real-time commentary and translation from Latin to English will
accompany the job as it is being imaged. So users will be able to click
on the word "Genesis" and be taken directly to that section
of the Bible.
Viewers will be able to download microscopic details of the age-old text
in full-page format. They will be able to zoom in on high-resolution details
of single letters.
Since each captured image is 757 MB of data, the entire book will total
nearly one-half terabyte. The entire process should take about six weeks.
The result will be the most faithful, color-accurate, and detailed digital
record possible, Octavo's directors claim. "No one has ever seen
anything like them on the Web," Ginger said.
A CD-ROM of the Gutenberg Bible will likely be available for purchase
through Octavo's website in June, Grycz said.
Digitization has already allowed scholars to question Gutenberg's work.
Last year, a pair of scholars used digital imaging and computer analysis
to come up with their own conclusions about Gutenberg's method.
Princeton librarian Paul Needham and scholar Blaise Agüera y Arcas
discovered discrepancies between individual letters in Gutenberg's work,
casting doubts on his techniques.
They concluded that Gutenberg did invent moveable type, but his method
of creating or casting each letter differs from what is conventionally
thought of as the method of mass production. Instead of using a punch
and matrix, Gutenberg may have used an earlier technology, casting letters
in molds of sand.
Needham said a printing revolution might have occurred 20 years after
Gutenberg is credited with inventing moveable type.
Octavo's ultra-high-resolution digital images could lead to further re-evaluation
of Gutenberg's invention. "We don't know if the study of high-resolution
images will shed any light on which way (Gutenberg) may have printed the
edition, but the images will certainly be used to try to make such determinations,"
Other libraries are using digital technologies to revitalize research
into rare books.
The British Library recently announced that it will digitize the first
edition of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The library will post
1,300 high-resolution images of the 15th-century work online.
Such digital editions allow scholars to reexamine rare books in a way
that rivals handling the print editions. Rather than having to examine
the text within the confines of library walls, "scholars will be
able to (do research) essentially over the Web," Ginger said.
"Technology is interesting, but we are really about facilitating
the transformation of scholarship and access to rare and primary resource
materials," Grycz agreed.
March 28, 2002
Don't Point, Just Think: The
Brain Wave as Joystick
By ANNE EISENBERG
HIS is a case of monkey think, monkey do.
A rhesus macaque monkey at a Brown University laboratory can move a cursor
on a computer screen just by thinking about it playing a pinball
game in which every time a red target dot pops up, the monkey moves a
cursor to meet the target quickly and accurately. The monkey doesn't do
this trick with a mouse or a joystick. It plays the game mentally, controlling
where it wants the cursor to go by thinking. (The simple pinball video
game the monkey played can be viewed at http:// www.donoghue.neuro.brown.edu/multimedia.php.)
But this is not the story of a psychic monkey, or of a research project
designed to teach monkeys how to play mental pinball. The project is the
latest in a series of serious research efforts in brain-machine interfaces,
a field in which researchers eavesdrop on the brain as it plans motion
and then write programs that can translate those thoughts into specific
Researchers hope that such programs will one day help some paralyzed people
use their thoughts to control the functions of robotic limbs, or to command
cursors on a screen to write e-mail or navigate the Internet.
The experiment, which was reported this month in the journal Nature, was
led by Dr. John P. Donoghue, a professor of neuroscience who leads the
brain science program at Brown.
"Researchers have long known that people think about where they want
to put their hands before they move them," Dr. Donoghue said. "We've
tapped into that part of the brain."
In the experiment, performed on three monkeys, the team implanted a tiny
set of 100 miniature electrodes in the motor cortex, the part of the brain
just under the skull that commands how the arms will move. Then they threaded
the wires from the electrodes through a hole in the skull and connected
them to a computer.
When the monkeys played the pinball game, their brains made characteristic
signals that were recorded as the neurons fired near the electrodes. The
team wrote a program that paired the spiky patterns the neurons made as
they fired with the related trajectories of the monkeys' arms as they
moved the cursor.
Then they were able to substitute a signal that translated brain-wave
data into joystick output, so that when the monkey thought about a move,
the cursor actually made that move.
Dr. Donoghue said that the electrodes tapped up to 30 neurons, and that
only three or so minutes of data were needed to create a model that could
interpret the brain signals as specific movements.
In the experiment, the pinball game was switched intermittently by the
researchers from hand to brain control. It took slightly longer for the
monkey to succeed in hitting the red dot with brain control, but the difference
was negligible, he said.
Related experiments by other researchers, Dr. Donoghue said, have required
extensive training for the monkeys to bring a cursor under their mental
control. "In our work, we had immediate substitution of the program
for hand control," he said.
The experiment demonstrates the plasticity of the brain in adapting itself
to new jobs, said Dr. William Heetderks, director of the neural prosthesis
program at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke,
one of the agencies financing the work at Brown.
Dr. Heetderks said he expected the animals to learn to control the cursor
mentally. "But the speed and quality with which the monkey learned
to control the movement of the cursor was a surprise," he said. "It
was minutes, not weeks." He added: "The brain seems to be very
flexible at making that transition moving an artificial arm or
cursor instead of moving an actual arm. It is very encouraging for future
use, especially with paralyzed people."
Dr. Heetderks believes that the path to long-lasting implants in people
would involve the recording of data from many electrodes. "To get
a rich signal that allows you to move a limb in three-dimensional space
or move a cursor around on a screen will require the ability to record
from at least 30 neurons," he said.
Dr. Donoghue and colleagues have founded a company, Cyberkinetics, and
they hope to test their prosthesis on a human within the year. Such testing
requires the approval of the Food and Drug Administration.
Only one of the pioneers of neural prostheses has tested his interface
on people in the hope of adding to the range of their movements: Dr. Philip
Kennedy, head of Neural Signals, a research and development company based
in Atlanta. Dr. Kennedy said he was now training a nearly immobile person
to use the cursor on a computer screen. He has modified his two-electrode
system and plans to report the results soon, he said. "The key thing
is to have a robust signal that endures for the life of the patient and
records sufficient signals to control the prosthetic," he said.
Much of the research on brain-machine interfaces is going into systems
that a human being could use for decades, said Dr. Richard A. Andersen,
who leads a research team in neural prosthetics at the California Institute
Dr. Andersen said that the longevity of such interfaces could be extended
by planting chips directly in the brain that can do the necessary processing
and transmit the results wirelessly so that people are no longer tethered
Dr. Mohammad M. Mojarradi of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena,
Calif., is one of the researchers working on miniaturizing the hardware
that may find its way into implantable chips. Current electrode arrays,
he said, can be jarred out of place and lose the signal. They can also
gradually wear away the tissue on which they sit. He wants to eliminate
the electrodes and their wires, replacing them with implanted wireless
Dr. Heetderks said that such devices would ultimately be essential for
long-term use of neural prostheses. "But the key thing to remember
here is the potential of the brain itself to re-allot tasks," he
said. "The advances we are seeing are inherent in the way the brain
March 28, 2002
STATE OF THE ART Wish
List: 9 Innovations in Search of Inventors
By DAVID POGUE
YOU can say what you want about the bursting of the technology bubble
(just not in front of the children). True, the Super Bowl lost some advertisers,
20-year-olds lost their beachfront condos, and investors lost their shirts.
But for technology writers, it was a great time to be alive.
These days, though, there seems to be a measurable deceleration in high-tech
innovation. Sure, PC's are getting slightly faster, palmtops slightly
brighter, and DVD players slightly cheaper, but where are the big, bold
new ideas for consumer products? Where are the inventions on par with
the pen scanner, the discount Web drugstore and the robot dog?
Maybe industry executives just need a little inspiration. Here are some
ideas for new products that should exist, but don't at least, not
according to the exhaustive search conducted by my research staff (that
is, my wife on Google). If you're an inventor, take these ideas with my
blessings. I ask nothing in return but a smile, a firm handshake and 10
percent of the net.
It's beginning to dawn on manufacturers that we need better ways of getting
data from one source to another. The redundantly named VCR Plus+ feature,
for example, simplifies programming your VCR by letting you plug in a
code found in the newspaper TV listings. But even in 2002, frozen-food
packages still bear ludicrously imprecise instructions like, "Heat
at High for 3 to 7 minutes (ovens vary)."
"3 to 7"? Let's get our act together! Microwaves equipped with
Microwave Plus+ would have a tiny bar-code reader on the front panel.
In half a second, this little eye would scan the cooking-information bar
code that would appear on each package of food. The oven's software would
adapt those instructions to accommodate its particular wattage and abilities.
Everybody wins: The food and microwave makers see sales rise, emergency
rooms see fewer burns, and consumers get perfectly cooked food.
PUNCH-IT-UP ALARM CLOCK
The modern clock radio can play CD's, wake up two people at different
times, and even beam the current time onto the ceiling. So why do we have
to set the time using the same controls cavemen used in the Stone Age?
You still have to hold down slow, imprecise buttons that on most models
go only forward in time. If you woke at 8 this morning, you can't reset
the alarm for 7 a.m. tomorrow without fast-forwarding through 23 hours'
worth of flickering numbers. Haven't these companies ever heard of a phone-style
number keypad? We should be able to set the alarm for 8:45 just by tapping
the 8, 4, and 5 keys in sequence. You'd save two minutes a night, which
you could use for any number of activities, like sleeping.
The most excruciating aspect of being single in the city is the information
void. There you sit on the subway, surreptitiously eyeing some attractive
stranger, with no way of knowing if that person is single, sane, straight
or solvent. For all you know, he or she doesn't speak your language, is
heading at this moment to a new life overseas or has just dumped someone
who looks exactly like you.
Bluetooth, a new (and real) technology that wirelessly connects gadgets
within 30 feet of each other, could eliminate this kind of agony. Like
the Japanese Lovegety toy for teenagers, the Blind Data would be a tiny
transmitter, worn on a key ring or pendant. But instead of beeping when
just anyone of the opposite sex came nearby, the Blind Data would be a
far more discerning gizmo. You would program it with the vital statistics
of both you and the kind of soul mate you're seeking. When your transmitter
vibrates, it means that somebody else's is vibrating, too. Somebody less
than 30 feet away is looking for someone just like you.
At the very least, you'll sit up straight and quit picking your teeth.
You'll look around you to see who else is sitting up straight and looking
around. If you don't like what you see, you just move on. And if you do
decide to smile and introduce yourself, you've got one heck of a great
A TiVo (news/quote) (a real product) can do a lot of things, from recording
your favorite shows automatically to pausing live TV. Furthermore, it's
always recording whatever is on the current channel, even if the TV itself
is turned off. At any time, you can turn on the TV and rewind up to 45
minutes into the past to see what you've just missed.
It's a tantalizing idea. Now suppose TiVo came out with a tiny, pen-shaped
digital audio recorder. Once in your shirt pocket, it would continuously
record the sound around you. At any time, while continuing to record,
you could play back the last 20 minutes of whatever you've just heard:
a co-worker's brilliant utterance, something you didn't quite catch on
the car radio, or driving directions somebody rattled off too fast. (As
on the real TiVo, it would continue recording even as it played back.)
Because it would always be on, you would never worry about missing something
important. And no family argument would ever again devolve into, "But
you said . . . " and, "No, that's not what I said!"
In the 90's, the hot new-product formula was to tack an MP3 music player
onto some existing gizmo. We had MP3 cameras, MP3 phones, even MP3 watches.
But they missed the MP3-playing toothbrush. At what other time would a
little music be so welcome as during that boring hygiene moment?
Every year, more people buy second and even third computers, which they
often connect as a network. How odd, then, that when husband and wife
are both at their machines, they still communicate by yelling from one
end of the house to the other.
The Intercom-Puter would be an inexpensive U.S.B. intercom that connects
to each computer and exploits your network wiring. Just push a button
to talk ("Phone for you," "Have you seen my glasses?").
It would be quick, convenient and simpler than software-based intercom
systems, which require microphone and speakers for each PC.
Young children are walking cotton swabs, and schools are the world's biggest
Petri dishes. Your kindergartner comes home, feverish and miserable, and
you have to listen to the doctor on the phone say: "Oh, yeah, that's
going around. He'll have high fever for 24 hours, then two days of vomiting,
with a little rash for another week."
If the bugs are this identifiable, a little notice might be nice
perhaps in the form of a Web site that tracks the various flu strains
that float across the country. It would look like a national weather map.
But it wouldn't just show you which states had flu cases, period, like
the simplistic maps at Fluwatch.com and elsewhere. Instead, color-coded
clouds would show you exactly which types of mini-epidemics are sweeping
through. You'd know at a glance what's "going around," what
symptoms you're in for and which kinds of places to avoid. This site wouldn't
need banner ads. Subscriptions from wary, weary parents would be quite
Flat-panel screens are glorious but still expensive. As time goes on,
we wind up having to buy more and more of them in palmtops, laptops,
digital cameras, camcorders, PC's, and lately, car dashboards and television
Clearly, the world is waiting for the SnapFlat Screen: a detachable, interchangeable
flat panel that you can move from gadget to gadget. After all, you use
only one of these expensive machines at a time. At the end of the day,
you can snap the screen onto your Web appliance to see how much money
you've saved by buying one universal screen instead of six proprietary
THE I-PODULE The built-in hard drive of the iPod, Apple's tiny white-and-chrome
music player, holds 10 gigabytes. That's enough for about 2,500 songs.
When connected to a Macintosh, the iPod also acts as a standard hard drive,
ideal for moving files between machines. But why stop there? "Tiny"
and "capacious" are two words that don't come together very
often. The iPod could be the heart of a new generation of storage-hungry
Imagine a digital camera with an iPod slot: you could take thousands of
pictures without running out of film and slip the iPod into your computer
to transfer them. Then you'd snap the iPod into a camcorder for capturing
video, from there to your cellphone to send files or photos to a friend,
and maybe even into a cash machine for a quick download of your statement.
Just don't lose the thing.
02/28/2002 - Updated 08:52 AM ET
Timex watch to incorporate
MIDDLEBURY, Conn. (AP)
They say time is money. Soon, a quick
wave of your watch may be as good as cash.
Middlebury-based Timex is developing a new wristwatch that incorporates
Speedpass technology, allowing the wearer to purchase everything from
gas at the pump to fries at McDonald's simply by waving an arm.
The Speedpass Timex watch is equipped with a radio frequency transponder
that can be linked to a credit or debit card of the customer's choice.
A wave of the watch in front of an electronic sensor allows customers
to instantly pay at Exxon and Mobil gas stations nationwide, as well as
over 400 McDonald's restaurants in the Chicago metropolitan area.
"Timex is committed to the philosophy of helpful innovation through
watch advancements that truly make life a little easier," said Phil
Brzezinski, director of advanced products.
The watch is currently being test-marketed in Illinois. Timex officials
say the new watches being developed to include the Speedpass technology
will cost $30 to $50 without the technology and only a few dollars more
with the Speedpass capability.
Posted on Wed, Mar. 13, 2002
MIT gets Army grant to develop
of futuristic battle uniform
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP)
The Army is hunting for a new military uniform that can make soldiers
nearly invisible, grant superhuman strength and provide instant medical
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is up for the task.
The school said Wednesday it has been awarded a five-year, $50 million
dollar grant to develop the armor, which could detect threats and protect
against projectiles and biological or chemical weapons.
``We're not there yet, but it's not science fiction,'' said Ned Thomas,
director of the MIT-affiliated Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies.
All this would be achieved by developing particle-sized materials and
devices -- called ``nanotechnology'' -- nestled into the uniform's fabric.
Supercharged shoes could release energy when soldiers jump, propelling
them over a 20-foot wall. Micoreactors could detect bleeding and apply
pressure. Light-deflecting material could make the suit blend in with
MIT's research centers had been working on nanotechnology ideas long before
getting involved with the Army, but not with military applications in
mind. But the groundwork has been laid for revolutionary advances, Thomas