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Video Telephony Has Finally Arrived

Thanks to the power and connectivity of today’s mobile devices, video telephony will soon be everywhere

11 min read
Photo of various video telephony devices.
Photo: Dan Saelinger; Stylist: Wendy Schelah/Halley Resources

In the annals of technologies with long gestation periods, few can match video telephony. Punch’s Almanack published a cartoon illustrating the concept way back in 1878. Then, throughout the next century, the idea resurfaced repeatedly in science-fiction comics, motion pictures, pulp stories, and novels. In the animated TV series “The Jetsons,” starting in 1962, George’s boss, Mr. Spacely, regularly appeared on a display screen to show George the latest sprocket design. In a memorable scene from the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, a weary space traveler videophones his daughter from a space station orbiting Earth.

Around the same time, videophones began showing up in the real world. AT&T announced its Picturephone service in 1964; the company even installed a Picturephone booth at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. But at US $16 per 3 minutes of jerky images, the service never caught on.

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The World's Largest Camera Is Nearly Complete

The future heart of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory will soon make its way to Chile

3 min read
A large black cylinder with a glass lens in front rests on a sturdy white structure in a bright room.

The LSST camera, eventually bound for the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile, sits on its stand in a Bay Area cleanroom.

Jacqueline Ramseyer Orrell/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

The world’s largest camera sits within a nondescript industrial building in the hills above San Francisco Bay.

If all goes well, this camera will one day fit into the heart of the future Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile. For the last seven years, engineers have been crafting the camera in a cleanroom at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California. In May 2023, if all goes according to plan, the camera will finally fly to its destination, itself currently under construction in the desert highlands of northern Chile.

Building a camera as complex as this requires a good deal of patience, testing, and careful engineering. The road to that flight has been long, and although there’s still some way to go before the end is in sight.

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Lab Revisits the Task of Putting Common Sense in AI

New nonprofit Basis hopes to model human reasoning to inform science and public policy

5 min read
ai hand and human hand touching pointer fingers
iStock

The field of artificial intelligence has embraced deep learning—in which algorithms find patterns in big data sets—after moving on from earlier systems that more explicitly modeled human reasoning. But deep learning has its flaws: AI models often show a lack of common sense, for example. A new nonprofit, Basis, hopes to build software tools that advance the earlier method of modeling human reasoning, and then apply that method toward pressing problems in scientific discovery and public policy.

To date, Basis has received a government grant and a donation of a few million dollars. Advisors include Rui Costa, a neuroscientist who heads the Allen Institute in Seattle, and Anthony Philippakis, the chief data officer of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In July, over tacos at the International Conference on Machine Intelligence, I spoke with Zenna Tavares, a Basis co-founder, and Sam Witty, a Basis research scientist, about human intelligence, problems with academia, and trash collection. The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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Government’s Role in Further Developing 5G Technologies and Future Networks

Learn about the impact of federally funded research on national security and the overall economy

1 min read
Anritsu

Similar to 5G, many key technology developments have been supported by government funding and institutions for years. Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC) and University Affiliated Research Centers (UARC) have been foundational elements of this government support.

This webinar will examine the impact this research has had on national security and the overall economy. It will also discuss how these institutions have made use of testing to attain these security and economic goals. Finally, it will look at how these resources can continue to be leveraged in the further development of 5G technologies and beyond for future networks.

Register now for this webinar!

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