The genes that make humans distinct from other animals are being narrowed down. We have a lot in common with other mammals and especially other primates, but relatively tiny differences in a set of genes could explain how human language and intelligence evolved and developed. Understanding the complexity of human intelligence and genetics will likely take decades or longer -- and we may never fully understand every aspect of consciousness. However, we're making some progress and creating some smarter mice along the way. Check out a few of these experiments.
Animal behavior is getting more and more attention as researchers discover that our animal friends exhibit emotional responses seemingly similar to ours. It's hard to "prove" animals experience complex emotions or thoughts (in fact, you never prove anything in science... you can only disprove things), but mounting evidence seems to suggest that many animals have reactions that we might predict based on our own psychological knowledge. Here are just a few interesting studies on animals acting like us somehow.
So folks seemed to enjoy last week's crowdfunding picks post, and the Saturday morning time slot seemed to work, so we'll stick with it. Still not sure on a name, but someone suggested "awesome stuff," and it's hard to argue with that. I reserve the right to change it at some point, but at least this week, we're going with Awesome Stuff. And, this week we're also going to test out a "theme." These are three crowdfunding projects that all revolve around reinventing the mouse. It's been almost 45 years since the humble computer mouse was first demonstrated by Doug Engelbart, in a presentation that I rewatch every so often. It's quite incredible when you realize just how much of the future he's showing off. The clip below should start right at the point where he discusses the mouse (if not, it's right around 30 minutes, 45 seconds):
The humble mouse really hasn't changed that much in all those years, though we're starting to see the rise of so-called "smart mouses" (sometimes they don't seem so smart). Here are three crowdfunding projects that struck me as interesting, in that they really attempt to update the mouse in unique ways.
First up, we have the EGO! smartmouse, which does a whole variety of things to try to take the concept of a computer mouse further. Beyond regular mousing, and being able to work in 3 dimensions, rather than just 2 (yes, you can lift it up and gesture with it in the air), it also can easily authenticate and switch to different computers on the fly, even bringing files along with it. On top of that it can act as a remote control or a gaming controller. Some of these features we've seen elsewhere, but pulling them all together in one device seems pretty impressive.
Why does a mouse need to always sit next to your keyboard? What if it was wrapped around your finger? That's the premise behind the Mycestro. As someone who spends a lot of time moving my right hand between the keyboard and the mouse, there's something quite appealing about being able to keep my hands in one position and still be able to use the mouse. You can see the details in the video below. Like the EGO! mouse above, this is also a 3D mouse, recognizing gestures to move the mouse, but it also lets you click and scroll with your thumb. It's difficult to describe without seeing it in action, so check it out.
Finally, we have another Kickstarter project that ended yesterday without hitting its goal. I debated if we should still include it, but it definitely seems to fit with the theme. It's the Mauz device that clips onto an iPhone to turn the iPhone itself into a mouse. Like both of the above examples, it enables 3D gestures, but also has a lot of flexibility in terms of features that can be used on the screen. I'm somewhat surprised that it failed to reach its goal. This seems like the kind of Kickstarter project that would take off.
And there you go. It appears that the mouse is finally the center of some significant innovation. Of course, that might be happening just as all of our screens are becoming touchscreens, and the entire concept of the mouse becomes less relevant.
As people study animals in more depth, we're finding out that animals may be smarter than previously thought. There might be some confirmation bias in some of these studies, since no one really looks for animals that are dumber. But it's still fascinating to see complex animal behavior that suggests their cognitive abilities aren't so different from humans. Here are a few examples of some interesting animal observations.
I have a presentation that I've done many times now for various corporate execs (usually from Europe) trying to understand just what makes Silicon Valley Silicon Valley. It's a fun presentation, and always creates quite a discussion. It goes into a lot of different topic areas, but my favorite part is, right in the middle of my "abbreviated history" of Silicon Valley, when I get to show some clips from Doug Engelbart's 1968 demo of what he was working on at SRI. That demo was the first time the world saw an awful lot of things that are common today: from the mouse (and, yes, he talks about naming the mouse), to a graphical user interface, to hyperlinks, among many other things (including a few computer bugs). I just gave the presentation again two weeks ago, and I realized that we were quickly approaching the 40th anniversary of the demo, which took place on December 9th, 1968.
The entire presentation is 75 minutes long, but I've embedded it below. I'm sure many of you won't have time to watch all 75 minutes, but it's absolutely worth watching at least part of it (and then you'll want to keep watching):