Musical Competition with a Twist
If your taste in musical instruments runs to the truly exotic, you'll be delighted to hear that Georgia Tech's Center for Music Technology sponsored a competition to encourage innovation in instrument design. The first of its kind, the Guthman Musical Instrument competition encouraged entrants to submit new instruments, whether they were in physical or virtual form, played by robots, humans, or computers. All told, 30 inventors from seven countries strutted their stuff.
And the winners? First place went to Jaime Oliver for his Silent Drum Controller, a device that lets a user play the drums by pressing, rather than pounding, the head of a special drum; a video camera records changes in the shape of the drum head, and the information is sent to a computer, which analyzes the shapes and outputs the appropriate sounds. Second place went to Eric Singer for his robotic guitar, while David Wessel grabbed third place for SLABS, pressure-sensitive touch pads that treat gestures as continuous signals.
Prize winners took home more than bragging rights. Monetary prizes included $5,000 for first place, $3,000 for second, $2,000 for third, and free copies of the game Rock Band for fourth through sixth place winners. Harmonix, the company that makes both Rock Band and Guitar Hero, co-sponsored the competition, which drew a diversity of competitors, including commercial firms, academics, and just creative young musicians, noted Frank Clark, director of Georgia Tech's Center for Music Technology.
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Barbara Liskov Wins Computing Field's Highest Award
It's been described informally as the Nobel for computing, and the developments it recognizes often have a more direct effect on our day-to-day lives than the research that wins some of the real Nobel awards. That's certainly true of this year's A.M. Turing Award, given by the Association for Computing Machinery. The winner? Barbara Liskov, the first US woman to earn a PhD in computer science.
You may never have heard of her, but you use technologies that she made possible every day. Her work in the design of computer programming languages has helped make software more reliable, consistent and resistant to errors and hacking. In fact, her innovations in software design have underpinned every important programming language for the past 34 years, including Ada, C++, Java and C#. She made important contributions to the use of data abstraction and all but invented object-oriented programming.
Her most current research focuses on making systems more fault tolerant and resistant to errors and hacking. This line of research may lead to a safer, more reliable Internet. I believe that more and more users will store their information online, but the storage they use needs to be implemented so that they don't lose their information, their information is available when they need it, and they can be confident that their confidential information will not be leaked, she explained. Only the second woman to ever win a Turing Award, solving this monumental issue could lead to another Turing in the future for Liskov.
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New Name for Space Station Room Could Be Colbert
His fans have vandalized Wikipedia articles and petitioned unsuccessfully to get him on the ballot for the US presidential election. Now, comedian Stephen Colbert may win a larger prize: getting his name on the new room soon to be added to the International Space Station. NASA's online public vote offers four choices: Serenity, Legacy, Earthrise or Venture. But tens of thousands are writing in Colbert.
Is it enough to actually win? By mid-Tuesday, Colbert had earned about 115,000 votes, leaving the nearest alternative, Serenity, in the dust with 98,641. So far, more than 451,000 votes have been cast. The new room, currently called Node 3, will feature big windows and a machine that can recycle astronauts' urine into drinking water. Plans call for it to be added to the space station before the end of the year.
Voting for the room's name will continue until March 20. Will NASA actually use the name Colbert if it wins the most votes? Well, it doesn't really fit with the station's theme, as other rooms are named Unity, Harmony and Destiny. And the contest's rules say the results are not binding on NASA and NASA reserves the right to ultimately select a name. But even if the space agency chooses a different name, Colbert can rest easy in the knowledge that he already has an ice cream flavor, a Hungarian bridge and an eagle named after him.
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