The Conversation

Star Trek’s Holodeck: from science fiction to a new reality

Many of the technological advances predicted in Star Trek’s fictional universe have become reality, such as the mobile communicator and hand-held tablet computers. Others, such as tractor beams and warp drives, are still a work in progress. But what of the Holodeck? The Holodeck first appeared in The Practical Joker, a 1974 episode of the Star Trek animated series. It was depicted as a recreation ...[Read More]

How Artificial Intelligence and the robotic revolution will change the workplace of tomorrow

The workplace is going to look drastically different ten years from now. The coming of the Second Machine Age is quickly bringing massive changes along with it. Manual jobs, such as lorry driving or house building are being replaced by robotic automation, and accountants, lawyers, doctors and financial advisers are being supplemented and replaced by high level artificial intelligence (AI) systems....[Read More]

The age of hacking brings a return to the physical key

With all the news about Yahoo accounts being hacked and other breaches of digital security, it’s easy to wonder if there’s any real way to keep unauthorized users out of our email and social media accounts. Everyone knows not to use the same username and password combination for every account – though many people still do. But if they follow that advice, people end up with another problem: way too...[Read More]

When things go wrong in an automated world, would we still know what to do?

We live in a world that is both increasingly complex and automated. So just as we are having to deal with more complex problems, automation is leading to an atrophy of human skills that may leave us more vulnerable when responding to unexpected situations or when things go wrong. Consider the final minutes of Air France Flight 447, which crashed into the Atlantic in May 2009 after leaving Rio de J...[Read More]

What’s behind phantom cellphone buzzes?

Have you ever experienced a phantom phone call or text? You’re convinced that you felt your phone vibrate in your pocket, or that you heard your ring tone. But when you check your phone, no one actually tried to get in touch with you. You then might plausibly wonder: “Is my phone acting up, or is it me?” Well, it’s probably you, and it could be a sign of just how attached you’ve become to your pho...[Read More]

How to make a driverless car ‘see’ the road ahead

Microchip manufacturer Intel has invested heavily in the driverless car race with the latest US$15 billion purchase of Israeli tech company Mobileye. Mobileye develops sensors and intelligence technology behind automated driver-assistance systems and many self-driving cars. Its tech enables a car to “see” and understand the world. Other recent purchases include the deep learning tech company Nerva...[Read More]

From disaster planning to conservation: mobile phones as a new tracking tool

We can learn a lot about things by studying how they move through the world and interact with the environment. In the past, for example, it was possible to study the mobility of people within the United States by monitoring things such as the movement of banknotes. Today we can use something that is much more global and widely available than US cash. Mobile phones have almost totally infiltrated h...[Read More]

How Facebook and Google changed the advertising game

Creativity and spectacle are becoming less important than the personal information used to target ads. The sponsored links on a Google search or in your Facebook feed are very effective, but for a completely different reason than your favourite television commercial. When you think about advertising what comes to mind is probably the art. Memorable ads are often creative, clever or emotional. Some...[Read More]

Your brain is unique – here’s how it could be used as the ultimate security password

Biometrics – technology that can recognise individuals based on physical and behavioural traits such as their faces, voices or fingerprints – are becoming increasingly important to combat financial fraud and security threats. This is because traditional approaches, such as those based on PIN numbers or passwords, are proving too easily compromised. For example, Barclays has introduced TouchID, whe...[Read More]

Nintendo’s new Switch console says a surprising amount about the company’s history

Nintendo have always done things their own way. The company has always been an innovator and each new games console it releases, from the Gameboy to the Wii, is usually labelled novel or gimmicky. Things are no different with its latest offering, the Nintendo Switch, which is the first hybrid console that can be used as a home gaming centre or a portable handheld device. But if you look through th...[Read More]

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Violent video games have become embedded within American culture over the past several decades and especially since 9/11. First-person shooters, in particular, have become increasingly popular. These games – in which players are positioned behind a gun – have turned a generation of kids into digital warriors who fight terrorists and battle alien invaders. Many play first-person shooters for pure, ...[Read More]

Scientists create electric circuits inside plants

Plants power life on Earth. They are the original food source supplying energy to almost all living organisms and the basis of the fossil fuels that feed the power demands of the modern world. But burning the remnants of long-dead forests is changing the world in dangerous ways. Can we better harness the power of living plants today? One way might be to turn plants into natural solar power station...[Read More]

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