Friday, December 26, 2008

Web 2.0 Tools: Mobango

Mobango is a free, web-based mobile phone content collaboration service. It allows members to upload and publish videos, images, music, themes, and applications typically utilized on a cell phone or PDA. There appears to be quite a bit of free content in these different categories.

Members are provided their own home page that may contain an image and other basic information to include their mobile phone model and country of residence.

Interaction is accomplished by sharing one's home page and through the site's internal messaging service. Communication seems a bit austere compared to other social-networking websites due to the fact that Mobango does not currently offer a real-time chat/webcam capability.

One feature that may set Mobango apart from similar sites is mobile-centric files management. Members may easily access files stored in their WAP folder at the site with either their mobile device or personal computer. This can save on cellular airtime if used in conjunction with local PC-to-mobile synchronization (my method).

There were no hassles with setting up an account and getting started on the site. The interface is easy to use and has very little advertising. As an added bonus, Mobango provides up to 2 GB of file storage at no charge.

// Adolf

Monday, December 22, 2008

10-15 Year Prediction: U.S. Military & Strategic UAS


This post presents the rationale to support a forecast that the U.S. military will demonstrate the successful operational use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for inter-theater strategic missions by the 2018-2023 timeframe. The sustained growth in the electronic support and tactical/theater combat mission areas (OSD, 2005) should continue and eventually lead to concept development, testing, and limited deployment in the high-value, limited-resource roles currently reserved for larger airframes and multi-person crews (e.g. bombers, airlift, command & control, aerial refueling).

UAS Concept:

The current UAS concept is an evolutionary product representing the technical, operational, and doctrinal characteristics of its Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) ancestry. Whereas the UAV was traditionally a more tactically-focused system, the UAS reflects consideration of the more complex architectures and increasing operational capabilities of the newer systems (Wikipedia, 2008). This diagram depicts the basic operational concept of a UAS and provides some insight into the technological sophistication and operational complexity underpinning this capability:

Major Factors:

There are a multitude of social, political, and technical factors that have shaped the research, development, and implementation of the UAS to date. Over the next 10-15 years, this complex system of influence will undoubtedly continue to guide and constrain the evolution of UAS capabilities. The author’s basic model reflects an approach based on the Analysis phase of the TechCase method (TechCast, 2007) and accounts for the most influential variables that will affect the outcome of this prediction:

Technology Risk:

Given the fact that the UAS is such a complex, technology-dependent system, arguably the most critical factor in the model is Research & Development (R&D). Within the overall R&D effort, Autonomy technology offers the most reward but also presents the greatest risk due to relative immaturity. This diagram shows the most significant technologies for enabling Autonomy (Wikipedia, 2008) and reducing UAS dependency on human interaction:

For the UAS to widely replace the traditional human-piloted airframe, it must be capable of acting as a rational agent. In this, the UAS would be have the means to deal with some uncertainty and act to achieve the best expected outcome. The overall field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has had multiple cycles of progress and setbacks beginning in the 1950s. However, the last decade has provided renewed upward momentum with some successful applications of AI that reflect the trend needed to support this prediction (Russell & Norvig, 2003):

• IBM’s Deep Blue beat the world champion chess master Gary Kasparov.

• NASA’s Remote Agent Program implemented on-board autonomous planning and scheduling for spacecraft operations.

• The ALVINN system steered the NAVLAB computer-controlled minivan across the United States while maintaining control 98% of the time.

Supporting Trends:

Undoubtedly, the U.S. military has demonstrated an increasing commitment to the continuous improvement and employment of UAS over the last couple of decades for both tactical and theater-level purposes. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) began its journey with the UAV in the mid-1960s, but the concept was ahead of the enabling technologies. As the growth of many technologies exploded, U.S. military and political leadership have demonstrated a long-term, sustained commitment to UAS capability growth:

Some recent statistics on DoD funding and operational use of UAS provide additional support for this claim (OMB, 2005):


Looking into the future is a tricky endeavor. While some trends hold over time, others will not due to randomness, complexity, and unanticipated factors. Therefore, accurate technology predictions can’t be accomplished by merely extrapolating a single trend (Sherden, 1998). Hopefully, this work has provided meaningful support for the author’s prediction by taking a basic approach that considers multiple, influencing factors and their associated trends. In this particular case, just merely extrapolating the growth trend in UAS capability could warrant a more optimistic assessment. However, weighing in both the criticality and relativity immaturity of Autonomy technology necessitates a more conservative assessment of the likely outcome. In summary, recent significant achievements in AI implementations have demonstrated advances in key support technologies vital for UAS Autonomy and help to mitigate the technology risk. Mitigation of this key risk factor should enable our military to employ UAS in strategic air missions - those currently reserved for only manned platforms.


Federation of American Scientists (FAS), 2008. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Retrieved from

Office of Management & Budget (OMB), 2005. Detailed Information on the DoD Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Assessment. Retrieved from

Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), 2005. Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap. Retrieved from
Russell, S. J., & Norvig, P. (2003). Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Sherden, W. (1998). The Fortune Sellers: The Big Business of Buying and Selling Predictions. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

TechCast (2007). The TechCast Technology Forecasting Research Method. Retrieved from

Wikipedia (2008). Unmanned Aircraft System. Retrieved from

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Failed Prediction: Early H.G. Wells and Submarines (1901)

“I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea.” — HG Wells, British novelist, in 1901.

I found this failed prediction particularly interesting as it originated from a veritable icon of futuristic vision.

In reviewing the history of submarines, or manned boats that operate while submerged, I created a simple chart that depicts the basic path of this technology from the 16th century onward:

The shaded area depicts the approximate lifespan of H.G. Wells within this overall timeframe. I think it's obvious that the submarine was a well-formed concept by Wells' time. Jules Verne had envisioned the capabilities of modern submarines when he wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870.

So why was H.G. Wells unable to imagine the future success of submarines back in 1901? I think that it points to the same kind of bias that influences just about any human prediction. Even though submarines had a documented history of incremental (albeit slow) improvement, it was a field fraught with mortal risk up to that point in time. At the dawning of the 20th century, the reality of the many underwater disasters was likely a weighty testimony against the promise of future submarine technology.

It's interesting to note that H.G. Wells later went on to accurately predict the development of submarine launched ballistic missiles in The Shape of Things To Come (1933). This latter prediction would've been much easier to envision given the rapid improvement in this technology after the turn of the century and obvious success of submarines during World War I.

- Adolf


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Successful Prediction: Jules Verne and Travel to the Moon (1865)

In 1865, Jules Verne wrote of travel to our moon in his science fantasy novel From the Earth to the Moon. Even though the method he envisioned for propulsion (cannon) was eventually proven to be impractical, other ideas that Verne articulated are quite remarkable in their similarity to the Apollo program:

- Each spacecraft held a crew of three
- Verne’s projectile was very close in size to the Apollo command module
- Both spacecraft were launched from Florida
- Verne’s plot also considered Texas as a launch location

The following chart depicts a rough timeline of significant developments in astronomy and space technology from the 16th century forward:

The shaded area depicts the approximate timeframe of Verne’s earthly presence within this timeline that spans half a millennium. It’s interesting to note that Verne’s conceptualization of human moon travel predated the entire era of modern space-related technology.

Was it incredible foresight, or just a lucky guess? More than likely, the answer falls somewhere in between. I developed a simple model of what may have been the significant factors that influenced the birth of Verne’s novel idea:

Please note that this diagram is highly speculative - being based on my limited knowledge of Jules Verne’s life and some assumptions. I have assumed that he had some knowledge of the history of astronomy and orbital mechanics providing a scientific “vector” for his imagination.

Based on the content and quantity of his other literary works, it seems obvious that Verne had a strong personal interest in this field and significant talent for articulating his imagination.

Given the fact that the vehicle for this prediction was a humorous fantasy novel, I suspect that his creative mind was free to roam without the constraints of contemporary scientific or scholarly scrutiny.

It is likely that this last factor also precluded the need to seriously consider the reality of social, political, or fiscal risks that would have heaped doubt on more formalized predictive thought.

- Adolf

Ideas or facts were used from the following sources:

Technology’s Promise: Dr. William Halal (2007)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Web 2.0 Tools: Tokbox

Tokbox ( is a web-based video mail & calling service that is provided free of charge. While there are many ways to communicate with voice & video over the Web, this particular application is worth taking a look at. Assuming that you already have a functional video camera & microphone, is should find it extremely easy to set up an account and begin using it. My top three reasons to try it:

1.) Provide at no cost with no advertising banners
2.) Intuitive interface, easily mastered functionality
3.) Can be used solely with a Web browser

A screenshot of the Inbox:

I did not test the optional client as I have no desire at the present time to load another voice/video client on my computer. The browser interface works just fine for now.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Creative & Visionary Thinkers -

Innovation takes creativity & vision. For a large dose of both, I recommend visiting The Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference and website hosts a tremendous diversity of thought-provoking subject matter and perspectives. Here are a few examples:

Evangelist Billy Graham's perspective on faith, technology, and suffering:

Evolutionist Richard Dawkins encourages atheists:

Space travel entrepreneur Peter Diamandis on our next leap in space: