Posted by: graemebird | January 2, 2011

Is Bill Cosby The Funniest Man In The World?

The Cosby’s on crack. Or should I say …. The Cosby’s ISLAMISIZED without beating their addiction to crack:

“Yeah, Dr. Huxtable stones Rudy to death for talking to a boy at pre-school. Comedy gold. In other hilarious developments, Theodore, blows up Grand Central with a backpack bomb.”

The Quote is from some fellow at Catallaxy. A fellow who I usually agree with but who nonetheless takes a mean-spirited and uppity attitude towards me, if my memory isn’t playing tricks on me. But the quote reminds me of my sometime assertion that Bill Cosby is the funniest man in the world.

HERE COSBY FIND HUMOR IN EVERYDAY EXPERIENCES

Actually Bill Cosby is in my top three. Peter Cook, John Cleese and Bill Cosby. Now one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong …. as they say in Sesame street. Why are Peter Cook and John Cleese grouped together in your mind and why is Bill Cosby on his own?

Well the thing is Cleese started his career by acting out skits that Peter Cook had already written-and-performed. He was a late starter, and went in with the other BBC types, with productions like …… Don’t Adjust Your TV Set …… Yet ….. And then fell in with the Monty Python team. He was by no means the early innovator. Its just that as time went on his inherent superior talent emerged, to cap his early-innovating mentors. I wonder if a lot of this doesn’t come down to good health. I say this as someone who is emerging from a very long period of not being very energetic and suddenly finding out what I need to do to get more energetic. Here is Peter Cook …. this incredibly innovative comedian, even from his early teens, and a whole swag of people eating “from the crumbs that fell from his table.”

Here Cook is clearly funnier than Cosby above. But Cook is mining a deeper vein of tragedy, trauma, social dysfunction, collective embarrassment, and psychological pain. So while Cook is clearly more funny in this instance, it is COSBY WHO HAS THE HARDER GIG.

Why I put Cosby as in the top three and possibly number one is that he could make normal everyday things funny. No-one else, in his weight-division, could pull this off, in the way that he could.

Bill Cosby didn’t have to be breaking down the class structure, or performing an act of Cartharsis, for two world wars and a lost empire, and he didn’t have to be exploiting the weak points of a repressed society ……. he didn’t have to be doing any of these things ….. to get a laugh.

Bill Cosby was a fellow who could get a laugh anywhere he looked. Anywhere he looked around the house. Anywhere he looked and observed normal people. No other man had that sort of talent. Whereas Cleese, himself a very conservative fellow, could get a laugh from taking things to a harder edge … But in comparison ….. Cosby could get a laugh out of ANYTHING. Normal things. Normal relationships.

Its hard to pick a winner of the three. Cleese achieved so much with Fawlty Towers but he stands on Cooks shoulders. But Cosby is sensational and a real original. Cook is still more original than Cosby, but had achieved so much by the time he was through his twenties. And didn’t really shine for a wider crowd from then on. With my new understanding of health matters I would speculate that perhaps Cook failed to shine on the grounds of various health problems. He was still extraordinarily funny. But did not get as much done as what one would have thought he was capable of.

I don’t know. Its very easy just to say: “Bill Cosby is the funniest man in the world” ..

Very easy to assert this. Very hard to falsify.

HERE FOR ONCE, PETER TURNS HIS TALENTS TO THE NORMAL SORTS OF THINGS. PROBLEMS WITH GIRLS. BLOODY GRETA GARBO.

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Responses

  1. you’ll be pleased to know, Graeme, Cosby is into the whole black self-reliance. self improvement thing like your other hero Malcolm X

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pound_Cake_speech

    • I think of him as a genius level fellow. Its really hard to make people laugh like that. Ultimately I think I would have to give the title of funniest man in the modern era to Peter Cook though. But you have to imagine how hard it is to what what Cosby did.

  2. dear Stephen Fry

  3. Yeah Fry makes a good point. But having been there myself, I’d have to suspect that if Peter had gotten hold of an alkaliser and a copy of Jerry Tennants book “Healing is Voltage” that he would be still alive and running a production company that was making a fortune. Since there is no escaping his all-around genius.

    You slip into this gig where you are feeling rotten all the time, and the only things that can make you feel good RIGHT NOW are things that detract from your health generally. So whether it be Elvis taking uppers to get up, downers to get down, and cheeseburger cheeseburger cheeseburger, or Peter downing hard liquor and tranquilisers, its really the same syndrome.

    Putting aside pathogens that create pandemics and just a few others …… the run-of-the-mill pathogens in your body are “less aerobic” and are not comfortable, or powerfully active in a high pH or high oxygen environment….

    …((((((paradoxically some of them seem to be okay with a high pH environment if they are being cultured on their own. But not when they are part of a fully blown ecology within your body. I don’t know what is going on here, and so cannot say too much about it.)))))))))…..

    ……… Now supposing you are low pH and therefore have a lower level of oxygen absorption in your body. Not only are the run-of-the-mill pathogens more active, actively dissolving your cells and poisoning you, but you find it hard to digest fat and turn it into energy. Because fat takes an enormous amount of oxygen to convert into energy. Fat is like diesel as compared to natural gas in this respect.

    So to even get out of bed and get anything done you want to take some sort of upper, eat sugary foods, perhaps take a shot of rum or something. You’ll do anything to give yourself a quick burst of energy. But of course the coffee, pills, and shots are draining you of electrons, the sugar is feeding the cancer cells and the pathogens, the alcohol is feeding all pathogens except the fungi (since alcohol is yeast excrement) and so just to feel a little bit better in the short run you are boosting all your bodies enemies. The biological equivalent of paying the Danegeld.

    It would require immense discipline to get out of that bind once you are in it. Or at least it would have. But now you have the alkaliser. And so you can quickly get to a point where you are over-matching all your bad habits, that drain you of electrons, with this electrically charged water. You don’t have to think all that hard about it. All you have to do is get the timing right, and try to drink more and more of it at stronger and stronger levels of voltage.

    Pretty soon you are able to burn fat better than anyone around you. So you can work longer without having a feed. Its easy then to alter your diet without feeling like crap. And it becomes a pretty simple task to save the drinks until dinnertime …. Although cutting back to healthy levels is going to be a bit of a challenge still if you have become addicted. But not the sort of insurmountable deal that it would be without this great technology.

  4. Interesting.

    But what you’re absenting from the picture (in relation to talents/celebrities like Peter Cook and Elvis Presley) is the corrosive effects their success and celebrity rapidly had on their psyches and the undermining effects that in turn had on their physical health, relationships and eventually their creative ability.

    Both these men had an enormous amount of love and adulation directed at them at a very young age. They were both physically beautiful. Cook was also cerebral, a matador of wit. At a certain point Cook said he felt like he didn’t know who he was and that he always felt compelled to perform or inhabit one of his personas even when around friends and family.

    I’d love to read a good account of his relationship with Dudley Moore who was his inferior in talent but who became far more successful than he with his Hollywood career though he probably never did anything as good as his early work with Peter Cook and I think knew that in the end and he too died relatively young and had a drinking problem, though not nearly as debilitating.

    Cook’s first wife Wendy said after his death she thought Cook loved Moore more than anyone in his life though he treated him quite shamefully once he started drinking and spoke very cruely of him once Moore became more successful and his own career waned. This in turn helped fuel the demons that drove him to addiction which he did try to overcome, but which killed him in the end at the age of 57.

    But it is fantastic to be able to see so much of his early work on Youtube today and it’s good you’ve drawn attention to it. I never really warmed to his humour much in the past. I always thought it was a bit twee, though all the males in my family over several generations were and are still crazy about Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in their prime so I’ve been very aware of their oeuvre for most of my life.

  5. “Here Cook is clearly funnier than Cosby above. But Cook is mining a deeper vein of tragedy, trauma, social dysfunction, collective embarrassment, and psychological pain. So while Cook is clearly more funny in this instance, it is COSBY WHO HAS THE HARDER GIG.”

    That is a really interesting comment, especially your second sentence. I never thought of Cook doing that or of even having that sort of empathy. I always found his humour deeply cynical and borderline cruel. But then many people, men and women presumably did love his humour, and he was no radical, possibly a Tory, if a rather anarchic one.

  6. Some of his later humor was incredibly cruel. He was drinking very heavily at the time and in some distress. Taking it out on Dudley. But it might be just taking the cruelty of humor to an extremist, virtually fascist extent. I’d be falling about the place laughing at it, but I wouldn’t for one second expect you to find it funny, since there is always the worry that some of the people laughing would think of the real version as funny. After all some of the things he was saying were later manifested in those wars that broke out after the iron curtain fell. So the laughs we were getting could hardly be thought all that funny when scenes of such cruelty were being acted out in Europe, for example, when the former Yugoslavia fell apart.

    Just from memory …..

    So I took her. And I put on my great hobnail boots, and kicked her and kicked her and kicked her in the cunt for half a fucking hour until I was fucking exhausted …. And you know what? The cunt wouldn’t get up and take a polaroid ….

    The shock-funny nature of that can sour on one when you hear stories of seven year old girls being pack-raped and then sliced from bottom to top up the middle, just because she was the child in the tribal sociological group on the other side of a Serb-Croation conflict. This story related to me firsthand by a Macedonian veteran.

  7. One of the most amazing things that Cook could do is get to a punchline and just extend it to an incredible extent. So instead of hearing the punchline and saying ho ho and thats it, you were locked in this punchline for an extended period of time. I’ve never seen anyone quite match this ability. Sometimes you get this in a scene from Southpark. Like when the Succubis that Chef is about to marry shows herself, in front of Chefs parents, and Chefs dad assumes its the Loch Ness monster, and has to pay the Loch Ness monster off with two-fitty. That scene just plays out in extended fashion in the same way that Cook was able to extend these climax-punch-lines.

    You see it in the tarzan skit. The way that his explanation of why Dudley is wrong for the part is “stretched” as it were. I’ll probably come up with other examples later on tonight.

  8. Oh. I never knew he was that dark. But I am not surprised. As I said I never watched him much at all when the bros would put on the tapes. I always found him cold and steel like, which probably made him the perfect foil for the cuddly, warmer, more “ordinary” Moore. As I say I’m more interested in his life and trajectory than his work per se. He certainly enjoyed a lot of support from the key women in his life, his wives and lovers. But then they seemed to forgive him of much, because he made them laugh so, or so they said.

  9. Yes, John Cleese and others have spoken of Cook’sability to improvise and brilliantly play off and dominant a foil – such as Moore, or a table of dinner guests – endlessly, for several hours, even, without a break, to the point that it became wearying for the observer, if still hilariously entertaining.

    Some described their relationship as based on the pursuit of of power, and that e.g. Cook would do his utmost to make Moore laugh during their improvisations without laughing himself and that, and also making Moore look like a twat, was a great deal of the successful part of the gag for Cook, though Moore enjoyed and benefited from that gig too, very much, at least when they were mutually successful.

  10. You hear of people like Samuel Johnson having Boswell following him around and recording his observations and sayings and such. Or with Plato making Socrates famous with his reconstructions of the conversations of Socrates. We’d have seen a lot more of Cook no doubt, had he had someone similar.

    Actually, on an entirely different note, that reminds me of Plato’s reconstruction of the death of Socrates. Its funny how things remind one of ones Mother. Since while mum was nothing like the proto-Stoic Socrates, she was radically stoic about her own health. Which was her undoing. She just didn’t think about it and carried on like a crippled terminator, putting her trust in her non-strategic doctors. Her Stoicism with regards to her own health was such that she would probably think I was being a big sissy getting angry about her medical “care” and day-dreaming about suing her doctors.

    Clearly I was thinking of this passage when I was distressed about Mums death:

    “……. Then raising the cup to his lips, quite readily and cheerfully he drank off the poison. And hitherto most of us had been able to control our sorrow; but now when we saw him drinking, and saw too that he had finished the draught, we could not longer forbear, and in spite of myself my own tears were flowing fast; so that I covered my face and wept, not for him, but at the thought of my own calamity in having to part from such a friend.

    Nor was I the first; for Crito, when he found himself unable to restrain his tears, had got up, and I followed; and at that moment, Apollodorus, who had been weeping all the time, broke out in a loud and passionate cry which made cowards of us all.

    SOCRATES ALONE RETAINED HIS CALMNESS: “What is this strange outcry?” he said. “I sent away the women mainly in order that they might not misbehave in this way, for I have been told that a man should die in peace. Be quiet then, and have patience.”

    When we heard his words we were ashamed, and refrained our tears; and he walked about until, as he said, his legs began to fail, and then he lay on his back, according to the directions, and the man who gave him the poison now and then looked at his feet and legs; and after a while he pressed his foot hard, and asked him if he could feel; and he said, “No;” and then his leg, and so upwards and upwards, and showed us that he was cold and stiff. And he felt them himself, and said: “When the poison reaches the heart, that will be the end.”

    He was beginning to grow cold about the groin, when he uncovered his face, for he had covered himself up, and said–they were his last words–he said: “Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; (1) will you remember to pay the debt?

    “The debt shall be paid,” said Crito; “is there anything else?”

    There was no answer to this question; but in a minute or two a movement was heard, and the attendants uncovered him; his eyes were set, and Crito closed his eyes and mouth.

    Such was the end . . . of our friend; concerning whom I may truly say, that of all the men of his time whom I have known, he was the wisest and justest and best.

  11. That’s a great quote.

    But, on the other hand, when someone is very ill, or dying, what others want or expect or demand from them is not necessarily what’s at the forefront of their own minds, or reflective of their needs or wishes. And to try in an ultimately egoistic way to stamp one’s own wishes or preferences onto them, at that point, can be not that helpful or comforting for them, or in the end, oneself.

  12. Right. But if she was feeling healthy, she would likely have wanted to go on living. And she was improving. But then they gave her chemotherapy again, wiped out her immune system, then of course they had to give her anti-biotics again, and her system could not expel the dead bugs. Plus the anti-biotics could not stop the infections anymore. Which is entirely predictable. Since anti-biotics are a glass key. You can use them for awhile. Then they don’t work any more. To me the incompetence is shocking. Since it was predicatable in advance that they weren’t going to win. They were fighting to lose. Fighting on their own 25 metre line, with no prospect of victory. We are talking faith-based medicine here but worse than that since everyone agrees to failure in advance.

    Then the speed at which they killed her off was shocking. Having failed with their irrational methodology they left no chance for anyone to apply a rational strategy based on science.

  13. I don’t think Peter Cook was a Plato or Socrates, a Boswell or a Johnson.

    I’m actually genuinely quite bemused that people thought him funny at all. When my male rels re-enact or retell some of his pieces, I watch them mostly aghast with embarrassment and boredom.

    I think he as a human being and his life are infinitely more interesting than his comedic routines, though it’s a shame that the former has in no way to date – that I know of – been illuminated to reveal the way in which, or why, it produced the latter.

  14. People can die very quickly. Or not. My father died of cancer over about 10 months months and we had multiple hospital farewells where he and the staff would summon us, he would make another final speech, as was his wont, and the next day he would be bright and chirpy and want to drink his favourite tipple.

    My sister unexpectedly died five years after being diagnosed with cancer, just weeks after arriving home from an overseas trip of several weeks where she’d been very active. A friend’s middle-aged mother died suddenly one week after an intensive course of radiation therapy after similar, successful or at least benign treatments over a period of many years.

    The first person I know who died of cancer, in my 20s, was an older male friend. He was 44 when he died, an Australian who went to an elite, expensive clinic on the Mexican American border, and had the full alternative treatment including the therapies that you’ve described. It didn’t save him.

  15. anyways, thank the goddesses for music, eh Birdie.

  16. My mind wanders because I’m trying to flesh out what 9/11 tells us about the shadow government. Is it an American shadow government or a world shadow government?

    I have a tape playing which you might call “confessions of a fixer” or a “cleaner” in terms of the Tarantino version of the word.

    One time I was talking with a gentleman in his late sixties. He was formally part of the British aristocracy but he had spent a great deal of time in South Africa. He was telling me how he had taken in an interest in how people got killed without any evidence pointing back to the killers.

    What had happened was this. He was in London when the Krays were part of the crime scene there:

    “Reginald “Reggie” Kray (24 October 1933 – 1 October 2000) and his twin brother Ronald “Ronnie” Kray (24 October 1933 – 17 March 1995) were the foremost perpetrators of organised crime in London’s East End during the 1950s and 1960s.”

    I don’t want to identify him too readily. But he told me that the above was not the case. He said the Krays weren’t the real hard men. There was another family whose organisation was tougher and more ruthless. But way more discreet. So much so that they were almost using the Krays as a sort of buffer zone. They kept out of the limelight. They kept out of the news. People didn’t know their names and I won’t repeat the family name here. He started to notice how the news he was reading was different from what he had learnt through the grape-vine. Then he started interpreting the news differently. So that if he read a story that said one thing, he would interpret it that the Krays had staged a robbery, and that his mob had stolen the loot off the Krays, and the Krays having very little in the way of comeback.

    Anyway his wife had a terrible boss. And the boss was treating her very poorly and distressing her. And this fellow made the mistake of mentioning to one of his mobster friends, what a tyrant this boss was to his wife. And his wifes boss was dead within a few days of that casual conversation that he wished he had never had. So that is how he became interested in how people died without anyone being able to pin it on foul play.

    He told me about the witchdoctors in Southern Africa. And someone comes to one of these fellows. And they want someone dead. So the witchdoctor takes a female snake. Now the details of this have grown dim to me. Its something about rubbing the ovaries of the snake all the way up the path towards the victims house. Then the male comes along and kills the targeted native. And no-one can pin the crime on anyone.

    In hearings back in the late sixties the CIA openly admitted they could give anyone a heart attack by firing a frozen liquid into them. The frozen bullet melts and induces a heart attack. We also know from Oswalds life that he had been part of the team that developed a way to induce fast-acting cancer. He was always a pro-American patriot, and was sent into deep cover to make him look like a commie.

    So even 50 years ago they could take anyone out via a secretly induced heart attack or fast-acting cancer. Half a century on imagine what they can do?

    We know where to look if there is a revolution of sort. The people who would carry out this crime need vast resources. To use vast resources you need to be sure that you have access to vast resources in the context of never being audited. Only the Federal Reserve has that capacity. The Federal Reserve sticks out as a sore thumb as the only institution with that sort of exemption. There is no way George Bush would do this. Or could do this. Not him Chaney, or any number of rogues we see on the TV put together. There must have been an element of him looking the other way and realising his wife and daughters were in the balance. But the White House with all its resources could not have pulled this off.

    We are looking for people who would spend millions just to keep out of the limelight. I told the old aristocrat about this. I talked about the massive heist the bankers had pulled off in full view. He said that it was pretty clear that “they (meaning the banking system) had gotten its own maffia. That is when he started talking about the time of the Kray brothers in London. Who were second tier in his view. Just as Goldman Sachs is taking the heat for the big boys now, with their obvious “legalised-crime” spree.

  17. Ah well, the forces of darkness are developing an all-seeing eye. Yessum. But if you watched Avatar, e.g, which emanates from the belly of the beast via a crude “I’m the King of the World” dude, you’d know that the machine can be beaten by other forms of power and intelligence.

    Still, this is a harbinger.

    NY Times January 1, 2011
    Computers That See You and Keep Watch Over You
    By STEVE LOHR

    Hundreds of correctional officers from prisons across America descended
    last spring on a shuttered penitentiary in West Virginia for annual
    training exercises.

    Some officers played the role of prisoners, acting like gang members and
    stirring up trouble, including a mock riot. The latest in prison gear got
    a workout ? body armor, shields, riot helmets, smoke bombs, gas masks.
    And, at this year?s drill, computers that could see the action.

    Perched above the prison yard, five cameras tracked the play-acting
    prisoners, and artificial-intelligence software analyzed the images to
    recognize faces, gestures and patterns of group behavior. When two groups
    of inmates moved toward each other, the experimental computer system sent
    an alert ? a text message ? to a corrections officer that warned of a
    potential incident and gave the location.

    The computers cannot do anything more than officers who constantly watch
    surveillance monitors under ideal conditions. But in practice, officers
    are often distracted. When shifts change, an observation that is worth
    passing along may be forgotten. But machines do not blink or forget. They
    are tireless assistants.

    The enthusiasm for such systems extends well beyond the nation?s prisons.
    High-resolution, low-cost cameras are proliferating, found in products
    like smartphones and laptop computers. The cost of storing images is
    dropping, and new software algorithms for mining, matching and
    scrutinizing the flood of visual data are progressing swiftly.

    A computer-vision system can watch a hospital room and remind doctors and
    nurses to wash their hands, or warn of restless patients who are in danger
    of falling out of bed. It can, through a computer-equipped mirror, read a
    man?s face to detect his heart rate and other vital signs. It can analyze
    a woman?s expressions as she watches a movie trailer or shops online, and
    help marketers tailor their offerings accordingly. Computer vision can
    also be used at shopping malls, schoolyards, subway platforms, office
    complexes and stadiums.

    All of which could be helpful ? or alarming.

    ?Machines will definitely be able to observe us and understand us better,?
    said Hartmut Neven, a computer scientist and vision expert at Google.
    ?Where that leads is uncertain.?

    Google has been both at the forefront of the technology?s development and
    a source of the anxiety surrounding it. Its Street View service, which
    lets Internet users zoom in from above on a particular location, faced
    privacy complaints. Google will blur out people?s homes at their request.

    Google has also introduced an application called Goggles, which allows
    people to take a picture with a smartphone and search the Internet for
    matching images. The company?s executives decided to exclude a
    facial-recognition feature, which they feared might be used to find
    personal information on people who did not know that they were being
    photographed.

    Despite such qualms, computer vision is moving into the mainstream. With
    this technological evolution, scientists predict, people will increasingly
    be surrounded by machines that can not only see but also reason about what
    they are seeing, in their own limited way.

    The uses, noted Frances Scott, an expert in surveillance technologies at
    the National Institute of Justice, the Justice Department?s research
    agency, could allow the authorities to spot a terrorist, identify a lost
    child or locate an Alzheimer?s patient who has wandered off.

    The future of law enforcement, national security and military operations
    will most likely rely on observant machines. A few months ago, the Defense
    Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon?s research arm, awarded
    the first round of grants in a five-year research program called the
    Mind?s Eye. Its goal is to develop machines that can recognize, analyze
    and communicate what they see. Mounted on small robots or drones, these
    smart machines could replace human scouts. ?These things, in a sense,
    could be team members,? said James Donlon, the program?s manager.

    Millions of people now use products that show the progress that has been
    made in computer vision. In the last two years, the major online
    photo-sharing services ? Picasa by Google, Windows Live Photo Gallery by
    Microsoft, Flickr by Yahoo and iPhoto by Apple ? have all started using
    face recognition. A user puts a name to a face, and the service finds
    matches in other photographs. It is a popular tool for finding and
    organizing pictures.

    Kinect, an add-on to Microsoft?s Xbox 360 gaming console, is a striking
    advance for computer vision in the marketplace. It uses a digital camera
    and sensors to recognize people and gestures; it also understands voice
    commands. Players control the computer with waves of the hand, and then
    move to make their on-screen animated stand-ins ? known as avatars ? run,
    jump, swing and dance. Since Kinect was introduced in November, game
    reviewers have applauded, and sales are surging.

    To Microsoft, Kinect is not just a game, but a step toward the future of
    computing. ?It?s a world where technology more fundamentally understands
    you, so you don?t have to understand it,? said Alex Kipman, an engineer on
    the team that designed Kinect.

    ?Please Wash Your Hands?

    A nurse walks into a hospital room while scanning a clipboard. She greets
    the patient and washes her hands. She checks and records his heart rate
    and blood pressure, adjusts the intravenous drip, turns him over to look
    for bed sores, then heads for the door but does not wash her hands again,
    as protocol requires. ?Pardon the interruption,? declares a recorded
    women?s voice, with a slight British accent. ?Please wash your hands.?

    Three months ago, Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, N.Y., began an
    experiment with computer vision in a single hospital room. Three small
    cameras, mounted inconspicuously on the ceiling, monitor movements in Room
    542, in a special care unit (a notch below intensive care) where patients
    are treated for conditions like severe pneumonia, heart attacks and
    strokes. The cameras track people going in and out of the room as well as
    the patient?s movements in bed.

    The first applications of the system, designed by scientists at General
    Electric, are immediate reminders and alerts. Doctors and nurses are
    supposed to wash their hands before and after touching a patient; lapses
    contribute significantly to hospital-acquired infections, research shows.

    The camera over the bed delivers images to software that is programmed to
    recognize movements that indicate when a patient is in danger of falling
    out of bed. The system would send an alert to a nearby nurse.

    If the results at Bassett prove to be encouraging, more features can be
    added, like software that analyzes facial expressions for signs of severe
    pain, the onset of delirium or other hints of distress, said Kunter Akbay,
    a G.E. scientist.

    Hospitals have an incentive to adopt tools that improve patient safety.
    Medicare and Medicaid are adjusting reimbursement rates to penalize
    hospitals that do not work to prevent falls and pressure ulcers, and whose
    doctors and nurses do not wash their hands enough. But it is too early to
    say whether computer vision, like the system being tried out at Bassett,
    will prove to be cost-effective.

    Mirror, Mirror

    Daniel J. McDuff, a graduate student, stood in front of a mirror at the
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology?s Media Lab. After 20 seconds or so,
    a figure ? 65, the number of times his heart was beating per minute ?
    appeared at the mirror?s bottom. Behind the two-way mirror was a Web
    camera, which fed images of Mr. McDuff to a computer whose software could
    track the blood flow in his face.

    The software separates the video images into three channels ? for the
    basic colors red, green and blue. Changes to the colors and to movements
    made by tiny contractions and expansions in blood vessels in the face are,
    of course, not apparent to the human eye, but the computer can see them.

    ?Your heart-rate signal is in your face,? said Ming-zher Poh, an M.I.T.
    graduate student. Other vital signs, including breathing rate,
    blood-oxygen level and blood pressure, should leave similar color and
    movement clues.

    The pulse-measuring project, described in research published in May by Mr.
    Poh, Mr. McDuff and Rosalind W. Picard, a professor at the lab, is just
    the beginning, Mr. Poh said. Computer vision and clever software, he said,
    make it possible to monitor humans? vital signs at a digital glance. Daily
    measurements can be analyzed to reveal that, for example, a person?s risk
    of heart trouble is rising. ?This can happen, and in the future it will be
    in mirrors,? he said.

    Faces can yield all sorts of information to watchful computers, and the
    M.I.T. students? adviser, Dr. Picard, is a pioneer in the field,
    especially in the use of computing to measure and communicate emotions.
    For years, she and a research scientist at the university, Rana
    el-Kaliouby, have applied facial-expression analysis software to help
    young people with autism better recognize the emotional signals from
    others that they have such a hard time understanding.

    The two women are the co-founders of Affectiva, a company in Waltham,
    Mass., that is beginning to market its facial-expression analysis software
    to manufacturers of consumer products, retailers, marketers and movie
    studios. Its mission is to mine consumers? emotional responses to improve
    the designs and marketing campaigns of products.

    John Ross, chief executive of Shopper Sciences, a marketing research
    company that is part of the Interpublic Group, said Affectiva?s technology
    promises to give marketers an impartial reading of the sequence of
    emotions that leads to a purchase, in a way that focus groups and customer
    surveys cannot. ?You can see and analyze how people are reacting in real
    time, not what they are saying later, when they are often trying to be
    polite,? he said. The technology, he added, is more scientific and less
    costly than having humans look at store surveillance videos, which some
    retailers do.

    The facial-analysis software, Mr. Ross said, could be used in store kiosks
    or with Webcams. Shopper Sciences, he said, is testing Affectiva?s
    software with a major retailer and an online dating service, neither of
    which he would name. The dating service, he said, was analyzing users?
    expressions in search of ?trigger words? in personal profiles that people
    found appealing or off-putting.

    Watching the Watchers

    Maria Sonin, 33, an office worker in Waltham, Mass., sat in front of a
    notebook computer looking at a movie trailer while Affectiva?s software,
    through the PC?s Webcam, calibrated her reaction. The trailer was for
    ?Little Fockers,? starring Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller, which opened
    just before Christmas. The software measured her reactions by tracking
    movements on a couple of dozen points on her face ? mostly along the eyes,
    eyebrows, nose and the perimeter of her lips.

    To the human eye, Ms. Sonin appeared to be amused. The software agreed,
    said Dr. Kaliouby, though it used a finer-grained analysis, like recording
    that her smiles were symmetrical (signaling amusement, not embarrassment)
    and not smirks. The software, Ms. Kaliouby said, allows for continuous,
    objective measurement of viewers? response to media, and in the future
    will do so in large numbers on the Web.

    Ms. Sonin, an unpaid volunteer, said later that she did not think about
    being recorded by the Webcam. ?It wasn?t as if it was a big camera in
    front of you,? she said.

    Christopher Hamilton, a technical director of visual effects, has used
    specialized software to analyze facial expressions and recreate them on
    the screen. The films he has worked on include ?King Kong,? ?Charlotte?s
    Web? and ?The Matrix Revolutions.? Using facial-expression analysis
    technology to gauge the reaction of viewers, who agree to be watched, may
    well become a valuable tool for movie makers, said Mr. Hamilton, who is
    not involved with Affectiva.

    Today, sampling audience reaction before a movie is released typically
    means gathering a couple of hundred people at a preview screening. The
    audience members then answer questions and fill out surveys. Yet viewers,
    marketing experts say, are often inarticulate and imprecise about their
    emotional reactions.

    The software ?makes it possible to measure audience response with a
    scene-by-scene granularity that the current survey-and-questionnaire
    approach cannot,? Mr. Hamilton said. A director, he added, could find out,
    for example, that although audience members liked a movie over all, they
    did not like two or three scenes. Or he could learn that a particular
    character did not inspire the intended emotional response.

    Emotion-sensing software, Mr. Hamilton said, might become part of the
    entertainment experience ? especially as more people watch movies and
    programs on Internet-connected televisions, computers and portable
    devices. Viewers could share their emotional responses with friends using
    recommendation systems based on what scene ? say, the protagonists?
    dancing or a car chase ? delivered the biggest emotional jolt.

    Affectiva, Dr. Picard said, intends to offer its technology as ?opt-in
    only,? meaning consumers have to be notified and have to agree to be
    watched online or in stores. Affectiva, she added, has turned down
    companies, which she declined to name, that wanted to use its software
    without notifying customers.

    Darker Possibilities

    Dr. Picard enunciates a principled stance, but one that could become
    problematic in other hands.

    The challenge arises from the prospect of the rapid spread of
    less-expensive yet powerful computer-vision technologies.

    At work or school, the technology opens the door to a computerized
    supervisor that is always watching. Are you paying attention, goofing off
    or daydreaming? In stores and shopping malls, smart surveillance could
    bring behavioral tracking into the physical world.

    More subtle could be the effect of a person knowing that he is being
    watched ? and how that awareness changes his thinking and actions. It
    could be beneficial: a person thinks twice and a crime goes uncommitted.
    But might it also lead to a society that is less spontaneous, less
    creative, less innovative?

    ?With every technology, there is a dark side,? said Hany Farid, a computer
    scientist at Dartmouth. ?Sometimes you can predict it, but often you
    can?t.?

    A decade ago, he noted, no one predicted that cellphones and text
    messaging would lead to traffic accidents caused by distracted drivers.
    And, he said, it was difficult to foresee that the rise of Facebook and
    Twitter and personal blogs would become troves of data to be collected and
    exploited in tracking people?s online behavior.

    Often, a technology that is benign in one setting can cause harm in a
    different context. Google confronted that problem this year with its
    face-recognition software. In its Picasa photo-storing and sharing
    service, face recognition helps people find and organize pictures of
    family and friends.

    But the company took a different approach with Goggles, which lets a
    person snap a photograph with a smartphone, setting off an Internet
    search. Take a picture of the Eiffel Tower and links to Web pages with
    background information and articles about it appear on the phone?s screen.
    Take a picture of a wine bottle and up come links to reviews of that
    vintage.

    Google could have put face recognition into the Goggles application;
    indeed, many users have asked for it. But Google decided against it
    because smartphones can be used to take pictures of individuals without
    their knowledge, and a face match could retrieve all kinds of personal
    information ? name, occupation, address, workplace.

    ?It was just too sensitive, and we didn?t want to go there,? said Eric E.
    Schmidt, the chief executive of Google. ?You want to avoid enabling
    stalker behavior.?

  18. It’s got beyond one national government. See this:

    NY Times January 1, 2011
    Computers That See You and Keep Watch Over You
    By STEVE LOHR

    Hundreds of correctional officers from prisons across America descended
    last spring on a shuttered penitentiary in West Virginia for annual
    training exercises.

    Some officers played the role of prisoners, acting like gang members and
    stirring up trouble, including a mock riot. The latest in prison gear got
    a workout ? body armor, shields, riot helmets, smoke bombs, gas masks.
    And, at this year?s drill, computers that could see the action.

    Perched above the prison yard, five cameras tracked the play-acting
    prisoners, and artificial-intelligence software analyzed the images to
    recognize faces, gestures and patterns of group behavior. When two groups
    of inmates moved toward each other, the experimental computer system sent
    an alert ? a text message ? to a corrections officer that warned of a
    potential incident and gave the location.

    The computers cannot do anything more than officers who constantly watch
    surveillance monitors under ideal conditions. But in practice, officers
    are often distracted. When shifts change, an observation that is worth
    passing along may be forgotten. But machines do not blink or forget. They
    are tireless assistants.

    The enthusiasm for such systems extends well beyond the nation?s prisons.
    High-resolution, low-cost cameras are proliferating, found in products
    like smartphones and laptop computers. The cost of storing images is
    dropping, and new software algorithms for mining, matching and
    scrutinizing the flood of visual data are progressing swiftly.

    A computer-vision system can watch a hospital room and remind doctors and
    nurses to wash their hands, or warn of restless patients who are in danger
    of falling out of bed. It can, through a computer-equipped mirror, read a
    man?s face to detect his heart rate and other vital signs. It can analyze
    a woman?s expressions as she watches a movie trailer or shops online, and
    help marketers tailor their offerings accordingly. Computer vision can
    also be used at shopping malls, schoolyards, subway platforms, office
    complexes and stadiums.

    All of which could be helpful ? or alarming.

    ?Machines will definitely be able to observe us and understand us better,?
    said Hartmut Neven, a computer scientist and vision expert at Google.
    ?Where that leads is uncertain.?

    Google has been both at the forefront of the technology?s development and
    a source of the anxiety surrounding it. Its Street View service, which
    lets Internet users zoom in from above on a particular location, faced
    privacy complaints. Google will blur out people?s homes at their request.

    Google has also introduced an application called Goggles, which allows
    people to take a picture with a smartphone and search the Internet for
    matching images. The company?s executives decided to exclude a
    facial-recognition feature, which they feared might be used to find
    personal information on people who did not know that they were being
    photographed.

    Despite such qualms, computer vision is moving into the mainstream. With
    this technological evolution, scientists predict, people will increasingly
    be surrounded by machines that can not only see but also reason about what
    they are seeing, in their own limited way.

    The uses, noted Frances Scott, an expert in surveillance technologies at
    the National Institute of Justice, the Justice Department?s research
    agency, could allow the authorities to spot a terrorist, identify a lost
    child or locate an Alzheimer?s patient who has wandered off.

    The future of law enforcement, national security and military operations
    will most likely rely on observant machines. A few months ago, the Defense
    Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon?s research arm, awarded
    the first round of grants in a five-year research program called the
    Mind?s Eye. Its goal is to develop machines that can recognize, analyze
    and communicate what they see. Mounted on small robots or drones, these
    smart machines could replace human scouts. ?These things, in a sense,
    could be team members,? said James Donlon, the program?s manager.

    Millions of people now use products that show the progress that has been
    made in computer vision. In the last two years, the major online
    photo-sharing services ? Picasa by Google, Windows Live Photo Gallery by
    Microsoft, Flickr by Yahoo and iPhoto by Apple ? have all started using
    face recognition. A user puts a name to a face, and the service finds
    matches in other photographs. It is a popular tool for finding and
    organizing pictures.

    Kinect, an add-on to Microsoft?s Xbox 360 gaming console, is a striking
    advance for computer vision in the marketplace. It uses a digital camera
    and sensors to recognize people and gestures; it also understands voice
    commands. Players control the computer with waves of the hand, and then
    move to make their on-screen animated stand-ins ? known as avatars ? run,
    jump, swing and dance. Since Kinect was introduced in November, game
    reviewers have applauded, and sales are surging.

    To Microsoft, Kinect is not just a game, but a step toward the future of
    computing. ?It?s a world where technology more fundamentally understands
    you, so you don?t have to understand it,? said Alex Kipman, an engineer on
    the team that designed Kinect.

    ?Please Wash Your Hands?

    A nurse walks into a hospital room while scanning a clipboard. She greets
    the patient and washes her hands. She checks and records his heart rate
    and blood pressure, adjusts the intravenous drip, turns him over to look
    for bed sores, then heads for the door but does not wash her hands again,
    as protocol requires. ?Pardon the interruption,? declares a recorded
    women?s voice, with a slight British accent. ?Please wash your hands.?

    Three months ago, Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, N.Y., began an
    experiment with computer vision in a single hospital room. Three small
    cameras, mounted inconspicuously on the ceiling, monitor movements in Room
    542, in a special care unit (a notch below intensive care) where patients
    are treated for conditions like severe pneumonia, heart attacks and
    strokes. The cameras track people going in and out of the room as well as
    the patient?s movements in bed.

    The first applications of the system, designed by scientists at General
    Electric, are immediate reminders and alerts. Doctors and nurses are
    supposed to wash their hands before and after touching a patient; lapses
    contribute significantly to hospital-acquired infections, research shows.

    The camera over the bed delivers images to software that is programmed to
    recognize movements that indicate when a patient is in danger of falling
    out of bed. The system would send an alert to a nearby nurse.

    If the results at Bassett prove to be encouraging, more features can be
    added, like software that analyzes facial expressions for signs of severe
    pain, the onset of delirium or other hints of distress, said Kunter Akbay,
    a G.E. scientist.

    Hospitals have an incentive to adopt tools that improve patient safety.
    Medicare and Medicaid are adjusting reimbursement rates to penalize
    hospitals that do not work to prevent falls and pressure ulcers, and whose
    doctors and nurses do not wash their hands enough. But it is too early to
    say whether computer vision, like the system being tried out at Bassett,
    will prove to be cost-effective.

    Mirror, Mirror

    Daniel J. McDuff, a graduate student, stood in front of a mirror at the
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology?s Media Lab. After 20 seconds or so,
    a figure ? 65, the number of times his heart was beating per minute ?
    appeared at the mirror?s bottom. Behind the two-way mirror was a Web
    camera, which fed images of Mr. McDuff to a computer whose software could
    track the blood flow in his face.

    The software separates the video images into three channels ? for the
    basic colors red, green and blue. Changes to the colors and to movements
    made by tiny contractions and expansions in blood vessels in the face are,
    of course, not apparent to the human eye, but the computer can see them.

    ?Your heart-rate signal is in your face,? said Ming-zher Poh, an M.I.T.
    graduate student. Other vital signs, including breathing rate,
    blood-oxygen level and blood pressure, should leave similar color and
    movement clues.

    The pulse-measuring project, described in research published in May by Mr.
    Poh, Mr. McDuff and Rosalind W. Picard, a professor at the lab, is just
    the beginning, Mr. Poh said. Computer vision and clever software, he said,
    make it possible to monitor humans? vital signs at a digital glance. Daily
    measurements can be analyzed to reveal that, for example, a person?s risk
    of heart trouble is rising. ?This can happen, and in the future it will be
    in mirrors,? he said.

    Faces can yield all sorts of information to watchful computers, and the
    M.I.T. students? adviser, Dr. Picard, is a pioneer in the field,
    especially in the use of computing to measure and communicate emotions.
    For years, she and a research scientist at the university, Rana
    el-Kaliouby, have applied facial-expression analysis software to help
    young people with autism better recognize the emotional signals from
    others that they have such a hard time understanding.

    The two women are the co-founders of Affectiva, a company in Waltham,
    Mass., that is beginning to market its facial-expression analysis software
    to manufacturers of consumer products, retailers, marketers and movie
    studios. Its mission is to mine consumers? emotional responses to improve
    the designs and marketing campaigns of products.

    John Ross, chief executive of Shopper Sciences, a marketing research
    company that is part of the Interpublic Group, said Affectiva?s technology
    promises to give marketers an impartial reading of the sequence of
    emotions that leads to a purchase, in a way that focus groups and customer
    surveys cannot. ?You can see and analyze how people are reacting in real
    time, not what they are saying later, when they are often trying to be
    polite,? he said. The technology, he added, is more scientific and less
    costly than having humans look at store surveillance videos, which some
    retailers do.

    The facial-analysis software, Mr. Ross said, could be used in store kiosks
    or with Webcams. Shopper Sciences, he said, is testing Affectiva?s
    software with a major retailer and an online dating service, neither of
    which he would name. The dating service, he said, was analyzing users?
    expressions in search of ?trigger words? in personal profiles that people
    found appealing or off-putting.

    Watching the Watchers

    Maria Sonin, 33, an office worker in Waltham, Mass., sat in front of a
    notebook computer looking at a movie trailer while Affectiva?s software,
    through the PC?s Webcam, calibrated her reaction. The trailer was for
    ?Little Fockers,? starring Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller, which opened
    just before Christmas. The software measured her reactions by tracking
    movements on a couple of dozen points on her face ? mostly along the eyes,
    eyebrows, nose and the perimeter of her lips.

    To the human eye, Ms. Sonin appeared to be amused. The software agreed,
    said Dr. Kaliouby, though it used a finer-grained analysis, like recording
    that her smiles were symmetrical (signaling amusement, not embarrassment)
    and not smirks. The software, Ms. Kaliouby said, allows for continuous,
    objective measurement of viewers? response to media, and in the future
    will do so in large numbers on the Web.

    Ms. Sonin, an unpaid volunteer, said later that she did not think about
    being recorded by the Webcam. ?It wasn?t as if it was a big camera in
    front of you,? she said.

    Christopher Hamilton, a technical director of visual effects, has used
    specialized software to analyze facial expressions and recreate them on
    the screen. The films he has worked on include ?King Kong,? ?Charlotte?s
    Web? and ?The Matrix Revolutions.? Using facial-expression analysis
    technology to gauge the reaction of viewers, who agree to be watched, may
    well become a valuable tool for movie makers, said Mr. Hamilton, who is
    not involved with Affectiva.

    Today, sampling audience reaction before a movie is released typically
    means gathering a couple of hundred people at a preview screening. The
    audience members then answer questions and fill out surveys. Yet viewers,
    marketing experts say, are often inarticulate and imprecise about their
    emotional reactions.

    The software ?makes it possible to measure audience response with a
    scene-by-scene granularity that the current survey-and-questionnaire
    approach cannot,? Mr. Hamilton said. A director, he added, could find out,
    for example, that although audience members liked a movie over all, they
    did not like two or three scenes. Or he could learn that a particular
    character did not inspire the intended emotional response.

    Emotion-sensing software, Mr. Hamilton said, might become part of the
    entertainment experience ? especially as more people watch movies and
    programs on Internet-connected televisions, computers and portable
    devices. Viewers could share their emotional responses with friends using
    recommendation systems based on what scene ? say, the protagonists?
    dancing or a car chase ? delivered the biggest emotional jolt.

    Affectiva, Dr. Picard said, intends to offer its technology as ?opt-in
    only,? meaning consumers have to be notified and have to agree to be
    watched online or in stores. Affectiva, she added, has turned down
    companies, which she declined to name, that wanted to use its software
    without notifying customers.

    Darker Possibilities

    Dr. Picard enunciates a principled stance, but one that could become
    problematic in other hands.

    The challenge arises from the prospect of the rapid spread of
    less-expensive yet powerful computer-vision technologies.

    At work or school, the technology opens the door to a computerized
    supervisor that is always watching. Are you paying attention, goofing off
    or daydreaming? In stores and shopping malls, smart surveillance could
    bring behavioral tracking into the physical world.

    More subtle could be the effect of a person knowing that he is being
    watched ? and how that awareness changes his thinking and actions. It
    could be beneficial: a person thinks twice and a crime goes uncommitted.
    But might it also lead to a society that is less spontaneous, less
    creative, less innovative?

    ?With every technology, there is a dark side,? said Hany Farid, a computer
    scientist at Dartmouth. ?Sometimes you can predict it, but often you
    can?t.?

    A decade ago, he noted, no one predicted that cellphones and text
    messaging would lead to traffic accidents caused by distracted drivers.
    And, he said, it was difficult to foresee that the rise of Facebook and
    Twitter and personal blogs would become troves of data to be collected and
    exploited in tracking people?s online behavior.

    Often, a technology that is benign in one setting can cause harm in a
    different context. Google confronted that problem this year with its
    face-recognition software. In its Picasa photo-storing and sharing
    service, face recognition helps people find and organize pictures of
    family and friends.

    But the company took a different approach with Goggles, which lets a
    person snap a photograph with a smartphone, setting off an Internet
    search. Take a picture of the Eiffel Tower and links to Web pages with
    background information and articles about it appear on the phone?s screen.
    Take a picture of a wine bottle and up come links to reviews of that
    vintage.

    Google could have put face recognition into the Goggles application;
    indeed, many users have asked for it. But Google decided against it
    because smartphones can be used to take pictures of individuals without
    their knowledge, and a face match could retrieve all kinds of personal
    information ? name, occupation, address, workplace.

    ?It was just too sensitive, and we didn?t want to go there,? said Eric E.
    Schmidt, the chief executive of Google. ?You want to avoid enabling
    stalker behavior.?

  19. Welcome to the future. What you gonna do about it?

    NY Times January 1, 2011
    Computers That See You and Keep Watch Over You
    By STEVE LOHR

    Hundreds of correctional officers from prisons across America descended
    last spring on a shuttered penitentiary in West Virginia for annual
    training exercises.

    Some officers played the role of prisoners, acting like gang members and
    stirring up trouble, including a mock riot. The latest in prison gear got
    a workout body armor, shields, riot helmets, smoke bombs, gas masks.
    And, at this years drill, computers that could see the action.

    Perched above the prison yard, five cameras tracked the play-acting
    prisoners, and artificial-intelligence software analyzed the images to
    recognize faces, gestures and patterns of group behavior. When two groups
    of inmates moved toward each other, the experimental computer system sent
    an alert ? a text message ? to a corrections officer that warned of a
    potential incident and gave the location.

    The computers cannot do anything more than officers who constantly watch
    surveillance monitors under ideal conditions. But in practice, officers
    are often distracted. When shifts change, an observation that is worth
    passing along may be forgotten. But machines do not blink or forget. They
    are tireless assistants.

    The enthusiasm for such systems extends well beyond the nation?s prisons.
    High-resolution, low-cost cameras are proliferating, found in products
    like smartphones and laptop computers. The cost of storing images is
    dropping, and new software algorithms for mining, matching and
    scrutinizing the flood of visual data are progressing swiftly.

    A computer-vision system can watch a hospital room and remind doctors and
    nurses to wash their hands, or warn of restless patients who are in danger
    of falling out of bed. It can, through a computer-equipped mirror, read a
    man?s face to detect his heart rate and other vital signs. It can analyze
    a woman?s expressions as she watches a movie trailer or shops online, and
    help marketers tailor their offerings accordingly. Computer vision can
    also be used at shopping malls, schoolyards, subway platforms, office
    complexes and stadiums.

    All of which could be helpful or alarming.

    Machines will definitely be able to observe us and understand us better,
    said Hartmut Neven, a computer scientist and vision expert at Google.
    Where that leads is uncertain.

    Google has been both at the forefront of the technology?s development and
    a source of the anxiety surrounding it. Its Street View service, which
    lets Internet users zoom in from above on a particular location, faced
    privacy complaints. Google will blur out people?s homes at their request.

    Google has also introduced an application called Goggles, which allows
    people to take a picture with a smartphone and search the Internet for
    matching images. The companys executives decided to exclude a
    facial-recognition feature, which they feared might be used to find
    personal information on people who did not know that they were being
    photographed.

    Despite such qualms, computer vision is moving into the mainstream. With
    this technological evolution, scientists predict, people will increasingly
    be surrounded by machines that can not only see but also reason about what
    they are seeing, in their own limited way.

    The uses, noted Frances Scott, an expert in surveillance technologies at
    the National Institute of Justice, the Justice Department?s research
    agency, could allow the authorities to spot a terrorist, identify a lost
    child or locate an Alzheimer?s patient who has wandered off.

    The future of law enforcement, national security and military operations
    will most likely rely on observant machines. A few months ago, the Defense
    Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon?s research arm, awarded
    the first round of grants in a five-year research program called the
    Mind?s Eye. Its goal is to develop machines that can recognize, analyze
    and communicate what they see. Mounted on small robots or drones, these
    smart machines could replace human scouts. ?These things, in a sense,
    could be team members, said James Donlon, the program?s manager.

    Millions of people now use products that show the progress that has been
    made in computer vision. In the last two years, the major online
    photo-sharing services ? Picasa by Google, Windows Live Photo Gallery by
    Microsoft, Flickr by Yahoo and iPhoto by Apple have all started using
    face recognition. A user puts a name to a face, and the service finds
    matches in other photographs. It is a popular tool for finding and
    organizing pictures.

    Kinect, an add-on to Microsofts Xbox 360 gaming console, is a striking
    advance for computer vision in the marketplace. It uses a digital camera
    and sensors to recognize people and gestures; it also understands voice
    commands. Players control the computer with waves of the hand, and then
    move to make their on-screen animated stand-ins ? known as avatars ? run,
    jump, swing and dance. Since Kinect was introduced in November, game
    reviewers have applauded, and sales are surging.

    To Microsoft, Kinect is not just a game, but a step toward the future of
    computing. Its a world where technology more fundamentally understands
    you, so you don?t have to understand it, said Alex Kipman, an engineer on
    the team that designed Kinect.

    Please Wash Your Hands

    A nurse walks into a hospital room while scanning a clipboard. She greets
    the patient and washes her hands. She checks and records his heart rate
    and blood pressure, adjusts the intravenous drip, turns him over to look
    for bed sores, then heads for the door but does not wash her hands again,
    as protocol requires. Pardon the interruption,declares a recorded
    women?s voice, with a slight British accent. Please wash your hands.

    Three months ago, Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, N.Y., began an
    experiment with computer vision in a single hospital room. Three small
    cameras, mounted inconspicuously on the ceiling, monitor movements in Room
    542, in a special care unit (a notch below intensive care) where patients
    are treated for conditions like severe pneumonia, heart attacks and
    strokes. The cameras track people going in and out of the room as well as
    the patients movements in bed.

    The first applications of the system, designed by scientists at General
    Electric, are immediate reminders and alerts. Doctors and nurses are
    supposed to wash their hands before and after touching a patient; lapses
    contribute significantly to hospital-acquired infections, research shows.

    The camera over the bed delivers images to software that is programmed to
    recognize movements that indicate when a patient is in danger of falling
    out of bed. The system would send an alert to a nearby nurse.

    If the results at Bassett prove to be encouraging, more features can be
    added, like software that analyzes facial expressions for signs of severe
    pain, the onset of delirium or other hints of distress, said Kunter Akbay,
    a G.E. scientist.

    Hospitals have an incentive to adopt tools that improve patient safety.
    Medicare and Medicaid are adjusting reimbursement rates to penalize
    hospitals that do not work to prevent falls and pressure ulcers, and whose
    doctors and nurses do not wash their hands enough. But it is too early to
    say whether computer vision, like the system being tried out at Bassett,
    will prove to be cost-effective.

    Mirror, Mirror

    Daniel J. McDuff, a graduate student, stood in front of a mirror at the
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology?s Media Lab. After 20 seconds or so,
    a figure 65, the number of times his heart was beating per minute ?
    appeared at the mirror?s bottom. Behind the two-way mirror was a Web
    camera, which fed images of Mr. McDuff to a computer whose software could
    track the blood flow in his face.

    The software separates the video images into three channels ? for the
    basic colors red, green and blue. Changes to the colors and to movements
    made by tiny contractions and expansions in blood vessels in the face are,
    of course, not apparent to the human eye, but the computer can see them.

    ?Your heart-rate signal is in your face,? said Ming-zher Poh, an M.I.T.
    graduate student. Other vital signs, including breathing rate,
    blood-oxygen level and blood pressure, should leave similar color and
    movement clues.

    The pulse-measuring project, described in research published in May by Mr.
    Poh, Mr. McDuff and Rosalind W. Picard, a professor at the lab, is just
    the beginning, Mr. Poh said. Computer vision and clever software, he said,
    make it possible to monitor humans? vital signs at a digital glance. Daily
    measurements can be analyzed to reveal that, for example, a person?s risk
    of heart trouble is rising. ?This can happen, and in the future it will be
    in mirrors,? he said.

    Faces can yield all sorts of information to watchful computers, and the
    M.I.T. students? adviser, Dr. Picard, is a pioneer in the field,
    especially in the use of computing to measure and communicate emotions.
    For years, she and a research scientist at the university, Rana
    el-Kaliouby, have applied facial-expression analysis software to help
    young people with autism better recognize the emotional signals from
    others that they have such a hard time understanding.

    The two women are the co-founders of Affectiva, a company in Waltham,
    Mass., that is beginning to market its facial-expression analysis software
    to manufacturers of consumer products, retailers, marketers and movie
    studios. Its mission is to mine consumers? emotional responses to improve
    the designs and marketing campaigns of products.

    John Ross, chief executive of Shopper Sciences, a marketing research
    company that is part of the Interpublic Group, said Affectivals technology
    promises to give marketers an impartial reading of the sequence of
    emotions that leads to a purchase, in a way that focus groups and customer
    surveys cannot. ?You can see and analyze how people are reacting in real
    time, not what they are saying later, when they are often trying to be
    polite,? he said. The technology, he added, is more scientific and less
    costly than having humans look at store surveillance videos, which some
    retailers do.

    The facial-analysis software, Mr. Ross said, could be used in store kiosks
    or with Webcams. Shopper Sciences, he said, is testing Affectiva?s
    software with a major retailer and an online dating service, neither of
    which he would name. The dating service, he said, was analyzing users?
    xpressions in search of trigger words in personal profiles that people
    found appealing or off-putting.

    Watching the Watchers

    Maria Sonin, 33, an office worker in Waltham, Mass., sat in front of a
    notebook computer looking at a movie trailer while Affectiva?s software,
    through the PC?s Webcam, calibrated her reaction. The trailer was for
    ?Little Fockers,? starring Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller, which opened
    just before Christmas. The software measured her reactions by tracking
    movements on a couple of dozen points on her face ? mostly along the eyes,
    eyebrows, nose and the perimeter of her lips.

    To the human eye, Ms. Sonin appeared to be amused. The software agreed,
    said Dr. Kaliouby, though it used a finer-grained analysis, like recording
    that her smiles were symmetrical (signaling amusement, not embarrassment)
    and not smirks. The software, Ms. Kaliouby said, allows for continuous,
    objective measurement of viewers? response to media, and in the future
    will do so in large numbers on the Web.

    Ms. Sonin, an unpaid volunteer, said later that she did not think about
    being recorded by the Webcam. ?It wasn?t as if it was a big camera in
    front of you,? she said.

    Christopher Hamilton, a technical director of visual effects, has used
    specialized software to analyze facial expressions and recreate them on
    the screen. The films he has worked on include ?King Kong,? ?Charlotte?s
    Web? and ?The Matrix Revolutions.? Using facial-expression analysis
    technology to gauge the reaction of viewers, who agree to be watched, may
    well become a valuable tool for movie makers, said Mr. Hamilton, who is
    not involved with Affectiva.

    Today, sampling audience reaction before a movie is released typically
    means gathering a couple of hundred people at a preview screening. The
    audience members then answer questions and fill out surveys. Yet viewers,
    marketing experts say, are often inarticulate and imprecise about their
    emotional reactions.

    The software makes it possible to measure audience response with a
    scene-by-scene granularity that the current survey-and-questionnaire
    approach cannot,? Mr. Hamilton said. A director, he added, could find out,
    for example, that although audience members liked a movie over all, they
    did not like two or three scenes. Or he could learn that a particular
    character did not inspire the intended emotional response.

    Emotion-sensing software, Mr. Hamilton said, might become part of the
    entertainment experience especially as more people watch movies and
    programs on Internet-connected televisions, computers and portable
    devices. Viewers could share their emotional responses with friends using
    recommendation systems based on what scene ? say, the protagonists?
    dancing or a car chase ? delivered the biggest emotional jolt.

    Affectiva, Dr. Picard said, intends to offer its technology as ?opt-in
    only,? meaning consumers have to be notified and have to agree to be
    watched online or in stores. Affectiva, she added, has turned down
    companies, which she declined to name, that wanted to use its software
    without notifying customers.

    Darker Possibilities

    Dr. Picard enunciates a principled stance, but one that could become
    problematic in other hands.

    The challenge arises from the prospect of the rapid spread of
    less-expensive yet powerful computer-vision technologies.

    At work or school, the technology opens the door to a computerized
    supervisor that is always watching. Are you paying attention, goofing off
    or daydreaming? In stores and shopping malls, smart surveillance could
    bring behavioral tracking into the physical world.

    More subtle could be the effect of a person knowing that he is being
    watched ? and how that awareness changes his thinking and actions. It
    could be beneficial: a person thinks twice and a crime goes uncommitted.
    But might it also lead to a society that is less spontaneous, less
    creative, less innovative?

    With every technology, there is a dark side,said Hany Farid, a computer
    scientist at Dartmouth. Sometimes you can predict it, but often you
    cant

    A decade ago, he noted, no one predicted that cellphones and text
    messaging would lead to traffic accidents caused by distracted drivers.
    And, he said, it was difficult to foresee that the rise of Facebook and
    Twitter and personal blogs would become troves of data to be collected and
    exploited in tracking people?s online behavior.

    Often, a technology that is benign in one setting can cause harm in a
    different context. Google confronted that problem this year with its
    face-recognition software. In its Picasa photo-storing and sharing
    service, face recognition helps people find and organize pictures of
    family and friends.

    But the company took a different approach with Goggles, which lets a
    person snap a photograph with a smartphone, setting off an Internet
    search. Take a picture of the Eiffel Tower and links to Web pages with
    background information and articles about it appear on the phone?s screen.
    Take a picture of a wine bottle and up come links to reviews of that
    vintage.

    Google could have put face recognition into the Goggles application;
    indeed, many users have asked for it. But Google decided against it
    because smartphones can be used to take pictures of individuals without
    their knowledge, and a face match could retrieve all kinds of personal
    information ? name, occupation, address, workplace.

    It was just too sensitive, and we didn;t want to go there, said Eric E.
    Schmidt, the chief executive of Google. You want to avoid enabling
    stalker behavior.

  20. hey Graeme, Nassim Taleb is echoing your thoughts again

    http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com/taleb010311.htm

    • Of course he is. He’s an expert. He knows what he’s talking about.

  21. I”ve just been to my spam folder to retrieve comments that have been automatically put there in error. Anyway I find fucking Cambria in my spam file. And fucking Cambria, a science illiterate, is presuming to make informed comments about scientific matters. This is a fellow so scientifically illiterate he could not believe that a Triceratops laid eggs. Because of course a triceratops superficially looks like a Rhino. The dumb wop just couldn’t compute that this dinosaur would lay eggs.

  22. Graeme

    your thougts on this?

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/dailybeast/11671_johnpwheeleriiiofficialofgeorgewbushadministrationfoundmurderedindelawarelandfill

    • l’ll have to look at it more carefully. But we do know there is a shadow government. And it takes a dumb wop, more than both hands and feet to count the deaths associated with the Kennedy hit (ie “The Big Event” as the killers knew the operation by). So if we have maybe 50 murders associated with a single assassination, we would expect many more now that the shadow government has been caught with its pants down on 9/11.

  23. Bird you moron. I don’t know who the fuck you’re talking about but it wasn’t me talking about dinosaur eggs.

    You dishonest, lying, balding fat fuck

    • It was on Catallaxy Cambria. And you said it alright. But I’ll allow that you may have been sleep deprived or something like that.

  24. If it looks like a dumb wop, quacks like a dumb wop, smells like a dumb wop, talks like a dumb wop, then it probably is a dumb wop.

    Wake up and smell the espresso, woppy.

    Stupid fucking dago.

  25. Mr B

    Joe Carumba is jealous and envious of you.

    Pay him no mind.

  26. The Jews did it

  27. No, no, imposter. The Muse hid it

  28. Fucking Jews.


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