Colón's manuscript

Usually we write about current and new technologies here but I'm changing it up this time and writing about old library technology.  About 500 years old. 

Hernando Colón, illegitimate son of Christopher Columbus, made creating the largest library in the world at the time his life's work.  Only about a quarter of the around 15-20,000 books he collected in the early sixteenth century still survive.  However, thanks to the discovery of the Libro de los Eptiomes manuscript, we now know have summaries of items that no longer exist. 

Once thought lost after Colón's death, the manuscript is made of nearly 2,000 pages of summaries of the items that had been in the collection. Colón had employed a team of writers to read and create a summary of every item and those summaries became Libro de los Epitomes.  His collection encompassed far more than just the classics, it also included items not usually found in collections of the day like news pamphlets, almanacs and ballads giving an insight into what people commonly read. 

There are currently plans to digitize and transcribe the manuscript. 

New Games for VR Kits

Still haven't checked out the Virtual Reality Kits??  What are you waiting for?!

SCLS has 2 VR Kits available for staff at our member libraries to reserve for programs in their library.  The VR kits contain a PlayStation 4 and all the VR equipment you need to play; however you will need your own TV or projector with an HMDI connection.  Now is a great time to check it out if you haven't yet because we have added a couple new games for everyone to enjoy.

Here is a quick overview of the newest games:

HomeStar VR: View the night sky from anywhere in the world.

Beat Saber:  Imagine if Dance Dance Revolution and Fruit Ninja combined with light sabers: That’s what this game is like.

Titanic VR:  Explore the legendary ship in a submarine.  

Eagle Flight:  Become an eagle and soar through the city of Paris.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes:  A great team game to work on communication and help each other diffuse the bomb.

 

As a reminder these kits are only to be checked out by SCLS librarians and for in-library use only.  Check out our program equipment web page to check availability and reserve a kit today!  

Talk To Books - AI learning and human conversation

If you talked to books, how would they answer?

Google's new project, Talk to Books, is all about learning more about how a computer understands you when you talk to it using everyday language. 

In Talk to Books, when you type in a question or a statement, the model looks at every sentence in over 100,000 books to find the responses that would most likely come next in a conversation. The response sentence is shown in bold, along with some of the text that appeared next to the sentence for context.

You can read more about the project here and you can can try it out here: https://books.google.com/talktobooks/

Craig and I took it for a few spins. Our favorite query was "Why is Craig awesome?" Here are couple of the results that made us giggle (paying attention to the response in bold):

AwesomeCraig
Click on image to view full-size


Interested in more AI-related projects from Google?  Try Semantris.

From Google: "Semantris is a set of word association games powered by machine learning. By training on billions of conversations from the internet, the AI has learned how to predict which words, phrases and even sentences might come next in a conversation." Semantris

There are 2 versions -- Arcade (which is timed) and Blocks (which has a Tetris-y look).

Looks like computers are on well on their way to communicating effectively with us when they take over the world!

Technology straight out of Science Fiction

Today I received an invitation to a readers advisory webinar titled "Why Read Science Fiction and How to Help Those Who Do".  I deleted it because a) I don't work with the public and b) I know why to read science fiction and people would like to find a way to prevent me from telling them what science fiction stories to read and which science fiction authors to read and and ...

Ahem.  While working away at my desk and thinking about what to write for this inaugural 2019 Tech Bits post, I thought "Where's my flying car?"  As an elementary school child in the mid-to-late 1960's I was thrilled by the promise that when I became an adult, I would be zipping around in my own private, flying car.  Just like on the Jetsons.

So ... where's my flying car?

Sadly (or perhaps happily for the local geese population) single-passenger electric aircraft are only just this year getting off the ground for consumers.  Pun intended.  And it is unlikely that I will win a lottery and have enough money to purchase one of these babies ($$$$$!!!!!)  But, to get back to the beginning of this ramble, flying cars are not the only technology that has manifested out of science fiction books, television programs and movies too, for that matter. 

What, don't you think your old flip-top phone bore a marked resemblance to the communicators on Start Trek?  Just sayin' ...

Courtesy of Electric Lit, here are the "8 pieces of Modern Technology That Science Fiction Predicted -- Or Invented.

1888: Credit Cards - Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward

1911: Video calling - Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 124C 41+

1931: Mood-Enhancing Pills - Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

1939: Surveillance - George Orwell’s 1984

1968: Tablets - Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

1969: Electric Cars - John Brunner’s Stand On Zanzibar

1972: Bionic Limbs - Martin Caidin’s Cyborg (aka TV’s The Six Million Dollar Man)

1984: The World Wide Web - William Gibson’s Neuromancer

The next time you are offering readers advisory, offer your patrons some titles that will allow them to glimpse the future.  Or help create it.

Other online articles 

13 Everyday Technologies That Were First Imagined In Science Fiction

10 Great Technologies We Got From Science Fiction

The 5 Coolest Technologies from Hard Science Fiction

 

 

 

It's a bird, it's a plane...

When you hear comments about robots taking someone’s job, most people think about a robot that sits on one place doing boring, repetitive tasks. Sure, there are some places that are working on more mobile robots, but they still tend to evoke images of something hauling a load of equipment or being a mobile camera. Enter the robotic stunt person.

No, it’s not a movie or book. Disney Imagineering is working on a robot stunt double, Stuntronics, that can be flung into the air, flip, pose, correct its rotation and center mass as needed and then nail the landing. Only these robots are going to be stunt doubles for other robots. The current idea is to use them to provide a stunt double for other animatronic figures, probably during one of the animatronic shows at the theme parks, to bring a sense of action to what is normally a figure that cannot move from where they sit or stand.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENa98h7M7qY

Looking at that last shot, I can't decide if it needs a cape or some hot rod red.

Fun Friday Quiz: Fact or Opinion?


Facts?

In preparation for my post next week on fake news, here's a fun little 10-question quiz from the Pew Research Center - how well can you tell factual from opinion news statements?

Virtual Reality Kits Now Available

In my last TechBits post, I wrote about the new technology coming to SCLS libraries this year.  I am happy to report that the Virtual Reality kit is now available for libraries to check out!  Not only that, but we also purchased a 2nd kit!  This means more libraries and their patrons will be able to experience and play with VR.VR head set and controllers

These kits include the PS4 gaming console, VR headset, VR camera, controllers, and lots of cables.  All you will need is a projector or TV.  These kits are only to be checked out by SCLS librarians and for in-library use only.  

Check out the SCLS equipment page to check availability and reserve the kit.  Reservations will be handled on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be confirmed with an email from myself or Craig.  The kits can be checked out for up to 10 days, but only one kit at a time.

If you have any questions, you can leave them in the reservation form or send me an email at ewaring@scls.info.

The many joys of Internet Archive

Internet ArchiveI attended a fun NFLS webinar last week and was reminded all over again about Internet Archive, a "non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more." Have you been there?

Here's just a tiny sampling of what you might find:

Definitely worth a look around!

The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine also allows you to view more than 310 million webpages saved over time. Run into a dead link? Wonder what a webpage used to look like? Pop it into the Wayback Machine!

Here's what the SCLS webpage (www.scls.lib.wi.us) looked like back in 1997:
1997 SCLS website

SCLS libraries interested in looking up your page - try www.scls.lib.wi.us/<3-letter delivery code> 
1997 Internet Search Engines

 

 

 

And here's the SCLS 1997 list of internet search engines:

(remember the days before Google?)

 

 

 

More articles and resources related to Internet Archive

Holiday Comment Contest!

Xbox KinectHere's an opportunity to win a gently used Xbox 360 Kinect with 3 games for your library! The game console comes with 4GB of memory, one Kinect sensor, two wireless controllers, all the connecting cables and is wifi capable. The games included are Kinect Sports (Boxing, Track & Field, Soccer, Table Tennis, Beach Volleyball and Championship Bowling), Dance Central 2, and Kinect Adventures (20 different heart-pounding adventures).

How can you enter? Simply leave us a comment and share one or more of the following:

  • your favorite post(s)
  • things you've learned about through TechBits that you're using at your library
  • topics you'd like us to cover
  • an area of technology you're interested in for your library

Official Rules: To enter, leave a comment on this post by Monday, January 1st. We will draw a winner at random. Provide your real e-mail address so we can get in touch with you later (it will not be posted on the Internet). Anyone can comment (we're very interested in the feedback!), but you must be an employee of a South Central Library System member library to win. The winner will be announced on the blog.

We'd like to make TechBits as interesting and relevant as we can, and every comment and bit of feedback helps! If you would like to comment, but not be entered to win, just say "comment only" in your comment.Xbox Kinect Games

Sneak Peek! New Technology Coming Soon!

Here at SCLS we have been testing some new and fun technology to lend out to our libraries.  The newest is Virtual Reality through Sony's PlayStation 4 gaming console.  If you are unfamiliar with virtual reality or VR, see Craig's post earlier this year for more about virtual reality v.s. augmented reality.  

VR with the PlayStation 4 is a great way to experience and test VR without the higher cost of an Oculus Rift. The system contains one PS4 console, a VR processing unit, the VR headset, camera, controllers and lots of cables.  We have downloaded a couple games to play and test out the VR world.  We also have made YouTube available to watch 360° videos.  Craig is hard at work "testing"

Here is a short description of the games available to play:

                 Discovery:  A simple version of Minecraft.  Use the controllers to build a world.

                Job Simulator:  A good game to get a feel for interacting with VR.  Simulating different places of occupation you can control the world around you with the controllers with no rules.

                VRog:  Become a frog and hop from lily pad to lily pad eating bugs.  This game is simple and only requires the headset to use.

                Tiny Trax: Using the controller you race tiny cars around different tracks.  Think of it as hot wheels with a birds-eye view.

                Carnival Games VR:  Play classic carnival games to earn tickets for prizes!

The VR kit is currently being tested at one of our system's libraries, but will be available for libraries to check out in the beginning of 2018!  This kit would be an awesome program to offer to teens or adults but not small children.  Check the SCLS equipment page early next year to see if the VR kit is available and to schedule a time to let your patrons experience VR.