Paul Miller


  • Ken Jennings talks about losing to Watson, being human after all

    In a piece for Slate titled "My Puny Human Brain," former-Jeopardy-greatest Ken Jennings talks briefly through his experience playing against IBM's Watson. If you were hoping for some sour grapes, you won't find it here, but Ken gives a great insight into what it feels like to be an underdog human up against a PR darling supercomputer. "Watson has lots in common with a top-ranked human Jeopardy! player: It's very smart, very fast, speaks in an uneven monotone, and has never known the touch of a woman." Ken wraps it up on an uplifting, humans-are-going-to-be-alright-after-all note, and we seem to have something in our eye...

  • Watson wins it all, humans still can do some other cool things

    In case you missed it, Watson won again tonight. He even got the Final Jeopardy question correct this time, a multi-layered reference to Bram Stroker that he bet $10k on. His final score over the two rounds ended up at $77,147 (Watson has this thing for betting strange amounts that usually end in a 7), while Ken Jennings got $24,000 and Brad Rutter did $21,600 -- both humans saving a bit of face after last round's stunning defeat. Watson will be giving his $1,000,000 winnings to charity. So, a few things: We're totally surprised, in a larger theoretical sense, that a computer could win at Jeopardy. We're totally not surprised that Watson, the system built by IBM over the past few years at the expense of millions of dollars, actually succeeded at winning at Jeopardy. Computers have better reflexes than humans, as it turns out. Deal with it. If you can't tell, we're having a little trouble processing all the emotions brought on by a Jeopardy win from IBM's Watson supercomputer. It's obvious that IBM's DeepQA research program has developed some of the most sophisticated natural language AI known to man. At the same time, Jeopardy questions aren't really that hard. As evidenced by watching these Watson-dominated matches, all three contestants knew the answer most of the time, but Watson was just quicker on the draw. Of course, it's no surprise that computers have quicker reflexes (even with the "handicap" of having to mechanically press the same style of clicker as Meatbag 001 and Meatbag 002), so why shouldn't Watson get to use his inbuilt advantage to the utmost? It seems like a fair fight to us. The question of "who is better at Jeopardy" aside (trust us, it's Watson), the larger implications for the human race and our computer sidekicks are still unclear. Watson can currently answer simple trivia questions, sometimes couched in puns or minor riddles, with a decent level of accuracy. The answers themselves are no more than a high school student with Wikipedia access could pull off, and Watson has no way of knowing for sure when he's right. He lacks a solid, computer-readable database of "facts" like a Wolfram Alpha, or the incredible reasoning abilities of a human, instead relying on statistical analysis of vast amounts of text. When it comes to Jeopardy, it turns out to be Good Enough, which is actually a pretty incredible achievement in the world of AI, and we're sure we'll be finding out soon what other applications IBM thinks Watson is Good Enough at -- they're thinking everything from healthcare to the financial industry. Still, we're sure some of us clicker-speed-nit-pickers will remain unimpressed. Make sure to check out the Engadget Show tomorrow, where we'll be chatting up the creators of Watson about all this, but for now... 01000011 01101111 01101110 01100111 01110010 01100001 01110100 01110011 00100001

  • Watson soundly beats the humans in first round of Jeopardy

    Well, there's one more round of Jeopardy to go, but the round that began yesterday and ended today was a major win for the silicon contingent. After starting the day tied with Brad, Watson barely let his opponents get in a word edgewise during Double Jeopardy, and broke the $36k mark before Final Jeopardy. Both Brad and Ken were able to double up on the Final Jeopardy question, at which Watson failed miserably, but he appended his answer (Toronto) with plenty of question marks, and bet less than a grand. The final result was Watson at $35,754, Brad at $10,000, and Ken Jennings with $4,800. This round's scores will be added to the scores of tomorrow's round to determine the overall winner, who will walk (or teraflop) away with $1 million in cash.

  • Rhapsody won't bow to Apple's subscription policy, issues statement

    In case you weren't aware, Apple's newly launched App Store subscriptions aren't sitting so well with everybody. While the functionality could of course be a boon to services that have struggled getting paying customers, folks who have already been doing just fine, thank you very much, are balking at the new restrictions Apple has imposed. Rhapsody has issued a statement, which says that it's not going to play ball and even levels a bit of a threat: "We will be collaborating with our market peers in determining an appropriate legal and business response to this latest development." The big trouble stems from the fact that Apple requires anybody offering a subscription service to offer that service for the same price or less through Apple. That means you can still sign up folks through your own methods and get all the cash, but if anybody signs up through your app, Apple gets a 30 percent cut. In addition, Apple is no longer allowing applications to include a link to an external site for purchasing, which means vendors will have trouble getting new users to pay them directly instead of using Apple's simple but heavily-taxed option. Rhapsody claims that it can't offer its services at existing prices with Apple grabbing that much of the revenue, and it sounds like Rhapsody will be leaving the App Store soon if an agreement isn't struck. Of course, this is just the shiny surface of the dirt Apple's new policies have scuffed up, and we might even have an antitrust case on our hands, according to the Wall Street Journal. Check out the more coverage link for more on that, and follow after the break for Rhapsody's statement in full.

  • Apple MacBook Air survey gets chatty about 3G

    Apple isn't much of one for customer surveys, but this recent missive to select MacBook Air owners has all sorts of goodies inside it. Most notable is the large amount of questions on 3G data connectivity, a feature that Apple has so far avoided adding to any of its laptops, even though it sells a tablet computer with the functionality. Interestingly, Apple has waited so long on this feature that its primary objection -- the need to pick a specific carrier over another -- has disappeared thanks to Qualcomm's Gobi chipset. On the other hand, most people get 3G data onto their laptops these days through tethering, whether it be with their phone or a dedicated MiFi-style device, and Apple's survey seems to be designed to pick up on the prevalence of all these tendencies. Other aspects of the survey deal with data storage and syncing (MobileMe and Dropbox get shout outs), missing functionality that keeps the Air from being a primary computer, and other miscellany. If you want to get overanalytical with the whole thing, Apple might actually be trying to feel out the dividing line between an iPad and a MacBook Air, instead of the dividing line between a MacBook Pro. Perhaps this year's expected Sandy Bridge or (we wish) Fusion refresh of the MacBook Air could have something more in store? Check out the source link for the whole thing.

  • The iPhone nano to forgo local storage? Common sense says 'no'

    Well, MWC is in full swing, where folks like LG, Samsung, Sony, and Nokia are pouring their souls out in front of us in device form. So, naturally, the rumors are swirling about... the iPhone nano. In a followup to the Wall Street Journal's big story, Cult of Mac is claiming some additional inside info from a source with a "great track record." The main idea is that the iPhone nano would rely on the cloud to such an extent that the device wouldn't really have any local storage to speak of, outside of a streaming buffer. This would of course go hand in hand with a MobileMe / Lala-powered streaming music service, and result in significant component cost savings (flash memory is still pretty spendy). While this sounds like a beautiful dream, it doesn't make much sense in 2011. Streaming all your music and other media over a capped 3G connection doesn't sound very consumer-friendly, and there are still plenty of situations where having a nice offline stash of music is a lifesaver. But there's a bigger problem: where do you put your apps without local storage? Android's historic shortage of app storage really bit it in the ass, and we doubt Apple wants to go down that route. Sure, we can see a 4GB or so ultracheap device, with a heavy reliance on streaming media (many people get most of their music from Pandora these days, anyways), but a memory-free iPhone just doesn't sound feasible at this point in time.

  • Humans had a good run: Watson to debut on Jeopardy tonight

    Today, tomorrow, and the 16th are the fateful days: IBM's Watson supercomputer will go head to head with Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings in this silly, human-devised game we call Jeopardy. It promises to be some kickass TV, at the very least, and a historic event if Watson can prevail over his fleshy competition. The two matches, which are being spread over the three days, were pre-taped, so Ken, Brad, Alex and Watson already know the outcome, but they've done a pretty good job of keeping the secret so far. Hopefully they can keep mum until 7pm-ish this evening (check your local listings for a specific time). Need something to keep you occupied until then? Check out the great Esquire feature on Ken Jennings at the More Coverage link below. Oh, and don't miss our coverage of last month's preview match.

  • The Engadget Podcast, live at 2PM EST!

    Phew, what a week! We're not sure we remember enough words to be able to describe the events of the past few days, but we'll do our best. We'll get the live show going promptly at 2PM EST today. Hey, where else are you gonna be on a Saturday afternoon? Outside? Good luck with that.P.S. And don't forget that Ustream has Android and iPhone clients as well, if you're out and about and you can't join in on the Flash-based fun below.

  • Obama announces plan to free up 500MHz of spectrum, invest in 4G for rural areas, and build out nationwide public safety network

    We knew the White House was on board with the FCC's desire to free up an additional 500MHz worth of spectrum over the next decade from private and federal holders, as announced last year, and now Obama has announced the plan to do it. The plan is to incentivize the current spectrum squatters with a share of the revenue gained from auctioning off the spectrum -- mostly for mobile broadband use -- which only seems fair, and for now it seems those auctions will be voluntary. But that's just the tip of the iceberg: the plan also includes a $5 billion investment in constructing 4G networks in rural areas (with a goal to reach at least 98 percent of Americans with the service), a $3 billion fund for 4G R&D to help the rollout, and $10.7 billion for a wireless public safety network. The beauty of this plan is that all these proposed costs are offset by the spectrum auction, which is estimated to raise $27.8 billion, of which $9.6 billion will be dedicated to deficit reduction. Oh, and the best news? The government has already found 115MHz worth of Federal spectrum that it can free up by using its other spectrum more efficiently, and has another 95MHz worth in its sights. Hit up the source link to see President Obama's speech on the subject, which has just begun, or check it out embedded after the break.

  • HP Touchstone Touch-to-share lets devices swap URLs, 'Exhibition' mode added for phones

    So, HP is extending "Touchstone" to mean more than "that heavy, slanted magnet thing that my Pre always slips off of." For starters, the TouchPad has a Touchstone charging dock -- it's not magnetic, but at least you don't have to worry about plugging the thing in, and it's particularly suited to working with a keyboard. But that's not the real magic. HP has enabled its three new webOS devices (The TouchPad, Veer, and Pre 3) to communicate over Touchstone using "Touch-to-share" tech. You simply place your phone on top of the TouchPad, as illustrated, and whatever you're viewing on the phone pops up in the tablet's browser. We're not sure how this works bi-directionally, but HP mentions both scenarios, so hopefully it shouldn't be that difficult to configure the URL to come from the tablet and land on the phone. The two devices have to be on the same webOS account, however, so don't get any crazy ideas about sharing URLs with friends. Naturally, there should be a lot more "Continuous Client"-style uses for this tech in the future, but we'd say URL pushing is a good start. Finally, the old-fashioned Touchstone is going to work with the Veer and Pre 3, which will now be sent into an "Exhibition" mode when docked. The mode allows the phone to display photos or upcoming appointments, depending on the user's particular level of sentimentality. For more on all of HP's webOS announcements today, click here!

  • RIP, Palm: 1992 - 2011

    HP has plenty of great new stuff to announce in the phone and tablet space today, but something is notably absent: the Palm brand. It appears to be a casualty of this acquisition and subsequent "scale," and while the brand might not mean much to the modern smartphone consumer, it will be sorely missed by those of us who have been looking to Palm (in all its various forms) for handheld innovation for roughly two decades. HP is keeping the webOS brand around, however, so there's that -- and hopefully nobody will notice when we prefix it with an under-the-breath Palm when we're feeling a little sentimental.

  • The Engadget Podcast, live at 5:15PM EST!

    We're back! Sure, that horrible, flashy Engadget Show with its fancy "cameras" and "special guests" came between us last week, but nothing can keep us apart today. There's plenty to talk about, of course, and we even have a special guest of our own: Chris Ziegler, fresh from Google's Android event this week. We should get started around 5:15PM EST -- you can place your bets on the actual start time in the comments below. P.S. And don't forget that Ustream has Android and iPhone clients as well, if you're out and about and you can't join in on the Flash-based fun below.

  • Kno shipments delayed, no word on why or for how long

    What is it with tablets and ship date shenanigans? After getting some tips from Kno pre-orderers (who should've started receiving this monstrosity last year) that their shipments had been delayed, we pinged Kno and got some ultra-vague confirmation of that fact: Things at Kno are going well. However, as you noted below, there has been a shipment delay. As soon as Kno has new information, we will share that with customers and can certainly give you a heads up if that is helpful. There's no mention of any of this on Kno's website, and typically with this sort of a delay there's at least some sort of reasoning -- "the boxes we got are the wrong size," or "our Lego testing robot broke down," or something smooth like that. Of course, we're sure there's some sort of explanation forthcoming. This is no cause to believe Kno is in serious danger of not shipping its tablet, or that it's trying to pull a fast one, but Kno has unfortunately happened upon a disturbing trend in the tablet space that we'd love to be well rid of by now. [Thanks, Chris]

  • Sony about to issue PS3 update with 'minor,' mysterious security patch (update)

    Sony just mentioned on its official PlayStation blog that the PS3 is about to get a "minor" update, v3.56. With Sony about to host a press event in Tokyo, it would be nice if we were getting some new functionality for our update timeout, but apparently all it adds is a security patch (just like 3.55), and for some reason we get the impression that this "security patch" is less about defense against baddies and more about trying to shore up the PS3 jailbreak that's currently running rampant. Of course, there are some serious security concerns when it comes to jailbroken PS3s, like the fact that they allow some serious cheating in select multiplayer games, so a truly competent, non-user-hostile security patch wouldn't be all bad. We guess we'll see what we get when the update lands, presumably later today. Update: That didn't take long. It's out -- and members of the PS3 hack community already allege that it breaks custom firmware. [Thanks to everyone who sent this in]

  • The Engadget Podcast, live at 12:00PM EST! (update: it's done!)

    Podcast? On a Sunday? And they said it couldn't be done! Join the full team of podcasters as we throw touchdown after touchdown of tech analysis down the field and through the uprights. You can intercept it all live on Ustream, which is embedded after the break. P.S. And don't forget that Ustream has Android and iPhone clients as well, if you're out and about and you can't join in on the Flash-based fun below. Update: And it's over! Don't worry though, the podcast will be posted to the site shortly!

  • iPad 2 Retina Display evidence mounts, this time a .png of wood is to blame

    So, we heard from our source that the iPad 2 would have a "super high resolution" Retina Display, we heard from AppleInsider that the iPad 2 is getting around 4X the graphics performance of the iPad, and of course there's the fact that the iPhone 4's Retina Display offered a pretty impressively painless upgrade path for developers -- an iPad 2 with a 2048 x 1536 screen is starting to sound less and less like the crazy dream of naive fanboys. But wait, there's more! A .png has been found in the iBooks 1.2 source files, dubbed Wood Tile@2x.png. It's sized at 1536 x 800, while the old and busted Wood Tile.png in iBooks 1.1 was 768 x 400 -- that's 2X in each direction, or 4X the pixels, for anyone who's counting. Incontrovertible evidence? No, but we want to believe.

  • More details emerge on Apple's A5 chip for upcoming iPad 2 and iPhone 5

    So, AppleInsider has some new info on Apple's successor to the A4, which we were talking up last week, and our sources say it's spot on. Specifically, AI claims that Apple is moving to dual-core SGX543 graphics, up from the A4's single SGX535 GPU (also known as the PowerVR 535). What's particularly great about this move is that the graphical power improvement is rated at around 4X the current generation -- which makes a true 4X resolution iPad "Retina Display" upgrade seem much more of a possibility. We're also starting to see 1080p HDMI video output as a "default" spec in this year's generation of devices, so there's no reason Apple will want to be left out -- particularly in the Apple TV -- and these dual graphics cores could handle that easily. The same cast of A4 characters are to credit for this new A5 generation, including the Apple-owned Intrinsity and PA Semi, while Samsung will again do the production duties. But details aside, we're just excited to play around with all this new horsepower when it hits -- apparently the PSP 2 is rumored to use the same graphics architecture with even more cores. Isn't Moore's law a grand thing?

  • The Engadget Podcast, live at 2:30PM EST! (update: it's done!)

    It was a rough week after CES, full of debilitating sickness and Verizon iPhones. We think we've got it pretty much under control, however, so we hope you'll join us for this Special Weekend Edition Podcast. Check out the stream and the chat after the break, we'll get rolling around 2:30PM EST. That is, if none of us die before then. P.S. And don't forget that Ustream has Android and iPhone clients as well, if you're out and about and you can't join in on the Flash-based fun below. Update: And it's over! Don't worry though, the podcast will be posted to the site shortly!

  • Intel CEO Paul Otellini addresses Microsoft's ARM move in the wake of record earnings announcement

    We're kind of getting used to Intel setting records with its earnings this year, and it capped off its 2010 with another killer quarter. With $11.5 billion in revenue, and a total of $43.6 billion for the year (up 24 percent from last year), Intel is naturally riding high. There's danger lurking on the horizon, however, with Microsoft announcing at CES that the next version of Windows will also run on ARM chips, potentially ending a decades-long x86 dominance in the desktop OS space. Naturally, the topic came up in the earnings call, and here's Intel CEO Paul Otellini's level-headed statement on the topic: The plus for Intel is that as they unify their operating systems we now have the ability for the first time, one, to have a designed-from-scratch, touch-enabled operating system for tablets that runs on Intel that we don't have today; and, secondly, we have the ability to put our lowest-power Intel processors, running Windows 8 or the next generation of Windows, into phones, because it's the same OS stack. And I look at that as an upside opportunity for us. On the downside, there's the potential, given that Office runs on these products, for some creep-up coming into the PC space. I am skeptical of that for two reasons: one, that space has a different set of power and performance requirements where Intel is exceptionally good; and secondly, users of those machines expect legacy support for software and peripherals that has to all be enabled from scratch for those devices. After careful analysis of Paul's voice, we couldn't detect any hints of panic or fear in it, and we buy about 50+ percent of what he's putting down -- a lot better than we expected, to be honest. It's very interesting that he sees the new version of Windows being a "designed-from-scratch, touch-enabled operating system for tablets," and the idea of Windows Phone running on regular Windows is also news to us -- though it certainly makes plenty of sense in the long run (and perhaps Ballmer has been hinting at it). Still, Intel has just as much of a disadvantage making a phone processor as ARM guys have a disadvantage at making high-powered PC processors, and when it comes to legacy support, they'll at least be on pretty equal footing when it comes to a "designed-from-scratch" tablet OS. No matter what, Intel certainly has a great roadmap and a ton of cash right now, so we look forward to a fair CPU fight on all sides of the form factor coin.