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Automating Invention is Robert Plotkin's blog on the impact of computer-automated inventing on the future of invention and patent law.

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October 13, 2008

Software Improvises Musical Accompaniments

Two University of Southern California researchers have created software that can create an accompaniment to any song "in the style of any chosen artist, or even the particular style used in select pieces by the artist."

Posted by Robert at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)
category: Artificial Invention

October 11, 2008

Computer Simulation Uncovers Evidence of Biological Evolution

Two researchers at Florida State University simulated the activity of an enzyme known as IMPDH and observed that the enzyme followed two different pathways for delivering catalytic agents to biological cells.  "Why would an enzyme have two pathways dedicated to the same task? Yang and his colleagues believe that the slower pathway is an evolutionary vestige left over from an ancient enzyme that evolved over eons into modern-day IMPDH."

Posted by Robert at 9:51 PM | Comments (0)
category: Miscellaneous

October 9, 2008

Has Microsoft Really Patented Page Up and Page Down?

A ZDNet UK article claims that Microsoft has obtained a U.S. patent on the use of "page up" and "page down" keystrokes.  The article points to the fact that computer keyboards have had "page up" and "page down" keys for over two decades to imply that the patent was wrongly granted to Microsoft.

Even a cursory glance at the claims of the patent itself, however, reveals that those claims do not appear to cover the mere use of "page up" and "page down" keys, but rather some particular technique for using those keys to scroll through content.  (The claims are a numbered list beginning right after the text which reads, "What is claimed is:").  My point is not that this particular technique is entitled to a patent; maybe it is, maybe it isn't.  Rather, my point is that press coverage of software patents often implies that individual software patents grant their owners much more sweeping rights than they actually grant.  Such coverage isn't a helpful way to promote an informed public debate over the merits and demerits of software patents generally.

Posted by Robert at 8:29 PM | Comments (0)
category: Intellectual Property Law

October 7, 2008

Breaking the Software Development Speed Limit with Agile Programming

Science Daily reports that so-called "agile software development" can be used to slash software development time, based on the results of 68 pilot case studies of the approach.  A key feature of agile programming is the rapid development and testing of prototypes, in contrast to the traditional "waterfall model" in which the entire program is developed and implemented before being tested.

Posted by Robert at 8:18 PM | Comments (0)
category: Design & Engineering | Technology Industry

October 5, 2008

Complexity: Computers Come to the Rescue

New Scientist reports on how computers are increasingly being used to solve problems that are too complex for human minds to handle, such as making sense out of traffic patterns and assigning robots to paint trucks coming off the assembly line.

Posted by Robert at 8:18 PM | Comments (0)
category: Artificial Invention

October 2, 2008

Calculator Dates Back Two Millenia

The ancient Greek "Antikythera mechanism," dating back to 100 BC, "is thought to be a mechanical computer, which used sophisticated algorithms to calculate the motions of celestial bodies," reports Jo Marchant of New Scientist.

Posted by Robert at 7:46 PM | Comments (0)
category: History of Computing

October 1, 2008

Does Google Make Us Dumber or Smarter?

For the next chapter in the debate sparked by Nicholas Carr's article in The Atlantic entitled, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?," see this retort from Damon Darlin in The New York Times.  We need to have the same debate about invention automation technology: will it replace human inventors or enable them to become better at inventing?

Posted by Robert at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)
category: Human Creativity