"intellectual ventures"

Contraption to shoot mosquitos with laser beams

In development for several years, the Photonic Fence is an anti-mosquito laser weapon that's apparently now being tested in a real world situation. I hope when it hits the market it still looks like a crazy contraption from a 1960s science fiction film! From the company site:

One potential use of the Photonic Fence is to create a virtual fence that detects insects as they cross its plane. When an invading insect is detected, our software is able to estimate the insect’s size and measure its wing beat frequency. Using this method, not only can the system distinguish between mosquitoes, butterflies, and bumblebees, but it can even determine whether a mosquito is male or female. This is important to know because only female mosquitos bite humans. Once the software establishes that the insect is a valid target, it tracks the mosquito in flight, runs a safety check to ensure no innocent bystanders are in view, and then activates a laser to zap the mosquito. The Photonic Fence could be set along the perimeter of clinics or other strategic areas to control mosquitoes without endangering humans or other animals.

From Wired UK:

When Intellectual Ventures co-founder and former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold came up with the idea of a bug-killing fence in 2010, the intention was to use it to improve public health in Sub-Saharan Africa. Now, however, the Photonic Fence has become a commercial project with a particular target: the Asian citrus psyllid. This insect invader has reduced citrus production in Florida by at least 70 per cent over the last 15 years.

Read the rest

Public universities and even the US Navy have sold hundreds of patents to America's most notorious troll

Researcher Yarden Katz scraped the database of Intellectual Ventures, a giant business that buys up patents, but produces nothing but lawsuits (previously), and discovered that IV claims ownership of nearly 500 patents that were created at public expense by researchers employed by public universities, and another 100 or so patents filed by the US Navy. Read the rest

UCLA paper op-ed slams patent troll Nathan Myhrvold as commencement speaker

Patent troll extraordinaire Nathan Myhrvold is a poor choice for a commencement speaker, writes Ara Shirinian for the Daily Bruin.

Like other patent trolls, Intellectual Ventures does not create any commercial products, and uses vague patents with unoriginal ideas to make a game out of our legal system.

What it does with those patents is sue companies like Motorola, Symantec, Citibank, Canon, AT&T, Toshiba and many more. Even when Intellectual Ventures is not involved in litigation itself, it sells its patents to other patent trolls whose only reason for purchasing the patents is to sue even more companies.

Myhrvold combats the notion that Intellectual Ventures is a patent troll by pointing toward its research arm. Though it’s true that the company conducts research, it has filed only about 3,000 patents, compared to the more than 70,000 it has purchased.

But while Intellectual Ventures makes its money, the rest of the industry suffers. The proof is everywhere; a recent study found that patent trolls have caused a decrease in the amount of venture capital being given to startup companies, which is directly harming our ability to bring new ideas forward.

[via] Read the rest

Silicon Valley's "most hated patent troll" promises reform

Intellectual Ventures fired 140 employees from the shakedown beat and is allegedly going to invest in actual products. Read the rest

Been threatened by Lodsys patent trolls? Take this survey and help fight back

The Application Developers Alliance is trying to nail Lodsys, the notorious troll that uses a bogus patent from Intellectual Ventures to extort money from app developers. Lodsys is shrouded in mystery, uses global banks to avoid tax, and uses its patent claims to try to bankrupt companies that publicly call it out for trolling. The ADA is asking for developers who've been threatened by Lodsys to fill in a survey that will establish the evidentiary basis for fighting back against the Lodsys racket and maybe put an end to it. (via Techdirt) Read the rest

Nathan Myhrvold-connected shell corporation forced to settle with victim

Patent troll Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures-connected Lodsys, one the many faceless companies founded to obscure exactly who shakes down small businesses with vague patents that represent equally-vague post-Microsoft careers, was forced to settle with a victim this week—but not without exercising some grotesque conditions on it. Lodsys controls a patent on in-app purchase buttons, and it will have your money, should your app include a button of interest to it, on pain of lawsuits that are even more expensive to battle than the liver disease you'd end up with should you drink the way one imagines a wealthy patent troll might do at home, at night, in the clawing blender-decanted quiet, when the money just isn't enough anymore.

I was a little confused about why Lodsys wanted to make a donation to charity. I asked my lawyer if it was to make them appear more human. He said it is most likely because if we would have said no to this offer, the judge could have said we were not behaving reasonably. ...

The total costs to my company would have been $190,000. And that’s just for the initial response to this lawsuit. We hadn’t even gotten to court which would have increased that amount into millions. Remember that it only cost Lodsys about $450 to file the lawsuit. This is why small businesses will usually always settle. It’s just not worth it to fight. And even if you could win and get awarded your attorneys fees and costs, which are very rare, you probably won’t see a dime of that money.

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Myhrvold patents 3D printing DRM

Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures has received a patent for a DRM system for 3D printers, to stop people from printing out trademarked and patent objects. Like other DRM systems, this won't work (it will either have to be so broad in its parameters for recognizing prohibited items that it will balk at printing innumerable harmless objects, or it will be trivial to defeat by disguising the objects beyond the system's ability to recognize them).

Like other DRMs, it will require designing 3D printers so that they keep secrets from their owners, opening up the possibility that this facility will be exploited by bad guys to do bad things to the printers' owners (Charlie Stross envisions compromised 3D printers outputting rooms full of printed penises overnight in his book Rule 34).

But at least it's patented by a notorious patent troll, which means that other jackasses who try to implement this stupid idea will find themselves tied up in absurd, wasteful lawsuits. It's mutually assured dipshits.

From Tech Review's Antonio Regalado:

“You load a file into your printer, then your printer checks to make sure it has the rights to make the object, to make it out of what material, how many times, and so on,” says Michael Weinberg, a staff lawyer at the non-profit Public Knowledge, who reviewed the patent at the request of Technology Review. “It’s a very broad patent.”

The patent isn’t limited to 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing. It also covers using digital files in extrusion, ejection, stamping, die casting, printing, painting, and tattooing and with materials that include “skin, textiles, edible substances, paper, and silicon printing.”

Nathan Myhrvold's Cunning Plan to Prevent 3-D Printer Piracy Read the rest

Patent Strapcutters

After my first child was born, I found that taking pictures was a problem. The Canon S1 IS I'd purchased was a terrific model, but unwieldy when holding a baby. With kid number 2, the problem became worse. One can only juggle so many children while snapping the shutter. And there's the whole business of being fully in the moment with your kids, instead of constantly looking at them through a lens. I turned to crummy (later better) cameras in phones and little snapshotty digital cameras. I figured that when the kids were big enough to not need to be carried, I could graduate to a full DSLR with lenses.

Something happened along the way, however. I discovered James Duncan Davidson and Greg Koenig's Luma Loop. (I'll explain why it's not linked in a moment.) It was built like an adjustable bandolier with a freely traveling slider. The camera attaches through a detachable string loop at a hook in the camera's frame, just the way you'd add a normal neck or hand strap. When you're connected up, you put the strap over one shoulder and the camera can freely hang at your hip. Reach down to grab it, it slides up, take the shot, and release gently or just drop it.

I've known and liked James since I met him on a MacMania cruise in 2002, when he was still up to his neck in Java development. (James spent a few years at Sun, and was responsible for Tomcat and Ant, which means something if you, too, were up to your neck in Java.) He gave up all that programming glory for photography. Read the rest

Patent trolls and shakedowns: Intellectual Ventures and the "little guy"

NPR's Planet Money looks at Intellectual Ventures, the patent-exploitation firm started by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold. Intellectual Ventures presents itself as a firm that goes to bat for inventors, buying up their patents with the intention of getting big guys who abuse them to pay up. But the reality discovered by Planet Money is very different: Intellectual Ventures doesn't put up very many compelling reference customers for their "protecting and enriching inventors" mandate, but there are examples of patents being sold on again to out-and-out trolls who make nothing but lawsuits, using shaky patents to attack big and small firms and extract rent from them. It appears there's even a town in Texas where empty office buildings house the "headquarters" of shell companies who buy poor-quality patents from distressed companies and get big judgements from a sympathetic local court. Overall, Planet Money paints a picture of software patent aggregators like IV as parasitic bullies who use their enormous patent portfolios to intimidate other firms into paying fees that end up being incorporated into the prices that you and I pay when we buy goods and services.

It's kind of a cliche to knock on the door of the empty office. But we'd flown a long way. So we knocked. No one answered.

The office was in a corridor where all the other doors looked exactly the same —locked, nameplates over the door, no light coming out. It was a corridor of silent, empty offices with names like "Software Rights Archive," and "Bulletproof Technology of Texas."

It turns out a lot of those companies in that corridor, maybe every single one of them, is doing exactly what Oasis Research is doing.

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MAKE Volume 23 is on newsstands!

MAKE Volume 23 is on newsstands now!

In this special GADGETS issue, we show you how to make a menagerie of delightful machines: a miniature electronic Whac-a-Mole arcade game, a tiny but mighty see-through audio amplifier, a magic mirror that contains an interactive animated soothsayer, a self-balancing one-wheeled Gyrocar, and the Most Useless Machine – the creepy mechanical box whose only purpose is to turn itself off (as seen on The Colbert Report!). Plus: how Intellectual Ventures made their incredible laser targeting mosquito zapper, how to use the industrial-strength microcontrollers called PLCs, and a lot more.

Project highlights in MAKE Volume 23 include:

The Most Useless Machine Gyrocar Squelette, the Bare-Bones Amplifier Magic Mirror Solar Car Subwoofer College Bike Trunk and much more, of course!

MAKE Volume 23 Read the rest

Ultra slo-mo videos from Make Faire

3ric Johansen emailed me about this terrific video he made with Nathan Pegram using Intellectual Ventures' Phantom camera at Maker Faire 2010.

We conducted some pure hackery in order to make these videos. The first key part was having a "Nanoflash SDI recorder". This standalone recorder can do real-time compression of 1080p content onto compact flash. In order to film and export video at a fast rate, we needed some other method than our typical "wait 15 minutes for gigabit ethernet" process. So we wired up this recorder to the Phantom, along with a linksys WRT54G access point running rogue firmware. The rogue firmware (which runs linux) enables us to make custom web applications which run on the access point. We built a [very simple] cgi which controlled one of the LEDs on the front of the AP. We then did more of our 'hotel soldering' to wire up this LED to the nanoflash recorder. Tada! We now have software control of this standalone recorder. Besides being useful for doing live demos, this mod/hack will enable us to take highspeed video and export it at a very fast speed. We still need to build an application which will sync the playback from the Phantom with the recording on the Nanoflash.

Music: "Raise Riddim" by I.D. & Baobinga

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Video of gadget that shoots down mosquitoes with lasers

Here's a video of mosquitoes being shot with Intellectual Ventures' laser zapper I mentioned in my TED round up yesterday. I'm not sure if the soundtrack ought to be "Blue Danube" or "Yakety Sax."

I took some photos of the gadget, along with Intellectual Ventures' project Scientist, 3ric Johanson standing next to it. It was made from off-the-shelf parts purchased on eBay. See them after the jump. Read the rest

Highlights from TED 2010, Thursday: "Shooting mosquitoes out of the sky with lasers"

Here's my round up of highlights from the second day of the TED 2010 presentations. My head is abuzz with all the thought-provoking ideas I learned today. (Here's yesterday's roundup.)

Inventor Nathan Myhrvold, of Intellectual Ventures had the most entertaining presentation of the day: a mosquito death ray. It's part of a plan to eradicate malaria and it's being funded by Myhrvold's former boss, Bill Gates.

First Myhrvold showed off a container that can keep vaccination medicine cold and fresh for six months. The old way -- a styrofoam cooler with ice -- keeps the medicine cold for just four hours. The new container loses less than 1/2 watt. It's similar to a cryogenic dewar, with the same kind of insulation. But this one works like a Coke machine, vending out vials one-at-a-time so warm air never gets inside the container.

Next, malaria. Every 43 seconds a kid dies of malaria in Africa. What can we do about it? Spraying is effective, but there are environmental issues. There's not an effective vaccine yet. Bed nets are effective, if you use them, but people use them for fishnets instead, and it won't make malaria extinct.

So Myhrvold and his colleagues have invented several technologies to fight malaria. First is a little gadget to make an automatic malaria diagnosis. It doesn't draw blood. It looks at the whites of eyes or through fingernails for the presence of hemozoin, which is produced by the malaria parasite.

They are also developing a system that filters out the parasites in a patient's blood, like a dialysis machine, but this one relives the parasite load. Read the rest

Nathan Myhrvold meets the penguins

There's probably a great Linux joke in here, but I'm not funny enough to come up with it. Technologist and former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold visited the Falklands[ / Islas Malvinas], and took some amazing photographs of penguins and other creatures there. Dr. Myhrvold is CEO and managing director of Intellectual Ventures, a private entrepreneurial firm he founded with his former Microsoft colleague, Dr. Edward Jung. Snip from an essay about what he observed on the islands:

It turns out that there are some reasonably well developed scientific theories of cuteness.

Penguins look like little people – their bipedal stance, walking gait and proportions look like a tiny toy person. Self-love is something humans are good at, so it is natural to find these animals compelling. Their behaviors also happen to map well to human behavior – or at least one can naively imagine so because they are stereotypically similar to some of our own actions.

That covers penguins, but there are some more universal aspects of cuteness. I once studied to be a cartoonist (alas, I wasn’t funny enough) and in that field they have this very well figured out. The rule of thumb is that if you want a cartoon character to be cute, you draw it so that the total body height is between 2.5 and 3 times the height of the head. This gives you a Mickey Mouse, or Tweety Bird sort of character. You then make the eyes a large fraction of head height – little beady eyes are not cute.

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