Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lego UAV

This is cool:
AUSTIN, Texas — The reality of a unmanned air vehicle based on a Lego kit was used by the editor-in-chief of Wired magazine to illustrate the democratization of technology, a phenomenon described in his book "The Long Tail."


The implications were demonstrated through a UAV project Anderson developed along with his 8-year-old son. Using a Lego Mindstorms kit as the processing and control foundation, he added a gyroscope, infrared vision for stability, GPS capability, a cellphone-based coordinates input scheme to guide the model and a basic imaging system to conduct "reconnaisance" at the destination. The data was then sent back over the same 3G network the cellphone communications system used.

To prove feasibility, he took aerial shots of Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., to a resolution of 2 cm, disproving the claim that "Google" was painted at the bottom of one of the company's outdoor swimming pools.

But here's the real important stuff:

Undeterred, Anderson explained the fundamental principle of the long tail and the impact it is having on software and hardware design. The long tail principle states that the falling cost of production, distribution and storage of products is allowing producers and retailers to cater to narrower market niches. This in turn increases the aggregate value of those niches and that that value will soon equal the aggregate value of mainstream products.

"Instead of a small number of products for millions, it's a case of millions of products for a small number" of people, he said. "The monolithic software model hasn't addressed this. That's what small companies and individuals are for: We're in the era of 'do-it-yourself'." Anderson also predicted that era of open-source hardware is fast

h/t: The DEW Line

As "do-it-yourself" tech increases, expect to see much more of the solo/small group type terror attacks. I tend to agree with Col. Thomas Hammes (author of The Sling and The Stone) in that this is possibly the 5th Generation of Warfare, a logical extension of the 4th. As this type of tech proliferates, would be terrorists will be able to obtain any necessary technology for their attacks without having to rely on a larger organization like al-Qaida. As Col. Hammes postulates, the possible dawn of 5th Generation Warfare was the anthrax attacks in 2001. A small group of people with access to some high tech gear were able to have a large effect on the U.S. government and populace.

The bottom line is that the terrorists will always be ahead of government counter-terror efforts in this regard. They're smaller, lighter, and more agile. That's why it's up to the government to find ways to unleash the power and ingenuity of our people. It's the only way for us to have a hope of staying abreast with the terrorists. Networks, not bureaucracies, defeat other networks.