Tag Archives: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

From Mars to a Second Life Bot


Interesting to see that NASA is really getting with the program on the Phoenix Lander. First there was Twitter, where it would talk in the first person about what it was up to (and now answer questions directly), and now there’s an AI presence in Second Life, where it can talk intelligently to Second Lifers about what it’s doing.

The technology behind the bot comes from MyCyberTwin, which I profiled last year in the Journal. The chats aren’t perfect, but they’re more sophisticated than you might expect from a bot. Though the comments by founder Liesl Capper are somewhat revealing about what we may expect in the future:

“It’s like having a fully-staffed call centre online and available around the clock to take queries – but it’s all virtual. “People would rather talk to a well crafted AI than some distant person in a foreign call centre.”

I’m not 100% convinced about that, although yesterday, frustrated that a web hosting service required me to call them to confirm a transaction and yet had no one to take the call, I tried one of those online chat customer service things with a competitor. I was impressed that I got a response immediately, and while I wasn’t sure whether I was dealing with a bot or a real person, I didn’t care. The questions got answered, and I shifted hosting provider on the spot.

Clips In Space

I love Clip-N-Seals. I wrote about them in a column, and bought a bunch from Amazon, and they keep chips (what I call crisps) fresh for months on end. Amazing, really, for two bits of plastic.

Anyway, they’re going to space, according to Seattle PI’s Insider: NASA buys bag clips, but lips are sealed on their use:

TO CONTAIN ALIEN LIFE FORMS, MAYBE?: Textura Design, a home-based startup in West Seattle, since late 2002 has produced a humble but clever device for resealing plastic bags, called Clip-N-Seal. The soft plastic rod-and-clip device has attracted attention from dairies, manufacturers and the military, among other customers.

Now the Clip-N-Seal (three for $4.99, available in four sizes) may be going into outer space, says company founder D.L. Byron, 38. The company shipped a dozen 40-inch-long Clip-N-Seals, at $7 apiece, to NASA earlier this month.

NASA won’t say when, or whether, or how the clips will be used. The next opportunity they’ll have to fly is aboard the shuttle Discovery when it launches sometime between July 13 and July 31– depending on weather conditions — to resupply the International Space Station. “All NASA will say is they’re for a large object,” Byron said.

The British Antarctic Survey is also considering the clips for use on its next mission. “Not bad for something we invented to keep potato chips fresh,” he said.

Excellent. It’s good to see good products go places. Like Space.