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Back (page) from the dead

A thumbs up from the grave

We all know that eventually everyone dies, but it's what we do with our life that counts. Computer scientists are starting to look at ways that they can make death just that little bit different, reshaping the one fixed point in human existence, and sometimes in rather strange ways. RIP can go from 'Rest In Peace' to 'Right, Investigate Possibilities'!

Twitter from beyond

Social networks are a vital part of many people's lives, but what happens when you're dead? Do your tweets need to stop? Does the world need to lose your views? Well no, according to the LiveOn project. It aims to create an artificial intelligence program that learns how you tweet, and the sorts of things you tweet about, like and dislike, and can continue to mimic your online presence even after you depart this earth. As their slogan says, "When your heart stops beating, you'll keep tweeting".

RIP = Replicating Individuals Preferences

Grave situations

When Chinese computer fan Hu Chuang died, his parents decided to commemorate his love of computing in a novel way. His headstone was carved in the form of a computer and monitor. It even included a mouse. This isn't the first time that graves have incorporated a love of technology. There are headstones that carry QR codes you can scan to be taken to a memorial website to find out more about the occupant. But to get even more personal, people have been buried with their mobile phones. In the days before wireless, some were buried with phone lines running to their coffins, in case of premature burial. They never called back though. Wonder why...

RIP = Really, I've Passed?

Dead actors: I'll be back !

Today's computer graphics can help dead actors rise again. Research is being undertaken to generate lifelike synthespians: synthetic actors who look and act like the real thing. Using old movie footage computer systems can learn the shapes of actors' faces, their characteristic movements and even their voice patterns. This process of digital cloning is often referred to as Schwarzeneggerization, after the idea was first introduced in a book where a customer asked that Arnold Schwarzenegger be digitally substituted to replace other actors in classic films. There was, not surprisingly, concern about how these resurrected characters could be used. The widow of dancer Fred Astaire and the Screen Actors Guild successfully lobbied the Californian senate to pass the Astaire Bill, restricting the use of digital clones and giving actors legal rights from beyond the grave.

RIP = Relive Innovative Performances

Google: archive for the afterlife

We live our lives in the cloud. Our photos, blogs, and so on live on the Internet, protected by our passwords. But what happens to all of this intellectual property when we die? Google has thought about this. They are providing a service that will send your login and password details to a chosen person in case your online activity stops for too long, which they consider indicates you are dead. This way someone else can look after all your lovely images and ideas, keeping them safe for the future

RIP = Repurpose Intellectual Property

Speaking of the dead

Alexander Graham Bell, widely recognised as the inventor of the telephone, has found his voice at last, over a hundred years after his death. Bell recorded himself on a wax cylinder reciting lines from Shakespeare and delivering what he may have considered his catchphrase: "Hear my voice, Alexander Graham Bell". The recording method involved speaking loudly into a cone that at the far end had a needle in contact with a rotating cylinder covered with soft wax. The vibrations of the voice, caught and amplified through the cone, caused tiny bumps to be impressed in the wax, capturing the sound but also allowing playback. The cylinder was rotated and the bumps, via the needle, caused appropriate sound in the cone. However wax decays over time and Bell's words were impossible to recover using anything that contacted the brittle wax. The solution employed by the Smithsonian Institution was to use a laser to read the bumps and turn them back into sound, exactly the same technology as is used in DVD players.

RIP = Repeat In Person