Tuesday, November 25, 2008

ICT 2008...fantastic already

Hello from ICT 2008, in Lyon France.

I'm sitting in the most enormous amphitheatre I've ever seen. It's so large, I expect Madonna and a troupe of dancers to be dominating the floor, or perhaps Cirque de Soleil to be contorting in the spotlight.

Instead, one man stands at the podium, sharing his dreams and research for the future. He's in bio-photonics: for example, the use of light to fight cancer through a better understanding of the molecular basis of disease. One in three delegates, he says, will be affected by cancer. We look around the room at each other and think how important these new ICT technologies will be to the future of our world, our future.

Other applications of modern photonics include light assisted nanosurgery (using an optical syringe!!). Incredible! Or early detection for glaucoma that doesn't require a single slice in to your eye. Instead, it uses light interference to measure the health of the cells. Also (and this is great for an Aussie like me!), bio-photonics can be used to treat skin cancers, which affect 75% of all Australians. They use light to deliver a drug that collects preferentially in cancer cells. It's called photo-dynamic therapy (or PDT if you're down with the kids).

Other technologies we've already seen on the floor include a very cute yoga-practising humanoid robot. I asked the guy: "is this a toy?"; he said "no!" So if it's not a toy, what is it for? This little baby can react to your verbal commands. You ask it to check the latest news in the Financial News or Entertainment Online, and it will look up relevant stories on the internet, then read the news back to you. Great if you're visually impaird. The idea is to make it larger, so it can open doors or climb stairs.

There are also heaps of grid applications here. Check out Health e-Child, which uses computers all over the world to create a massive computing resource to power research in to children's health, or the European Grid Initiative, which is working towards creating a pan-European grid that combines the power of computer farms across all of Europe, or pages of success stories from EGEE, including grid computing applications in fusion energy, medical research, earth science and more.

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