Friday, June 10, 2011

My Memories of Maynard Hill

Today I was saddened to read of the passing of Maynard Hill in the Washington Post. Mr. Hill was a pioneer in unmanned aerial vehicles, and set many records for speed, duration, and altitude for radio-controlled aircraft. His most recent was the first trans-Atlantic flight of a model aircraft in 2003.
I interviewed Maynard Hill at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab twenty-seven years ago when I was researching a book on the future of military aviation. I had been assigned the chapters on rotary wing flight and unmanned aerial vehicles.
I trekked to the APL in Laurel, Maryland, and shared lunch with Mr. Hill. He told me about his projects, his views on the future of unmanned aerial vehicles (which turned out to be right on target), and his hobby of radio-controlled aircraft. I was amazed to hear stories such as when he set a distance flight record by driving north over 500 km from Virginia to Pennsylvania, controlling his aircraft from the back seat of a convertible.
At the end of the interview, I asked Mr. Hill what his most rewarding project was. He told me that the best project for him was his marriage and rearing his children. I was ambitious and twenty-something at the time, so it took my several years to realize that this was the most valuable lesson he gave me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kinect is for More than Games

I deal with a lot of exciting technology, but I can't remember anything that stirs quite as much enthusiasm as the work that InfoStrat's Advanced Technology Group is doing with Microsoft Kinect. Using Kinect with your PC opens up new ways of human computer interaction, and there are practical applications galore for government and business.

Our Surface channel http://www.youtube.com/user/infostratcville has some new videos showing Kinect used to manipulate maps, medical images, and more.



The low cost of Kinect is also a big part of the wow factor. While Microsoft Surface is impressive, I never could quite see my way clear to spend $12,500 to put one in my living room, and the 300 lb shipping weight made me think twice about taking it on the road. Kinect is available nationwide for only $150, and millions already own it for their Xbox at home.

Microsoft has announced plans to provide new software for Kinect, and is assigning people to dream up new applications. This should be an exciting summer.