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Noor Article, 'Preparing for the Intelligence Era,' Featured in ASME magazine

Ahmed Noor, eminent scholar and William E. Lobeck Professor of Modeling, Simulation and Visualization Engineering at Old Dominion University, has authored a lengthy feature article in this month's Mechanical Engineering magazine, published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineering.

The topic is a favorite of Noor's - projecting how technology will impact our shared future.

In the article, "Preparing for the Intelligence Era," Noor writes: "With proper support for emerging technologies, we can have intelligent transportation networks that run as efficiently as factories; smart energy systems that make the best use of resources, and health care when and where it is needed."

The key to all this, Noor writes, is continued work on the human interactions with computers, physical systems and information in general. "The trend towards digital convergence of these technologies with information technology, virtual worlds, knowledge-based engineering and artificial intelligence is ushering in a new era," Noor writes. "Perhaps it will be called the Intelligence Era."

Noor says it's possible to imagine a world where a scientist enters his own office and is recognized by his facial features or gait, and the office instantly modifies itself to suit that individual's needs.

"Technologies offer novel and increasingly efficient ways for human beings to control computers, devices and systems, both for work and for play," Noor writes.

"That is interesting by itself, but the long-term practical implications could affect the world in more ways than by increasing the market for video games and gadgets, and over a broader reach than the engineer's workplace. If current and emerging technologies can be integrated into large systems, they will provide unprecedented benefits."

Noor believes that such technologies could be applied to transportation systems, to improve safety and efficiencies. The same technologies could one day support remote medical monitoring networks, offering improved access to care no matter where patients are.

"My colleagues and I call these kinds of concepts intelligent digital engineering ecosystems. We envision them as broad ecologies of networked smart devices and cognitive robots, with high-level reasoning, planning and decision making capabilities," Noor writes.

In the article, he also highlights several examples of digital technology, from different universities and research institutes, where new possibilities of human interaction with technology are emerging, using sensory mode to convey information, or dynamic, real-time interaction.

Finally, Noor explores the still-emerging field of brain-machine interfaces (BMIs), where technology is being investigated to see if it will permit machine control merely by thought.

"Some of the current, cutting-edge research is focused on using BMIs for thought recognition and communication (including brain-to-machine and brain-to-brain communication)," Noor writes.

"The creation of sensations, words or even thoughts in a receiving mind is a much greater challenge than using thought to control a device. However, as our understanding of the brain increases, this may eventually become possible."

This article was posted on: November 15, 2010

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