Sunday, November 18, 2007

Robotic phone message

Readers who've seen Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey will recall that the AI [artificial intelligence] creature named Hal—who looked physically like a red lamp on a firetruck—often took the initiative of speaking to the human crewman Dave.

This afternoon, I feel a little like Dave, in that I've just succeeded in coaxing the Google Android telephone to send me this text message asking if everything's OK at Gamone:

It's a small step for telephony, but a giant step for my mastery of the Google Android SDK [software development kit] and the Java programming language. What you must understand is that this telephone doesn't exist yet in flesh and blood [if I can be allowed to speak that way about a future cellphone]. So, the phone call in question was actually emulated on my MacBook, on a virtual cellphone. But that's neither here nor there, for anything that works correctly in an emulated software environment should be perfectly operational when it's transposed onto a real piece of electronic equipment.

In my article entitled iPhoney gadget, a couple of months ago [display], I illustrated the possibility of using a software gadget to see what such-and-such a website would looked like when displayed on an iPhone. In the case of my Google Android phone demo, the big difference is that the virtual phone is not merely displaying something I created on the web, but actually behaving in accordance with my precise programmed instructions. In a Kubrick setting, you might say that, not only did I receive a message from Hal, but I actually programmed Hal to send me this message.

Skeptics might be tempted to ask: "How do we know that William really programmed a virtual Google Android cellphone to display this message? Maybe he simply used Photoshop to paste this line of text into an existing image." That's a problem with emulation. I can't really prove that what I show you is authentic. But I cross my heart that I'm not cheating. On the other hand, I must admit that this demo is basically an elementary tutorial thing supplied with the Google Android documentation. But I'm thrilled to find that I could get it to work. Now I'll be able to start work on my real cellphone software project, which will be a much bigger thing...

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