Gotta get down on Friday

Friday Five: Robots, lolcats and geopolitical indexes

It’s Friday, and time to start getting ready for the weekend by going a bit off-topic. Here’s a few cool things that caught our eye across the web this week.

1. A Google-powered Java speech API
Let’s start with some Java. Luke Kuza’s speech API uses Google technology to both recognise speech input and synthesise output - meaning that, yes, you too can build a hands-free Siri-style assistant for your app. The only apparent downside is that, like Siri, it also requires an internet connection. While we haven’t had a chance to try it out ourselves, we’d love to know if you do anything cool with it - drop us a line on Twitter @jaxentercom.

2. TextMate lives again
Here’s one for Mac users: when OS X code editor TextMate 2 was made open-source last month, there was plenty of cynicism over whether the old dog still had life in it. Yet, to everyone’s surprise the app has seen a new lease of life, with over 400 commits and a whole bunch of updates. So why not take it for a spin? Or better yet, contribute to the codebase?

3. The record-breaking Cheetah robot
Not even Usain Bolt himself can run from this terrifying military-developed robot, demonstrated yesterday reaching 28.3mph (45.5km/h). The headless metal beast, nicknamed the “cheetah” for fairly obvious reasons, is the latest experimental limbed robot from Boston Dynamic (they also made 2008’s uneven-terrain-walking ‘big dog’). We couldn’t agree more with Noel Sharkey, an academic at Sheffield University, when he describes it as “an incredible technical achievement, but it's unfortunate that it's going to be used to kill people”.

4. TimBL’s Web Index
Forget the Olympics (and Paralympics): the only table of countries you need is the Web Index, published today by Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web Foundation. The index takes into account the web’s political, economic and social impact on each country, as well as their internet infrastructure and the level of use. Current #1 is Sweden, with a web index score of 100, followed closely by the USA (97.31), UK (93.83) and Canada (93.42).

5. The Online Cat-Industrial Complex
And finally... we all love cats on the internet, but it seems that Japan’s passion for them runs even deeper. Wired’s Gideon Lewis-Kraus has written an epic 6,400-word essay on the subject, in which he catalogues the history of cats on the internet, attempts to secure an audience with the world-famous Maru, and ponders what it is about cats that make them so lovable. Oh, and it’s accompanied by a compilation some of the best cat pictures on the net.

Cute cat photo by dougwoods.

Elliot Bentley

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