Last fall Stanford Professor Sebastian Thrun offered his CS221 course ‘Introduction to Artificial Intelligence’ online, for free.

Thrun told the story of his Introduction to Artificial Intelligence class, which ran from October to December last year. It started as a way of putting his Stanford course online — he was going to teach the whole thing, for free, to anybody in the world who wanted it. With quizzes and grades and a final certificate, in parallel with the in-person course he was giving his Stanford undergrad students. He sent out one email to announce the class, and from that one email there was ultimately an enrollment of 160,000 students. Thrun scrambled to put together a website which could scale and support that enrollment, and succeeded spectacularly well.

Just a couple of datapoints from Thrun’s talk: there were more students in his course from Lithuania alone than there are students at Stanford altogether. There were students in Afghanistan, exfiltrating war zones to grab an hour of connectivity to finish the homework assignments. There were single mothers keeping the faith and staying with the course even as their families were being hit by tragedy. And when it finished, thousands of students around the world were educated and inspired. Some 248 of them, in total, got a perfect score: they never got a single question wrong, over the entire course of the class. All 248 took the course online; not one was enrolled at Stanford.

Yesterday at the  DLD (Digital Life,Design), Conference in Munich, Germany, Thrun made an announcement regarding online education.

he concluded that “I can’t teach at Stanford again.” He’s given up his tenure at Stanford, and he’s started a new online university called Udacity. He wants to enroll 500,000 students for his first course, on how to build a search engine — and of course it’s all going to be free.

Its not exactly an accredited university, but it is free. You can enroll now for his next course which starts February 20th:


Learn programming in seven weeks. We’ll teach you enough about computer science that you can build a web search engine like Google or Yahoo!

20111230-223938.jpgOnce upon a time, sculpting in a 3d modeling program felt more like playing with an Etch-a-Sketch or Playdoh Fun Factory than modeling real clay. Now Chameleon and its haptic arm put let you get a grip on your virtual object.

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Philips Microbe House 5Imagine an apartment where kitchen waste provides electricity, your interactive bathroom mirror helps prevent disease, and mushrooms in your composter devour plastic bags.

If you call yourself a twenty-first century design student, you should be studying this.

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A world like this would make life so simple.

Microsoft shows off a “holodesk” whose 3d environment you can manipulate with your hands. Add quantum levitation to make solid holo-objects move through space–revealed in a stunning video below–and a holodeck starts to look a lot less like Star Trek and a lot more like somebody’s research lab.

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I think this is a fantastic idea, really useful and would be utilized effectively by so many people.



A bunch of anarchist hackers, the Graffiti Research Lab, and an entrepreneur named Mick Ebeling hack together an eye-tracking device that enables a paralyzed former graffiti artist to draw on the parking lot outside his hospital window.

The nerve disease ALS left graffiti artist TEMPT paralyzed from head to toe, forced to communicate blink by blink. In a remarkable talk at TEDActive, entrepreneur Mick Ebeling shares how he and a team of collaborators built an open-source invention that gave the artist — and gives others in his circumstance — the means to make art again.

The music industry is infiltrating private weddings to crack down on music piracy, and even artists with gold albums can end up owing their label a half-million bucks. But you don’t need the industry to bust out a fly remix.

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In the first program of its kind, Apple will now recycle your old laptop or desktop PC for free. And you might net a few bucks toward your next device.

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Ohm StudioAn “ohm” may be a measure of resistance, but I can’t see musicians resisting this latest stab at online music production. According to the promo video, anyway, Ohm helps you sharing tracks, find collaborators, and, ehem, sync asynchronously.

Did some bungler lay down bogus vocals on your killer bassline while you were asleep? No problem! Thanks to my favorite Ohm feature, you can roll back your song to a previous version stored in Ohm’s cloud.

If you try it, let us know if it delivers. Ohm Studio real time collaborative music workstation

Calibamboo bCalifornia-based bamboo supplier and renewable material promoter CaliBamboo offers free materials to the best project, and last month NMD alumnus Chris Bagley bagged the prize for his bamboo ski capstone.

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A prominent educator claims today’s college students are learning in silos, specializing too much to see the Big Picture. (Via NMD alumnus Will Seyffer)

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VwVolkswagon has unveiled a plug-in hybrid that gets 260 miles to the gallon and can go 20 miles on electricity alone. At 24 grams of CO2 per kilometer, the XL1 emits less than a third of the emissions of a 2010 Prius.

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A documentary Film

For many of us our parents encourage us to attend college and get a higher education so that we can have a choice of what we would like for ourselves in life an not just have to settle for what we can get. When i first when to college I was filled with the idea when I got out I’d have a leg up on the rest of the world, that I’d have to beat employers off with a stick and choosing a my career would be like choosing which gift to first unwrap at christmas; exciting, somewhat expected, and always with careful and thoughtful deliberation. A year out of school and I quickly found out that was not the case at all. Instead of exploring new areas and growing into adult hood I found myself back in my old room and in many ways back into adolescence. Now don’t get me wrong I would not change my college experience for anything, not only was I expose to classes of people I wouldn’t normally interact with and create strong bonds and important relationships, college helped me view the world beyond myself, brought my attitude and intelligence to a higher level, and help form me into a daring, risk taking, creative person. Still I wish my income could reflect those four years that help me grow so much.  Though I understand that times are tough and I am not the only person with such ‘after college shock’ and what’s helping me get through this difficult time for our nation is in fact my background in higher education.  I’m realizing that to be an adult is to tackle responsibilities that may not make you happy  while still pursuing that thing that motivates you.

The link above is a link to my blog for a documentary film I’m working on about this very subject. Titled: Overqualified At first this film was going to be a broad documentary about what it means to be a college graduate in todays economy but as things evolved it has become more to focus about a certain individual named Rachel. Rachel graduated top of her class in both high school and college, she is driven, smart, articulate and struggling, like may of us are.  I won’t go into more detail because that is what the blog is for. If you have the time check it out, give me some feed back and hey if you feel like supporting a local filmmaker and fellow black bear, donate a dollar or two.

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