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Virtual personal assistant shootout

Now that we got to know our contenders a little better, it’s finally time we put them through their paces in some real life tests. Now we are not going to focus our attention on which one of them does its job best when it comes to its set of skills, but rather which could be most helpful in various real life situations.

Here’s how it’ll go down. We get to put the three virtual personal assistants, through a normal everyday scenarios and see which one manages to be most helpful. Pretty simple, right?

We started off with a simple morning routine asking what time it is, what are our tasks for the day and finally, what are the latest news. Then, we moved on to having breakfast and having a little chat with our personal assistants. We asked them about the calories in our meal, how’s the traffic to work, and to tell and tell us something interesting while we are having our meal.

We also tried how good the three are when it’s time to do something fun like watching a movie.

What good is a personal assistant if it can’t keep track of our favorite sport? In this particular case, it’s football and the assistant gets asked about upcoming matches and player details.

Since it was Apple’s Siri that started the whole virtual personal assistant craze, we only found it logical to start with it. Here’s the video below.

What should I get done today? (What are my appointments for today? What is my calendar for today?)

Siri was confused on the more obscure question. Rephrasing the question to contain a more obvious keyword got us the answer we wanted.

Read me the news ugg boots clearance / Tell me something interesting

Sadly, Siri failed to give us the latest headlines and tell us what’s new. Instead, Apple’s virtual assistant boasted about the new things it was able to do.

How many calories are in an eggs and bacon breakfast?

Apple has taught Siri to look for answers to questions like that through the Wolfram Alpha service, but surprisingly, Siri thought we were going to a restaurant instead.

How’s the traffic to work?

No problems for Siri and Apple Maps here.

Do I need to take an umbrella today?

The weather forecast was the response we w ugg boots clearance anted and it was the one we got.

Recommend me a movi ugg boots clearance e / Show me reviews of The Dark Knight Rises

Siri demonstrated that it’s got character with that one. It didn’t recommend anything specific, since it hasn’t actually seen any movies at all, but it successfu ugg boots clearance lly pulled out a list of highly rated films, which is really all that could be expected from it.

Apple’s virtual assistant continued to wow us by successfully getting a movie review of the The Dark Knight Rises from Rotten Tomatoes. Furthermore, it read the movie’s final score for us.

Who is the director of The Dark Knight Rises

Apple Siri gave a straightforward answer although it spared us the additional details.

Play Dream Theater

Siri integrates very well with the iPod functionality of the iPhone and was not only able to play Dream Theater songs but also skip and pause tracks.

Who are Dream Theater?

After it failed to pull out information about the band, Siri offered us to search for it on the web (its default fallback when information isn’t found).

When is the next Barcelona football game?

Unlike Google Now and Speaktoit Assistant which all provide general information about past and future Barcelona fixtures, Apple’s Siri showed us only the schedule for the team’s next match, which exactly what we were after.

Who is Lionel Messi?

Siri continued to get things right by telling us relevant information for Messi and his football career. It even went as far as showing detailed statistics for his physics and goals.

ugg boots clearance Virtual mass spectrometry labo

Virtual mass spectrometry laboratory transforms learning experience

Product of Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh collaboration

At $1 million, many schools cannot afford the latest spectrometry equipment to help students conduct experiments such as determining the composition of a polymer, detecting the presence of cocaine in a hair sample or identifying an anesthetic. But that may soon change, thanks to collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh on the development of the first virtual mass spectrometry system.

This interactive Internet educational tool has the potential to enable thousands of students and researchers to learn how to solve real problems from different scientific disciplines. Dubbed the Virtual Mass Spectrometry Laboratory (VMSL), this computerized tool is being presented Sunday, March 23, at the 225th mee ugg boots clearance ting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), March 23 27, in New Orleans.

“The development of this system will allow us to educate many more undergraduate students at one time in challenging technologies that are increasingly essential for conducting much of today’s research,” says Mark Bier, director of the Mellon College of Science’s Center for Molecular Analysis in the Department of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon.

“Since the VMSL is carefully designed to allow students great freedom with no risks, we believe it will engage them via the discovery process in a way traditional course experiments rarely can,” says Joseph Grabowski, professor of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh.

According to Bier, who is presenting results of their polymer case study at the ACS meeting, typically only one or two students at a time can use a mass spectrometer. Moreover, in many universities, faculty monopolize this equipment for their studies.

Smaller colleges that cannot afford the instrumentation, which totals about $1 million, could also use the VMSL to introduce their science students to mass spectrometers and cross disciplinary case studies. In fact, most small colleges do not have the mass spectrometers that make up the VMSL, according to Bier.

The VMSL experiments also are completed quickly, in about three hours. A typical protein identification analysis performed in the laboratory might take two or more days to complete, depending upon the quality of the sample being studied. Moreover, the computer requirements for logging onto VMSL are minimal, ensuring that virtually anyone with Internet access can logon and navigate the site.

The VMSL system incorporates four different kinds of mass spectrometers, each of which is used to study the composition of compounds, such proteins, polymers, or small molecules based on their molecular weight and electric charge. The instruments include a MALDI TOF (matrix assisted laser desorption ionization time of flight) mass spectrometer, a gas chromatograph quadrupole mass spectrometer, an electrospray ionization ion trap mass spectrometer and a magnetic sector mass spectrometer. (See Figure 1)

The system connects the student to data files stored from one of the four mass spectrometers with one of three VMSL servers, two located at Carnegie Mellon and one at the University of Pittsburgh. An Internet user can logon to the VMSL remotely to select one of four case studies. These include identification of a protein, analysis of an unknown anesthetic, detection of cocaine in a hair sample or determination of a polymer’s composition.

A student conducting an analysis first reads background information about the case then goes to the virtual lab to prepare the sample. In the protein case, for instance, the student must first virtually “digest” the protein to create smaller peptides that are introduced into one of the mass spectrometers for analysis. In the polymer case, a student must analyze several polymers so that he/she can choose the proper combination to meet the specifications of a polymer containing product under design. After preparing the sample and introducing it into the mass spectrometer, the student must set the instrument controls and calibrate it using a known standard compound, or calibrant. The student then acquires the data in the form of a plot called a mass spectrum (see Figure 2) and interprets the data. Problems arise if a student fails to prepare a sample correctly, set the instrument controls properly, or massages the dataset appropriately. For example, failing to do the latter step in the protein identification case study might result in a dataset that appears to contain peptide fragments from several different species, rather than from a single species.

“Our system helps create a ‘real life’ experience for students, not a recipe driven experiment, as is typically encountered in an undergraduate laboratory,” adds Bier. “Students may need to go back at any time along their work to modify a step so that they succeed in producing results that can be successfully analyzed and interpreted. One advantage over reality is that the program will correct you from making a bad sample early on, which is not the case in reality, where you can spend hours of time before realizing that you made a mistake.”

The VMSL contains four entertaining case studies, such as analyzing an animal blood protein (serum albumin) to eliminate ugg boots clearance ringers from a species Olympics event. Another case study involves analyzing an unknown anesthetic found in a medical bag thought to belong to a Civil War era physician.

“We also can use the VMSL to teach aspects of running spectroscopic instrumentation,” notes Bier. In the case of MALDI TOF spectrometer, for instance, a peptide mixture can be acquired several times using a different number of “shots” fro ugg boots clearance m an ionizing laser beam. This results in a series of spectra that students can use to learn about signal averaging. Additionally, in any one optimized peptide mass spectrum, students can zoom into one set of spectral peaks and investigate the isotope composition of the molecular ion.

Many students have helped in the development of the VMSL. A major portion of the VMLS computer program is being developed by Chunguang Yang, a research assistant working with Bier. The VMSL runs rapidly on most computers, in part, because a large 250 kilobyte spectrum is compressed into 1 to 5 kilobyte GIF (graphics interchange format) file before transmission from the server to the Internet user’s computer (see Figure 3). Hundreds of actual spectra are stored on the VMSL servers for each spectrometer, and any one can be converted into a GIF image and sent to an experimenter, depending upon what experimental instrument parameters are used in an analysis. No additional software is required to run VMSL other than an Internet browser, a program to manipulate molecules in space (CHIME tutorial) and a program to run virtual lab ugg boots clearance movies (QuickTime, Microsoft Corp.). This user friendly strategy thus allows the programmers to update the VMSL for all users at once.