Researchers Featured in New Book by William Shatner and Chip Walter
Carnegie Mellon researchers and some of their cutting- edge work take center stage in a new book about the future written by Star Trek's "Captain Kirk," William Shatner, and science writer and future trends specialist Chip Walter. The book, entitled "I'm Working on That: A Trek from Science Fiction to Science Fact" (Simon and Schuster), explores how many of the technologies envisioned in Star Trek's television series and movies are now becoming realities.
The book highlights some of the work in robotics, virtual reality, and wearable and pervasive computing in the School of Computer Science's (SCS) Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) and Robotics Institute, as well as the Institute for Complex Engineered Systems in the College of Engineering.
In addition, "I'm Working on That" explores everything from warp drive and time travel to smart matter and artificial intelligence. The book connects the themes and concepts envisioned by Star Trek more than 30 years ago with research being done to make these technologies realities in the 21st rather than the 23rd century.
The book was recently featured on NBC-TV's Today Show, in Wired Magazine and in the New York Times.
"When Bill and I began to collaborate on this book, I knew I had to bring him to Pittsburgh," said Pittsburgh native Chip Walter, an adjunct professor in the ETC. "We wanted to research the researchers who were working on shaping the future, and that's what Carnegie Mellon does best. Bill loved it and got a huge kick out of the work we explored here. At one point when we were walking across campus, he looked at me and said, 'These people are amazing.'" Shatner and Walter also visited NASA, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, Xerox PARC, the Foresight Institute and Caltech, to name a few.
Several chapters in the book explore new technologies being developed at Carnegie Mellon. Principal Research Scientist Hans Moravec, a leading thinker in the field of robotics, is featured along with scientific luminaries like theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, the "father" of nanotechnology Eric Drexler, artificial intelligence expert and inventor Ray Kurzweil and renowned computer scientists Ralph Merkle and Neil Gershenfeld.
"Hans always has mind-blowing things to say," said Walter. "Research being done by students and scientists working with HCI Institute Director Dan Siewiorek, Associate Professor Sebastian Thrun and ETC co-Director Randy Pausch was among the most impressive we saw anywhere in the country."
The book's title was inspired by a comment made by legendary physicist Stephen Hawking when he was touring the set of "Star Trek The Next Generation." As he was passing by the warp drive engines, he asked what they were. When it was explained, he said, "Oh, I'm working on that." The book is available at the Bookstore for $25.
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