This Crazy Gadget Helps You “Talk” To Your Computer Without Words

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Hey you! Ever wish your technology was more invasive? You love voice-to-text, but it’s just too public?

Some researchers at MIT Media Lab have come up with the perfect gadget for you. And it looks like a Bane mask crossed with a squid. Or, if you prefer: like a horror movie monster slowly encompassing your jaw before crawling into your mouth.

The researchers presented their work at the International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces (yes such a thing exists) in March in Tokyo.

Whenever you think of words, they’re silently, imperceptibly, transmitted to your mouth. More specifically, signals arrive at the muscles that control your mouth. And those signals aren’t imperceptible to a highly sensitive computer.

The researchers call this device the AlterEgo. It’s got seven electrodes positioned around the mouth to pick up these signals. The data that the electrodes pick up goes through several rounds of processing before being transmitted wirelessly to a device awaiting instruction nearby. Oh, and it’s got bone-conduction headphones so that devices can respond.

AlterEgo in use. Kapur et al, 2018

The scientists tested their prototype on a few people who trained the software to recognize the data that corresponded to different commands (“call,” “reply,” “add,”), then on a few more to see how accurate it was. The results were promising, though it’s not exactly ready to go into mass production.

The closest comparison to this system is a device you can address in your normal speech, like Siri or Alexa. But, terrifyingly, this is not scientists’ first attempt at creating a more direct way to transmit our thoughts to computers. Most earlier versions have relied directly on brain signals (from devices laid over or implanted in the brain. No thank you).

AlterEgo has the following advantages, according to the researchers:

  • It’s not invasive (seems like kind of a low bar but ok)
  • It’s 92 percent accurate (probably marginally better than your average autocorrect, about the same as Siri or Alexa)
  • It’s portable (and about as sexy as one of those Bluetooth earpieces)
  • Unlike direct brain readings, it can’t read your private thoughts (except for the ones you quietly mouth to yourself)

I admit, in some situations a device like this might be useful. Particular movements could tell your phone to turn on music, or use a calculator, or text your friend. It could control your “smart home,” turning off the oven or starting the coffeepot with a mere twitch. Heck, in 10 years, I could be thinking this article into existence. This goes double for people with disabilities or vision problems that might make controlling a digital device challenging otherwise.

BUT. But. There are a few things that might make AlterEgo less than ideal. The electrodes can’t shift when a person is using them, for example, or the reading will get all messed up. It’s hard to imagine that people would be comfortable hanging out with a device covering half their mouths. And there’s no telling how the system would do in real-world settings — that’s what the researchers have to test out next. And, of course, there’s the issue of crossed signals, like when Alexa thought random sounds were telling it to laugh. And — just thinking big for a second — if it were hacked, could the hacker use the electrodes to physically control your mouth?

Might we have a future in which our faces butt-dial for us? Who’s to say. But you can bet all the people in my nightmares of a dystopian future are equipped with one of these bad boys.

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Xiaomi Mi Fan Festival Sale on April 5 and 6: Up to Rs. 3000 off on smartphones, offers on accessories, Crazy combos and more

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Few days back Xiaomi announced that it will hold Mi Fan Festival in India in the first week of April. Today the company has confirmed that it will hold the sale on April 5th and 6th. In the sale it will have discounts on smartphones, accessories, accessory combos as well as Crazy Combos on app. Discounts on Xiaomi products during Mi Fan Festival Sale Mi MIX 2 – Rs. 29,999 (Rs. 3000 off) Mi Max – Rs. 12,999 (Rs. 1000 off) Redmi 4  64GB – Rs. 9999 (Rs. 500 off) Mi Band HRX Edition – Rs. 999 (Rs. 300 off) Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro HD – Rs. 1,699 (Rs. 300 off) Mi Headphones Comfort – Rs. 2,699 (Rs. 300 off) Mi VR Play 2 – Rs. 999 (Rs. 300 off) Mi Business Backpack – Rs. 999 (Rs. 300 off) Mi Car Charger – Rs. 499 (Rs. 200 off) Mi Air Purifier Filter – Rs. 1999 (Rs. 500 off) Crazy Combos – Flash Sale on April 5 Redmi 5A + Mi LED Smart TV 4A 32 – Rs. 5999  Mi Band – HRX Edition + Mi Band Strap – HRX Edition – Rs. 199 Mi Bluetooth Speaker Basic 2 + Mi Earphones Basic – Rs. 399 Redmi Y1 Lite + Redmi Y1 …
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A Fully 3D-Printed Rocket Is Not as Crazy as it Seems. Investors Agree.

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60 days.

That’s how long it will take to produce and launch a rocket if the parts are 3D printed, according to the CEO of Relativity Space, a startup that seeks to do just that.

Flying something made completely of 3D-printed parts into space sounds, frankly, pretty bonkers. But investors are on board. The Los Angeles-based startup recently secured $ 35 million to go ahead with its plan to produce a fleet of spacecraft using one of the largest 3D printers known to man, known as Stargate.

Relativity is not the first company to bring 3D printing to space. SpaceX has done it for its reusable rockets, and even NASA is looking into which spacecraft parts can be made more reliably and cheaply by 3D printers.

But Relativity stands alone in that it wants to print nearly all of a rocket — 95 percent of it — and by cutting the number of components that go into it, from from 100,000 to fewer than 1,000.

Since its launch in 2015, the company has raised more than $ 45 million, promising to speed up the production of rockets. The company plans to use this most recent cash infusion to buy a second Stargate printer, and to grow its staff.

A first round of tests on the company’s 3D-printed Aeon engines should be carried out before the end of the year. Relativity wants to put nine of those engines on its Terran rocket, which will have a 3D-printed booster, too. The company expects that each launch will cost about $ 10 million.

Relativity aims to send about 1,250 kg (2,756 pounds) into orbit. That’s minuscule compared to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy payload of 64,000 kg (64 metric tons, or 141,096 lbs), which is more than 50 times bigger, but quite a bit larger than the smallest rockets around, which can carry up to 150 kilograms.

But that’s just fine for Relativity. The company wants to tap into different markets, mostly launching commercial telecommunication satellites into low orbit, and feels no compulsion to compete with the likes of SpaceX or NASA. And if you consider that NASA recently made it clear that it has no intention of buying SpaceX’s rockets, Relativity’s plan seems to be a safer bet.

One day, Ars Technica reports, the startup hopes to send its rockets to Mars and back. But for now, it’s secured a solid foot on Earth, with a 20-year lease of NASA’s 25-acre E4 Test Complex at Stennis Space Center, in Mississippi.

Relativity plans to launch a first test flight by the end of 2020, Ars Technica notes. Should that be successful, commercial launches will begin in 2021.

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Face ID goes to the market in crazy new iPhone X ad

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Apple has published another incredible new ad for Face ID on the iPhone X that shows off how easy it is to buy stuff with a glance. The minute-long ad is similar in style to the wild ad Apple put out last week. While wandering through a flea market, an iPhone X owner is suddenly […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

Cult of Mac

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Teardown shows the crazy engineering inside the Galaxy S9’s camera

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Galaxy S9 camera vs iPhone teardown, aperture

In terms of design, Samsung definitely played it safe with the Galaxy S9. There’s no iPhone-esque notch, no zany new materials — there’s even a headphone jack, that’s how straight-laced Samsung went. But the Galaxy S9 is far from boring, and that’s mostly thanks to the camera.

The primary camera (there’s a secondary telephone lens as well) on the back of the Galaxy S9 has a physical dual aperture, a feature that we haven’t seen on a smartphone camera for over a decade. It adjusts from f/2.4 to f/1.5 depending on the lighting, something that lets the camera vary exposure of an image without messing with the shutter speed or ISO. Installing a variable aperture helps capture sharp images in daylight while also having industry-leading low-light performance, something that shone through in our review.

Of course, variable apertures are nothing new to the photography industry. The impressive thing is how Samsung managed to miniaturize the physical mechanism necessary for a variable aperture and put it in something the size of a fingernail. JerryRigEverything tore down the camera (and the entire phone) on YouTube, and I highly recommend watching the video to fully understand how the aperture works.

Surrounding the camera sensor is a mechanical aperture unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Unlike the iris-style aperture that DSLR or mirrorless camera owners are used to, the Galaxy S9’s camera has two plates, actuated by a lever, which slide across the camera to limit the available light. There’s no in-between setting: you get your pick of f/1.5 and f/2.4, but that’s it. You might expect some kind of clever electronic system in a smartphone, but it seems that Samsung simply installed a mechanical system with a lever, actuated by a servo, which presumably turns a shaft and pushes the plate. At the scale we’re talking about, that kind of engineering is simply incredible.


Apple – BGR

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Android upgrade downslide: 4 years of damning data in 3 crazy charts

Android upgrades have been a source of frustration for years now — but it’s rare to get a glimpse at just how extensively the various manufacturers’ performance has been degrading over the past few years.

I’ve been tracking Android upgrade progress closely since the platform’s earliest days. Each year, I publish the results in an Android Upgrade Report Card that measures how long different device-makers take to get the most recent major Android OS update onto their current and previous-gen flagship phones (using the first availability of the software in the U.S. as a metric).

To read this article in full, please click here

Computerworld Mobile

11 Crazy Valuable Vintage Apple Products and Collectibles

Apple products aren’t cheap. Take for instance the iPhone X (up to $ 1,149) or the iMac Pro which can fetch over $ 13,000! That’s a lot of money, but I’m sure you can imagine that vintage Apple products can be even more expensive. Do you know which Apple Computer sold for almost $ 1,000,000? Use the right arrow to browse this list of crazy expensive Apple collectibles to find out.

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Here’s What We Know About the Crazy New Startup Where Scientists Use Crypto to Buy Your Genetic Data

If innovators have their way, you’ll soon start seeing blockchain beyond the realm of cryptocurrency. People have been thinking creatively about how to use the technology powering Bitcoin to do things like shake up how people vote or access their birth records.

Now, pioneering Harvard and MIT geneticist George Church (of CRISPR and mammoth-resurrection fame) has a new startup that plans to use blockchain technology for genome sequencing — but it’s not yet clear whether it will be popular enough to edge out the competition.

The startup, dubbed Nebula Genomics, seeks to change how companies handle an individual’s DNA. Though companies like 23andMe have become popular and thousands of people have gotten their genomes tested for things like their ancestry and health conditions they might pass on to their children, most people still haven’t had their DNA sequenced. Some of the reasons may be that the test is still fairly pricey, plus consumers aren’t assured much privacy in doing so.

That’s where Nebula thinks it can do better — consumer-patients can get paid for submitting their genomic information, and ensure it’s safe in the process, according to a white paper the company recently published.

Here’s what we know about Nebula’s plans so far. It’s simple, until it’s not:

  1. Companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA are “middlemen,” acquiring people’s DNA, then selling it to pharmaceutical and research companies for millions of dollars. Nebula wants to eliminate them. In their place, DNA/data owners will interface directly with DNA/data buyers. There will be no “middlemen,” as Nebula puts it.
  2. Nebula will sequence the DNA itself, but it’ll be pricey, at least at first. Sequencing a single person’s DNA will start at $ 1,000, though Nebula expects it to drop to less than $ 100 “in a few years.”
  3. Owners don’t have to sell their information. After a person gets their results from Nebula, an app will allow them to “interpret their personal genomic data without sharing it with any third party.” As the app analyzes more DNA sequences, the information available to consumers will become more comprehensive.
  4. All data will be privately stored on Nebula’s network. Initial access is granted only to the owner, though they can give others access to it as well. Owners can also choose to store their data wherever they want, including on Dropbox.
  5. Organizations that want to buy users’ DNA have to be upfront about who they are, and all transactions will be recorded on the Nebula blockchain. It’s unclear if real names are required, or if something like “DNA_Enthusiast93” will suffice.
  6. Nebula tokens will be the sole currency on the network. Individuals use Nebula tokens to pay Nebula for their personal genome sequencing. Entities looking to buy genomic data will pay tokens to gain access to genome sequences, purchased with traditional currency. Interestingly, Nebula acknowledges that the value of Nebula tokens will decrease as DNA sequencing becomes cheaper. It’s still pretty unclear what this would mean for the network, or how exactly people will exchange tokens.
  7. Buyers, such as pharmaceutical companies or academics, can conduct surveys targeted at DNA owners and provide Nebula tokens in exchange. These buyers can also offer to pay an individual’s genome sequencing cost if the survey reveals information that is particularly interesting to the buyer.

Given the way genome sequencing industry currently works, integrating blockchain seems pretty revolutionary. But Nebula isn’t so unique, in fact— other startups such as EncrypGen, Luna DNA, and Zenome have indicated that they might build platforms for people to sell their own DNA, as Tech Crunch notes. The company won’t officially launch until later this year, giving the competition plenty of time to catch up.

A harder question to answer: will people trust paying with Nebula tokens? As STAT News points out, both bitcoin and Ripple have experienced sizable drops in their respective values in 2018, and bitcoin’s might even fall farther. The idea of investing in a new cryptocurrency that comes with an expiration date may be a hard sell.

And Nebula has some steep competition. Tests from 23andMe are popular, and incredibly simple (just give them your spit). The affordable $ 80 – $ 160 price is just low enough to seem worth it.

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