MIT’s wearable device can ‘hear’ the words you say in your head

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

If you've read any sort of science fiction, it's likely you've heard about subvocalization, the practice of silently saying words in your head. It's common when we read (though it does slow you down), but it's only recently begun to be used as a way…
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Imaginary Worlds is the slick, deep-dive podcast sci-fi and fantasy fans need to hear

There are a ton of podcasts out there, but finding the right one can be difficult. In our new column Pod Hunters, we cover what we’ve been listening to that we can’t stop thinking about.

A couple of months ago, the members of my science fiction writer’s group were talking about podcasts, and one suggested a show that we had to listen to: Imaginary Worlds. After discovering and listening to an episode, she went and binge-listened to the entire run up to that point, sucked in by its deep dives into science fiction and fantasy culture.

Imaginary Worlds is a podcast that takes a deep dive into the world of science fiction and fantasy — both the people who create them and the fictional universes they design. Creator Eric Molinsky covers a…

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Alexa, play me an ad that I don’t want to hear (said no one ever)

Here’s a good news, (potentially) bad news story.

First the good news: Even though it typically doesn’t provide sales numbers for its product lines, Amazon touted record purchases of Alexa-enabled products this holiday season.

Given how mainstream and relatively inexpensive Echo and Fire TV devices are, that’s not a surprise. I’d expect record sales over last year’s numbers for those reasons. However, a recent Amazon press release did give us some inkling of the sales figures, which are impressive:

[T]ens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices sold worldwide. Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote were not only the top-selling Amazon devices this holiday season, but they were also the best-selling products from any manufacturer in any category across all of Amazon.

The company also noted that usage of Alexa on Fire TV is up 889% in the U.S. since last year. Clearly we’re getting close to the point where it might be odd not to see or talk to an Echo or Fire TV in most households. Again, great news for Amazon.

Now for the potential bad news: With a fast growing user base across all types of households, Amazon is looking forward to further monetization of its Echo products. And that may come in the form of Alexa voicing more spoken ads or product promotions to you and your family members. A report from CNBC shares limited details of discussions between Amazon and top-tier consumer brands such as Procter & Gamble as well as Clorox.

I say this is possible bad news from a consumer standpoint, mainly because we seem to go in cycles with digital advertising: Every time a new device, medium or service hits the big time, annoying ads typically follow. I can’t get through a few Instagram photos, for example, without seeing some sponsored product. That wasn’t an issue when Instagram was building an audience, but once it did, the ad revenue started flowing. I don’t want to see the same thing happen with Alexa-enabled devices for a few reasons.

While they’re often an necessary evil, ads can be annoying. I’m now trained to generally ignore them when surfing the web at this point. (Yes, I know I could use an ad-blocker.) But that training essentially took years of using the web before ads essentially became so invisible to me that I just focus in on actual web content.

How will that work with voice, though? Not well, unless Amazon provides noise cancelling headphones with every Echo or Fire TV sold, which of course won’t happen. So Amazon will be walking a very fine line if it decides to ramp up spoken ads on Alexa-enabled devices. Too much “in your face” advertising and Amazon runs the risk of upsetting its customer base. Will those folks abandon the U.S.S. Alexa and get on board with Google, Microsoft or Apple? Probably not but Amazon prides itself on keeping customers happy, so this is risky business at best.

Amazon could integrate contextually relevant voice ads with spoken queries, but I’m not a fan of that. If I say I want to buy a Brand A toothbrush, I don’t want Alexa to tell me about Brand B.

It’s possible that companies could sponsor certain Alexa Skills, which would be decent approach in my opinion. After all, users choose to install a Skill or not, just like they choose to install mobile apps with or without ads. That puts some of the power in the hands of end users because they’ll know for sure if they can expect advertising or not from their personal assistant.

I’m also wondering if Amazon decides to replicate its advertising options on Kindle readers and tablets: You could pay less for an Alexa-enabled device in return for some limited amount of (hopefully not too intrusive) advertising. If you want to squelch the ads, you simply pay the small “upgrade” fee to be rid of them. Since some Echo devices are so inexpensive, I couldn’t see this working on an Echo Dot or Fire TV Stick. But a full sized Amazon Echo Plus or Echo Show? The numbers could work.

We’ll have to see how this all plays out of course. I suspect Amazon is very carefully weighing its options on this front. In the meantime, I’m going to converse a little more than usual with Alexa now so I can enjoy an ad-free experience.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

Tech moms: Recode wants to hear from you

What’s it like to be a new mom working in tech?

Are you a new mom who has recently returned to work in tech? We want to hear from you to get a better sense of what tech companies are doing right — and wrong — when it comes to retaining women.

The situation: There’s no federal law requiring paid maternity leave (for any job). But regardless of where you live, employers are required to provide time and space — other than a bathroom — for breastfeeding mothers to pump during the work day.

The quality and availability of those rooms can vary greatly. And there are also no guarantees that you’ll have the flexibility to work from home or have child care options at work.

The takeaway? Your experience as a new mom returning to work in tech is highly dependent on where you work and whether your company is taking steps to retain its female workers. We’re asking big tech companies what accommodations they offer new mothers when they return to work, but we want to hear directly from you.

Please take a few minutes from your busy schedule to complete this survey about your experiences when you returned to your tech job re: maternity leave, lactation rooms and child care.

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Letting Patients “Hear” Their Brainwaves Can Reduce PTSD Symptoms

Combatting PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can wreak havoc on a person’s mental and physical health. Sufferers can experience bouts of extreme panic, anxiety, or depression, as well as problems sleeping, cardiovascular issues, and gastrointestinal disorders. Treatments for PTSD typically include a combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy, but a new outside-the-box approach could prove to be much more effective.

Researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center are exploring a novel treatment that reduces patients’ PTSD symptoms by allowing them to “hear” their own brainwaves. The study has been published in the journal Military Medical Research.

For their study, the team used a technology called high-resolution, relational, resonance-based, electroencephalic mirroring (HIRREM).

Sensors placed on a PTSD sufferer’s scalp read electrical signals in their brain. These signals are then fed into a computer that uses specially designed algorithms to “translate” the signals into auditory frequencies. When these frequencies are played back in near-real-time, the patient is able to actually hear their own brain waves.

Allowing patients to listen to their own brain activity isn’t merely a cool trick, though.

According to the Wake team, when the patient is listening, the brain understands that it is hearing its own oscillations, and if what it is hearing is too erratic (a symptom of PTSD), it will make the changes necessary to “self-optimize” into a more balanced pattern.

The HIRREM Process. Image Credit: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
The HIRREM Process. Image Credit: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Eighteen patients, all of whom were veterans or actively in the military and had been experiencing PTSD symptoms for between one and 25 years, participated in the study. The team administered the treatment over the course of 12 days, with patients undergoing up to 20 total HIRREM sessions during the duration of the study.

The results of the treatment were quite promising. As Charles H. Tegeler, principal investigator on the study, noted in a news release, the treatment led to a decrease in many post-traumatic symptoms, including insomnia, depressive mood, and anxiety.

The researchers also reported improvement in heart rate variability and baroreflex sensitivity (physiological responses to stress). No other intervention for service members or veterans currently experiencing PTSD symptoms has been able to make that claim.

The benefits of the treatment weren’t short-lived, either. They lasted for at least six months after the sessions, according to Tegeler.

Beyond the Battlefield

While PTSD is particularly common amongst military personnel, it can affect anyone who has experienced a traumatic event, from domestic abuse to a car accident. In the United States, 20 percent of adults who experience a traumatic event eventually develop PTSD. An estimated 13 million Americans are suffering from PTSD at any given time, and one out of every 10 women in the nation eventually will develop the disorder.

Clearly, a great number of people could benefit from a more effective PTSD treatment, but while the results of the Wake Forest researchers’ study are remarkable, they are merely a jumping-off point. The sample group was small, and the placebo effect may have played a role in the treatment’s success.

Though the HIRREM treatment is by no means fully actualized, with further research, it could prove to be an ideal alternative treatment option for many PTSD sufferers.

Unlike traditional methods for combatting the effects of PTSD, such as antidepressant medications, it doesn’t appear to have any negative side effects. Additionally, it is the first technique that seems capable of alleviating the physical complications and symptoms of PTSD.

While this treatment is just in its nascent stages, it could evolve into a much-needed solution for the problem of PTSD.

The post Letting Patients “Hear” Their Brainwaves Can Reduce PTSD Symptoms appeared first on Futurism.


‘Returner 77’ Review – In Space, No One Can Hear You Solve

My interest was piqued pretty hard as I was perusing the app store a couple weeks ago, only to see a puzzle game that involved exploring an alien ship and solving the puzzles of its technology and the fate of mankind after encountering them. That premise, for a sci-fi junkie like me, along with those drop dead gorgeous screen shots immediately had my attention. And while I was expecting something more akin to Myst [$ 4.99], what I received was closer to The Room [$ 0.99 (HD)] series, but with several areas of puzzles (The Rooms?) and a more cinematic piecemeal mystery story interspersed throughout. And it was pretty darn great. This is Returner 77 [$ 3.99].

You are the 77th and final Returner, a group of astronauts who have been cryo-sleeping in orbit, waiting for the day they could re-activate a sleeping group of humans to resume human civilization and re-population after being absolutely decimated by an alien species. The fight seemed pretty one sided based on the aftermath. Like, pimply middle school kid vs Brock Lesnar one sided. And in addition to that, 75 of the returners are kaput. Done-zo. It’s just you and Colonel Ling, number 76. Colonel Ling was the first to wake up and headed off to the ship ahead of you, but dangerously leaves floating video diaries strewn about the ship to give you context and story. Considering the first one you find is right next to an open void and could have easily floated out to space, her planning gives me pause, but that’s just the start of it, and kind of beside the point. The real reason we’re here is puzzles. Lots of puzzles.

So I wasn’t kidding when I likened this game to The Room. Mechanically it is pretty much the same, as you explore an on rails set of points with the freedom to look around and touch stuff from those fixed spots. Some would call this The Room in Space, but I don’t want to diminish it with that comparison. The Room may have been a giant inspiration, but the games keep very separate identities. For one, the puzzles here are far more abstract. Rather than building on previous puzzles in an intricately linked series, they’re more disconnected, and made up of line drawing, pattern matching, block sliding, rotating, etc. All in the guise of alien tech. Even the very first door, which is a kind of tutorial door, seems too ludicrously convoluted to actually be a functional piece of a ship, so it’s best not to think about all that very much. It’s all just dressing for puzzles, in the end, and doesn’t make much sense.

The puzzles are good. Not great, but good. Something like 20 percent were challenging with the rest falling between easy and adequate. You can activate helmet AI hints, but I turned them off at the start. Honestly, the real star of the show here is the environment. The graphics are jaw dropping at times. Great lighting and particle work supported by decent sound design and a soundtrack that was vaguely reminiscent of FTL [$ 9.99 (HD)] at times. It’s weird for the star of a puzzle game to be the graphics, but it’s the one aspect that continually impressed me throughout. I just barely made the minimum requirements with my iPad Air 2, though our forums report some earlier devices working as long as iOS 11 is installed. Anyway, the puzzles come in a pretty wide variety, as you power-up consoles, doors, bridges, and other ridiculously advanced devices. The aliens here and their tech are photonic and crystalline in nature. Basically everything is light and crystals. I don’t know if being one of these aliens lets you bypass all these puzzles, because honestly, even though I said not to think about it too hard, I can’t help it. Making people solve intricate pattern puzzles to just turn something on makes me chuckle with how silly it is.

Speaking of that, the story in its current state is a bit disappointing. For one, there seems to be no good justification so far for Colonel Ling to have gone on so far without you, solving all these puzzles only to disable them because something starts following her. I don’t know if she actually woke up weeks ago or what. The aliens themselves are the main point of intrigue and interest. How they work, what they want, how they build this tech, and so on. The last room of the game seems to build up to a major reveal, and kind of does, but then it just ends on a total cliffhanger with a black screen thanking you for playing and telling you that more content is on the way. So hopefully when the story is finished it will be great, but right now it’s all promises and little to no delivery, which is mildly worrying. As an aside, the voice acting of Ling was just a bit too wooden for an ‘amazed and shocked’ scientist. I don’t know if it was second language barriers or what.

All that said, I am game to keep playing. If I wasn’t a sci-fi lover expecting more of a story, I probably wouldn’t have been disappointed by the story and just enjoyed the solid puzzles and fantastic visuals. And the game does a wonderful job of planting those seeds of wonder and inquisitiveness. As you explore this alien ship and get hints of their culture and even their biology, it creates a genuine sense of awe and intrigue for those players like me who are highly susceptible to that kind of content and in that frame of mind. This is the debut game of the creative Copenhagen based Fantastic, (yes, actual studio name), and what a debut it is. I’m looking forward to seeing this game completed, and whatever else they put out in the future.


Nissan wants its electric cars to ‘sing’ so that you’ll hear them coming

Nissan unveiled a new electric concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show today called the IMx, and it’s relatively standard fare as far as these types of futuristic car announcements go. It’s a crossover SUV with a sparse interior that lets giant OLED displays splash and clash with wood grain details. It promises a dreamy 600 kilometer (372 miles) of range without shorting the theoretical driver on power — it’s got the equivalent of over 400 horsepower. And, of course, this literal vehicle is also a metaphorical vehicle for Nissan’s self-driving technology, ProPilot.

The standout feature, then, has more to do with the people around this car than it does with the driver. While the lack of engine noise might be a turnoff for car buffs with a…

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Recode Daily: Congress wants to hear from Facebook, Google and Twitter

Plus: Trump tweets that Facebook is “anti-Trump”; Zuckerberg responds; and Amazon rolls out a squad of new Echo devices.

Facebook, Google and Twitter have been asked to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in November about Russian interference in the 2016 election; the House Intelligence Committee will conduct its own hearing with those companies in October. Twitter will be briefing Congress about the same topic in private today. [Tony Romm / Recode]

Meanwhile, Donald Trump and Mark Zuckerberg faced off. Trump, via Twitter, accused Facebook of being “always anti-Trump” and in “collusion” with newspapers and TV networks against him. Zuckerberg responded, on Facebook, arguing that since both pro- and anti-Trump sides were upset with Facebook, it must be doing something right. He did say he was wrong to dismiss as “crazy” the idea that Facebook may have influenced the 2016 election. [Kurt Wagner / Recode]

Roku raised $ 219 million in an IPO, and starts trading today at $ 14 a share. The company is transitioning from a streaming video device company to a streaming video service company, which means much higher margins. [Wall Street Journal]

Trump’s proposed tax reform plan would drop corporate rates from 35 percent to below 20 percent, and would change how tech giants and other business are taxed on profits earned overseas. And the Trump administration now has its first antitrust enforcer — corporate lawyer Makan Delrahim will helm the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, which polices competition and reviews major tech and telecom mergers. [Tony Romm / Recode]

Amazon rolled out a squad of Alexa-powered Echo devices yesterday — five different form factors for different use cases, including a smaller, cheaper upgrade to the original; tiny ones called Echo Buttons; a touchscreen alarm clock; and even one that will turn your home phone line into an Alexa-powered speakerphone. [Shannon Liao / The Verge]

Take time to read up on Anthony Levandowski, the very well-paid engineer at the heart of the lawsuit between Uber and Alphabet’s Waymo. Among the revelations: The multimillionaire robotics whiz founded an AI-centered religion called Way of the Future. [Mark Harris / Wired]

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner is dead at 91. The company he founded in 1953 said he died of natural causes. [New York Times]


Announcing The Recode 100, our attempt to identify and celebrate the people in tech and business who made the biggest impact this year. This is not your typical “power ranking”; we’re selecting the winners with the help of an advisory team of your peers that actually knows what they’re talking about. We need your help — nominations are open through Monday. Oct. 16. Click here to nominate someone today.

Top stories from Recode

It’s time to find out if Amazon is ready for the NFL.

Pro football’s next streaming experiment starts tonight.

2017 is the biggest year ever for data-center investment in the U.S.

It has already reached $ 18.2 billion so far this year.

Uber is closing down its car-leasing program because it was losing more money than expected The ride-hail company has had little luck finding a buyer for its Xchange leasing business.

Comcast is selling an $ 18 streaming TV service — but only for Comcast internet customers.

This isn’t a Netflix or YouTube killer.

Uber’s external affairs head Dave Clark is departing.

He’ll remain an adviser at Uber and also do the same for Kitty Hawk and Expa.

Toyota is trusting a startup for a crucial part of its newest self-driving cars.

It’s a vote of confidence for lidar maker Luminar, facing competition from behemoths like Velodyne.

Why the creator of Radiolab, one of the internet’s most popular podcasts, is now obsessed with the Supreme Court.

On the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, Jad Abumrad talks about the second season of WNYC’s More Perfect, and what it’s like to get a $ 500,000 phone call from the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.”

This is cool

A Stanford psychologist on the art of avoiding assholes.

Recode – All

Hear the story of the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 told by its designer

Philippe Starck is a world-renowned designer who has worked on anything from luxury hotels to Steve Jobs’ yacht. In smartphone circles, he’s known as the man behind the Xiaomi Mi Mix – the phone that kicked off the bezel-less craze (Sharp has been making Aquos Crystals since 2014, but those never went viral like the Mix did). Anyway, Starck also designed the sequel – Mi Mix 2. Listen to him and Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun talk about the Mix 2. Starck focuses on the creative inspirations, Jun prefers to talk about the tech side of things. What these two have in common is that both are born… – Latest articles

‘Space Harrier 2’ Review – In Space, No One Can Hear You Auuuugh

The latest SEGA Forever release is upon us, and like many of the releases so far this one was already released on iOS several years ago before being pulled due to compatibility issues. Space Harrier 2 [Free] is a game of some historical significance as it was one of just two launch titles for the SEGA Genesis’s debut in Japan, but it’s also a firm reminder that the SEGA Forever celebration of the company’s history remains steadily focused on one particular period of it. The emulation is solid enough and it’s a decent game that is well-suited to touch controls, so nostalgic SEGA fans could do a lot worse than throwing a couple of bucks at it. Any appeal beyond that group might be a tough sell, however.

To fully appreciate what Space Harrier 2 is and isn’t, we have to flash back to the launch of the SEGA Genesis. Through the 1980s, SEGA had slowly begun to dominate arcades all over the world thanks to their fun, visually-impressive line-up of pseudo-3D games that relied on sprite-scaling technology. Like many other game publishers of the time, they tried their hand at the home console market. As with just about every other challenger that wasn’t named Nintendo, they didn’t come away with much. In SEGA’s case, they had a lot of popular brands and high-quality games to populate a home system library with, but the hardware simply lacked the power to properly convey the experience of the arcade games. That didn’t stop SEGA from trying, mind you, and they got some impressive results from the relatively weak Master System hardware with ports like Space Harrier, Hang-On, and After Burner. But as well as these ports pushed the tech, they just couldn’t give players the same thrills that the arcade versions did.

Enter the Genesis, SEGA’s new 16-bit hardware that sold itself on the promise of bringing the arcade experience home in a way no other system ever had. A lofty claim, particularly given the level of arcade games at the time, but one that SEGA would do their best to back up. In Japan, they led the charge with two launch titles that built off of popular arcade properties. Super Thunder Blade was an adaptation of the popular 1987 chopper game, while Space Harrier 2 was billed as the true follow-up to the already-classic 1985 shooter. Both series had seen releases on the Master System, and to say that the Genesis installments blew them away in terms of the quality of their presentation would be a real understatement. This was closer to modern arcades than any other console around in 1988, no doubt about it.

Savvier arcade rats of the time surely spotted what hindsight has shown the rest of us. As impressive as these games were relative to the 8-bit attempts, they were still a far cry from the real thing. Remember when Disney was doing those direct-to-video sequels to their classic animated films? Sure, they were higher quality than the typical direct-to-video fare, but nowhere near the level of the films they were following up on. That’s sort of what happened here. Super Thunder Blade is almost laughable in how much poorer than the arcade game it is, both in terms of presentation and playability. Space Harrier 2 comes off a lot better, but it’s a clear downgrade from the first game in all respects.

Space Harrier 2 takes us back to the Fantasy Zone for more behind-the-back shooting. Our stalwart Harrier has traded in his Flash Gordon-inspired outfit for a red version of Biff’s 1985 jumpsuit from Back to the Future, but otherwise is more or less at the same things as he was in the first game: flying, shooting, running, and screaming in pain when anything hits him. The adventure consists of 13 stages this time around, 12 of which are regular stages with a boss waiting at the end of each. The 13th stage is a special one, as it challenges you to take on every boss in the game consecutively before facing the true final boss. While you can choose your starting point among the first 12 stages, you can only see that 13th stage if you finish all of them. Oh, and you only get five lives to do it with. It’s a tough challenge, but it can be done.

The default capabilities of the Genesis hardware didn’t include sprite scaling, so the developers had to fake it by making multiple sprites of varying sizes. It works okay, but since neither enemies, obstacles, nor projectiles are moving in the 3D space as smoothly as they do in the arcade original, it can be a little more difficult to track them. The result is that it’s unfortunately a lot easier to smack into an object or fail to get out of the way of a shot. The Harrier still only has one means of attack at his disposal. He can shoot straight ahead, and that’s about it. There are no power-ups or alternate forms of disposing of enemies. It’s a fast-paced shooting gallery through some incredibly trippy locales. This being a sequel, the locations are different and sometimes more interesting than those in the first game. The music is also different, and although it’s pretty good, I wish they had fit the iconic theme from the first game in here somewhere.

We’ve been up and down the road with the Genesis emulator SEGA is using in the SEGA Forever releases. It’s still not perfect, with the sound being notably off from what it should sound like, but overall it has reached the point where I think it’s good enough. The App tends to lag if you’re downloading anything in the background, but it’s otherwise not too bad on that front. As usual, you can play the game for free if you don’t mind watching ads between stages, or you can pay a one-time price for an IAP to remove the non-SEGA ads, enable added saving options, and allow you to play offline. Either way, you have access to MFi controller support, a couple of different graphical options, and the ability to re-position the virtual controls. Space Harrier 2 gets along really well with touch controls by design. There’s only one button to worry about, and you don’t have to be concerned about hitting precise points on the directional pad since the Harrier can move in every direction anyway.

Space Harrier 2 is an okay shooter, but it’s a Genesis launch title that really feels like one. It’s a good fit for mobile and it’s hard to argue with the price, so I’m glad it has once again been selected as part of the line-up. At the same time, I really would have preferred to see a port of the arcade original Space Harrier. Not just because it’s the better game, but also because it would show that SEGA is serious about expanding SEGA Forever beyond the titles that were already released on mobile ages ago and a few token Genesis games that weren’t. Until SEGA gets around to that stuff, I suppose games like Space Harrier 2 will reliably give you your nostalgic fix, if not much more.