Mind-reader: MIT’s AlterEgo wearable knows what you’re about to say

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mit alterEgo wearable predicts speech

A wearable being developed at MIT’s Media Lab knows what its wearer is going to say before any sound is made.

The AlterEgo device uses electrodes to pick up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations – all before a single word has been spoken, claim MIT’s researchers.

Every one of us has an internal monologue of sorts, a place where our most intimate thoughts come and go as they please. Now, thanks to sophisticated sensors and the power of machine learning, the act of saying words in your head might not be so private after all.

MIT believes that the simple act of concentrating on a particular vocalisation is enough to engage the system and receive a response, and it has developed an experimental prototype that appears to prove it.

To ensure that the conversation remains internal, the device includes a pair of bone-conduction headphones. Instead of sending sound directly into the ear, these transmit vibrations through the bones of the face to the inner ear, conveying information back to the user without interrupting the normal auditory experience.

Read more: Apple hires Google AI chief to head machine learning | Analysis

The benefits of silent speech

Arnav Kapur, the graduate student who is leading development of the new system at MIT’s Media Lab, wants to augment human cognition with more subtlety than today’s devices allow for. “Our idea was: Could we have a computing platform that’s more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways, and that feels like an internal extension of our own cognition?” he said.

Kapur’s thesis advisor, Professor Pattie Maes, points out that our current relationship with technology – particularly smartphones – is disruptive in the negative sense. These devices demand our attention and often distract us from real-world conversations, our own thoughts, and other things that should demand greater attention, such as road safety.

“We basically can’t live without our cellphones, our digital devices,” she said. “But at the moment, the use of those devices is very disruptive. If I want to look something up that’s relevant to a conversation I’m having, I have to find my phone and type in the passcode and open an app and type in some search keyword, and the whole thing requires that I completely shift attention from my environment and the people that I’m with to the phone itself.”

The challenge is to find a way to alter that relationship without sacrificing the many benefits of portable technology.

“So, my students and I have for a very long time been experimenting with new form factors and new types of experience that enable people to still benefit from all the wonderful knowledge and services that these devices give us, but do it in a way that lets them remain in the present,” she said.

Read more: MITs CSAIL lab studies aquatic life with robot fish

The potential of AlterEgo

Instead of being a precursor to some kind of Orwellian dystopia, the MIT team believes that the technology, once perfected, could improve the relationship between people and the devices they use, as well as serving a variety of practical functions.

So far the device has been able to surreptitiously give users information on the time and solve mathematical problems. It’s also been given wearers the power to win chess games, silently receiving opponents’ moves and offering computer-recommended responses, claims MIT.

The team is still collecting data and training the system. “We’re in the middle of collecting data, and the results look nice,” Kapur said. “I think we’ll achieve full conversation some day.”

The platform could one day provide a way for people to communicate silently in environments where noise is a concern, from runway operators to special forces soldiers. And it could perhaps even open up a world of verbal communication for people who have been disabled by illness or accident.

Read more: Health IoT: New wearable can diagnose stomach problems

Internet of Business says

The rise of voice search in the US – where 20 percent of all searches are now voice-triggered, according to Google – together with the rapid spread of digital assistants, such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant, and IBM’s new Watson Assistant, has shifted computing away from GUIs, screens, and keyboards. And, of course, smartphones and tablets have moved computers off the desktop and out of the office, too.

However, while voice is the most intuitive channel of human communication, it isn’t suitable for navigating through, and selecting from, large amounts of visual data, for example, which is why technophiles are always drawn back to their screens.

This new interface will excite many, and may have a range of extraordinary and promising applications. But doubtless it will alarm many others as the rise of AI forces us to grapple with concepts such as privacy, liability, and responsibility.

 

And let’s hope, too, that this technology doesn’t always translate what’s on human beings’ minds into real-world action or spoken words, as the world could become a bizarre place indeed.

In the meantime, transhumanists will see this as yet another example of the gradual integration of technology with biology – and with good reason. But whether these innovations will encourage us to become more human, and less focused on our devices, is a different matter; arguably, such devices may train human beings to think and behave in more machine-like ways to avoid disorderly thinking.

Meanwhile, thoughts that can be hacked? Don’t bet against it.

Read more: AI regulation & ethics: How to build more human-focused AI

Read more: Fetch launches world’s first autonomous AI smart ledger

The post Mind-reader: MIT’s AlterEgo wearable knows what you’re about to say appeared first on Internet of Business.

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Mark Zuckerberg knows he screwed up

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Unlike last time, Zuckerberg gets it.

The last time Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was met with crisis, it didn’t go well.

That was in late 2016, shortly after the U.S. presidential election, and people were starting to ask serious questions about whether or not fake news on Facebook helped Donald Trump get elected.

Zuckerberg dismissed the idea outright just three days after the election. “Personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook … influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea,” Zuckerberg said at the time.

We know how that played out, and Zuckerberg came across as defensive, unapologetic and, perhaps worst of all, naive.

But on Wednesday, when Zuckerberg took questions from reporters for 45 minutes on a conference call to address his latest scandal — the Cambridge Analytica privacy fiasco — he didn’t come across as defensive, unapologetic or naive. In fact, he came across as the exact opposite.

“It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough,” Zuckerberg said of building Facebook with safeguards in place. “We didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse and thinking through how people could use these tools to do harm as well, and that goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, hate speech, in addition to developers and data privacy.”

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is, and that was a huge mistake,” Zuckerberg added. “It was my mistake.”

Throughout the 45 minute session, Zuckerberg answered all the tough questions, including one about whether or not he should keep his job as CEO. (Yes, he thinks he should.) Zuckerberg handled every answer despite the fact that there were two other Facebook executives on the call. When the moderator started to wrap up the questioning, Zuckerberg jumped in to say he wanted to take more questions.

He sounded confident, knowledgable and, most importantly, like he actually understood that he is responsible for Facebook and its consequences — whether they are intended or not.

When asked if he had fired anyone for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which an outside data firm collected profile data on as many as 87 million people without their permission, Zuckerberg said he isn’t looking for a scapegoat.

“I have not,” Zuckerberg said. “At the end of the day, this is my responsibility. I started this place, I run it, I’m responsible for what happens here. I still think I’m going to do the best job to run it going forward, but I’m not looking to throw anyone else under the bus for mistakes that we’ve made here.”

No one feels bad for Mark Zuckerberg, nor should they. As a mega-billionaire making more billions thanks to the personal information of most of the world’s internet users, Zuckerberg doesn’t elicit much sympathy.

Yes, he screwed up. Zuckerberg will tell you that himself. But unlike the last time, he knows there’s no one else to blame.

“I think life is about learning from the mistakes and about learning what you need to do to move forward,” he said when asked if he still deserved his job. “When you’re building something like Facebook that is unprecedented in the world, there are going to be things you mess up. And if we’d gotten this right, we would have messed something else up.”

“I don’t think anyone is going to be perfect,” he added, “but I think what people should hold us accountable for is learning from the mistakes and continually doing better.”

Zuckerberg is officially accountable. Now it’s time to do better.

Recode – All

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Microsoft AI knows when to (politely) interrupt conversations

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Most AI assistants can't really hold a conversation. They're fine with I-go-you-go dialogue, but most humans aren't quite so timid — they know when to interrupt, and when to restart chat when there's an awkward pause. Microsoft wants to fix that. It…
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How to see (and delete) everything Apple knows about you

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Apple will soon let you download all the information it has stored about you, modify it, or even delete it. The privacy change is required by a new European law, but is also in-line with Apple’s policy to not spy on its customers. This sets it apart from rivals like Google and Facebook. Apple gathers some information […]

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

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This tiny wearable knows what you’ve been eating, drinking, and smoking

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A recent breakthrough in miniaturized sensor technology could end up taking a bite out of personal privacy. Researchers developed a wearable small enough to stick on a human tooth virtually unnoticed. And it’s capable of wirelessly transmitting data on any chemicals it comes in contact with. The team, researchers from Tufts University School of Engineering, set out to create a better solution for monitoring dietary intake. Their work could prove invaluable to medical researchers and has the potential to save innumerable lives. The device could give doctors real-time alerts on patients based on actual chemical intake. This means that rather…

This story continues at The Next Web
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Facebook knows literally everything about you

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Cambridge Analytica may have used Facebook’s data to influence your political opinions. But why does least-liked tech company Facebook have all this data about its users in the first place?

Let’s put aside Instagram, WhatsApp and other Facebook products for a minute. Facebook has built the world’s biggest social network. But that’s not what they sell. You’ve probably heard the internet saying “if a product is free, it means that you are the product.”

And it’s particularly true in this case because Facebook is the world’s second biggest advertising company in the world behind Google. During the last quarter of 2017, Facebook reported $ 12.97 billion in revenue, including $ 12.78 billion from ads.

That’s 98.5 percent of Facebook’s revenue coming from ads.

Ads aren’t necessarily a bad thing. But Facebook has reached ad saturation in the newsfeed. So the company has two options — creating new products and ad formats, or optimizing those sponsored posts.

Facebook has reached ad saturation in the newsfeed

This isn’t a zero-sum game — Facebook has been doing both at the same time. That’s why you’re seeing more ads on Instagram and Messenger. And that’s also why ads on Facebook seem more relevant than ever.

If Facebook can show you relevant ads and you end up clicking more often on those ads, then advertisers will pay Facebook more money.

So Facebook has been collecting as much personal data about you as possible — it’s all about showing you the best ad. The company knows your interests, what you buy, where you go and who you’re sleeping with.

You can’t hide from Facebook

Facebook’s terms and conditions are a giant lie. They are purposely misleading, too long and too broad. So you can’t just read the company’s terms of service and understand what it knows about you.

That’s why some people have been downloading their Facebook data. You can do it too, it’s quite easy. Just head over to your Facebook settings and click the tiny link that says “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”

In that archive file, you’ll find your photos, your posts, your events, etc. But if you keep digging, you’ll also find your private messages on Messenger (by default, nothing is encrypted).

And if you keep digging a bit more, chances are you’ll also find your entire address book and even metadata about your SMS messages and phone calls.

All of this is by design and you agreed to it. Facebook has unified terms of service and share user data across all its apps and services (except WhatsApp data in Europe for now). So if you follow a clothing brand on Instagram, you could see an ad from this brand on Facebook.com.

Messaging apps are privacy traps

But Facebook has also been using this trick quite a lot with Messenger. You might not remember, but the on-boarding experience on Messenger is really aggressive.

On iOS, the app shows you a fake permission popup to access your address book that says “Ok” or “Learn More”. The company is using a fake popup because you can’t ask for permission twice.

There’s a blinking arrow below the OK button.

If you click on “Learn More”, you get a giant blue button that says “Turn On”. Everything about this screen is misleading and Messenger tries to manipulate your emotions.

“Messenger only works when you have people to talk to,” it says. Nobody wants to be lonely, that’s why Facebook implies that turning on this option will give you friends.

Even worse, it says “if you skip this step, you’ll need to add each contact one-by-one to message them.” This is simply a lie as you can automatically talk to your Facebook friends using Messenger without adding them one-by-one.

The next time you pay for a burrito with your credit card, Facebook will learn about this transaction and match this credit card number with the one you added in Messenger

If you tap on “Not Now”, Messenger will show you a fake notification every now and then to push you to enable contact syncing. If you tap on yes and disable it later, Facebook still keeps all your contacts on its servers.

On Android, you can let Messenger manage your SMS messages. Of course, you guessed it, Facebook uploads all your metadata. Facebook knows who you’re texting, when, how often.

Even if you disable it later, Facebook will keep this data for later reference.

But Facebook doesn’t stop there. The company knows a lot more about you than what you can find in your downloaded archive. The company asks you to share your location with your friends. The company tracks your web history on nearly every website on earth using embedded JavaScript.

But my favorite thing is probably peer-to-peer payments. In some countries, you can pay back your friends using Messenger. It’s free! You just have to add your card to the app.

It turns out that Facebook also buys data about your offline purchases. The next time you pay for a burrito with your credit card, Facebook will learn about this transaction and match this credit card number with the one you added in Messenger.

In other words, Messenger is a great Trojan horse designed to learn everything about you.

And the next time an app asks you to share your address book, there’s a 99-percent chance that this app is going to mine your address book to get new users, spam your friends, improve ad targeting and sell email addresses to marketing companies.

I could say the same thing about all the other permission popups on your phone. Be careful when you install an app from the Play Store or open an app for the first time on iOS. It’s easier to enable something if a feature doesn’t work without it than to find out that Facebook knows everything about you.

GDPR to the rescue

There’s one last hope. And that hope is GDPR. I encourage you to read TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas excellent explanation of GDPR to understand what the European regulation is all about.

Many of the misleading things that are currently happening at Facebook will have to change. You can’t force people to opt in like in Messenger. Data collection should be minimized to essential features. And Facebook will have to explain why it needs all this data to its users.

If Facebook doesn’t comply, the company will have to pay up to 4 percent of its global annual turnover. But that doesn’t stop you from actively reclaiming your online privacy right now.

You can’t be invisible on the internet, but you have to be conscious about what’s happening behind your back. Every time a company asks you to tap OK, think about what’s behind this popup. You can’t say that nobody told you.

Mobile – TechCrunch

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SteamVR’s auto resolution knows what your GPU can handle

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Valve updated SteamVR today with a new feature that automatically adjusts your headset's resolution up to what your GPU can optimally render. This should function like autofocus, taking the decision-making out of the user's hands and reassuring devel…
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Facebook knows it must do more to fight bad actors

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Not everything at SXSW 2018 was about films or gadgets. A few blocks away from the Austin Convention Center, where the event is being held, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) hosted a number of panels for its Innovation Policy Day. In a sessio…
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What Are YOU Looking At? Mind-Reading AI Knows

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Japanese scientists know what you’re looking at — but don’t worry, there’s no need to close your other browser tabs yet. Using an artificial intelligence (AI) system alongside fMRI scans, researchers were able to create an apparently mind-reading AI — “or perhaps at this point just mind skimming,” said Umut Güçlü, a researcher at Radboud University in the Netherlands who was not involved in the research, to New Scientist

The system is actually similar to AI technologies that have been used successfully to caption images. To do this for someone’s brain, the AI first needs an image of their brain taken with a fMRI scanner while the person is looking at an image. These scans show activity in the brain through blood flow.

Three women sitting on a bench and looking at a wall covered in black and white images of various people. A mind-reading AI might be able to describe what each woman was seeing.
How accurately could a mind-reading AI tell what you’re looking at? Image Credit: geralt / pixabay

The mind-reading AI isn’t always completely correct; in one of the tests, it thought a participant was looking at scissors, when they were looking at a clock. Yet even when wrong, it sometimes came tantalizingly close. For example, when one person being scanned was looking at an image of a man is kayaking in a river, the AI captioned it: A man is surfing in the ocean on his surf board.

In other cases, the AI was spot on: when the image was of a group of people standing next to each other, or of a black and white dog, the system was absolutely right.

The system presently has its limits. Images from fMRI don’t record all activity in the brain, and so there are boundaries to how detailed these captions can be. This method also requires a participant to lie in a large machine, making it poorly suited for use anywhere but in a medical facility.

While at-home applications might be far off, this type of technology could be used to support the development of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). Emerging BCI tech uses small electrodes, as opposed to fMRI machines, to monitor brain activity. This research could potentially support these efforts and one day allow humans, with the help of their mind-reading AI, to control computers with only their minds. We’re nowhere near these abilities, but we can almost picture it now — and our AI would probably see it, too.

The post What Are YOU Looking At? Mind-Reading AI Knows appeared first on Futurism.

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An Algorithm Knows When Your Kid Is Using Your Phone

Next Level Parenting

Shiny screens have a way of appeasing wailing children far more effectively than the old jingling keys standby. However, 21st century parents have to weigh the benefits of near-instant placidity with the very real possibility that their toddler could unknowingly max out the AmEx buying gummy bears on Amazon. Thankfully, new software developed by researchers from the University of South Carolina and China’s Zhejiang University could help make render this particular parenting dilemma moot.

The researchers developed an algorithm that measures a user’s interaction with the mobile device and  can reliably tell if the user is an adult or a child. If the software detects a child, it can automatically block applications like retailers or email platforms, as well as inappropriate websites.

In order to construct the algorithm, the team developed an app that tracked users’ finger movements — recording metrics like the surface area of a tap, pressure applied by a finger, and length of swipes. The researchers gathered data from a group of children ages 3 to 11 and a group of adults between the ages of 22 and 60 as they unlocked the screen and played a numbers-based game on the phone.

Their new age-detection software proved to be 84 percent accurate in determining whether a user was an adult or a child with just a single swipe. That accuracy shot up to 97 percent after just eight swipes.

The algorithm hasn’t been integrated into an operating system yet, but the researchers will present their technology at HotMobile, a mobile tech conference, where it could gain some traction with developers.

While cybersecurity is an ever-present concern in the age of mobile devices, many make the mistake of only considering external threats. The reality is, an inquisitive three-year-old could be almost as damaging as the latest data hack.

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