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

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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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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.

The post This Crazy Gadget Helps You “Talk” To Your Computer Without Words appeared first on Futurism.


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[Update: It’s back] Free alert: Get $15 in Target credit via Google Express just by saying three words to Assistant

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

Google Express sees discounts fairly often, but it’s pretty rare to see credit being given away for free.

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[Update: It’s back] Free alert: Get $ 15 in Target credit via Google Express just by saying three words to Assistant was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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What privacy entails, in Steve’s own words

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

Steve Jobs was a man of many great quotes, and all of them good…. Read the rest of this post here

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[Free Alert] Get $15 in Target credit via Google Express just by saying three words to Assistant

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

Google Express sees discounts fairly often, but it’s pretty rare to see credit being given away for free. But if you can say or type three words to Google Assistant, you’ll be given $ 15 in Target credit for Google Express with basically no strings attached.

Using a Google Home, a phone with Google Assistant built in, or the Google Assistant app (on either Android or iOS), simply say or type “Spring into Target.” If everything goes as planned, you’ll receive a small paragraph informing you about the credit you’ve just received.

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[Free Alert] Get $ 15 in Target credit via Google Express just by saying three words to Assistant was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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Learn the right words to sell your product online for just $15

While there’s an absolute artistry in creating sales copy that sings, there are also some time-tested steps any writer can follow to generate effective copy. You’ll get a 360-degree view of those steps with this Step-by-Step Copywriting Secrets Course, now on sale for just $ 15 from TNW Deals.
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‘Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition’ Review – In Other Words, Final Fantasy 15

The very existence of Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition [Free] is both weird and fascinating. Final Fantasy 15 is the latest in the classic series of JRPGs. It launched last year on the latest home consoles, and on its face certainly didn’t appear to be a good candidate for a mobile release. Maybe Final Fantasy 8 next for mobile players? Or even Final Fantasy 10? No, Square Enix clearly wanted mobile players to experience the story of the newest game in the series, and found a way to do just that. Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition is Final Fantasy 15… sort of. It’s as though someone had the script and a pretty decent walkthrough of the original game and was told to remake it for mobile devices. Miraculously, it works.

Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition, like the original, follows the story of Noctis, heir to the throne of the kingdom of Lucis. On the eve of peace negotiations between Lucis and the empire of Niflheim, things go terribly awry at home. Fortunately, Noctis and his three friends weren’t home at the time, leaving them free to do what is necessary to save the day. That’s basically the beginning of the story, and in true Final Fantasy fashion it soon goes in completely bizarre and occasionally nonsensical directions. The characters are strong, though, and that makes the moment-to-moment happenings of the plot more engaging than its whole.

Most of the story from the original version has made the cut here. It’s not a one-for-one re-creation, but it hits all of the important points and tells its story as coherently as it can be told. Of course, it’s all done through the filter of the game’s new visual style, which swaps out semi-realistic high-poly models for a stylistic super-deformed low-poly look. You might think that would ruin the drama of some of the darker scenes, but it works surprisingly well overall. I suppose that’s not that surprising, given the series’ roots lay in super-deformed sprites. On the whole, the story flows a lot better in this version of the game thanks to how streamlined certain aspects are.

Let’s talk about that, because it’s really the main story here. Much of the buzz of Final Fantasy 15 was focused around the massive open world that made up the first half or so of the game. You could drive around with your buddies, get in random fights, stumble on and solve side-quests that had nothing to do with anything in particular, and jam out to tunes in your car as you drove around. The same can’t be said for the Pocket Edition, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a good or bad thing. The size of the world has been greatly reduced, and the flow of quests, mini-games, and sub activities have been reduced in scope to go with that. It hurts the game as a vehicle for goofing around, but it makes for a far tighter, more focused game all around. There’s still plenty to do, but you won’t (and to an extent can’t) waste as much time doing it.

The combat has also been changed from the console version. It’s still very much action-based, but instead of the original game’s ground-level view that felt like it fell somewhere between Kingdom Hearts and a proper console action game, Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition gives you a different angle and a system that works better with touch controls. Battles play out from an overhead position, allowing you to get a clear view of your characters, the monsters, and the area around you. You only have to worry about controlling Noctis, with the rest of your companions controlled by the computer in most respects.

Basic attacking is easy, as you simply need to point Noctis at a foe and he’ll start auto-attacking. Timed taps allow you to parry, use special attacks, dodge, and perform warp strikes. It’s a lot easier to play than the original version, but still turns up the challenge nicely when the bosses show up. Beating up monsters will earn you AP that you can use to unlock new abilities, combos, and stat increases for each of your characters in a simplified version of the original game’s Ascension Grid. While it’s not completely free-form the way some Final Fantasy character systems are, it does give you a certain degree of customizability that lets you shape your party as you see fit.

As far as the production values go, Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition is pretty amazing. How one feels about the new art direction is a subjective thing and the game environments have lost a lot of their luster now that the game isn’t really about exploration. At the same time, it’s incredible just how much of the original game’s atmosphere was preserved here. Certainly it doesn’t hurt that the voice acting, sound effects, and music were carried over more or less directly from the original version. But visually, it manages to convey its themes and feelings even with its hard shift in style. If the original Final Fantasy 15 didn’t exist, I think this version of the game would do just as good of a job in showing off its characters and plot.

But how much does it cost? Well, the game is divided into ten chapters. The first is free and does a decent job of letting the player know what they can expect from the full game. The next two chapters are available for $ 0.99 each via IAPs, while the remaining chapters sell for $ 3.99 each. If you want to just buy it all in one go, it will cost you $ 19.99. Essentially, it’s not far off from the model that Square Enix used for the original Final Fantasy Dimensions [Free]. It’s not out of line with what Square Enix usually charges for their premium efforts on mobile, and I feel like it justifies that price and then some.

I think the really impressive thing about Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition is that whether you’ve played the original game or not, you’ll probably find a lot to love here. For fans of the console game, this is a quicker, abridged take on the story and characters you came to love. It’s different enough to justify an additional playthrough, but similar enough that it doesn’t lose what the console version was going for. If you’re new to the game, you’ll find a grand Final Fantasy adventure that feels tailor-made for mobile in all the right ways. It’s enjoyable to play, the pace is excellent, and even if the story gets a little iffy in places, it’s hard not to fall in love with the main cast. I still can’t believe this worked, but it did, and it did so in fantastic fashion.


Oxford English Dictionary adds Ransomware, EULA and 1000 other new words

The Oxford English Dictionary added 1,100 new entries in its January 2018 update. Wordsmiths the world over now have the official go-ahead to use ransomware, EULA, and mansplain, which should make life easier for misogynistic IT security experts. Tech terms like e-address (who says that?) and esc (not to be confused with ESC, even though they’re the same thing) made the list, but for once it wasn’t all about OMGs and LOLs. The clear star of the January update is the word “ransomware,” which after being on a lot of computers in 2017 deserves a spot in the “definitive record…

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Some apps like Words With Friends 2 can break the Pixel 2’s ‘Now Playing’ music recognition

The Pixel 2 has been in and out of the news here for issues both major and minor, and today we have a somewhat humorous one. Apparently, it is possible for installed apps, like Words With Friends 2, to interfere with the “Now Playing” music recognition feature. Google is aware of the issue, though, and thankfully it’s not that big a problem. 

The issue was first reported by PiunikaWeb.

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Some apps like Words With Friends 2 can break the Pixel 2’s ‘Now Playing’ music recognition was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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CDC Director: There Are No Banned Words at the CDC. Period.

The Unspeakable Seven

Outrage erupted on December 15 after The Washington Post reported that the White House sent the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a list of seven words it was forbidden from including in official documents for next year’s budget. The seven words in question are “evidence-based,” “science-based,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” and “fetus.”

In the days since, the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have denied that the list of words constituted a ban.

“As I have said previously, there are no banned, prohibited, or forbidden words at the CDC — period,” said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald in a statement to Futurism. “I want to emphasize to anyone who may believe otherwise that we continue to encourage open dialogue about all of the important public health work we do.”

Fitzgerald also affirmed the CDC’s position to employees in an email that was later posted to Twitter.

“As part of our commitment to provide for the common defense of the country against health threats, science is and will remain the foundation of our work,” Fitzgerald wrote in the email. “CDC has a long-standing history of making public health and budget decisions that are based on the best available science and data and for the benefit of all people — and we will continue to do so.”

In the statement sent to Futurism, Fitzgerald noted that the confusion arose from “a staff-level discussion at a routine meeting about how to present CDC’s budget.” She added, “It was never intended as overall guidance for how we describe and conduct CDC’s work.”

An HHS official told STAT that it was inaccurate to characterize the words as “banned.” The official said the list was presented during a 90-minute briefing on December 14 as part of a suggestion to use words and phrases that “might be more likely to win support for the CDC’s budget in the current Congress.” The idea is that favorable word choice could help ease the budget’s passage through Congress.

Censoring Science?

The report of the banned words naturally raised some concerns about censorship from the White House. Given that the Trump administration and the current Congress have often appeared outwardly anti-science, scientists and members of the public alike expressed concerns that this “ban” was an attempt to suppress science for political reasons.

Even if the list of words does not constitute a ban, it could still have an effect on scientists. They may be more inclined to hold off on proposing research on topics that include these banned words and are, therefore, considered politically risky, such as abortion or the intersection of race and public health factors.

“The words that we use ultimately describe what we care about and what we think are priorities,” Sandro Galea, dean of Boston University’s School of Public Health, told the Associated Press. “If you are saying you cannot use words like ‘transgender’ and ‘diversity,’ it’s a clear statement that you cannot pay attention to these issues.”

This chilling effect has already been observed among climate scientists in response to the Trump administration’s outward positions on climate change and decision to appoint climate skeptics to key science positions.

In January 2017, before Trump was even inaugurated, Buzzfeed reported that the CDC preemptively cancelled the Climate and Health Summit, reportedly out of concerns that the incoming president would shut it down.

Freedom of speech is a pillar of democracy, and banning certain words or topics from conversation is a hallmark of totalitarianism. In recent history, even banning unpopular words, such as when Israel weighed banning the word “Nazi,” has been met with serious pushback.

Any restriction of speech should be met with questions. Even a “suggestion” made to win Congressional support could endanger the progress of science and reshape the standards of our democracy.

The post CDC Director: There Are No Banned Words at the CDC. Period. appeared first on Futurism.