Tag: technology

Electronic Nose Could Aid In Rescue Missions

Anatomy of a super-smeller.

The olfactory system is based on artificial intelligence algorithms that enable the detection of the scent of alcohol, but with some modifications to the system and the algorithms it can recognize odors and toxic gases or elements.

“In rescue missions it might recognize blood, sweat or human urine,” said the former student of Tec de Monterrey.

In the first phase of development, the student wondered about how living things carry out the process of odor recognition and then transferred that knowledge to the mathematical sciences, and thus translated it into algorithms.

We note that, biologically, animals perceive the direction of an odor using two characteristics: it comes at different concentrations to the nostrils, and, because it is appreciated with a time difference.”

These two factors can identify from which a certain aroma comes,” explained the researcher.




This is how chemical sensors that mimic the nostrils, and which are separated by a septum, will perceive specific odors.

The data, said Lorena Villarreal, is sent by radio to a computer, where it is analyzed in real time to know the origin and direction of the aroma, using programmed algorithms.

Unlike other olfactory systems, this has the feature that in each cycle of ventilation the air chamber empties, making sensors ready for a new measurement,” says the doctor.

Thus, the technology takes only one cycle to detect that there has been a change of direction in the path of smell, which enables the robot to perform the tracking faster.

A noble beast.

Later the young researcher implemented this olfactory system to a robotic platform funded by CONACYT, to achieve its deployment to hypothetical emergency zones.

Blanca Lorena Villarreal is developing algorithms that allow the discrimination of odors, to give the robot some artificial intelligence that contributes to decision making processes.

For developing the “electronic nose,” the researcher has been recognized as one of the most innovative young Mexicans in the Mexican edition of MIT Technology Review, by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Changing Lanes Is Simple For Human Drivers. Not So For Autonomous Cars.

A driver sits engrossed in her laptop screen, catching up on emails as the car barrels down the highway. In the next lane, a father helps his kids finish homework while their vehicle swiftly changes lanes.

Nearby, an empty car returns home after dropping off its owner.—

These are the self-driving cars in which humans can be mindlessly commuting in as few as five years, some ambitious estimates claim.

It’s a highly disruptive technology that’s coming on a lot faster than people expect,” says Barrie Kirk, executive director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence.

He helps governments and companies prepare for the advent of automated vehicles.

Many automakers and tech firms have already entered the driverless car manufacturing game. Now it’s a race to perfect the technology and start selling these Knight Rider-style vehicles.




Companies hype the cars as the best safety feature since seatbelts and airbags, but there’s a sense that phasing driverless cars onto public roads may be anything but a smooth transition.

Self-driving car advocates, like Kirk, believe in the technology’s potential to save thousands of lives.

Humans, generally, are poor drivers,” he says. He would like to see human drivers banned from roads to make room for an all-automated-vehicle world.

Drivers’ mistakes are responsible for more than 90 per cent of crashes, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found.

Kirk hopes automated vehicles can eliminate 80 per cent of such collisions — a number often cited by advocates.

In 2012, 2,077 people died in car crashes on Canadian roads, according to Transport Canada. If Kirk’s estimate holds, about 1,500 of those victims could have avoided an accident.

If you’re got a whole bunch of sensors that give you a 360-degree scan, 30 times a second,” he says, “humans can not come anywhere close to that.

There will be time to adjust before the new fleet of robot cars takes over roads.

We’re not going to be in a situation where we go from no automation to fully autonomous or self-driving vehicles,” says David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada.

Some people already own low-level autonomous vehicles, like ones that parallel park once the driver has properly aligned it. Some U.K. cities have started experimenting with low-speed self-driving shuttles on closed streets.

Even if safety is somewhat disputed, there are other potential benefits that can make the pursuit of these cars worth it.

Seniors, disabled people and others unable to drive will gain mobility. Families may need to own fewer cars if vehicles can travel empty to pick up and drop off family members.

Cities may require fewer parking spaces if cars can return home after dropping off owners.

But to see all those benefits and ensure safety isn’t compromised, these cars must be carefully brought into the public realm, says Shladover.

It has to be done in a sensible way.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Will An App A Day Keep The Doctor Away?

health app

With a big assist from technology, Americans are driving a major transformation of the nation’s health care system.

Recent years have brought us the passage of the Affordable Care Act, technology advances in sensors and devices, cheaper personal genomics, and the growth of the mobile app market. And all these things are empowering consumers to take control and become CEOs of their own health.

The rapid adoption of connected mobile devices is enabling the shift from a sickcare nation to a preventative care nation with big potential savings at stake.




This monumental shift in the way Americans approach health care comes just in the nick of time: as a nation, we badly need a kick in the behind.

More than two-thirds of American adults are now overweight or obese. According to one forecast, by 2020 more than half of us will be pre-diabetic or diabetic, creating a $500 billion annual drag on the economy.

But solutions are coming. And it starts with your mobile phone.

Before long, all of those devices will be sending real-time data about you to your doctors, nutritionists and trainers. Subjective medical findings will be bolstered by cold, hard stats on the continuous state of your health.

health app

In short, we’re headed for a world of truly personalized medicine, practiced from a central hub in the cloud.

Today, mobile apps are already solving health problems and providing personalized advice and communities. It is early days but you can see the potential. Here are some examples:

HealthTap is creating a mobile “triage” system, where consumers can ask doctors questions and find out the most effective way to get specific care.

Diabetic? Welldoc recently rolled out BlueStar, a doctor-prescribed app that offers coaching.

health app

Have asthma? Try the Asthmapolis sensor which passively logs your data via Bluetooth LE and gives you personalized feedback and education on how to control your asthma.

Having trouble getting pregnant? Glow will help you track your cycle and tell you the exact best time and how to get pregnant increasing your odds of success.

MyFitnessPal is teaching consumers a new way to track their nutritional intake and lose weight. Personal trainers will tell you nutrition is 80% of the battle in maintaining a healthy lifestyle that can ward off diabetes, heart disease – even cancer.

The core of the digital healthcare revolution will be day-to-day tracking of personal stats, also known as the quantified self. Many companies are trying to be this central health and fitness hub, including insurance companies.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Net Neutrality Is Not “Officially Dead,” Today

There have been a lot of inaccurate reports that the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality will officially go into effect last April 23rd. That’s not true. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

It’s understandable many journalists are confused by this. It’s legitimately confusing. The FCC order said it would go into effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, which would have been April 23rd.

But, it still has to be approved by the Office of Management & Budget.

The most important thing for EVERYONE to understand is that nothing catastrophic or dramatic is going to happen immediately when the FCC rules go into effect.

Telecom shills will immediately start saying “See? The sky didn’t fall, we never needed Net Neutrality.” They’re lying.




The ISPs aren’t going to immediately start blocking content or rolling out paid prioritization scams. They know Congress and the public are watching them.

Rather, the death of net neutrality will be slow and insidious. You might not even notice it at first.

And that’s the worst part. What will happen is over time ISP scams and abuses will become more commonplace and more accepted.

They’ll roll out new schemes that appear good on their face but undermine the free market of ideas by allowing ISPs to pick winners and losers.

Over time we’ll see less awesome startups. Less awesome videos. Less diverse online content. And we’ll see more content that our ISPs want us to see.

The Internet will be watered down and manipulated. It will change forever in ways that harm our democracy. But it will take time.

So don’t fall for ISP lobbyists talking points. They’re ALREADY claiming that net neutrality was never needed since the sky hasn’t fallen, and the rules haven’t even gone into effect.

But also don’t panic. The Internet is not going to die next week. Keep calm and keep fighting. The Senate will vote in a matter of weeks on a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to block the FCC’s repeal. Now is the moment to get engaged.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

MIT Invented A Tool That Allows Driverless Cars To Navigate Rural Roads Without A Map

Google has spent the last 13 years mapping every corner and crevice of the world.

Car makers haven’t got nearly as long a lead time to perfect the maps that will keep driverless cars from sliding into ditches or hitting misplaced medians if they want to meet their optimistic deadlines.

This is especially true in rural areas where mapping efforts tend to come last due to smaller demand versus cities.

It’s also a more complicated task, due to a lack of infrastructure (i.e. curbs, barriers, and signage) that computers would normally use as reference points.

That’s why a student at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) is developing new technology, called MapLite, that eliminates the need for maps in self-driving car technology altogether.




This could more easily enable a fleet-sharing model that connects carless rural residents and would facilitate intercity trips that run through rural areas.

In a paper posted online on May 7 by CSAIL and project partner Toyota, 30-year-old PhD candidate Teddy Ort—along with co-authors Liam Paull and Daniela Rus—detail how using LIDAR and GPS together can enable self-driving cars to navigate on rural roads without having a detailed map to guide them.

The team was able to drive down a number of unpaved roads in rural Massachusetts and reliably scan the road for curves and obstacles up to 100 feet ahead, according to the paper.

Our method makes no assumptions about road markings and only minimal assumptions about road geometry,” wrote the authors in their paper.

Once the technology is perfected, proponents argue that autonomous cars could also help improve safety on rural roads by reducing the number of impaired and drowsy drivers, eliminating speeding, and detecting and reacting to obstacles even on pitch-black roads.

Ort’s algorithm isn’t commercializable yet; he hasn’t yet tested his algorithm in a wide variety of road conditions and elevations.

Still, if only from an economic perspective it’s clear repeatedly visually capturing millions of miles of roads to train cars how to drive autonomously isn’t going to be winning mapping technology for AVs; it’s just not feasible for most organizations.

Whether it’s Ort’s work, or end-to-end machine learning, or some other technology that wins the navigation race for autonomous vehicles, it’s important to remember that maps are first and foremost a visual tool to aid sighted people in figuring out where to go.

Like humans, a car may not necessarily need to “see” to get to where it’s going—it just needs to sharpen its other senses.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

You Probably Don’t Need A New Computer — Here’s Why

Computer shopping is fun for a select group of people and a big hassle for everybody else. There are plenty of terms you need to know, plus PC components you have to think about and computer-buying mistakes you need to avoid.

You’ll have to determine exactly what you need out of a new machine — you’ll need to think about the hardware you want and the software you need.

It’s also important to figure out when you should buy a new computer, both in terms of seasonal sales and product upgrade cycles.




But you also need to know when you really need a new computer and when you’re just itching to upgrade a machine that may work just fine for another year or two.

Read on to check out some of the reasons why you may not need a new computer as soon as you think.

You may be surprised to figure out that you actually can wait to spend all that money (and save the hassle of computer shopping for another day).

1. Your old computer is working fine

We all want the latest gadgets. They’re fun to read about and even more fun to get our hands on. But if you don’t need a ton of power to perform most of your computing tasks, chances are good your old computer is still working fine.

Checking email, editing documents, and browsing aren’t typically tasks that demand a lot of power from your computer.

Even if your computer is slower than it was when you first got it, chances are good that it isn’t sluggish enough to really slow you down.

2. You haven’t been maintaining your old computer

If your primary reason for shopping for a new computer is that your old one is too slow, then you may want to make sure that the slowness isn’t fixable.

Have you been running antivirus scans? And have you been uninstalling unneeded software? How about clearing out unneeded files to free up hard drive space?

Have you made sure that only the programs you need are starting up when you turn on the computer? And have you been keeping the operating system and all the apps you use up to date?

If you’ve been neglecting your computer, you should perform some much-needed maintenance before deciding it’s time for a new computer.

3. You can speed up your old computer

There are many reasons that your old computer may be running slow. But as it turns out, there are also some easy ways to speed up a slow computer.

You can make sure that your operating system and other software are updated. Or, you can clear out the clutter that accumulates over time.  You can also free up some hard drive space, and even check for spyware.

The point is that before you throw in the towel and give up on your old computer, it’s probably worth it to make sure that you can’t speed it up with an hour or two of maintenance.

You can even completely reinstall the operating system and start fresh with the computer you already have.

There’s one more practical reason to put off buying a new computer — to avoid the annoyance of setting up a new computer.

Unless you’re truly a computer nerd (and if you are, you probably aren’t looking for reasons to avoid buying a new computer), setup is annoying.

It can get time-consuming to do correctly and often involves uninstalling a lot of bloatware.

If you aren’t going to see much in the way of performance improvements or new functionality with a new computer, you may want to wait until the hassle of setting up a new machine is really worth it.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Why Flying Remains The Safest Form Of Traveling Despite Crashes

On April 17, a Southwest Airlines passenger died after being partially sucked out of a plane following a mid-flight engine explosion.

Whenever there is an air crash, questions are raised on how safe it is to fly.

It increases the fear for people who are already afraid of flying. It temporarily makes people who may not be phobic about flying uneasy about flying. And people who already really have difficulty flying — it stops them from flying for a while,” Martin Seif, a clinical psychologist said.

Let’s take the case of what happened in the United States in the aftermath of two aeroplanes colliding into the two towers of the World Trade Centre on 11 September, 2001.

Many Americans took to driving long distances instead of flying.




But was that the right thing to do? As Spyros Makridakis, Robin Hograth and Anil Gaba write in Dance with Chance – Making Your Luck Work for You “In 2001, there were 483 deaths among commercial airline passengers in the USA, about half of them on 9/11.

“Interestingly in 2002, there wasn’t a single one. And in 2003 and 2004 there were only nineteen and eleven fatalities respectively.

“This means that during these three years, a total of thirty airline passengers in America were killed in accidents. In the same period, however, 128,525 people died in US car accidents.”

The authors point out that close to 1600 deaths could have been avoided if people had flown instead of deciding to drive.

The thousands of airplanes which arrive safely at their destination every day hold no media interest. This isn’t news. So even the most logical of us are led to believe that the chance of a passenger dying in an airplane accident is much, much higher than it really is,” write the authors.

Also, car crashes rarely get talked about. “Car crashes, on the other hand, rarely make the headlines… Smaller-scale road accidents occur in large numbers with horrifying regularity, killing hundreds and thousands of people each year worldwide… We just don’t hear about them.

Given these reasons, air travel remains the safest form of travelling, notwithstanding the air crashes that happen now and then.

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How To Keep Your Sensitive Files Safe In The Cloud

As some starlets found out the hard way over the weekend, just because you upload private files to the cloud it doesn’t mean they’re safe.

Computer systems can (and will) be broken into, and that cool, convenient cloud can quickly become the storm that rains on your parade.

Everyone has sensitive files they’d like to keep private: medical records, love letters, tax documents, and, yes, maybe even the occasional image of you or a loved one au naturale.




The problem is, once you upload files to the cloud, you give up some control over who can see them.

But there are some steps you can take to keep your most private data safe from prying eyes. All it requires a little diligence and time.

Check your phone’s settings

If you have cloud apps installed on your phone, there’s a good chance they are automatically uploading every photo you take to the cloud. Dropbox, Google+, and iCloud do this by default.

That sounds scary, but it’s actually meant to be a convenience: If your phone gets wiped, destroyed, or stolen, you still have the photos online.

But this means you really have to think before you take each shot. If the subject matter of your images isn’t something you’d share, open your app settings, look for automatic photo upload, and toggle it off.

 

And remember deleting an image from your phone doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone from the cloud, too.

We had some of the PCWorld staff test various services, and Google+ kept a photo in the cloud even after it was deleted from the phone’s gallery.

If you want that photo to be gone for good, be sure to log into the cloud service and check manually. As a wise Marine sergeant once said to me: Inspect, don’t expect.

And while you’re at it, encrypt your phone’s storage so that if it’s stolen, the data stored on it stays private.

Encrypt your sensitive files

Sure, you could keep all your files locally, but sometimes you have to share them or otherwise make them available online. Encryption offers the best protection when you do.

There are many ways to encrypt files nowadays, but I’ve got the three methods you should be aware of. Each has its own features, uses, and limitations.

Easy mode: 7-Zip

7-Zip is a quick-and-dirty way to encrypt your files in an archive. The 7z format supports AES 256-bit encryption, which is plenty strong for most purposes. The files in the archive are encrypted using a passphrase.

For Windows, download the 7-Zip software from the project’s website. The installation should only take a few seconds.

Once installed, Windows’ File Explorer (Windows Explorer for Windows 7 users) will have a 7-Zip submenu added to the context menu.

Keeping your digital life private isn’t that hard, but it does take a little effort. If you use good judgement, keep aware of your device settings, and follow the security measures outlined here, you won’t get caught with your pants down.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

You Need Fast-Drying Bath Towels And Here’s Why

You might’ve gone through life without putting too much thought into your bath towels, but that’s all about to change. Truth is, the type of towels you buy matters.

Sure, it’s important that your super plush towels feel soft against your skin and absorb all the excess water from your hair and body, but it’s also crucial they dry quickly.

Why? When towels stay wet for hours, they’re more susceptible to housing mold and other microscopic bacteria.




And if you use the same towel a few times before throwing it in the laundry, all that mold and bacteria can transfer onto your freshly cleaned body. Um, ew. 

The good news is plenty of brands are now offering high-quality, quick-drying bath towels that will give you the peace of mind you deserve. Montage is one of them.

The company’s bath towels are made of a soft, 100 percent cotton and boast fast-drying technology. We haven’t specifically timed it, but they dry considerably faster than many options on the market.

They’re also lightweight and breathable, making bath time feel like a luxurious affair. Available in two serene colors — white and gray — they’re versatile enough to look good in any space.

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Ditching Microbeads: The Search For Sustainable Skincare

Is smoother skin worth more than having potable water or edible fish?

For years, research has shown that beauty products made with tiny microbeads, gritty cleansers that scrub off dead skin cells, have been damaging water supplies, marine life and the ecological balance of the planet.

Beat the Microbead, an international campaign to ban the plastic beads, reports that marine species are unable to distinguish between food and microbeads.

According to the campaign, “over 663 different species were negatively impacted by marine debris with approximately 11% of reported cases specifically related to the ingestion of microplastics“.

To make things worse, microbeads can act like tiny sponges, absorbing several other dangerous chemicals, including pesticides and flame retardants. As they ingest microbeads, marine animals also consume these other poisons.




The obvious solution to the microbead problem is to cut it off at the source.

But while major cosmetic companies like Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, and Procter & Gamble have pledged to phase out the use of microbeads in favor of natural alternatives, they also say that the shift could take several years.

And as more research is done, it appears that microbead replacements may come with dangers of their own.

Some of the natural replacements for microbeads also have negative consequences.

Greg Boyer, chair of the chemistry department at SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry, says a possible negative consequence is with degrading sugars that biochemically “burn” the sugar for energy.

A variety of biodegradable ingredients are available to developers.

Victoria Fantauzzi, co-founder of Chicago-based La Bella Figura Beauty, says that her company recently released a facial cleanser that uses enzymes found in papaya and pineapple, ingredients known to effectively exfoliate skin cells.

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Pass it on: Popular Science