Turning a Large Circular Table into an Interactive Augmented Surface

Polar

#Technology

Thu, Feb 26th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Research and design lab beyond.io showcases Polar, "a massive, circular 3.2 meter table" turned into an interactive augmented surface. They have done other neat stuff.

For the tabletop interaction it was clear we could not use traditional input methods and UI conventions, as the table is not a computerscreen. Likewise, the depth and amount of content would be different than for example on a kiosk touchscreen. In this environment the main use case instead would be brief explorations of basic content on the programme in the venue and the different product features of Hello Bank.

To interact with this type of content on such a huge surface we chose to work with a Leap Motion. It’s ideal for casually browsing through a small set of predefined views. Moreover, waving your hands in thin air translate to movement…

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Self-Learning Software Masters Old Atari Games

Wolfenstein should be next

#Future

Wed, Feb 25th, 2015 21:00 by capnasty NEWS

Although uploaded to YouTube back in April, the above video is only now getting noticed. It showcases self-learning software developed by Google's artificial intelligence firm DeepMind Technologies, mastering old Atari games it knew nothing about. We should be scared.

At first, it’s clearly not very good, but after an hour of training (about 200 games), the software is performing measurably better with a 30-40 percent success rate. With only one more hour of practice, the software never misses the ball and is playing better than any human could. After even more training, the software sort of outsmarts the game, playing more offensively than defensively by strategically hitting the ball in ways that will help it win more efficiently and with less risk of missing.

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“I like holding it. It’s not going off. It’s not making sounds.”

Digital natives prefer analogue books

#Literature

Wed, Feb 25th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

According to the Washington Post, millennials — despite being digital natives — prefer the look and feel of a "dead-tree" version of a piece of literature versus its digital counterpart. Reportedly, reading on a screen encourages skimming, causes distraction and inhibits comprehension.

The preference for print over digital can be found at independent bookstores such as the Curious Iguana in downtown Frederick, Md., where owner Marlene England said millennials regularly tell her they prefer print because it’s “easier to follow stories.” Pew studies show the highest print readership rates are among those ages 18 to 29, and the same age group is still using public libraries in large numbers.

It can be seen in the struggle of college textbook makers to shift their businesses to more profitable e-versions. Don Kilburn, North American president for Pearson, the largest publisher in the world and the dominant player in education, said the…

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"In less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee, a sketch emerges inferred solely from DNA."

DNA-generated portraits

#Science

Wed, Feb 25th, 2015 10:00 by capnasty NEWS

Software developed by Mark D. Shriver, a professor of anthropology and genetics at Penn State University, can sketch a face based on DNA genetic markers alone.

To build his model, Dr. Shriver measured 7,000 three-dimensional coordinates on the face and analyzed their links to thousands of genetic variants. Though sex and ancestral mix are not the only predictor of face shape in this model, they are the primary influencers — something that has raised concerns about the potential for racial profiling.

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Term Emulator that Mimics Old School CRT Screen

Cool Retro Term

#Computers

Tue, Feb 24th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

The very cool looking and very configurable Cool Retro Term allows you to open up a term window looking like an old school CRT screen.

This terminal emulator works under Linux and OSX and requires Qt 5.2 or higher.

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The Traditional Submarine is Becoming Obsolete

"Turning submarines into underwater aircraft carriers that would carry drone-like underwater unmanned vehicles or UUVs."

#War

Mon, Feb 23rd, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Citing the same fate that plagued the battleship -- a powerful platform too expensive to risk in battle and too difficult to defend against the modern propeller plane -- submarines may be facing a similar issue thanks to better technology capable of picking up even the quietest of subs. The solution? Turning them into a sort of underwater aircraft carriers.

“Submarines will increasingly need to shift from being front-line tactical platforms like aircraft to being host and coordination platforms like aircraft carriers” explained Clark in his piece for TNI last month. “Large UUVs and other deployed systems that are smaller and less detectable will increasingly be used instead of manned submarines for tactical missions such as coastal intelligence gathering, land attack, or anti-ship missions.”

One could imagine a scenario where UUVs move into A2/AD environments for surveillance missions, land attack or even hunting manned attack subs, allowing much more…

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How to Grow a Tiny Forest, Really Fast, Anywhere in the World

#Environment

Sun, Feb 22nd, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Using techniques learnt while working at Toyota India, Eco-entrepreneur Shubhendu Sharma explains how he applies an industrial process in order to grow self-sustaining forests really fast anywhere in the world. Sharma's methods require just 10 years versus the 600-1,000 years it would normally take mother nature.

Here’s the funny thing: I have no expertise about how to determine native species for forests! But I worked around this by applying car manufacturing models. At Toyota, I worked with the supplier development team, organizing assembly lines and dispatch systems for cars being manufactured in India. I applied these manufacturing principles to forests, developing a computer program that registers tree species’ specific parameters, such as how high it grows, in what months it blooms, the kinds of temperatures it can tolerate, and so on. For example, if there’s a species that grows up to…

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Whiteboard Clock

#Technology

Sat, Feb 21st, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Using three servos, two for writing and one to lift the pen, the whiteboard clock writes the time on a white board. After five minutes, it erases the previous time and starts all over again.

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Cash-for-Cheese Loans

Cheap loans in exchange for Parmesan cheese

#Money

Fri, Feb 20th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

According to CNN, Italy's Credem Bank works much like a regular financial establishment, except for the fact that it provides cheap loans to local dairy producers in exchange for wheels of Parmesan cheese. If the producer defaults on the loan, the bank sells the wheel of cheese.

In simple terms, the bank takes the cheese from local parmesan producers in exchange for a cheap loan. It charges between 3% to 5% interest, depending on the quality of the cheese, and a fee for making sure the cheese matures properly in their air-conditioned, humidified vault.

This mechanism ensures that in the two years it takes the cheese to mature, credit keeps flowing. In these tough economic times, this allows producers to feed their cattle, pay their staff....and just keep producing. If for whatever reason, the cheese producer defaults on the loan, the bank has the cheese to sell on.

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"Microsoft and Google have swapped places."

-- Gordon Kelly, Forbes Magazine

#Companies

Fri, Feb 20th, 2015 10:00 by capnasty NEWS

Since being led by Satya Nadella, Forbes opines that Microsoft has become a "progressive, open, web services company." In other words, they are now the new Google. The search giant, on the other end, is hanging on dearly to a variety of projects that are either poorly maintained, too old or that just under-deliver. Google has become stagnant, much like Microsoft was when it had dominance of the personal computer.

So where is Google’s attention? Apparently moonshot projects. The company shouts excitedly about self driving cars, Internet delivering hot air balloons, revolutionary contact lenses, virtual reality cardboard headsets and glasses, modular smartphones and the painfully slow lottery-style roll out of its ‘Google Fibre’ gigabit broadband initiative.

How many of these improve its current market situation? None. Zip. Zilch. Zero.

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USB Dead Drops from Around the World

#Internet

Thu, Feb 19th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Vocativ has this fascinating article on USB dead drops from around the world, a system for sharing information that's more about the thrill of discovery than the method of exchanging files. Reportedly, Toronto has thumb drives that contain "food recipes and porn," while in Iran where to buy the best weed.

Around the world, people are filling up USB drives with everything from porn to personal stories, and then hiding them inside walls, steps and phone booths in the hopes that strangers will find them. It’s based on the espionage concept of a dead drop—the idea that any sort of container can be left by Person A and picked up by Person B without them ever having to interact. Except there’s one important difference: In this case, Person A doesn’t know who Person B will be.

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In Japan, Flip-Phone Sales Rise, Smartphones Decline

#Telephone

Thu, Feb 19th, 2015 10:00 by capnasty NEWS

According to Reuters, flip-phones are still going strong in Japan, so much so that the sale of smartphones has actually declined.

Dubbed "Galapagos" phones because they have evolved to meet unique Japanese standards and tastes, flip-phone shipments rose 5.7 percent to 10.58 million in 2014, data from market researcher MM Research Institute Ltd shows. Smartphone shipments fell 5.3 percent to 27.70 million, down for a second year.

Users in Japan pay some of the highest smartphone fees among developed nations, the telecommunications ministry says, while flip-phone rates are among the lowest. Many Japanese accustomed to years of deflation are content with old-style flip-phones offering voice calling, email and in most cases basic Internet services.

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Rebranding Pokemon Characters as Corporate Logos

#Art

Wed, Feb 18th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

In Pokemon Branding, San Francisco-based design agency Pictogram takes each of the characters and turns them into very credible corporate logos. Above, Pikachu, beat computers and synthesizer maker.

Since the Pokémon Corporate Personhood Act of 2015, as spearheaded by Professor OAK, Pokémon became free to start their own companies, mandating the design of Pokémon brand identities.

We were on the forefront of this radical development and designed several visual identities for Pokémon.

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Why the United States Keeps Losing Its Wars

"How can America spend more on its military than all the other great powers combined and still be unable to impose its will on even moderately sized enemies?"

#Opinion

Tue, Feb 17th, 2015 21:00 by capnasty NEWS

According to Piera's Tom Streithorst, even after spending $500 billion annually on defence, the United States hasn't won a single conflict since the first Gulf War. He looks at the reasons why and puts forth some alternatives to what is nothing more than destructive symbolism.

I never thought I would say this out loud, but Donald Rumsfeld was right about one thing: the American military is too big and bulky. Special Forces are lean and mean and - not coincidentally - more successful. The one triumph of the misbegotten War on Terror was the rapid defeat of the Taliban in the fall of 2001. With almost no regular army involvement, a handful of Special Forces commandos slipped into Afghanistan, liaisoned with Northern Alliance units, and coordinated air strikes against Taliban positions. At the time, the Taliban held all but a few slivers of Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance was…

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Why Asparagus Makes Your Pee Smell

We've all been secretly wondering that

#Science

Tue, Feb 17th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

In episode 22 of Mental Floss' Big Questions, host Craig Benzine explains why asparagus makes your pee smell weird. Apparently the smell is caused by a chemical found only in asparagus, called asparagusic acid. It gets weirder: not everyone experiences this phenomena and (even stranger) not everyone can smell their own pee.

A weekly show where we endeavor to answer one of your big questions. This week, "doxysrox" asks, "Why does Asparagus make your pee smell?"

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"If we could replace Saturn's rings with the rings around J1407b, they would be easily visible at night and be many times larger than the full moon."

J1407b, the Super Saturn

#Space

Sat, Jan 31st, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

One of the planets circling star J1407 has a Saturn-like planet that's 200 times the size of ours. So big are its rings — measured in the millions of kilometres — that the eclipses it causes can last several weeks.

Now, using imaging techniques such as Doppler spectroscopy to estimate the mass of the ringed object, the Rochester and Leiden Observatory researchers have backed up this claim, saying that the star J1407 likely has a ringed companion, which they’re calling J1407b.

"The details that we see in the light curve are incredible. The eclipse lasted for several weeks, but you see rapid changes on time scales of tens of minutes as a result of fine structures in the rings," says Kenworthy. "The star is much too far away to observe the rings directly, but we could make a detailed…

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Hologram Generating Glasses

Microsoft's HoloLens

#Computers

Thu, Jan 29th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Taking the concept of Google Glass to a whole new level, Microsoft's HoloLens is a wearable headset that provides holographic images which can be interacted as if real. Official page here. If the above commercial tries too hard for you, the demo is here.

Microsoft HoloLens goes beyond augmented reality and virtual reality by enabling you to interact with three-dimensional holograms blended with your real world. Microsoft HoloLens is more than a simple heads-up display, and its transparency means you never lose sight of the world around you. High-definition holograms integrated with your real world will unlock all-new ways to create, communicate, work, and play.

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Unusual Warships of the U.S. Navy

#War

Sun, Feb 1st, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

On the U.S. Navy Institute website, a collection of the most unusual warships which have seen service. Above, the USS Baylander, billed as the "world's smallest aircraft carrier."

Billed as the US Navy's "smallest aircraft carrier" it was until recently based in Pensacola, Florida. This 131-foot vessel has provided a cost-effective training platform for underway single-spot deck landing qualifications (both day and night ops) for the US Navy, Marine, Air Force, Coast Guard, and the National Guard from many states. It was designed to provide a deck with the same dimensions as an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate. Since it began service as a helicopter trainer in 1986, it has completed 120,000 error-free helicopter landings, with the record being 346 landings in one day on June 10, 1988.

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Phone App Gives You Five Things to Do Everyday

5 Every Day

#Travel

Mon, Feb 2nd, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

The 5 Every Day app gives you five things to do everyday, ranging from art and music, to food and urban exploration. It even has a section for activities that "defy categorization." Sadly, only for Los Angeles at this time.

5 Every Day was lovingly built by a small group of Los Angeles-based friends, designers, and artists to fill their own need for a no-nonsense events calendar and exploration engine. The design studio Public-Library made it beautiful and YACHT, a multimedia pop group, comb the city for wonderful things.

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Discovering Music by Album Colour Alone

Predominant.ly

#Music

Wed, Jan 28th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Predominant.ly is a neat idea: rather than using software algorithms based on music you've liked before, it lets you browse using the cover's colour alone. Above, pink.

You remember those dreary autumn days when you would spend hours in a record store, idly browsing the shelves, escaping the rain. You pulled an album out just like you’d looked at four hundred other albums that day, but this one, you knew, was special. You didn’t know the band, didn’t even know the kind of music they played, but from the cover alone you knew, this was going to be special. You were electrified.

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Body Worn Camera for Civilians

The Narrative Clip 2

#Photography

Thu, Feb 5th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Mimicking the idea of a police body worn camera, the Narrative Clip 2 automatically takes 8 megapixel photographs every 30 seconds so you don't have to. It then uploads them to its own cloud service and arranges them in various moments. The camera can be controlled via smartphone using Bluetooth.

Authentic smiles, sudden surprises or your baby’s first step. The automatic photo capture of Narrative Clip 2 lets you stay in the moment while capturing it. Keep your mind and hands free when it matters, while still being able to collect and share your stories.

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"We'll sail on sunbeams."

Privately funded LightSail spacecraft ready for test flight

#Space

Tue, Jan 27th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

The Planetary Society announced that its first LightSail spacecraft will be hitching a ride on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in order to test the vehicle's critical functions. This flight will be "a precursor to a second mission slated for 2016." The project is entirely funded by private citizens. More info here.

Solar sailing works by using sunlight for propulsion. When solar photons strike LightSail's reflective Mylar® sails, their momentum is transferred to the spacecraft, gradually accelerating it through space. While the push from photons is miniscule, it is continuous and unlimited. Solar sails can eventually reach greater speeds than those obtained from chemical rockets. LightSail consists of four identical triangular sails attached to four 4-meter booms, resulting in a square solar sail when fully deployed.

The 2015 test flight will not carry the spacecraft high enough to escape Earth's atmospheric drag, and will thus not…

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"The United States has opened the Pandora’s Box of mercenarianism."

-- Sean McFate, "The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What they Mean for World Order"

#War

Sat, Feb 14th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

On The American Conservative, Kelley Vlahos looks at how the privatisation of America's wars has created a state of neomedievalism. The increase use of mercenaries has shifted the war-monopoly once held solely by governments to a decentralised collection of countries, corporations, global governing bodies, NGO’s, regional and ethnic interests, and terror organizations. War has also become very profitable.

McFate details for the first time in public how he was hired by Dyncorp on behalf of a secret U.S. contract to help prevent a group of Hutu rebels, the Forces Nationales de Liberation (FNL), from sparking another genocide of the Tutsis during the ongoing civil war in Burundi. McFate was tasked at one point with guarding the president of Burundi from impending assassination. The president remained safe, and the civil war was brought to an end by 2005.

McFate said he wrote about this, and Dyncorp’s training of the Liberian…

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Travel Companies Capitalising on Extinction Tourism

#Travel

Sat, Feb 14th, 2015 10:00 by capnasty NEWS

According to Factor, travel companies have been offering packages capitalising on climate change, allowing travellers to see animals in the wild before they're gone forever.

“Many of our current travellers have an urgency to see the polar bears before the full effects of global warming affect them further,” explained Rick Guthke, general manager of specialist tour operator Natural Habitat Adventures.

However, too high a surge in tourist numbers could pose a further threat to the very animals that travellers are coming to see. If the trend gets popular enough, an increasing number of sites may choose to restrict visitor numbers, something that is already common practice in some areas, such as in the Antarctic.

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"The Canadian government is playing a much larger role in monitoring the internet than most might think."

-- Matthew Braga, Motherboard

#Privacy

Fri, Feb 13th, 2015 10:00 by capnasty NEWS

According to Motherboard, Canada plays no small role in monitoring the Internet with "a prowess that rivals both NSA and GCHQ." Despite the article's apparent surprise, it should be noted that Canada is part of ECHELON and that it is facing threats it wants to protect itself from.

And previously, Motherboard reported on another CSE program known as LEVITATION. According to documents jointly published by The Intercept and CBC, Canadian spies tracked users downloading certain files from popular filesharing networks worldwide, such as Rapidshare and the now-defunct Megaupload. While there is no explicit link between the two programs in any of the documents that have been publicly released, CSE could have instructed EONBLUE to flag the IP addresses of every user who attempted to access a bomb-making guide, for example, and send that information to a database for later analysis by LEVITATION.

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"Hard things are mind-numbingly easy for a computer, while easy things are insanely hard for it."

The Artificial Intelligence Revolution

#Future

Wed, Feb 4th, 2015 21:07 by capnasty NEWS

On Wait But Why, Tim Urban looks at the development of artificial intelligence. We're not there yet, right now we can just build simple systems that can beat us at chess or handle our car's braking system. But if our technological prowess continues down the same path, we're very very close. The article is remarkably easy to read and filled with great explanations of the roadblocks researchers are facing. Be sure to read part two.

Nothing will make you appreciate human intelligence like learning about how unbelievably challenging it is to try to create a computer as smart as we are. Building skyscrapers, putting humans in space, figuring out the details of how the Big Bang went down—all far easier than understanding our own brain or how to make something as cool as it. As of now, the human brain is the most complex object in the known…

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The World's Armies Stage Psychological Warfare on Facebook

#War

Tue, Feb 3rd, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Using Facebook warriors skilled in psychological operations, the British army is engaging in "unconventional warfare in the information age" in an "attempt to control the narrative" of social media.

The Israel Defence Forces have pioneered state military engagement with social media, with dedicated teams operating since Operation Cast Lead, its war in Gaza in 2008-9. The IDF is active on 30 platforms – including Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Instagram – in six languages. “It enables us to engage with an audience we otherwise wouldn’t reach,” said an Israeli army spokesman.

It has been approached by several western countries, keen to learn from its expertise.

During last summer’s war in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge, the IDF and Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades, tweeted prolifically, sometimes engaging directly with one another.

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"You can buy a car, but you don’t own the software in its computers."

It is illegal to hack your car's computer

#Driving

Mon, Jan 26th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

According to Wired, although we can buy a car, we never actually own the computer it comes with. All of its software is protected by digital rights management, so car manufactures can invoke the DMCA to "threaten anyone who needs to get around those restrictions, no matter how legitimate the reason."

No one has yet been prosecuted for hacking their own car, but they could. And as locks become more prevalent, the EFF and iFixit are willing to bet that, eventually, some carmaker will bring the DMCA hammer down on a hobbyist’s head. So we’re are taking a stand now.

“Without an exemption, we could also lose out on the insights and inventions of the millions of Americans who enjoy tinkering with and improving their cars,” Kit Walsh explains. “… Not all ECU code is copyrightable, and not all ECUs are locked down in a way that triggers DMCA…

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Eggs Can Now Be Unboiled

#Science

Tue, Jan 27th, 2015 10:00 by capnasty NEWS

Using a novel method, researchers were able to take boiled egg whites and return them to their original state.

To re-create a clear protein known as lysozyme once an egg has been boiled, he and his colleagues add a urea substance that chews away at the whites, liquefying the solid material. That's half the process; at the molecular level, protein bits are still balled up into unusable masses. The scientists then employ a vortex fluid device, a high-powered machine designed by Professor Colin Raston's laboratory at South Australia's Flinders University. Shear stress within thin, microfluidic films is applied to those tiny pieces, forcing them back into untangled, proper form.

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"There are more electric-car charging points in Japan than there are gas stations."

-- Timothy Coulter, Bloomberg Business

#Driving

Sun, Feb 15th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

According to Bloomberg Business Japan now has 40,000 charging points versus the country's 34,000 gas station. This growth only took a few years, possibly proving that a transition from oil to electric is feasible.

The figure shows that in the relatively brief time since electric vehicles were introduced, the infrastructure to support them has become bigger than what the oil industry built over decades in the world’s third-biggest economy -- at least by this one measure.

Why that matters is obvious. Nissan’s battery-powered Leaf can travel 84 miles (135 kilometers) on a charge, and the anxiety of being stuck away from home without power has restrained consumer demand. As the charging network expands and batteries become more powerful, that concern will wane.

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