Dec 29, 2017

Is Video Game Addiction Unscientific Bullshit?

The World Health Organization is on the verge of officially recognizing a phenomenon that researchers have been studying since the Super Nintendo era: video game addiction. Scientists and public health advocates who back the move say that compulsive video-game playing is a discrete disorder that can seriously damage a…


from Gizmodo: Top

Dec 20, 2017

Twitter launches a new enterprise API to power customer service and chatbots

Twitter’s big news this week is its announcement that it’s now enforcing its new policies around hateful content and abuse, but today the company is rolling out something new for developers, as well: an enterprise-level API providing access to real-time activities like tweets, retweets, likes and follows.

The addition of the API is part of Twitter’s broader plan to revamp and expand its API platform, announced this April. Similar to how Twitter is now trying to make things right with its user base -who have too often been the victims of harassment, abuse, hate, and threats of violence – the company has been trying to reset relations with its developer community, too.

Over the years, Twitter has pulled the rug out from underneath developers’ feet too often. For example, it used to encourage third-party apps, then it began restricting them. It hosted developer conferences, then it killed them. And it once offered a suite of developer tools, only to turn around and sell them.

This year, Twitter aimed to turn things around by streamlining its API platform, while taking full advantage of its investment in Gnip. This included the launch of new APIs and endpoints for developers, as well as a published roadmap in an effort to boost transparency around its developer-focused efforts.

Today’s news of the new enterprise Account Activity API is a part of those promised changes.

Specifically, the API is designed to help developers build apps that can power customer service, chatbots and brand engagement on Twitter, the company says – an area Twitter has been increasingly invested in this year.

The existing Account Activity API lets developers pull the full set of activities related to an account, in real-time. The new enterprise version of this API is designed for those who need data for a larger number of accounts, plus multiple webhook URLs, reliability features like retries, and managed support.

In addition, Twitter says it’s expanding the beta for the standard API that delivers activities for up to 35 accounts. And on January 15th, typing indicators and read receipts for Direct Messages will be included as activities in the API, so developers can build more natural conversational experiences. (Meaning, customers will feel like they’re talking to a person, not a bot).

Alongside this launch, Twitter is launching a suite of developer tools for Direct Messages out of beta.

These features include Quick Replies, Welcome Messages, Buttons on messages, Custom Profiles, and Customer Feedback Cards. All have been previously announced, launched, and put to use by brands like Samsung, MTV, TBS, Wendy’s, and Patrón who used the tools with their chatbots. Other, like Tesco and Evernote, are using them for customer service.

The exit from the Direct Message beta will see some features removed, Twitter notes. This includes Location quick replies and location cards, text input quick replies, support indicators, response hours, and the prominent message button on profiles.

These latter features – like support hours and the big message button – seemed to have been launched in response to Facebook Messenger and its own advances as a platform for customer service. But there were some concerns among consumers that the message button the CS account’s profile served as a way to not address customer inquiries and concerns in public, in order to protect the brand’s image.

Twitter’s new APIs and DM toolset are available now.


Featured Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

from TechCrunch

Nov 30, 2017

Google’s newest app stops you burning through your data package

Google’s newest app for emerging markets is a service that helps control data usage on a smartphone and get more for your top-up credit.

Datally, which is available for Android devices worldwide from today, applies granular control to enable a user to monitor use of data on their phone and cut data usage on any app as they please. The app design is simple and it appears to be effective. A pilot test in the Philippines gained 500,000 users who typically saved 30 percent of their data plan using the app.

That makes particular sense in emerging markets like India, where the app is primarily focused, and Southeast Asia, where it was trialled, since most smartphone owners have prepaid SIM cards which take them offline when the credit is spent.

Beyond helping cut out data-heavy apps when a user wants to focus on a different service or app, Datally also provides an update on how much data each app is consuming — Google calls this a ‘speedometer for data’ — and it alerts users when they are near to a public WiFi point.

That latter point ties into Google’s free WiFi push which has seen it roll out free hotspots across India, including over 100 train stations, and expand the initiative into Southeast Asia, too.

“There is, in my view, a Silicon Valley blindspot. That is why with things like Next Billion Users initiative at Google, we are building technology which we know is meant for these markets. When we solve it, it brings those technologies to the world,” Peeyush Ranjan, VP of engineering for Google’s Next Billion Users initiative, told FactorDaily in an interview.

Other Next Billion initiatives include India-based payment service Tez, a storage saver app and a data-light version of YouTube.

Google has also made acquisitions to bring engineering talent to the initiative. It snapped up Halli Labs, a Indian AI startup led by ex Twitter data scientist Pankaj Gupta, this year and bought the team behind Singapore-based enterprise chat startup Pie in 2016.

from TechCrunch

Nov 23, 2017

BMW hopes AI-managed electric bike roads will ease traffic

The routes would typically sit above regular roads, and would be decidedly cozier thanks to covering and a cooling system driven by purified rainwater. An automatic speed limit (in the concept, about 15.5MPH) and AI-driven traffic management would prevent the faster vehicles from crashing into scooters. And you might not even need to own a machine to use it -- BMW envisions a rental system where you'd pick up a bike at an access point if you need to get across town in a hurry.

You won't necessarily see something like this in markets where cars dominate, like North America. A system like Vision E3 Way could be very useful in countries like China, however. It's not just that many more people ride bikes in these areas -- it's that high population densities could necessitate separate, automated roads to keep traffic flowing. The challenge is getting cities to take up the idea. Even if these roadways don't cost much to build, it's no mean feat to significantly alter the urban landscape.

from The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

Nov 16, 2017

In a Major First, Scientists Edit DNA Within the Human Body

For the first time, scientists have edited the DNA inside of a patient’s body, in an attempt to cure a genetic disorder by permanently changing the human genome. The news, reported Wednesday by the Associated Press, represents a major landmark in science.


from Gizmodo: Top

Oct 17, 2017

The Future of Crime in the Blockchain Economy

It all started with an online marketplace to buy drugs. Well, it had started a couple of years before that, but the darknet outfit known as Silk Road was the first time most people heard about bitcoin and cryptocurrency. After doing more than a billion dollars’ worth of trades in a little more than two years, Silk Road was shut down in 2013 following an FBI investigation. Despite this shady origin story, the technology behind the drug bazaar’s currency — blockchain — is now being touted as the most disruptive technology since the internet.

Blockchain is a way of digitally recording transactions in a universally shared and unchangeable ledger. And, like the internet, it is becoming a major part of the world’s digital infrastructure, from finance to health to public services, without shedding tagalong crime. If anything, “we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to crime,” says Jackson Palmer, a San Francisco–based project manager who shot to prominence in the crypto world as the creator of dogecoin, a cryptocurrency that now has a nine-figure market cap. “Dark-market usage represents quite a small percentage” of cryptocurrency exchanges, now that speculative trading and crowdfunding-style initial coin offerings (ICOs) for startups have taken off, says Palmer, but in crimes like money laundering, phishing and good old-fashioned hacking, the fun might only just be starting.



At the heart of blockchain — and the cryptocurrencies built atop it — is an unchangeable chronological list of all transactions in the system. And so, in theory, law enforcement has more to go on when investigating money laundering or the purchase of illicit goods with cryptocurrencies than with, say, cash. “Criminals don’t need to use cryptocurrencies because they have cash and … the banking system,” says Alan Cohn, counsel to the Blockchain Alliance, a public-private forum of blockchain businesses and law enforcement. The criminals behind Silk Road were eventually brought down by tracking payments on the public Bitcoin blockchain ledger — the analysis even rumbled two undercover federal agents who had gone rogue. So while “it’s certainly possible to launder money using cryptocurrency,” says Cohn, the handlers of cryptocurrencies face the same regulatory requirements as a traditional money services business. 

In all, roughly 10 percent of money invested in Ethereum-based ICOs so far in 2017 has ended up in the hands of criminals.

Special software is required to sift through information on public blockchain ledgers and interpret which transactions appear suspicious, and that’s getting more difficult as “the bad guys are moving into the more and more anonymous [currencies],” says Camilla Frost, a product manager at Chainalysis, which provided such software for the Silk Road investigation. A recent report from Europol, the EU’s policing agency, stated that “cryptocurrencies such as Monero, Ethereum and Zcash are … gaining popularity within the digital underground.” Offering advanced privacy features, both Monero and Zcash hide the sender, receiver and value of all transactions, making it nearly impossible to track within the system. (The team behind Zcash insists that just because there is increased privacy doesn’t mean there’s any evidence of criminal usage; indeed, the Europol report acknowledges that “Zcash has yet to feature in any reported law enforcement investigations.”)

Despite the additional privacy available, “the trigger is once [criminals] try to cash out” into usable dollars or euros, says Frost — transactions which, in regulated exchanges, are traceable. Unregulated exchanges, though, are a different matter: In July, the Department of Justice indicted a man for laundering more than $4 billion in criminal cash via his black-market cryptoexchange, BTC-e, which did not comply with U.S. regulations.

Gettyimages 857517092 (1)

Russian Alexander Vinnik (center) headed BTC-e, an exchange he operated for the bitcoin cryptocurrency. He was indicted by a U.S. court in July on 21 charges ranging from identity theft and facilitating drug trafficking to money laundering.

Source Nicolas Economou/Getty

As for criminal activity on or against the networks themselves, “phishing is a major trend,” says Frost, whose Chainalysis research found evidence of more than $115 million worth of stolen value affecting nearly 17,000 victims on the Ethereum blockchain alone. Just like following a dodgy email link that pretends to be your bank, cryptophishing usually involves suckering investors into sending money to the wrong address for a supposed presale of coins in an ICO, with Twitter often used to spread the misinformation. Allegations of selling based on misinformation and Ponzi schemes are also rife in the ICO space.


To date, there have been no cases of a major blockchain itself getting hacked, but the code behind the applications built on top of that infrastructure is also a vulnerability. In 2016, a crowdfunded venture capital fund called the DAO raised more than $150 million in a month (at the time, the largest crowdfunding event in history) — and a month later thieves exploited a vulnerability in the DAO code to steal more than $74 million from 11,000 investors. In all, roughly 10 percent of money invested in Ethereum-based ICOs so far in 2017 has ended up in the hands of criminals, estimates Chainalysis.

Despite the security credentials of blockchain, the technology is not necessarily perfectly secure — and if it’s not, the consequences could be devastating. Given the value now stacked on a few major blockchains (primarily, Bitcoin and Ethereum), “you’re placing the world’s biggest bug bounty on that network,” says Palmer. “The code itself has to be absolutely rock-solid” — and open-source software only makes the search for vulnerabilities easier. If a software bug on the scale of the 2014 “Heartbleed” bug is found in Ethereum, says Palmer, “we could be talking about billions of dollars being stolen, siphoned off by hackers before people know about it.”

And while phishing and hacking threats are present in any technology-supported marketplace, there is a big gray area in the ICO space because regulators have yet to decide exactly what a cryptotoken is. It can have characteristics of “a currency and a commodity and a security and property,” says Cohn, because of the equity or other rights that come with the purchase of some coins. This regulatory uncertainty means coin creators are engaging in all manner of shady practices, including the alleged secret sale of leftover tokens to existing investors at a lower price — a practice that would be a felony on Wall Street, according to Forbes.

“It’s always going to be a cat-and-mouse game between law enforcement and criminals,” says Cohn. And in the new Wild West of the digital economy, it’s game on.

from OZY

Oct 14, 2017

Researchers propose an open ‘internet of water’ tracking use, quality and costs

Where did the water coming out of your tap come from? How is it filtered and purified? How much does it cost the city and state per gallon to deliver? How can they improve that? These and other questions come naturally as fresh water becomes more and more valuable a resource — and we need a shared, open ‘internet of water’ to answer them, say researchers from Duke University and the Aspen Institute.

With natural disasters like droughts and flooding, and with man-made problems like overcrowded cities and factory runoff, the water system is frequently overtaxed and understudied. Local authorities and utilities produce reams of data on use, but there is little in the way of national databases, let alone standardized, open datasets.

“Our water world is data rich, but information poor,” explained Martin Doyle, of Duke’s Nicholas Institute. “If water data were shared openly and then integrated in a common digital platform, there would be game-changing opportunities ranging from private citizens’ ability to gauge the quality of local water to public officials’ ability to warn populations of water-borne public health hazards.”

It’s not that some utility guy in Minneapolis wants to know the dollars per gallon being paid by someone in Phoenix. It’s really more of a missed Big Data opportunity. The wider your perspective and the more data you have, the better you can make decisions as to how to optimize parts of the system, both at the macro and micro level.

But collecting and analyzing that data isn’t free, let alone building a resource sharing system at a national level. So what researchers need to do, the researchers concluded, is explicate in very clear terms the benefits of doing so. After all, what cash-strapped state agency would shell out millions for some newfangled data effort when that money could be put into its existing, working services?

The researchers assert that water and water data are extremely under undervalued. They hope that by examining existing data collection efforts, like those done in California during the latest major drought, they can show tangible benefits to this kind of open, accessible data.

That said, it’s not like fresh water is getting any easier to come by; scarcity and seasonal fluctuations are problems that will only get worse as natural resources are depleted and populations grow.

“With finite water resources and growing demand for them, we need open and accessible data to help us navigate tradeoffs,” said Greg Gearheart, of California’s State Water Board.

This hypothetical “internet of water,” as the Duke team likes to call it, would be a clearinghouse for water data of all kinds, from all municipalities. Everyone from curious citizens to government data scientists and app developers would be able to  access it.

Featured Image: ImagineH2O

from TechCrunch

Sep 26, 2017

Dubai tests a passenger drone for its flying taxi service

Dubai was serious when it said it wants to be first in the world to offer a flying taxi service. That's why on Monday, it staged a maiden test flight for one of its potential taxis: a two-seater, 18-rotor unmanned flying vehicle made by German firm V...

from Engadget

Sep 21, 2017

What are the real risks we humans could face from a rogue AI superintelligence?

To hear a wide-ranging interview about the real-world risks we humans could face from a rogue superintelligence, hit play, below. My guest is author and documentary filmmaker James Barrat. Barrat’s 2014 book Our Final Invention was the gateway drug that ushered me into the narcotic realm of contemplating super AI risk. So it’s on first-hand authority that I urge you to jump in – the water’s great!

This is the seventh episode of my podcast series (co-hosted by Tom Merritt), which launched here on Boing Boing last month. The series goes deep into the science, tech, and sociological issues explored in my novel After On – but no familiarity with the novel is necessary to listen to it.

The danger of artificial consciousness has a noble pedigree in science fiction. In most minds, its wellspring is 2001: A Space Odyssey, which features HAL 9000 – an onboard computer that decides to kill off its passengers before they can disconnect it (spoiler: HAL’s rookie season ends – rather abruptly – with a 1-1 record).

James’s interest in this subject was piqued when he interviewed 2001’s author, Arthur C. Clarke, back in the pertinent year of 2001. Clarke’s concerns about superintelligence went beyond the confines of fiction. And he expressed them cogently enough to freak James out to this day.

Among James’s worries is that Hollywood has inoculated many of us from taking super AIs seriously by depicting them so preposterously. “Imagine if the Centers for Disease Control issued a serious warning about vampires,” he notes. “It’d take time for the guffawing to stop, and the wooden stakes to come out. Maybe we’re in that period right now with AI, and only an accident or a near-death experience will jar us awake.”

James and I discuss the “vampire problem” and many other issues in our interview. If you’re looking to cut back on the long, unproductive hours you currently waste on sleep, you should definitely give it a listen.

You can subscribe to the podcast within any podcast app. Simply use your app's search function (type in "After On") to find and subscribe. To subscribe via your computer on iTunes, just click here, then click the blue “View on iTunes” button (on the left side of the page), then click “Subscribe” (in a similar location) in the iTunes window. Or follow the feed

from Boing Boing

Sep 20, 2017

New technologies are transforming health, but culture lags behind

Healthcare is becoming more decentralized every day thanks to new technologies and a growing emphasis on consumer-focused services, according to presentations at the Patient Engagement and Experience Summit in Boston today. But even as telehealth, wearables, virtual reality, and other technologies disrupt familiar models of health care delivery, a greater shift in culture and policy will be necessary to transform care.

“Innovation really has to be in the DNA of an organization,” Tim Walston, assistant vice president of Interactive Marketing at MedStar Health, said during a session. “Sometimes it’s a challenge because it’s not only at the provider level, but sometimes it’s the management that needs to understand. … It’s all about perseverance, because you’re not going to change everyone overnight.”

New delivery strategies, new mindsets

Walston illustrated the growing shift in health care delivery by pointing to the retail industry: just as malls are being usurped by online sellers, so too is the centralized management of healthcare in large hospitals giving way to a landscape of smaller clinics and telecommunications. The latter, he said, is emblematic of the “disruptive technologies” transforming care that will need to be leveraged by health care systems.

“The current state of digital health is really being impacted by telehealth — we can see that this trend is growing throughout the world [and] we estimate up to 30 million users using telehealth [by 2020],” Walston said. “In southern Maryland, we have saved millions of dollars on our transportation costs not having to medevac stroke patients from southern Maryland to the hospital center, because we now have empowered our physicians to talk to our stroke experts and, in real-time, assess whether the patient needs a helicopter ride to D.C.”

Walston ran down a number of other mobile health technologies that his own system is currently employing — such as telehealth and medical wearables — and many that may exist in pilot programs but could become more prolific over time, including machine learning, augmented or virtual reality-based therapy, receptionist robots, clinical decision crowdsourcing, and automation. 

“It’s really [trending] toward force multiplying; doing more with less,” Walston said. “That’s the focus, and also to use technology to meet customers on their terms, … to be sensitive to large trends, to keep our ear to the ground, and to make sure we understand how to use the technology to find solutions that actually accommodate their lifestyle.”

The major challenge for the industry will be embracing these technologies and the reorganizations they herald. Walston said that an organizational culture that is more entrepreneurial and open to experimentation might be best achieved with an injection of new lifeblood into the organization.

"When it comes to some other areas … sometimes you have to bring [those qualities] into your organization based on your hiring strategy. I’ve only been in healthcare now for three years, and I’ve been bringing in folks, some that have healthcare [experience] and some that don’t. They bring in a fresh perspective."

Technologies blurring the lines of care

Juhan Sonin, director of user interface and application design firm Involution Studios and a lecturer at MIT, envisions a more radical future for healthcare — one where devices and household appliances capture health data automatically, and conversations with physicians occur frequently thanks to patients’ smartphones.

“I imagine … my data is going to be captured beautifully, without me being involved, and when I have to do it, the coefficient of friction is very, very low,” Sonin said during a presentation. “[Like Uber], I want this on my phone. I want to talk to a virtual doc, and hopefully over time it just becomes part of my daily activities.”

Sonin called for an intertwining of daily life and healthcare, a shift that he envisions will come from a renewed focus on data collection. By increasing the number of devices passively collecting health data, as well as standardizing health data records across providers, Sonin argued that healthcare may someday be able to blur the lines between treatment and everyday life, all the while providing truly preventative care. Those devices could include smart versions of everyday objects, such as a bathroom sink capable of collecting and scanning discarded hair follicles.

“My hope is that we’re seeing things earlier and earlier in the cycle,” he said. “The little ‘doctor bots’ in my pocket, in my house, in my home, in my bathroom are picking up on goodies and … saying to me ‘Hey, this is going to happen to you in a couple of days, we’re seeing the signs. Go to Walgreens and get your little personalized flu treat.’”

Although these ideas are not the current reality of care, the seeds for such a future are currently available in mobile technologies. Clinical data collection and video conferencing between patients and physicians using everyday devices is becoming more commonplace — although Sonin hopes that the latter will eventually comprise 70 percent of patients’ interactions with primary care physicians. Daily internet connections are available to nearly the entire population, he said, and could become the foundation of patient-owned care and universal primary care.

However, much like Walston, Sonin said that continued advocacy and open-mindedness will be necessary to achieve these goals. Certain roadblocks — such as the availability of telehealth or other technologies to low-income patients — could require changes to policy, and will need persistent, concerted efforts to overcome.

“Culture and policy are the two biggest, hardest things to change,” Sonin said. “It’s easy on the design side, where you can flitter around the periphery of things. It moves really fast — like fashion, it changes all the time. Policy is where it has legs. That, to me, is where you can have the biggest impact, where you can shift financial biases and then thus shift culture biases … but be prepared for it to be a multi-year extravaganza.”

from mobihealthnews

Sep 15, 2017

Robots Made From DNA Could One Day Transport Medicine Inside Your Body

A (very) conceptual illustration of two DNA robots collectively performing a cargo-sorting task on a DNA “origami” surface. (Image: Demin Liu)

In the classic 1966 American science fiction film Fantastic Voyage, a submarine crew was miniaturized and injected into a body to fix a blood clot in the brain. That’s obviously not how future medical science is going to work, but the notion of creating microscopic machines to perform complex tasks is certainly on point. A recent advance, in which robots made from DNA were programmed to sort and deliver molecules to a specified location, now represents an important step in this futuristic direction.

It’s still early days for nanotech, but new research from the California Institute of Technology is showcasing the tremendous potential of this pint-sized technology. A CalTech research team headed by Anupama Thubagere and Lulu Qian has built robots from DNA, and programmed them to bring individual molecules to a designated location. Eventually, this technology could be used to transport molecules of many types throughout the body—which could potentially transform everything from drug delivery to how the body fights infections to how microscopic measurements are made.

There are currently three emerging fields within DNA nanoscience, the science of creating molecular-sized devices out of DNA: The self-assembly of nanostructures from DNA strands, molecular computation and data storage, and DNA robotics, which is the focus of the study published today in Science. The central premise of DNA nanoscience is that, rather than creating molecular devices or systems from scratch, we can leverage the power of nature, which has already figured much of this out. If and when we finally master molecular machinery, we’ll be able to build microscopic-sized robots with programmable functions and send them to places that are otherwise impossible to reach, such as a cell or a hard-to-reach cancerous tumor.

Article preview thumbnail

Futurists have long speculated that nanotechnology — the engineering of materials and devices at…

Read more

In prior experiments, DNA robots demonstrated their ability to perform simple tasks, but this latest effort ramped up the level of complexity considerably, while also opening a path towards the development of general-purpose DNA robots.

“It is the first time that DNA robots were programmed to perform a cargo‐sorting task, but more important than the task itself, we showed how this seemingly complex task—and potentially many other tasks—that DNA robots can be programmed to do uses very simple and modular building blocks,” explained Qian in an email to Gizmodo. “This is also the first example showing multiple DNA robots collectively performing the same task.”

For the new study, the researchers designed a group of DNA robots that could collectively perform a predetermined task that had them walk along a test platform, locate a molecular cargo, and deliver it to a specific location. The bots were able to do this autonomously.

Conceptual illustration of the molecular-cargo delivery system. (Image: Ella Maru Studio)

Each robot, built from a single-stranded DNA molecule of just 53 nucleotides, was equipped with “legs” for walking and “arms” for picking up objects. The bots measured 20 nanometers tall, and their walking strides measured six nanometers long, where one nanometer is a billionth of a meter. For perspective, a human hair measures about 50,000 to 100,000 nanometers in diameter, so the scale we’re talking about here is ridiculously small.

For the cargo, the researchers used two types of molecules, each a distinct single-stranded piece of DNA. In tests, the researchers placed the cargo onto a random location along the surface of a two-dimensional origami (self-folding) DNA test platform. The walking DNA robots moved in parallel along this surface, hunting for their cargo.

To see if a robot successfully picked up and dropped off the right cargo at the right location, the researchers used two fluorescent dyes to distinguish the molecules. Scientists are not at the stage yet where they can program robots of this size to have built-in memory, so instead, the robots were designed to “match” their cargo.

“We designed specific drop‐off locations for each type of cargo: if the type matches, the drop‐off location will signal the robot to release the cargo; otherwise the robot will continue to walk around and search for another drop‐off location,” explained Qian. “You might think that the robot is not smart. But here is a key principle for building molecular machines: make individual molecules as simple as possible so they could function reliably in a complex biochemical environment, but take advantage of what a collection of molecules can do, where the smarts are distributed into different molecules.”

The researchers estimate that each DNA robot took around 300 steps to complete its task, or roughly ten times more than in previous efforts.

“We successfully programmed complex behavior in DNA robots and compartmentalized each task using DNA origami,” said Thubagere.

In experiments, 80 percent of cargo molecules were sorted, so there’s room for improvement. Qian and Thubagere hypothesize that not all molecules were correctly synthesized, or that some parts of the robot or testing platform were defective. Much more work needs to be done to figure this all out, and to test the DNA robots under different environmental conditions if we’re ever going to have these things working in our bodies. This new study offers a viable methodology for scientists to continue pursuing.

“The biggest implication that I hope the work will have is to inspire more researchers to develop modular, collective, and adaptive DNA robots for a diverse range of tasks, to truly understand the engineering principles for building artificial molecular machines, and make them as easily programmable as macroscopic robots,” said Qian.


from Gizmodo: Top

Sep 9, 2017

AI Can Detect Sexual Orientation Based On Person's Photo

ugen shares a report from CNBC: Artificial Intelligence (AI) can now accurately identify a person's sexual orientation by analyzing photos of their face, according to new research. The Stanford University study, which is set to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and was first reported in The Economist, found that machines had a far superior "gaydar" when compared to humans. Slashdot reader randomlygeneratename adds: Researchers built classifiers trained on photos from dating websites to predict the sexual orientation of users. The best classifier used logistic regression over features extracted from a VGG-Face conv-net. The latter was done to prevent overfitting to background, non-facial information. Classical facial feature extraction also worked with a slight drop in accuracy. From multiple photos, they achieved an accuracy of 91% for men and 83% for women (and 81% / 71% for a single photo). Humans were only able to get 61% and 54%, respectively. One caveat is the paper mentions it only used Caucasian faces. The paper went on to discuss how this capability can be an invasion of privacy, and conjectured that other types of personal information might be detectable from photos. The source paper can be found here.
Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

from Slashdot

Aug 26, 2017

Google expands its offline YouTube Go app to Indonesia

To refresh your memory, the beta version of YouTube Go launched in India in April. It essentially adds some clever compression tech to Google's popular service, making it easier to watch videos with poor connectivity. Users can save videos to watch offline, check the data demands for clips, and even share them over Bluetooth.

Google Assistant is also receiving a bunch of country-centric updates for Indonesia, via the Allo chat app. Users can now ask questions and get answers from the virtual assistant in Bahasa Indonesia. Similarly, the country will also be one of the first to get locally-tailored answers to questions about health on Google Search. These too will be in Bahasa. Additional features include tappable shortcuts on the Search mobile app, for topics like food and drink, movie showtimes, and directions.

Waze is getting a few nifty updates too. The app is adding a new routing feature, hands-free Bahasa voice commands, and navigation with street names. Users will also be able to record and use their own voice for directions. Oddly, there was no mention of Android Go: A special configuration of Android Oreo, designed to run on low-end smartphones. The OS highlights Google's apps aimed at bilingual users in underserved markets.

To ensure all these services won't go ignored, Google is committing to bolster Indonesia's online infrastructure. The Google Station initiative will work with local ISPs to install hundreds of Wi-FI hotspots in Java and Bali. Google also took the event to announce a number of training and humanitarian programs. You can get the low-down on all its updates via its blog.

from The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

Amazon will lose money on Whole Foods — but probably not for long

Sometimes giving up something in the short-term can yield a big reward in the long-term. That’s the idea behind many of Amazon’s businesses, and that’s particularly true of the recent Whole Foods deal.

Amazon’s purchase of the upscale Whole Foods grocery chain for $13.7 billion will go through on Monday, and already the online retailer has said prices will drop on certain organic staples starting then.

The news sent other grocery retailer stock prices tumbling. Walmart fell by 5 percent, Costco was down by 7 percent and Kroger plummeted a whopping 9 percent. Altogether, the three lost nearly $19 billion in market value the June day that Amazon announced the deal.

Like most other Amazon business services, the Everything Store stands to lose a good deal of money on the grocery chain. “This is going to be a money pit for them,” says Gene Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures and a former Amazon analyst at Piper Jaffray.

So why the acquisition? Because food sales haven’t really shifted online, and Amazon aims to change that. Sure, there are apps for meal delivery services. There’s also Instacart and even Amazon’s grocery delivery Amazon Fresh. But Munster argues the Whole Foods deal changes the game. “This is global domination theory,” he says. “That may take five years, but as the order density starts to increase it can scale.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter right now that Amazon is losing potential billions. For the first time, it will have a physical location in every well-heeled zip code in America. Combine that with its ability to run logistics at scale, and Amazon is betting that it will crush the competition and increase sales to a point where it starts turning a much larger profit later on.

You can bet that other groceries are taking a much harder look at their delivery and online purchase options as a result. Walmart has already introduced plans for a drone-deploying blimp to deliver items in specific locations and a drive-up option at its warehouses to make purchasing easier. (Amazon, you may recall, filed a patent for a similar drone-filled floating warehouse a year ago for the same purpose.) Many regional and local chains are also looking to speed deliveries by expanding their online services, including Albertson’s.

Not everyone is excited about the moves, unsurprisingly. President Trump has called Amazon a monopoly. A union representing grocery workers has also warned that the deal is a “threat to Whole Foods workers and their families,” and suggested these employees demand a commitment from Amazon that it not automate their jobs.

There’s seemingly little to stop it now, however. The Federal Trade Commission has blessed the deal, saying that following an investigation into the tie-up, it doesn’t think it will substantially lessen competition.

That’s a good thing, too, as far as Munster is concerned.  He sees lower prices, more selection, better experience and quicker delivery on everything you can imagine a pretty great proposition for customers —  especially because it’s one retailer who is providing all of it, not in spite of the fact.

“The beautiful thing about Amazon is that you have infinite choice,” Munster says. “The selection is 300 million-plus [products]. As long as the consumer experience is good, and choice is good, that’s what’s most important.”

from TechCrunch

Aug 16, 2017

$550 dock turns a smartphone into a medical lab

Retrofitting medical technology onto smartphones isn't anything new. We've already seen innovation in HIV testing and fertility tracking, for example. But researchers say the TRI analyzer boasts a wider spectrum of applications, and the relatively cheap, portable nature of the kit means it could have uses in other sectors such as animal health, food safety and environmental monitoring, as well as health diagnostics.

"Our TRI Analyzer is like the Swiss Army knife of biosensing," said Professor Brian Cunningham. "It's capable of performing the three most common types of tests in medical diagnostics, so in practice, thousands of already-developed tests could be adapted to it."

from The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

Aug 10, 2017

AssemblyAI wants to put customized speech recognition within reach of any developer

It’s clear that voice is becoming a major interface, as we witness the rise of the Amazon Echo, Google Home, Siri, Cortana and their ilk. We’re also seeing an increasing use of chat bots and other voice-driven tools, which often require speech recognition with a very specific vocabulary.

That’s where AssemblyAI, a member of the Summer ’17 Y Combinator class comes in. The startup is building an API that will help developers build customized chat interfaces quickly.

“We’re building an API for customized speech recognition. Developers use our API for transcribing phone calls or creating custom voice interfaces. We help them recognize an unlimited number of custom words without any training,” Dylan Fox, AssemblyAI’s founder told TechCrunch.

He says, most off-the-shelf speech recognition APIs are designed to be one size fits all. If you want to customize it, it gets really expensive. AssemblyAI hopes to change that.

When Fox was working at his previous job as an engineer at Cisco, he saw first-hand how difficult it was to create a speech recognition program with custom words. It usually involved a lot of engineering resources and took a long time. He came up with the idea of AssemblyAI as a way to make it easier, less costly and much faster. He added, that recent advancements in AI and machine learning have made it possible to do what his company is doing now.

It’s worth noting that the tool requires GPUs, rather than CPUs, for increased processing power because the task is so resource-intensive. Getting access to a sufficient number of GPUs to build and run the tasks has been a challenge for the three-person startup, but their affiliation with Y Combinator has helped in that regard. It’s also brand new tech, so they have to solve every problem they encounter on their own. There are no books to read or solutions to look up on Google. Right now the team consists of just three people, creating the tool, while trying to build a company.

Even though they are just three people, they believe user experience is going to be key to their success, so they have one team member fully devoted to developing the front end. They claim that no training is required to run the API. You just upload a list of terms or names and the API takes care of the rest.

Fox fully recognizes that it’s hard for startup to build a speech recognition tool without constantly worrying about the bigger companies swooping in and grabbing their market share, but he says his company is working hard to differentiate itself as a go-to tool for developers.

“As a smaller company focused on a speech recognition technology, we can provide a better experience [than the bigger companies].” He says that means paying attention to the little things that attract developers to a tool like better documentation, simpler integration and just making it easier to use overall.

So far the product is in private beta with several companies deploying it on GPUs in the cloud, but it’s early days. He says when the customers come, they will have to scale to meet those demands using additional cloud-based GPU resources. If it works as described, that shouldn’t be long now.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

from TechCrunch

Jul 27, 2017

Google launches its own AI Studio to foster machine intelligence startups

A new week brings a fresh Google initiative targeting AI startups. We started the month with the announcement of Gradient Ventures, Google’s on-balance sheet AI investment vehicle. Two days later we watched the finalists of Google Cloud’s machine learning competition pitch to a panel of top AI investors. And today, Google’s Launchpad is announcing a new hands-on Studio program to feed hungry AI startups the resources they need to get off the ground and scale.

The thesis is simple — not all startups are created the same. AI startups love data and struggle to get enough of it. They often have to go to market in phases, iterating as new data becomes available. And they typically have highly technical teams and a dearth of product talent. You get the picture.

The Launchpad Studio aims to address these needs head-on with specialized data sets, simulation tools and prototyping assistance. Another selling point of the Launchpad Studio is that startups accepted will have access to Google talent, including engineers, IP experts and product specialists.

“Launchpad, to date, operates in 40 countries around the world,” explains Roy Geva Glasberg, Google’s Global Lead for Accelerator efforts. “We have worked with over 10,000 startups and trained over 2,000 mentors globally.”

This core mentor base will serve as a recruiting pool for mentors that will assist the Studio. Barak Hachamov, board member for Launchpad, has been traveling around the world with Glasberg to identify new mentors for the program.

The idea of a startup studio isn’t new. It has been attempted a handful of times in recent years, but seems to have finally caught on with Andy Rubin’s Playground Global. Playground offers startups extensive services and access to top talent to dial-in products and compete with the largest of tech companies.

On the AI Studio front, Yoshua Bengio’s Element AI raised a $102 million Series A to create a similar program. Bengio, one of, if not the, most famous AI researchers, can help attract top machine learning talent to enable recruiting parity with top AI groups like Google’s DeepMind and Facebook’s FAIR. Launchpad Studio won’t have Bengio, but it will bring Peter Norvig, Dan Ariely, Yossi Matias and Chris DiBone to the table.

But unlike Playground’s $300 million accompanying venture capital arm and Element’s own coffers, Launchpad Studio doesn’t actually have any capital to deploy. On one hand, capital completes the package. On the other, I’ve never heard a good AI startup complain about not being able to raise funding.

Launchpad Studio sits on top of the Google Developer Launchpad network. The group has been operating an accelerator with global scale for some time now. Now on its fourth class of startups, the team has had time to flesh out its vision and build relationships with experts within Google to ease startup woes.

“Launchpad has positioned itself as the Google global program for startups,” asserts Glasberg. “It is the most scaleable tool Google has today to reach, empower, train and support startups globally.”

With all the resources in the world, Google’s biggest challenge with its Studio won’t be vision or execution — but this doesn’t guarantee everything will be smooth sailing. Between GV, Capital G, Gradient Ventures, GCP and Studio, entrepreneurs are going to have a lot of potential touch-points with the company.

On paper, Launchpad Studio is the Switzerland of Google’s programs. It doesn’t aim to make money or strengthen Google Cloud’s positioning. But from the perspective of founders, there’s bound to be some confusion. In an ideal world we will see a meeting of the minds between Launchpad’s Glasberg, Gradient’s Anna Patterson and GCP’s Sam O’Keefe.

The Launchpad Studio will be based in San Francisco, with additional operations in Tel Aviv and New York City. Eventually Toronto, London, Bangalore and Singapore will host events locally for AI founders.

Applications to the Studio are now open — if you’re interested you can apply here. The program itself is stage-agnostic, so there are no restrictions on size. Ideally early- and later-stage startups can learn from each other as they scale machine learning models to larger audiences.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin

from TechCrunch

Jul 16, 2017

The First Trailer for Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time Is Here, and It's Fantastic

The first trailer for Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved novel A Wrinkle in Time is finally here, and it’s everything we hoped it would be.

Young actress Storm Reid stars as Meg Murry, with an all-star cast of adult actors backing her up, including the cosmic trio of Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which, Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit, and Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Chris Pine play Meg’s parents, Dr. Kate Murry and the mysteriously-missing Dr. Alex Murry. Newcomer Deric McCabe plays Meg’s gifted little brother, Charles Wallace.

We’re so excited for this movie, we’re gonna overlook the fact that the trailer contains yet another use of an edgy remake of a familiar pop song as its background music. A Wrinkle in Time will be out March 9, 2018.

from Gizmodo: Top

Jul 15, 2017

Google’s life sciences unit is releasing 20 million bacteria-infected mosquitoes in Fresno

Verily, the life science’s arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet, has hatched a plan to release about 20 million lab-made, bacteria-infected mosquitos upon Fresno, California — and that’s a good thing!

You see, the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito is prevalent in the area. Earlier this year, a woman contracted the first confirmed case of Zika in Fresno through sexual contact with a partner who had been traveling. Now there’s the fear of most likely inevitable mosquito meets patient if we don’t do something about it. Verily’s plan, called the Debug Project, hopes to now wipe out this potential Zika-carrying mosquito population to prevent further infections.

Could messing with the mosquito population have some unforeseen disastrous consequences? Not likely. This particular mosquito species entered the area in 2013.

So what’s the plan to get rid of them? Verily’s male mosquitos were infected with the Wolbachia bacteria, which is harmless to humans but when they mate with and infect their female counterparts, it makes their eggs unable to produce offspring.

Bonus, male mosquitos don’t bite so Fresno residents won’t have to worry about itching more than they usually would.

No word from the company on how much something like this will cost, but Linus Upson, an engineer on the team releasing the mosquitos told MIT Technology Review the company planned to do something similar in Australia next.

“We want to show this can work in different kinds of environments,” he told the magazine.

Verily plans to release about 1 million mosquitos a week over a 20-week period in two 300 acre neighborhoods in the Fresno area — the largest U.S. release to date of mosquitos infected with the Wolbachia bacteria.

Those in the Fancher Creek neighborhood may notice a Verily van releasing healthy swarm of the little bugs throughout its streets starting today.

Featured Image: Department of Foreign Affairs/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

from TechCrunch

Jul 12, 2017

Google's new AI acquisition aims to fix developing world problems

As part of its continued push into the AI sector, Google has just revealed that it has purchased a new deep learning startup. The Indian-based Halli Labs are the latest addition to Google's Next Billion Users team, joining the world-leading tech comp...

from The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

Jul 5, 2017

Einride's self-driving truck looks like a giant freezer on wheels

The truck uses a hybrid driverless system. While on highways, the T-pod drives itself, but on main roads, a human will remotely manage the driving system. People will also monitor T-pods as they drive on highways in case a situation arises that necessitates human control. Einride is currently working on charging stations for the trucks.

Einride isn't the only company working on driverless shipping trucks. Waymo, Uber and Daimler are among the companies also developing similar vehicles. For shipping at larger scales, self-navigating and remote-controlled ships as well as massive drones are also in the works.

The T-pod prototype isn't fully developed quite yet, but Einride expects to have its first completed truck available to customers in the fall. By 2020, the company plans to have a fleet of 200 goofy-looking trucks that will travel between Swedish cities Gothenburg and Helsingborg, carrying an expected two million pallets per year.

from Engadget

Jun 28, 2017

Google unveils Advr, an experimental Area 120 project for advertising in VR

Google today is more formally taking the wraps off its internal incubator, Area 120, with the launch of a dedicated website, alongside the launch of one of the program’s more interesting projects to date: a way to advertise within VR. The new experiment, which is simply called Advr, involves a cube-like ad format which allows video ads to run in a 3D/VR environment.

Area 120 was launched at Google in March, 2016, as a way to retain entrepreneurial-minded talent at the company, as well as give teams the ability to test new ideas that could eventually become Google products, or be integrated with existing products.

That hasn’t happened yet, as the R&D program is still fairly new.

Much is already known about Area 120, whose name references a famous aspect of Google culture – allowing employees to work on passion projects on the side, using 20 percent of their time. It was often more an idea, than policy though.

Area 120, however, refocuses the concept into a more structured, formal program.

Google isn’t the only major tech giant to run its own internal incubator these days. Microsoft today has its Garage program; while Apple in 2012 tried something similar with Blue Sky.

Google’s Area 120 works a lot like a startup accelerator inside the company. Employees apply to the program during a set period, then Google selects a handful of teams to join. Each “class,” so to speak, has roughly 15 teams who work to prove out their ideas over the course of the next six months. During this time, the employees no longer work their day jobs – they exclusively focus on their Area 120 projects instead.

If projects are successful, Googlers will be allowed to continue to work on them; if not, they’re invited to return to work at Google, in a different role.

Two classes have already been invited into Area 120 since its launch, and Google is taking applications for its third now.

The program is so new that even Google itself doesn’t yet know what the fate of its Area 120 projects will be, or even, more broadly, if the program is worth the investment. It’s possible that some might actually become standalone Google products one day, or be merged with existing ones. Many more will likely be closed, after failing to find traction – as is common with startups, too.

Not all Area 120 projects are public-facing. Some are used internally, or only with select testers on an invite-only basis. Only a few have seen any media coverage. Of those available publicly, Uptime is the most promising. The app, which officially launched this month as the invite requirement was dropped, allows for a YouTube co-watching experience among friends.

Other Area 120 projects include personal stylist Tailor; learn to code app Grasshopper; emoji messenger Supersonic (which is closing down). There are also some projects that aren’t broadly available, like a job-matching service in Bangalore, and a yet-to-launch booking tool called Appointments. Google hasn’t promoted any of the projects until now, however.

But it’s giving Advr a push, with an announcement on the Google Developer blog today.

Advr: Video Advertising in VR

The new project is an experiment focused on figuring out if video ads could work in VR, and if so, how they would function.

The team has developed a plug-in for Unity that can show ads in VR environments. Explains the post, developers aren’t interested in disruptive or hard-to-implement ad experiences in VR, which is how the Advr team came up with the idea for a simple cube.

VR users can optionally engage with the cube either by tapping on it or gazing at it for a few seconds, which then pops open a video player to display the ad. The user can choose to watch the ad or close the player at this point.

The goal is to enable this functionality across a variety of VR platforms, including Google’s own Daydream, Cardboard, and Samsung’s Gear VR, for starters.

This launch doesn’t mean that Advr is how Google thinks advertising in VR should work, it’s just an idea at this point. But it’s not the only tech company with plans for this space – Adobe, too, has been developing VR ad solutions, as have several others.  If Advr were to be successful, though, it would be an example of an Area 120 project that could translate directly to Google’s bottom line.

Advr has already begun running tests with some VR game developers, but Google isn’t disclosing which ones. It is today inviting other VR developers to apply to try out the ad format through an invite-only program that will provide access to the early-stage SDK for Advr.

Interested developers can sign up here.

from TechCrunch

Jun 19, 2017

IKEA plans to improve AR shopping tools with help from Apple

In the first version, customers will take photos of their homes and use the app to place images of IKEA products wherever they might want them. Valdsgaard said users will be able to position products with millimeter precision and sizing of the products will be to scale. Eventually, customers may be able to try out products and then order them through the app.

The IKEA catalog app sort of lets you do this now, but not with much accuracy. In it, you can click on a piece of furniture and see it superimposed over whatever your camera is pointed towards. You can drag the furniture around and get an idea of what it might look like in your home and you can even use the app to make sure the size is accurate. But Valdsgaard says the new app will be better with the help of Apple's technology and experience with AR.

IKEA isn't the only retail company with AR shopping experiences. Both Lowe's and Pottery Barn have apps that let you get an idea of how furniture and appliances will look in your home. Lowe's even uses AR to help customers navigate their stores and VR to give lessons on how to successfully complete certain home improvement projects.

Valdsgaard says they would like to have the app available by the iOS 11 debut, but that it may not be possible. IKEA expects to have 500-600 products available on the app at launch.

from Engadget

Jun 18, 2017

Texas explicitly allows driverless car tests

All self-driving cars have to obey existing traffic laws and carry insurance. They also have to record video, and the manufacturer has to accept liability as long as the self-driving tech remains unmodified. These aren't exactly radical departures (many autonomous cars already have cameras, for one thing), but they establish a baseline. Critics are worried they're too lenient, however. There's no clear requirement that a human operator should be inside, and groups like AAA want a higher minimum insurance coverage than you'd see with conventional cars.

Even so, the new law is important. While it's not going to change minds at Waymo and other companies that were already inclined to test in Texas, it could encourage others to set up shop if they were previously skittish. And testing in Texas is particularly important -- numerous tech giants have offices in the state (particularly in the Austin area), and its warm climate makes it a good testing ground for vehicles that might not be ready to handle snowy roads.

from The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

Jun 15, 2017

This self-driving grocery store has no employees

In order to shop at Moby, you first have to download an app to your phone. That's what gets you through the door, which is otherwise kept locked. You then walk through the store -- which is very small, fitting a maximum of four people at once -- and place your purchases into a smart basket. When you're ready, you simply walk out the door. You're automatically charged for the food you purchased. It's a concept that Amazon has been working on, but Wheelys may beat the retail giant to market. What's more, the solar-powered Moby is designed to restock itself automatically, driving to a warehouse, while another identical unit takes its place.

While Wheelys is testing its first Moby store in the bustling city of Shanghai, these autonomous, unmanned stores could also prove very useful in small, rural towns where grocery shops have closed, as well as urban food deserts. "I grew up in the countryside in Northern Sweden," said Tomas Mazetti, one of Wheelys' founders, to Fast Company. "The last store closed there in the 1980s sometime, and after that, everyone just commuted into the city, but that takes an hour. A little piece of the village died. Now, suddenly, in a place like that, the village can team up and buy one of these stores. If the village is really small, [the store] can move around to different villages."

The company is hoping to make these mobile markets affordable for small groups of people. They estimate a community could purchase a Moby store for around $30,000, with an additional fee for logistical support. Eventually, the company wants to expand beyond groceries, as well as test the home delivery services.

from The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

May 25, 2017

The Library of Congress Makes 25 Million Records From Its Catalog Free to Download

Image by Carol Highsmith, via Wikimedia Commons

A quick fyi: According to Fortune, The Library of Congress announced that it “will make 25 million records from its catalog available for the public to download.” They add:

Prior to this, the records—which include books and serials, music and manuscripts, and maps and visual materials spanning from 1968 to 2014—have only been accessible through a paid subscription. These files will be available for free download on [the Library of Congress site] and are also available on

This move helps free up the library’s digital assets, allowing social scientists, data analysts, developers, statisticians and everyone else to work with the data “to enhance learning and the formation of new knowledge.” The huge data sets will be available here.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you’d like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

The Library of Congress Makes 25 Million Records From Its Catalog Free to Download is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

from Open Culture

May 11, 2017

Bill Wurtz' video presents history of the world in 20 minutes

Bill Wurtz is the guy who made a fantastically entertaining video history of Japan last year. In this video, he's taken on the slightly more ambitious task of presenting the history of the universe, beginning before the formation of matter and quickly focusing on a rapid fire lesson in world history. A+ work!

report this ad

from Boing Boing

May 5, 2017

Scientists have eliminated HIV in mice using CRISPR

An important breakthrough has been made in the eradication of AIDs. Scientists have found they can successfully snip out the HIV virus from mouse cells using CRISPR/Cas9 technology.

Right now patients with the deadly virus must use a toxic concoction of anti-retroviral medications to suppress the virus from replicating. However, CRISPR/Cas9 can be programmed to chop out any genetic code in the body with scissor-like precision, including all HIV-1 DNA within the body. And if you cut out the DNA, you stop the virus from being able to make copies of itself.

First published in the journal Molecular Therapy, the team is the first to show HIV can be completely annihilated from the body using CRISPR. And with impressive effect. After just one treatment, scientists were able to show the technique had successfully removed all traces of the infection within mouse organs and tissue.


However, it’s not a permanent solution and it’s still early days for the crew — the study merely builds on a previous proof-of-concept study they conducted last year and the technique has only been used on mice so far. But, should the scientists be able to replicate their findings, the technique could move to human trials in the future.

“The next stage would be to repeat the study in primates, a more suitable animal model where HIV infection induces disease, in order to further demonstrate elimination of HIV-1 DNA in latently infected T cells and other sanctuary sites for HIV-1, including brain cells,” said co-author of the study Dr. Khalili in a statement. “Our eventual goal is a clinical trial in human patients.”

Featured Image: Nick Harris/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

from TechCrunch

Apr 21, 2017

Elon Musk’s Neuralink wants to turn cloud-based AI into an extension of our brains

Elon Musk has been working on a Neuralink, a human-computer brain interface company, in whatever spare moments he has between running Tesla and also running SpaceX. Neuralink’s ultimate aim may actually be the most ambitious of all three of his companies, surprisingly, and a new exploration of the foundational ideas behind Neuralink on Wait But Why goes deep within what Musk hopes to achieve by creating better, higher-bandwidth connections between our brains and computers.

Musk has confirmed that he will indeed occupy the CEO role at Neuralink, which means he’ll be the CEO of three separate companies. But Neuralink’s goals definitely sound the most science fictional of all three of his ventures, which is saying something considering Musk’s SpaceX is all about making humans an intergalactic colonial species.

Basically, Musk seems to want to achieve a communications leap equivalent in impact to when humans came up with language – this proved an incredibly efficient way to convey thoughts socially at the time, but what Neuralink aims to do is increase that efficiency by multiple factors of magnitude. Person-to-person, Musk’s vision would enable direct “uncompressed” communication of concepts between people, instead of having to effectively “compress” your original thought by translating it into language, and then having the other party “decompress” the package you send them linguistically, which is always a lossy process.

Neuralink’s tech would also be able to help humans keep pace with the rapid advances in AI, and would achieve this by basically integrating AI with human consciousness. Neuralink’s tech would enable human use of AI as just an additional faculty – like our sense of selves or other higher in-brain thought faculties. Making it possible to connect with such high bandwith directly into the brain would allow us to integrate cloud-based AI computing within our selves in a way that’s indistinguishable from our core selves, Musk proposes, much like how most people would now find it difficult to separate their statements and expressions in language from the parts of the brain that generate them.

This tech is still far away from any kind of broad commercial application – maybe farther than a SpaceX trip to Mars. Musk says that it’s probably going to be at least “eight to 10 years” before tech the company produces can be used by someone without a disability. Neuralink is aiming to create therapeutic applications of its tech first, which will likely help as it seeks the necessary regulatory approvals for human trials.

Musk taking on a third CEO role is bound to raise eyebrows among his company’s investors, but Neuralink’s mission is in keeping with the aim of his other two companies: All three focus on solving problems that present what Musk would term existential threats – Neuralink’s agenda of countering AI not least among them.

Featured Image: Sebastian Kaulitzki/Shutterstock

from TechCrunch

Apr 20, 2017

Alphabet starts collecting health info to better predict disease

For one thing, Verily will sequence the genomes of all 10,000 subjects. That's no mean feat when it costs several thousand dollars per person, but it might help explain the genetic conditions that lead to certain illnesses. The firm also wants to analyze protein sets and the microscopic ecosystems inside the subjects' bodies. Participants will get results throughout the study, so they won't have to wait long to comb over their own data.

With that said, don't expect to hear about any insights for a while. Investigator Adrian Hernandez tells CNBC that it'll be "at least" 5 years before the knowledge from the study is useful to the public. Also, the research fields are still young enough that there's no guarantee they'll be useful to the healthier people in the study. In a sense, though, that's the point. Even if the information from healthy Baseline subjects doesn't turn up anything interesting, it'll tell scientists where to focus their research. And for Verily, this would tell it to shift its attention to its numerous other projects.

from Engadget

Apr 18, 2017

Chef Angela Dimayuga issues the perfect rejection of Ivanka Trump’s lifestyle brand

As she posted about on Instagram, Angela Dimayuga—the executive chef at Mission Chinese Food—was approached by a writer from Ivanka Trump’s website about doing an interview that spotlighted Dimayuga as a female entrepreneur. Dimayuga wrote this in response:

Hi Adi,

Thank you for thinking of me. I’m glad you are a fan of my work so much that you want to provide more visibility for my career to inspire “other working women.” However, I’m for women who actually empower other women.

I don’t believe that is truly “a non-political platform of empowerment for [women]”. So long as the name Trump is involved, it is political and frankly, an option for the business to make a profit.

I don’t see anything empowering about defunding Planned Parenthood, barring asylum from women refugees, rolling back safeguards for equal pay, and treating POC/LGBT and the communities that support these groups like second class citizens.

As a queer person of color and daughter of immigrant parents I am not interested in being profiled as an aspirational figure for those that support a brand and a President that slyly disparages female empowerment. Sharing my story with a brand and family that silences our same voices is futile.

Thank you for the consideration.

Dimayuga also spoke to Elle about her response, explaining, “People, especially in marginalized communities are feeling more encouraged to speak and have their voices and narratives heard, and we all want to hear from them. We are beginning to be both more willing to share with no bullshit, and at the same time learning how to be better listeners.” You can see Dimayuga's message if you click through the Instagram below:

[Photo: Ali Shaker/VOA]

from Boing Boing

Apr 13, 2017

Apple might have a secret team working on glucose sensor technology for diabetes

Apple has hired a group of biomedical researchers to work on a secret project to monitor diabetic patients using sensors, according to a CNBC report.

An estimated 371 million people have the disease worldwide and in the last few years, several tech companies have been trying to come up with better solutions to help those afflicted. Virta, a newly launched startup tackling type 2 diabetes that promises to completely cure patients by remotely monitoring behaviors. Livongo Health is another startup in the Bay Area that just raised $52.5 million to launch its blood sugar monitoring product.

Normally, patients monitor their glucose by pricking themselves to get a blood sample so not having to do that any more would be a real game-changer. One person told CNBC Apple is developing optical sensors that shine a light through the skin to measure glucose.

However, others have tried to come up with technology to bypass pricking before and it’s proven tough to do. Alphabet’s life science company Verily has also tried to take on the disease with a smart contact lens that measures blood glucose levels through the eye but some reports suggest the now three-year-old project isn’t going well.

But Apple’s project has been going on for at least five years, according to the report, and is now to the point where it’s ready to conduct feasibility trials. Apple has also reportedly hired consultants to help it jump through the inevitable regulatory hoops as well.

The team is said to be made up of Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware technologies and possibly 30 other people — at least a dozen of whom could have come from a frenzy of hires Apple made from the biomedical field, including companies like ZONARE, Vital Connect, Sano and Medtronic.

While we can’t confirm details of the project with Apple (we’ve reached out but have not heard back yet), it would fit well with one of the company’s earlier visions. Steve Jobs believed Apple would one day be at the intersection of technology and biology, according to Walter Isaacson’s biography of him. The Apple Watch is already there, counting steps, calories burned, taking our heart rate and other biological measures. Add on a sensor you can take with you wherever you go and able to detect glucose levels without drawing blood and you’ve officially transformed an entire industry.

Featured Image: Tetra Images/Getty Images

from TechCrunch