Tag: computers

Long Before Amazon Go, There Was Keedoozle

By Carl Engelking | January 23, 2018 12:38 pm
keedoozle

A customer turns her key at a Keedoozle. (via Afflictor)

Maslow’s motivational pyramid is but a house of cards if we don’t eat. And ever since we started shoving sustenance into our gullets, our species has devised means to do it faster—lest we beleaguer our journey to transcendence.

In 2011, a team of archaeologists working near Kenya’s Lake Turkana unearthed several stone tools in sediment that was 3.3 million years old; they were the oldest ever found. From this starting point chiseled from stone, the parabolic arc of meal-gathering technology—arrowheads, taming wheat, spears, domesticating goats, irrigation, barcode scanners—has traced a path squarely through the turnstiles of Amazon Go. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: computers, robots

Blockchain Technologies Could Help You Profit from Green Energy

By Srinivasan Keshav, University of Waterloo | January 8, 2018 1:04 pm
File 20180105 26154 1my86si.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Blockchain technologies could help homeowners sell their green electricity to their neighbors. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Imagine buying a solar panel from a hardware store, mounting it on your roof, then selling the green electricity you produce at a price you set.

Is this even possible? Some companies certainly think so. These startups are harnessing the power of blockchains to democratize green power.

Before you can understand how blockchains are part of the solution, you first need to know a few things about the green electricity market. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology, Top Posts

Is Your Computer Being ‘Cryptojacked’?

By Bill Buchanan, Edinburgh Napier University | December 20, 2017 12:42 pm
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What’s going on in your computer? (Credit: Shutterstock)

Nothing comes for free, especially online. Websites and apps that don’t charge you for their services are often collecting your data or bombarding you with advertising. Now some sites have found a new way to make money from you: using your computer to generate virtual currencies.

Several video streaming sites and the popular file sharing network The Pirate Bay have allegedly been “cryptojacking” their users’ computers in this way, as has the free WiFi provider in a Starbucks cafe in Argentina. Users may object to this, especially if it slows down their computers. But given how hard it is for most companies to make money from online advertising, it might be something we have to get used to – unless we want to start paying more for things. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts

We Should Toss That $450M da Vinci into a Particle Accelerator

By Carl Engelking | November 17, 2017 3:57 pm

mundi

A portrait of the world’s most recognizable person, Jesus Christ, painted by an icon whose renown doesn’t trail too far behind, Leonardo da Vinci, on Wednesday sold at auction for $450.3 million, setting a new record for artistic largesse.

Only a handful of authentic da Vinci paintings exist today, and Salvator Mundi is the only one that could still be purchased by a deep-pocketed collector. Christie’s Auction House billed the work as “The Last da Vinci,” “the holy grail of our business.” And on Wednesday a perfect storm of salesmanship, extreme scarcity, and legendary celebrity inflated the price to unprecedented levels. Salvator Mundi is now the golden standard of value by which all other paintings will be measured. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts

Emerging Editing Technologies Obscure the Line Between Real and Fake

By Nathaniel Scharping | May 17, 2017 3:15 pm
Jennifer in Paradise (Credit: John Knoll)

Jennifer in Paradise (Credit: John Knoll)

The image is modest, belying the historic import of the moment. A woman on a white sand beach gazes at a distant island as waves lap at her feet — the scene is titled simply “Jennifer in Paradise.”

This picture, snapped by an Industrial Light and Magic employee named John Knoll while on vacation in 1987, would become the first image to be scanned and digitally altered. When Photoshop was introduced by Adobe Systems three years later, the visual world would never be the same. Today, prepackaged tools allow nearly anyone to make a sunset pop, trim five pounds or just put celebrity faces on animals. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: computers

Archivists Want AI to Help Save, Analyze Everything Trump Says

By Carl Engelking | January 26, 2017 1:20 pm
shutterstock_353116925

(Credit: Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock)

A week hasn’t even passed since the inauguration, but television news is saturated with the flurry of activity from President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump, via Twitter, promised to launch an investigation into illegal voting and threatened to “send in the Feds” if Chicago police can’t fix the “carnage.” And that was just between Tuesday and Wednesday.

This heightened scrutiny compelled the Internet Archive, a repository of everything posted on the web, to launch its Trump Archive in early January. You, perhaps, digitally time-traveled with the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, or checked out free books, movies and software. The Trump Archive, which draws content from The Internet Archive’s TV News Archive, includes more than 520 hours of televised Trump speeches, interviews, debates and other broadcasts tracing back to 2009. It will continue to grow. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts

Why Our ‘Procrastinating’ Brains Still Outperform Computers

By Parashkev Nachev, UCL | October 21, 2016 3:56 pm
brains

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Automated financial trading machines can make complex decisions in a thousandth of a second. A human being making a choice – however simple – can never be faster than about one-fifth of a second. Our reaction times are not only slow but also remarkably variable, ranging over hundreds of milliseconds.

Is this because our brains are poorly designed, prone to random uncertainty – or “noise” in the electronic jargon? Measured in the laboratory, even the neurons of a fly are both fast and precise in their responses to external events, down to a few milliseconds. The sloppiness of our reaction times looks less like an accident than a built-in feature. The brain deliberately procrastinates, even if we ask it to do otherwise. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, Top Posts

What We’re Learning from the World’s Oldest Calculator

By Mike Edmunds, Cardiff University | July 21, 2016 2:58 pm
Antikythera mechanism

The Antikythera mechanism (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

When we talk of the history of computers, most of us will refer to the evolution of the modern digital desktop PC, charting the decades-long developments by the likes of Apple and Microsoft. What many don’t consider, however, is that computers have been around much longer. In fact, they date back millennia, to a time when they were analogue creations.

Today, the world’s oldest known “computer” is the Antikythera mechanism, a severely corroded bronze artifact which was found at the beginning of the 20th Century, in the remains of a shipwreck near the Mediterranean island of Antikythera. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the importance of the Antikythera mechanism was discovered, when radiography revealed that the device is in fact a complex mechanism of at least 30 gear wheels. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Technology, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: archaeology, computers

A Sneak Peek at the First Cyborg Olympics

By Caroline Barlott | June 22, 2016 7:30 am
cover-cybathlon

OPRA Osseointegratio, a Sweden, designed a surgically implanted prosthetic limb, which is in human trials. (Credit: ETH Zurich)

While working as a professor in the sensory-motor systems lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), Robert Riener noticed a need for assistive devices that would better meet the challenge of helping people with daily life. He knew there were solutions, but that it would require motivating developers to rise to the challenge.

So, Riener created Cybathlon, the first cyborg Olympics where teams from all over the world will participate in races on Oct. 8 in Zurich that will test how well their devices perform routine tasks. Teams will compete in six different categories that will push their assistive devices to the limit on courses developed carefully over three years by physicians, developers and the people who use the technology. Eighty teams have signed up so far.

Riener wants the event to emphasize how important it is for man and machine to work together—so participants will be called pilots rather than athletes, reflecting the role of the assistive technology.

“The goal is to push the development in the direction of technology that is capable of performing day-to-day tasks. And that way, there will an improvement in the future life of the person using the device,” says Riener.

Here’s a look at events that will be featured in the first cyborg Olympics.

Brain-Computer Interface Race

brain-computer-interface

A pilot plays a video game with a brain-computer interface during a Cybathlon rehearsal last year. (Credit: ETH Zurich)

A woman sits at a computer while wearing a cap that has several electrodes attached to her head, wires cascading down her back waves. She’s playing a video game, but instead of using her hands, she’s using only her thoughts to drive a brain-computer interface system.

During the Cybathlon, participants with complete or severely impaired motor function will use their thoughts to control an avatar in a racing video game. The winner will be the first to complete the race, maneuvering an avatar over obstacles and accelerating to the finish line. An algorithm will help determine which team’s interface performed the best. Brain-computer interface devices are a key technologies that will allow people to control future prostheses with their minds.

Functional Electrical Stimulation Bike Race

electric-stimulation

Electrodes placed on the outside of the legs stimulate the muscles, giving racers the leg-power they need during a bike race. (Credit: ETH Zurich)

Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) is a technique that sends electrical impulses to paralyzed individuals’ muscles to trigger movement. FES can help build muscle mass, increase blood circulation and and improve cardiovascular health. At Cybathlon, paralyzed bike racers will rely on FES to complete about five laps around a racetrack, equalling about 2,200 feet — first to the finish wins. Electrodes will deliver electrical stimulation to their muscles, giving them the leg-power to pedal their bikes. The pilots can actually control how much current they send to their muscles, so balancing speed and stamina will be key to winning the race.

Generally, electrodes are placed on a persons’s skin, but one team—the Center for Advanced Platform Technology from Cleveland—will surgically implant them closer to nerves where they can reach more fiber, reduce muscle fatigue and increase precision. Members of Team Cleveland developed implants — over the course of two decades — that allow a person with paraplegia to stand, perform leg lifts and take steps. For Cybathlon, they’ll adapt their system for bike riding.

Powered Arm Prosthesis Race

arm-prosthesis

The prosthetic arm from the M.A.S.S. Impact team. (Credit: ETH Zurich)

The powered arm prosthesis race will show just how important performing basic, daily tasks are to Riener. Pilots with arm amputations will need to carry a tray of breakfast items, for example, and then prepare a meal by opening a jar of jam, slicing bread and putting butter on the bread — tasks that are easy to take for granted. Pinning clothing on a clothes line and putting together a puzzle with pieces that will each require a different type of grip are also challenges in this event.

A prosthetic hand created by the M.A.S.S. Impact team from Simon Fraser University in Canada is a unique design that uses sensors and algorithms to recognize a grip pattern, and users  can control the bionic hand in small, precise movements. The system also generates computer models to improve function over time. Last year, organizers held a Cybathlon rehearsal last year, and Riener was especially impressed by OPRA Osseointegratio, a Swedish team that designed a surgically implanted hand controlled by a person voluntarily contracting his muscles. The technology is currently in human trials, and the team’s pilot is the first recipient.

Powered Leg Prosthesis Race

prosthetic-leg

Designing prostheses for lower limbs presents an entirely different set of challenges. Riener hopes to see prosthetic legs at the Cybathlon that can handle uneven terrain, which has been a challenge in the past. During the leg prosthesis race, pilots will compete on parallel tracks through obstacle courses laden with beams, stones, stairs and slopes. Right now, only the most advanced prostheses can handle these challenges — many are heavy and aren’t powerful enough.

Team Össur will bring four different prosthetic legs to the competition. Riener says this team in particular is making incredible advancements in the field. He’s particularly impressed with their commercially available motorized knee prosthesis, as he says it’s more robust and reliable than many past devices. The team is also entering a powered leg prosthesis that is an upgrade to the powered knee and is still a prototype stage; it uses motorized joints to help achieve a natural gait.

Powered Exoskeleton Race

(Credit: ETH Zurich)

(Credit: ETH Zurich)

Exoskeletons are worn around the legs to help those with paraplegia walk or even climb stairs. While they’ve been used by physiotherapists in hospitals to improve the health of patients with paralyzed legs, Riener says many designs are still bulky and difficult to use on a daily basis. There are about six companies around the world with exoskeletons on the market, and more prototypes are being developed in research labs around the world.

The Cybathlon exoskeleton event will include tasks that are particularly difficult for people using this technology to accomplish, such as stepping over stones and walking up a slope.

“With these challenges, we’re hoping to see more lifelike exoskeletons with more movability,” says Riener.

Powered Wheelchair Race

(Credit: ETH Zurich)

(Credit: ETH Zurich)

Those who use wheelchairs encounter challenges that other people might take for granted. Riener is excited to see how powered wheelchairs are evolving, getting smaller and more capable—in some cases even climbing stairs.

“At Cybathlon, they will have to fit beneath a table, go up a steep ramp, open a door and then close it again, and go down a steep ramp,” says Riener.

Scewo, a team from ETH Zurich developed a wheelchair that balances on two wheels like a Segway and can use a chain to climb up stairs or steep ramps.

While some of the teams are entering technology that is already on the market, Riener is especially excited to see new innovations that have been created from scratch, specifically for Cybathlon.

“It’s exciting to reach a large audience to talk about issues related to people with disabilities,” he says.

Artificial Intelligence Just Mastered Go, But One Game Still Gives AI Trouble

By Carl Engelking | January 27, 2016 12:54 pm
go-board-game-artificial-intelligence

(Credit: Saran Poroong/Shutterstock)

Go is a two-player board game that originated in China more than 2,500 years ago. The rules are simple, but Go is widely considered the most difficult strategy game to master. For artificial intelligence researchers, building an algorithm that could take down a Go world champion represents the holy grail of achievements.

Well, consider the holy grail found. A team of researchers led by Google DeepMind researchers David Silver and Demis Hassabis designed an algorithm, called AlphaGo, which in October 2015 handily defeated back-to-back-to-back European Go champion Fan Hui five games to zero. And as a side note, AlphaGo won 494 out of 495 games played against existing Go computer programs prior to its match with Hui — AlphaGo even spotted inferior programs four free moves.

“It’s fair to say that this is five to 10 years ahead of what people were expecting, even experts in the field,” Hassabis said in a news conference Tuesday. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: computers
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