Apple Developing Smart Glasses

Apple Inc. is weighing an expansion into digital glasses, a risky but potentially lucrative area of wearable computing, according to people familiar with the matter.

While still in an exploration phase, the device would connect wirelessly to iPhones, show images and other information in the wearer’s field of vision, and may use augmented reality, the people said. They asked not to be identified speaking about a secret project.

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Apple has talked about its glasses project with potential suppliers, according to people familiar with those discussions. The company has ordered small quantities of near-eye displays from one supplier for testing, the people said. Apple hasn’t ordered enough components so far to indicate imminent mass-production, one of the people added.

Should Apple ultimately decide to proceed with the device, it would be introduced in 2018 at the earliest, another person said. The Cupertino, California-based company tests many different products and is known to pivot, pause, or cancel projects without disclosing them. Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller declined to comment.

apple-conference-wwdc-2014-ceo-tim-cookChief Executive Officer Tim Cook is under pressure to deliver new products amid slowing sales of the iPhone, which accounts for two-thirds of Apple’s revenue. In July, he expressed enthusiasm for augmented reality after the rise of Pokemon Go, a location-based game that uses the technology. AR, as it’s known, adds images and other digital information to people’s view of the real world, while virtual reality completely surrounds them with a computer-generated environment.

The glasses may be Apple’s first hardware product targeted directly at AR, one of the people said. Cook has beefed up AR capabilities through acquisitions. In 2013, Apple bought PrimeSense, which developed motion-sensing technology in Microsoft Corp.’s Kinect gaming system. Purchases of software startups in the field, Metaio Inc. and Flyby Media Inc., followed in 2015 and 2016.

“AR can be really great, and we have been and continue to invest a lot in this,” Cook said in a July 26 conference call with analysts. “We are high on AR for the long run. We think there are great things for customers and a great commercial opportunity.”

Apple has AR patents for things like street view in mapping apps. It was also awarded patents for smart glasses that make use of full-fledged virtual reality. Apple is unlikely to leverage VR in a mass-consumer product, Cook suggested in October.

“I can’t imagine everyone in here getting in an enclosed VR experience while you’re sitting in here with me, but I could imagine everyone in here in an AR experience right now,” he said during an onstage discussion in Utah.

Apple’s challenge is fitting all the technology needed into a useful pair of internet-connected glasses that are small and sleek enough for regular people to wear.

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Google’s attempt to develop internet-connected eye wear flopped in part because its tiny battery ran out quickly. Google Glass, as it was called, also suffered a privacy backlash and poor public perception of its external design.

After that disappointment, technology companies largely turned their immediate focus to VR and away from AR. Google recently introduced a VR headset alongside its Pixel smartphone, and Facebook Inc.’s Oculus VR unit has teamed up with Samsung Electronics Co. on a similar headset. Microsoft has the most public AR offering. Its HoloLens product shows holographic images in a user’s field of vision.

Apple’s effort may be more difficult because the chips, batteries and other components that will be available in a year or two may still not be small enough and powerful enough to build slim glasses capable of handling compelling AR experiences.

However, given time, technical challenges may play to Apple’s strengths. The company specializes in turning technology that others have struggled with into easy-to-use devices for the masses. For example, Apple simplified fingerprint technology into an unlocking mechanism for the iPhone and took touch screens mainstream with the original iPhone.

Augmented reality “is going to take a while, because there are some really hard technology challenges there, but it will happen in a big way, and we will wonder when it does, how we ever lived without it,” Cook said last month. “Like we wonder how we lived without our phone today.”

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NASA Radar Saves 4 Trapped In Nepal Earthquake Rubble

1243272571879157424After the recent earthquake hit, rescuers in the village of Chautara got two prototype units of the device called FINDER, or Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response. The core of the device is a system that bounces microwaves around to “see.” Crucially, it can discern faint heartbeats and breaths in people buried under several feet of rubble.

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In this case, FINDER was apparently able to detect the heartbeats of two men each in two different collapsed buildings. The men had been trapped for days, under as much as 10 feet of rubble.

Read The Entire NASA Press Release 

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Large Hadron Collider Restarted

The Large Hadron Collider has restarted, with protons circling the machine’s 27km tunnel for the first time since 2013.

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Particle beams have now travelled in both directions, inside parallel pipes, at a whisker below the speed of light.

Actual collisions will not begin for at least another month, but they will take place with nearly double the energy the LHC reached during its first run.

Scientists hope to glimpse a “new physics” beyond the Standard Model.

Rolf Heuer, the director-general of Cern, which operates the LHC, told engineers and scientists at the lab: “Congratulations. Thank you very much everyone… now the hard work starts”.

Cern’s director for accelerators and technology, Frédérick Bordry, said: “After two years of effort, the LHC is in great shape.

“But the most important step is still to come when we increase the energy of the beams to new record levels.”

The beams have arrived a week or so later than originally scheduled, due to a now-resolved electrical fault.

The protons are injected at a relatively low energy to begin with. But over the coming months, engineers hope to gradually increase the beams’ energy to 13 trillion electronvolts: double what it was during the LHC’s first operating run.

After 08:30 GMT, engineers began threading the proton beam through each section of the enormous circle, one-by-one, before completing multiple full turns. It was later joined by the second beam, in parallel.

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The experiment teams have already detected “splashes” of particles, which occur when stray protons hit one of the shutters used to keep the beam on-track. If this happens in part of the pipe near one of the experiments, the detectors can pick up some of the debris.

“It’s fantastic to see it going so well after two years and such a major overhaul of the LHC,” said Prof Heuer.

“I am delighted and so is everyone in the Cern control centre – as are, I’m sure, colleagues across the high-energy physics community.”

Big unknowns

Physicists are frustrated by the existing Standard Model of particle physics. It describes 17 subatomic particles, including 12 building blocks of matter and 5 “force carriers” – the last of which, the Higgs boson, was finally detected by the LHC in 2012.

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Teams are also watching the cross-section of the proton beam

Prof Tara Shears, from the University of Liverpool, works on one of the LHC’s four big experiments that will soon recommence their work, slamming protons together and quantifying the fallout.

“Of course in every particle physics experiment we’ve ever done, we’ve been wanting to make a big, unknown discovery,” Prof Shears told BBC News.

“But now it’s become particularly pressing, because with Run One and the discovery of the Higgs, we’ve discovered everything that our existing theory predicts.”

In order to explain several baffling properties of the universe, things beyond the Standard Model have been proposed – but never directly detected.

These include dark energy, the all-pervading force suggested to account for the universe expanding faster and faster. And dark matter – the “web” that holds all visible matter in place, and would explain why galaxies spin much faster than they should, based on what we can see.

Read More of The Original Story | 

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Advantages of Dyslexia

With reading difficulties can come other cognitive strengths

“There are three types of mathematicians, those who can count and those who can’t. It may at first seem ironic that a difficulty can lead to an advantage, but it makes sense when you realize that what we call “advantages” and “disadvantages” have meaning only in the context of the task that needs to be performed.”

Bad joke? You bet. But what makes this amusing is that the joke is triggered by our perception of a paradox, a breakdown in mathematical logic that activates regions of the brain located in the right prefrontal cortex. These regions are sensitive to the perception of causality and alert us to situations that are suspect or fishy — possible sources of danger where a situation just doesn’t seem to add up. 

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Many of the famous etchings by the artist M.C. Escher activate a similar response because they depict scenes that violate causality. His famous “Waterfall” shows a water wheel powered by water pouring down from a wooden flume. The water turns the wheel, and is redirected uphill back to the mouth of the flume, where it can once again pour over the wheel, in an endless cycle.  The drawing shows us a situation that violates pretty much every law of physics on the books, and our brain perceives this logical oddity as amusing — a visual joke.

The trick that makes Escher’s drawings intriguing is a geometric construction psychologists refer to as an “impossible figure,” a line-form suggesting a three-dimensional object that could never exist in our experience. Psychologists, including a team led by Catya von Károlyi of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, have used such figures to study human cognition. When the team asked people to pick out impossible figures from similarly drawn illustrations that did not violate causality, they were surprised to discover that some people were faster at this than others. And most surprising of all, among those who were the fastest were those with dyslexia.

Dyslexia is often called a “learning disability.” And it can indeed present learning challenges. Although its effects vary widely, children with dyslexia read so slowly that it would typically take them a half a year to read the same number of words other children might read in a day. Therefore, the fact that people who read so slowly were so adept at picking out the impossible figures was a big surprise to the researchers. After all, why would people who are slow in reading be fast at responding to visual representations of causal reasoning?

Though the psychologists may have been surprised, many of the people with dyslexia I speak with are not. In our laboratory at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics we have carried out studies funded by the National Science Foundation to investigate talents for science among those with dyslexia. The dyslexic scientist Christopher Tonkin described to me his sense of this as a sensitivity to “things out of place.”  He’s easily bothered by the weeds among the flowers in his garden, and he felt that this sensitivity for visual anomalies was something he built on in his career as a professional scientist.  Such differences in sensitivity for causal perception may explain why people like Carole Greider and Baruj Benacerraf have been able to perform Nobel prize-winning science despite lifelong challenges with dyslexia.

In one study, we tested professional astrophysicists with and without dyslexia for their abilities to spot the simulated graphical signature in a spectrum characteristic of a black hole. The scientists with dyslexia —perhaps sensitive to the weeds among the flowers— were better at picking out the black holes from the noise, an advantage useful in their careers. Another study in our laboratory compared the abilities of college students with and without dyslexia for memorizing blurry-looking images resembling x-rays. Again, those with dyslexia showed an advantage, an advantage in that can be useful in science or medicine. 

Why are there advantages in dyslexia?  Is it something about the brains of people with dyslexia that predisposes them to causal thinking? Or, is it a form of compensation, differences in the brain that occur because people with dyslexia read less? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is unknown.

One thing we do know for sure is that reading changes the structure of the brain. An avid reader might read for an hour or more a day, day in and day out for years on end. This highly specialized repetitive training, requiring an unnaturally precise, split-second control over eye movements, can quickly restructure the visual system so as to make some pathways more efficient than the others.

When illiterate adults were taught to read, an imaging study led by Stanislas Dehaene in France showed that changes occurred in the brain as reading was acquired. But, as these adults developed skills for reading, they also lost their former abilities to process certain types of visual information, such as the ability to determine when an object is the mirror image of another.  Learning to read therefore comes at a cost, and the ability to carry out certain types of visual processing are lost when people learn to read. This would suggest that the visual strengths in dyslexia are simply an artifact of differences in reading experience, a trade-off that occurs as a consequence of poor reading in dyslexia.

A series of studies by an Italian team led by Andrea Facoetti have shown that children with dyslexia often exhibit impairments in visual attention. In one study, Facoetti’s team measured visual attention in 82 preschool children who had not yet been taught to read. The researchers then waited a few years until these children finished second grade, and then examined how well each child had learned reading. They found that those who had difficulty focusing their visual attention in preschool had more difficulty learning to read.

These studies raise the possibility that visual attention deficits, present from a very early age, are responsible for the reading challenges that are characteristic of dyslexia. If this theory is upheld, it would also suggest that the observed advantages are not an incidental byproduct of experience with reading, but are instead the result of differences in the brain that were likely present from birth.

If this is indeed the case, given that attention affects perception in very general ways, any number of advantages should emerge.  While people with dyslexia may tend to miss details in their environment that require an attentional focus, they would be expected to be better at noticing things that are distributed more broadly.  To put this another way, while typical readers may tend to miss the forest because it’s view is blocked by all the trees, people with dyslexia may see things more holistically, and miss the trees, but see the forest.

Among other advantages observed, Gadi Geiger and his colleagues at MIT found that people with dyslexia can distribute their attention far more broadly than do typical readers, successfully identifying letters flashed simultaneously in the center and the periphery for spacings that were much further apart. They also showed that such advantages are not just for things that are visual, but that they apply to sounds as well. In one study, simulating the sounds of a cocktail party, they found that people with dyslexia were able to pick out more words spoken by voices widely-distributed in the room, compared with people who were proficient readers.

Whether or not observations of such advantages —measured in the laboratory— have applications to talents in real life remains an open question. But, whatever the reason, a clear trend is beginning to emerge: People with dyslexia may exhibit strengths for seeing the big picture (both literally and figuratively) others tend to miss.  Thomas G. West has long argued that out-of-the-box thinking is historically part and parcel of dyslexia, and more recently physicians Brock and Fernette Eide have advanced similar arguments. Sociologists, such as Julie Logan of the Cass Business School in London agree.  Logan found that dyslexia is relatively common among business entrepreneurs; people who tend to think differently and see the big picture in thinking creatively about a business.

Whatever the mechanism, one thing is clear: dyslexia is associated with differences in visual abilities, and these differences can be an advantage in many circumstances, such as those that occur in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In physics we know that an engine is capable of productive work only when there are differences in temperature, hot versus cold. It’s only when everything is all the same that nothing productive can get done. Neurological differences similarly drive the engine of society, to create the contrasts between hot and cold that lead to productive work. Impairments in one area can lead to advantages in others, and it is these differences that drive progress in many fields, including science and math. After all, there are probably many more than three kinds of mathematicians, and society needs them all.

It is suggested that one reason people with dyslexia may exhibit visual talents is that they have difficulty managing visual attention⁠. It may at first seem ironic that a difficulty can lead to an advantage, but it makes sense when you realize that what we call “advantages” and “disadvantages” have meaning only in the context of the task that needs to be performed.

For example, imagine you’re looking to hire a talented security guard. This person’s job will be to spot things that look odd and out of place, and call the police when something suspicious —say, an unexpected footprint in a flowerbed— is spotted. If this is the person’s task, would you rather hire a person who is an excellent reader, who has the ability to focus deeply and get lost in the text, or would you rather hire a person who is sensitive to changes in their visual environment, who is less apt to focus and block out the world?

Tasks such as reading require an ability to focus your attention on the words as your eyes scan a sentence, to quickly and accurately shift your attention in sequence from one word to the next.  But, to be a good security guard you need an opposite skill; you need to be able to be alert to everything all at once, and though this isn’t helpful for reading, this can lead to talents in other areas. If the task is to find the logical flaw in an impossible figure, then this can be done more quickly if you can distribute your attention everywhere on the figure all at once. If you tend to focus on the visual detail, to examine every piece of the figure in sequence, it could take you longer to determine whether these parts add up to the whole, and you would be at a disadvantage.

 

 

Republish with permission by Scientific American / Matthew H. Schneps

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FASTCO | Why Weird People Are Often More Creative

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Yet again, I am encouraged & stunned (a bit) by the clever-eye of a remarkable writer for Fast Company. Drake Baer is doing the leg work to solidify his place as a taste-maker & insightful investigative journalist. Bravo!  |  Read The Full FastCo Story From Drake Baer 

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