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5
May

Smart contact lenses: What’s the story so far?


Smart contact lenses are coming. They are the part-scary, part-exciting future tech that will bring augmented reality to the fore.

Imagine always having a way of overlaying images onto the real world and capture everything as you see it. Follow glowing blue roads when navigating as light is overlaid on reality, share a walk through a beautiful garden with a loved one over video, or read a restaurant’s menu from across the road just by looking at the place. All this could be possible with smart contact lenses.

At the moment plenty of companies are working on the technology to make this a reality. Google, Samsung and Sony are investing in the tech, for example. But where are we along that road to integration with humans?

We’ve rounded up all the advances so far in smart contact lens tech so you know what’s coming. This will be kept updated as new advances happen.

Google

Smart contact lenses: Google

The Google X team has been working on contact lenses, with Swiss drug maker Novartis, that will be able to detect blood glucose levels from your tears. This lens is medically focused, specifically for diabetics initially. There is another that will help focus vision.

The glucose lens will use miniaturised chips, sensors and hair-thin antenna to take measurements and transmit that data. Google is even working on LED lights that will notify a wearer of low blood sugar right in their field of view.

While these will be great for diabetics, who often have to prick themselves for blood to monitor glucose, the applications could go further. Anybody could use these lenses to monitor blood sugar as a way of maintaining healthy energy levels and even in dieting.

The other lens will work like a camera’s autofocus to help the wearer focus where that is an issue.

This project was announced in January 2014 at which point it had been underway for 18 months. Here’s hoping the lenses will become a reality soon.

Smart contact lenses: Samsung

Samsung is working on its own contact lenses, but these are focused on offering an augmented reality view of the world. A patent shows off what Samsung hopes to create in the future.

By incorporating cameras, motion sensors and transmitters these will be able to overlay information on the physical world. The lenses would work with a connected phone allowing users to take photos and overlay information onto the real world, like a menu outside a restaurant for example.

Gizmag

Smart contact lenses: Sony

Sony has also filed a patent for its own smart contact lens system. Similar to Samsung the plan here is to incorporate cameras in order to allow for image and video capture.

Sony talks less about augmented reality and focuses on the physical workings of the device. It points out that conscious blinking, which is held longer than normal, will be used to take photos or capture video.

These lenses will be powered wirelessly but feature hardware to not only capture but also store the footage locally. We like the idea of going for a run and taking photos without needing to bring a phone along.

Smart contact lenses: Ocumetrics Bionic Lens

The Ocumetrics Bionic Lens was created by Dr Garth Webb to enhance the vision of those that need it. Not only can these deliver 20/20 vision but could actually enhance that by up to three times – yup, zoom vision.

These lenses would need to be surgically inserted in an 8-minute operation. The result would be immediate vision correction and the wearer would never get cataracts as the lenses would never wear away. Trials need to be carried out first but the tech could be ready to go in just a few years.

Reuteurs

Smart contact lenses: LED contact lens

The big brains over at the University of Washington have managed to use a 3D quantum dot LED printer to create a contact lens with a display. While this is greater advancement than many, it’s still a very basic one-pixel display right now.

Thanks to the use of quantum dots, similar to those found in Samsung TVs, light can be achieved in very thin layers. This is done while drawing power wirelessly using an embedded antenna.

While this has been made it’s still very expensive and in a super simple state. But it’s a step in the right direction and that’s very exciting indeed.

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5
May

Long Reddit threads will eventually mention Nazis or Hitler


It’s logical that as any public discussion expands, either through the number of participants or contributions, there’s a greater chance it will touch upon new, divergent topics. This idea is neatly wrapped up in Godwin’s law, a concept created by Mike Godwin, which states that as any online debate grows longer, “the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” On Reddit, that’s especially true — in threads with more than 1,000 comments, the likelihood that “Nazis” or “Hitler” will be referenced at least once is more than 70 percent.

The statistic has been put forward by Curious Gnu, an anonymous blogger with a “passion for numbers.” Gnu pulled some Reddit data from the company’s public repository on Google BigQuery, before analysing 4.6 million comments to see which subreddits had the highest share of responses mentioning the two terms. Unsurprisingly, the top results were r/history and r/AskHistorians. r/european and r/italy also ranked high.

To make the analysis more interesting, Gnu then disregarded all history-related subreddits and examined the probability that any other thread would mention Nazis or Hitler. Below, you can see a graph outlining the probability that a thread will reference Hitler in at least one comment.

At 100 comments the probability sits at 10 percent, before steadily rising to 45 percent for threads with 901 to 1,000 comments. It then spikes to just over 70 percent for threads with 1,0001 to 2,000 comments, before climbing again to just under 80 percent for threads with up to 3,000 responses. Gnu admits, however, that these figures alone neither prove or disprove Godwin’s law. That’s because the original theory requires a “comparison” to the original term, which isn’t guaranteed with a mere mention of the word. Take, for instance, the phrase “grammar Nazi.”

Still, these figures lay bare the use of language in current internet culture, especially in the raw, passionate echo chamber that is Reddit.

Via: The Daily Dot, The Verge

Source: Curious Gnu

5
May

EU court upholds new rules that ban e-cigarette advertising


E-cigarettes received one of their biggest endorsements to date last week, with the UK’s Royal College of Physicians vouching for their safety and recommending smokers be encouraged to make the switch. Any celebrations within the vaping industry will have been short-lived, though, as yesterday the EU’s Court of Justice cleared new legislation that puts e-cigarettes under similar regulatory pressures as your traditional cancer sticks. Many of the rules are simply to ensure product quality, but the biggest blow to manufacturers will undoubtedly be a broad ban on advertising and other promotional activity.

The EU’s updated Tobacco Products Directive, which brings e-cigarettes under this strict regulatory umbrella for the first time, was drafted a couple of years ago. It was challenged, however, by several important players in the tobacco industry — the revised directive bans menthol flavorings and imposes other restrictions some aren’t happy with, you see — as well as the parent company of major UK e-cig retailer Totally Wicked. The Court of Justice yesterday dismissed all objections to the updated legislation, meaning it will come into force as is on May 20th, just a few weeks from now.

The rules set out minimum, common sense requirements for product safety. E-cigarettes and e-liquid refills must be child- and tamper-proof, for example, and vaporizers must deliver nicotine at consistent levels. When a company wants to release a new product, they have to inform EU countries six months prior to launch and provide documentation supporting their safety. In addition, the directive introduces limits on refill volumes and e-liquid strength — 10ml for bottles and 2ml for vaporizer-specific cartridges, with a maximum nicotine concentration of 20mg/ml.

Strict packaging requirements mean e-cigarettes and refills must communicate the addictive nature of nicotine, while elaborating on possible adverse effects and other health warnings via a leaflet inside the box. None of these rules should cause any problems for companies making safe and responsible products already, aside from an increase in paperwork. Where the directive really leaves its mark on the industry is through the outright banning of certain types of advertising.

Camel Advert

A recent report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unsurprisingly concluded that e-cigarette advertising is encouraging young people to vape. Under the new EU regulations, vape-related advertising in consumer publications (i.e. in print) or through TV/radio broadcasts is expressly forbidden. Furthermore, companies are prohibited from publicly or privately supporting events and people where the end goal is product promotion. Individual countries, however, are asked to make up their own minds on whether to ban more passive forms of marketing like billboard ads.

The EU Court of Justice’s decision to let the revised directive proceed hasn’t gone down too well with some interested parties. Totally Wicked, for one, has condemned the move, arguing that it subjects “e-cigarettes to more stringent regulation than some conventional tobacco products,” and undermines the potential health benefits for smokers.

It’ll be a while before we fully understand the long-term effects of vaping, and various publications paint conflicting pictures. On the one hand you have research claiming that vaping is 95 percent safer than smoking, and on the other, reports citing the danger of certain flavoring chemicals. Similarly, the World Health Organization isn’t sold on vaping being a healthy habit (much to the dismay of some doctors), while the UK is approving e-cigarettes for clinical use.

In any case, as far as the EU is concerned, if you want sell a product containing an addictive substance, then prepare to be regulated.

Images: Getty

Via: City A.M.

Source: EU Court of Justice, EU Tobacco Products Directive

5
May

‘Dangerous Golf’ swaps fairways for chaos on June 3rd


If you think golf sims are too gentile, Dangerous Golf trades hushed tones and sedate play for exploding golf balls and wanton destruction. The title is the debut from Three Fields Entertainment, a new company from the co-founders of Burnout developer Criterion Games. In a tweet, the company revealed that it will arrive June 3rd on the Xbox One, PS4 and Windows PCs.

For the latest videos of our first game #DangerousGolf coming June 3rd, pls subscribe https://t.co/S9M78a4xnT

— Official TFE (@3FieldsEnt) May 3, 2016

While the game appears to be pure anarchy, you do actually try to get a ball in a hole. But to maximize points, you need to also destroy things like champagne bottles, statues and dishes, or try to make Happy Gilmore-style trick shots. Instead of fairways and greens, you smash firebomb golf balls at “courses” like a medieval castle, gas station and kitchen. If none of this makes any sense, check out a pair of new gameplay videos and a trailer, below.



Via: Polygon

Source: Three Fields Entertainment (Twitter)

5
May

Windows 10 upgrades will cost $119 after July 29


If you’ve been dragging your heels on upgrading to Windows 10, now is the time to take action. Free upgrades to the new OS from previous versions of Windows will end on July 29, Microsoft reiterated today. The company initially said the offer would only last one year, and indeed that date marks Windows 10’s first anniversary. After July 29, you’ll have to shell out $119 to upgrade to Windows 10 Home (or to put it on a new device).

The free upgrade offer was a bold gambit for Microsoft — previously, nothing could get in the way of that tasty OS revenue. But, after Windows 8 failed to entice developers and consumers, the company needed to do something drastic. And it seems to have paid off: Microsoft says Windows 10 is now running on 300 million devices around the world (that’s up from 200 million in January). Among other notable stats, Cortana has answered more than 6 billion questions so far, and people have spent over 63 billion minutes in the Edge browser just in March.

I don’t blame you for being hesitant about upgrading. It’s generally paid off well to wait for Microsoft to squash out bugs and optimize its operating systems. But I found Windows 10 to be pretty solid at launch, and it’s only gotten better over the past year.

As I argued prior to Windows 10’s launch, the upgrade offer wasn’t just a smart way to get people running the latest OS, it was also a way to build up the overall Windows 10 ecosystem for developers. While there aren’t too many killer native apps for the platform yet, it’s certainly much more vibrant than what we saw around Windows 8.

Below, watch Microsoft’s Bryan Roper (who we’ve affectionately named Fedora Eminem) explain why you should upgrade:

Source: Microsoft

5
May

Netflix adds data-saving quality controls to its mobile apps


Back in March, Netflix revealed that it was working on a “data saver” feature for its mobile apps. Keeping its word, the streaming service announced today that the cellular data tool that allows users to adjust video quality to save data is available in its iOS and Android apps. In fact, we’re seeing the new feature in both Netflix apps here at Engadget HQ. By default, the software adjusts video quality to allow for about 3 hours of streaming per gigabyte of data. The company says that tests showed this to be the best balance of data use and quality when streaming over a cellular connection.

In addition to the default setting, there are options for low, medium and high quality streaming that allow for four hours, two hours and one hour of watching with 1GB of data. There’s also a setting for those with unlimited data plans, and if you don’t want to use any of that monthly allotment, you can opt to only stream movies and TV shows on WiFi. Netflix also offered the reminder that even if you choose higher quality in the app, your mobile service provider may place its own limits on bandwidth. Regardless of networks fiddling with quality, these new quality settings should help folks who enjoy an episode of House of Cards on the go, but regularly exceed their data caps.

5
May

Cops hacked the iPhone owned by ‘Shield’ actor’s murdered wife


It might not have gotten the same amount of press as the San Bernardino case, but authorities also hacked into the iPhone of Michael Jace’s wife with the help of an outside party. According to the court documents obtained by LA Times, the Los Angeles Police District has been trying to get into April Jace’s iPhone 5s since 2015. Michael Jace (Julien Lowe​ from The Shield) is accused of killing April, and investigators believe they argued via text before she was murdered.

April’s phone had a passcode lock, and as you probably know by now, a set number of incorrect attempts will wipe an iPhone clean. An LA judge apparently ordered an Apple technician to help cops figure out a way to crack the device open sometime in 2015. That didn’t seem to work, and for quite some time, the phone wouldn’t even switch on.

Authorities aren’t going after Apple again for this case, though, because they found someone else who could hack into the device, just like the San Bernardino investigators did. LA Times says the LAPD found a “forensic cellphone expert” on March 18th who managed to override the lock screen. The court documents didn’t mention whether the expert also exploited a flaw in the phone and its unidentified platform. If he did and authorities also paid for his services, they might keep that particular flaw a secret from Apple, as well. Let’s just hope it’s a vulnerability the tech titan already fixed.

Source: Los Angeles Times

5
May

It doesn’t matter who created Bitcoin


On Monday, Australian Craig Wright told journalists from the BBC, Economist and GQ that he created Bitcoin. He asserted that he was the figure behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto and presented Nakamoto’s own cryptographic keys as proof. He was supported by Gavin Andresen, the chief scientist at the Bitcoin foundation, who said that he verified these as “keys that only Satoshi could possess.” But no sooner had the news been made public than people begin to pick holes in the proof that Wright had provided. By Thursday, Wright had withdrawn his claim, saying he didn’t “have the courage” to prove he was Satoshi Nakamoto. In four days, he went from being the man behind Bitcoin to a scam artist on the hunt for a little glory.

What’s been going on

At some point in the recent past, Craig Wright, a 45-year-old computer scientist from Brisbane, approached those three publications. He met with them in London and had Gavin Andresen flown in to verify his claims — not that Andresen needed much convincing. In a blog post published to coincide with the news of Wright’s admission, Andresen says that even before then he was “reasonably certain” he was sitting next to the “father of Bitcoin.”

The cornerstone of Wright’s claim is that he had a key he claimed was dated to the earliest days of Bitcoin. The specific information was pulled from the first transaction made on the service between “Satoshi Nakamoto” and the late engineer Hal Finney. Jon Matonis, who helped set up the Bitcoin Foundation, was also involved in that London meeting to determine if Wright was indeed Nakamoto. He agreed, saying that he had “no doubt that Craig Steven Wright is the person behind the Bitcoin technology, Nakamoto consensus and the Satoshi Nakamoto name.”

Catching Wright was as simple as typing in all the characters from his key and “googling them to find them in the blockchain.”

As soon as the proof was published online, researchers in the wider Bitcoin community began to object. Security researcher Dan Kaminsky was one of the first to launch a broadside against Wright’s claims. He accuses the Australian of simply copying and pasting publicly available data onto his blog and passing it off as proof. For instance, the key that was taken from that initial Nakamoto-Finney transaction is a matter of public record. Security researcher Robert Graham has also labeled Wright’s attempt to come forward as the creator of Bitcoin as a “scam.” He adds that catching Wright was as simple as typing in all the characters from his key and “googling them to find them in the blockchain.”

Wright’s claims were treated with a Zapruder level of analysis by an internet determined to discover the truth. By early Wednesday, Wright said that he would post “a series of pieces” that would “lay the foundations for this extraordinary claim.” More importantly, he said he would transfer Bitcoins from an early block — a block that only Satoshi Nakamoto would be able to control. But while you’d think it would have been simple to drop a single “genesis block” Bitcoin to a journalist, Wright couldn’t.

But this wasn’t the first time that Wright had seen such scrutiny. Back in December, Wired and Gizmodo both published claims based on “leaked data” that Wright was the creator of Bitcoin. A few days later, Wired went back on its position, saying the information it had been supplied was false. It was even suggested that Wright might have orchestrated a series of “leaks” in order to fool people into believing he was Nakamoto. Motherboard added that the PGP keys that were supplied as proof of Wright’s legitimacy had been faked.

But by then, analysis of Wright’s biography painted him less as capable computer scientist and more as a fabulist. The Australian contacted the university where he claimed to have earned his Ph.D., which said he was actually still working on one. ZDNet spoke to SGI, a computing firm from which Wright claimed to have bought two machines, and the company went on the record saying it had never dealt with him. The Financial Times then noticed that several achievements he had previously boasted about on his LinkedIn profile had been erased.

A day later, Wright wiped his personal website from the internet, replacing it with a terse personal message (pictured above). He claims that as his “qualifications and character were attacked,” his resolve to establish the truth weakened. He added that he was “not strong enough for this,” and that he could only say that he was sorry, “and goodbye.” The missive reads less like a studied withdrawal and more like a high school-level cry for attention. But here’s the thing: None of this matters, because the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto never mattered.

Why does anyone care?

Bitcoin Founder-Denial

Everyone loves a mystery, and whenever someone tries to keep something private, others will look to expose it — especially journalists. That’s true here too, with some members of the tech press bent on “unmasking” the figure, or figures, behind Satoshi Nakamoto. The most egregious example is when Newsweek boldly claimed that Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto was his eponymous namesake. Unfortunately, even a cursory glance at Nakamoto’s history and background made it patently obvious that he wasn’t the guy. That didn’t stop a group of journalists from engaging in a low-speed car chase through the streets of LA to track down the unemployed, 65-year-old former stroke victim.

Some believe that knowing the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto is important because, without that knowledge, you can’t trust Bitcoin. The logic is that you can’t trust the cryptocurrency’s teleology unless you can understand its founder. There are also people who believe that the system could have been founded as a scam, or as a government project with as-yet undeclared nefarious aims. But that doesn’t make sense, since we know why Bitcoin exists and its goals and methods have been plain from the start.

Wei Dei is the author of “B-Money,” a paper whose ideas would later underpin Bitcoin. In the document, Dai explains that his desire is to create a currency that renders government “permanently forbidden and permanently unnecessary.” The crypto-anarchist philosophy he espouses effectively says that governments exist to protect property, but if algorithms can do that job, you don’t need government. During an Ask Me Anything session in 2014, Dei expanded on this point, saying that Bitcoin was built to serve people “who distrust flexible government monetary policies.” As for his feelings on who Nakamoto is, he says that “it doesn’t matter too much, except to satisfy people’s curiosity.”

If Bitcoin’s creator washes his hands of it, why should anyone else buy in?

Perhaps more important than the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto is what they intend to do with the technology. After all, the creator of the platform also mined the first Bitcoins, a volume of money known as the genesis block. There’s no concrete evidence as to the size of the genesis block, but at least one website has pegged it at around one million BTC. At current exchange rates, that’s worth around $448 million, but it would have been worth twice as much at the currency’s peak in late 2013.

The concern for people who are involved with the Bitcoin market is that Nakamoto has enough power to do a lot of damage to the currency. Were he to theoretically sell all of his coins at once, he would strike two very serious blows to its future. Firstly, it would cause a depression in the market value that could take years to recover from. Secondly, it would erode investor confidence in Bitcoin, since, after all, if its creator washes his hands of it, why should anyone else buy in?

Why this isn’t a big deal

Bitcoin

People believe that knowing where Bitcoin came from will help us to understand where it’s going, but that’s not really the case. The cryptocurrency has moved well beyond Satoshi Nakamoto and there’s now a vibrant community that develops and supports it. In fact, Bitcoin is a living, breathing entity that isn’t owned by a single person anymore, so having a creator figure to interact with isn’t that useful.

Despite a disproportionate amount of media coverage, not too many people actually use Bitcoin on a daily basis. At the start of 2016, it was reported that the system handles around 200,000 transactions each day. By comparison, PayPal processes 13.4 million transactions in the same period of time. There’s no indication that Bitcoin’s growth is going to suddenly explode this year. In fact, it’s just as likely that the currency is close to hitting its ceiling.

Bitcoin has also failed to convince people outside of its community that there’s any value in adopting it. Perhaps that’s because there isn’t when existing currencies offer stability, security and you don’t have to worry if your money will be accepted. In many ways, Bitcoin is for economics what homeopathy is for medicine: based on a historically discredited principle. If you aren’t so openly mistrustful of your government, or have any sort of appreciation for history, then it’s simply not worth using.

Bitcoin is for economics what homeopathy is for medicine: based on a historically discredited principle.

As we explained in our 2013 primer, Bitcoin is based on a variation of gold standard economics, required money be worth a set quantity of gold. The idea being that the value of an individual unit (Bitcoin or US Dollar) could never drop below that base minimum. But because scarcity increases value, gold standard economies offer perverse rewards for people not to spend money. Rather than driving investment and purchasing, it encourages its citizens to put cash in the bank and wait for it to appreciate in value.

That’s fine for small groups of investors, but not for the population at large, since it encourages a depression. That’s why FDR had to abandon the US gold standard in 1933, because it was holding back a boom. For some reason, Bitcoin’s advocates seem determined to repeat the mistakes of their forefathers. But if the history of the last two centuries has told us anything, it’s that Bitcoin’s success will be short lived, and no amount of information about its creator will change that.

Image Credits: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes (Dorian Nakamoto), AP Photo / Mark Lennihan (Inside Bitcoins)

5
May

Intel’s latest light show was the first FAA-approved drone swarm


The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) is hosting its annual event in New Orleans this week, and as part of the festivities, FAA administrator Michael Huerta made a few key announcements. First, Huerta revealed that the agency would relax regulations on who can fly drones. Students and instructors will no longer need a Section 333 exemption or other authorization to fly a UAV for “educational and research purposes.” As long those eager learners have to do is abide by the guidelines for using model aircraft, they’ll be in the clear.

Huerta also announced that the FAA was forming an advisory committee to lend a hand with “key unmanned aircraft integration issues.” While the agency has setup temporary panels to offer advice on drones, this group will be more permanent, and the so-called Drone Advisory Council will be led by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. As added extra for the announcement, Intel showed off the first FAA-approved drone swarm with a light show that featured a fleet of 100 tiny aircraft in California. What’s more, all of those machines were controlled by a single pilot. If that sounds familiar, Intel touted its world record for the most drones piloted by a single person back at CES. That record-setting demonstration was used for a light show as well.

Regulations for piloting drones aren’t just being relaxed for education. Huerta said revised rules for the general population this year, including changes to the guidelines for commercial flight as well. Those updates could include allowing a single pilot to fly a drone solo and the ability to take it above the current 400-foot ceiling to a max of 500 feet. Flying a drone will no longer require a full pilot’s license either, but instead those controlling the UAVs will have to pass a general aeronautical knowledge test every two years. The FAA announced last month that it’s also looking into rules that allow for flying drones over crowds, focusing on the weight of the aircraft and accident risks to determine those limits.

Via: The Verge

Source: FAA

5
May

Netflix Launches ‘Cellular Data Controls’ to Adjust Video Quality on Data-Capped Smartphones


Streaming company Netflix today introduced a new set of “cellular data controls” that will give its customers control over the quality of video streaming on cellular networks so as to avoid overcharge fees with data-capped plans. The launch follows an admission of throttling video by Netflix earlier in March, when the company also confirmed the data saver feature would debut in May.

According to Netflix, the default control setting will let users stream approximately 3 hours of TV and movies per gigabyte of data, which it determined as the sweet spot setting that “balances good video quality with lower data usage to help avoid exceeding data caps and incurring overage fees.” Of course, since the whole point is personal customization, the controls let users on higher data plans up the streaming quality at their will, and vice versa.

Netflix’s cellular data controls (left) and new 3D Touch Quick Actions (right)
The cellular data controls can be found in App Settings, with the various customizable controls available once you toggle off “Set Automatically.” From there users can choose Low (4 hours per GB), Medium (2 hours per GB), High (1 hour per GB), or Unlimited options for streaming video in the app. An alternative also exists to shut off cellular data playback completely — and only use Wi-Fi — within the menu.

In addition to the cellular controls, the 8.4.0 update to Netflix on the App Store also brings 3D Touch support for Quick Actions right from the Home screen, VoiceOver improvements to navigation, and various bug fixes. Those who have yet to do so can download Netflix from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Tag: Netflix
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