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2
Apr

How the brain vibrates may determine the severity of a concussion


Researchers may have uncovered some really useful information about what goes on in the brain during a concussion. Getting that kind of information is pretty difficult since it’s not exactly practical to image a brain while sustaining an injury and not exactly ethical to introduce an injury to a living person for the purpose of study. But with the help of some computer modeling and head impact data collected from special mouthguards worn by football players, the researchers found that injury is more likely to occur when separate parts of the brain vibrate at different frequencies.

In a previous experiment, the researchers collected head impact data from football players using mouthguards outfitted with accelerometers and gyroscopes. For this study, they used data from 189 head collisions, two of which resulted in a concussion, and simulated how the brain moved during each of those hits. They found that in a typical hit that didn’t result in an injury, the brain wobbled back and forth about 30 times per second and the whole brain did so fairly uniformly. But with more intense impacts, the simulations showed that some parts of the brain vibrated differently than other parts, and when that happened, it put a lot of added strain on brain cells.

Notably, the team found that in one of the concussion cases, which resulted in the player temporarily losing consciousness, a part of the brain called the corpus callosum that connects the right and left hemispheres vibrated more quickly than other areas surrounding it. That difference in vibration can cause the tissue to stretch and strain and could explain some of the effects of a concussion.

There are some limitations. There were few concussion cases included in the study and the simulations are largely based on measurements taken from cadaver experiments, not living people. The researchers further note that there are some errors in the mouthguard measurements. But it’s definitely a start, and with more research, these sorts of findings could help inform better helmet design and treatment strategy.

The research was recently published in Physical Review Letters.

Via: Stanford University

Source: Physical Review Letters

2
Apr

ESPN’s standalone sports streaming service launches April 12th


We already knew Disney was planning to debut its standalone ESPN streaming service this spring and how much it would cost, but now we know exactly when it will arrive. The network announced today that its ESPN+ subscription will debut April 12th. On that date, you can expect to tap into a library of sports content that includes live event coverage, ESPN originals and on-demand options for $5 a month.

The new streaming service will be integrated into the ESPN app — much like WatchESPN already is for cable subscribers. The networks says the ESPN+ subscription will offer access to live coverage of games and events from MLB, NHL, MLS, colleges sports, boxing, PGA golf, tennis and more. Tucking all of that into the ESPN app most followers of the network area already familiar with means easy access as well. As you might expect, ESPN+ will also be available on the web through ESPN.com.

ESPN’s struggles to cope with the cord-cutting movement are well documented, and the network (and its parent company Disney) is looking to this standalone option to draw sports fans back in. $5 a month is certainly an attractive price point for the service, so we’ll have to wait and see if the hordes of viewers who dropped their cable plan are ready to add live sports back into their streaming regimen. Disney also has big plans for a streaming service of its own slated to launch in 2019. No word on pricing for that one just yet, but CEO Bob Iger has already said we can expect it to be cheaper than Netflix.

Source: ESPN

2
Apr

The ISS will replace its 17-year-old printer this week


The printer model aboard the ISS is seventeen years old and more than ready for a replacement. And this afternoon, it’s finally going to be getting one. The HP Envy ISS will be heading to the International Space Station aboard the CRS-14 mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket this afternoon. The rocket is scheduled to lift off at 4:08 PM ET from Cape Canaveral. You can watch a live stream here:

In order to design a printer that would work in zero gravity, including paper management and waste ink management. The plastic on the printer had to be flame retardant and it had to be able to print in multiple orientations. But thanks to 3D printing, HP was able to develop the Envy ISS, based on the OfficeJet 5740, which fulfilled all the zero-g requirements.

The denizens of the space station go through about two reams of paper per month, printing out everything from mission critical information to personal letters and photographs. Astronauts aboard the ISS have begun to receive new HP ZBook workstations — 120 will be launched in total — and now they’ll have two brand new printers to match.

2
Apr

Google equips school buses with WiFi for homework in rural areas


When you’re a rural student, the ride to school can easily take an hour or two. That’s a lot of lost time that could be better spent doing homework or studying for tests. Google, however, is determined to put that lengthy commute to good use: it’s formally launching Rolling Study Halls, or school buses equipped with WiFi, computers and on-bus educators to help rural students with work beyond school hours. The official program will expand on two pilots in the Carolinas to include 16 extra school districts, starting now with the Deer Trail district in Colorado. If all goes well, Google will have reclaimed about 1.5 million hours for “thousands” of students by the end of the school year.

Google notes that schools will set the policies for the onboard access, so they can limit kids to class-related sites. The company isn’t alone in this endeavor, either, as it’s enlisting the help of both school networking non-profit CoSN as well as low-income broadband provider Kajeet.

There’s no question that Google stands to benefit from the program: this gets Chromebooks in front of students who might only ever see them in the classroom, if at all. At the same time, though, it should level the playing field for rural kids who had to either cut into greatly limited free time or suffer academically. There’s evidence it can work — a study of the South Carolina pilot showed that students were more likely to be digitally literate and complete homework, and were less likely to face discipline. While there’s no guarantee that will translate to other schools, it bodes well for the expanded program.

Source: Google for Education

2
Apr

Alexa’s latest trick is voice-activated charitable donations


Amazon’s efforts to make charitable giving easier now extend to Alexa. The shopping juggernaut has partnered with some 40 organizations so that next time you’re feeling generous, all you have to do is say “Alexa, make a donation to Detroit Achievement Academy” within earshot of the digital assistant. The initiative also supports Doctors Without Borders, Feeding America, ProPublica, St. Jude’s and others. As you might expect, funds come from your Amazon payment account.

Of course, Amazon has made easy work of donations before with its Smile campaign. We’ve also seen unofficial Dash buttons for ACLU donations. For the full list of participating charities, check out the source link below.

Source: Amazon

2
Apr

Privacy groups ask tech companies to sign user data ‘security pledge’


A number of organizations including the ACLU, Fight for the Future and Color of Change have called on tech companies to sign a pledge and commit to protecting their users’ data. The move comes as repercussions of the Cambridge Analytica scandal continue to unfold. “Technology can empower and grant freedoms to us all, but now our online data is empowering data brokers, ISPs, surveillance companies and runaway government agencies to discriminate, exploit and limit our freedoms,” says the Security Pledge website. “Companies and governments can exploit the massive troves of data companies have on people and weak links in internet security. They can twist the internet into something it was never meant to be: a weapon against the public.”

The Security Pledge organizations are asking tech companies to abide by five principles including limiting the data they collect to that which they actually need for their business, protecting the data they do collect and resisting improper government access to that data. Additionally, the pledge asks companies to give users much more control over their data than they’ve typically had in the past. “Guarantee that users have an easy and free way to download all the data you have about them in a usable format,” says the website. “Allow users to delete their entire account and permanently eliminate their data from your servers if they choose to.”

And lastly, the pledge asks companies to be aware that algorithms aren’t unbiased by default and to do everything they can to ensure that communities that are often discriminated against are protected by their policies. “Do not collect information that is vulnerable to misuse, including information about your customers’ and employees’ immigration status, political views, national origin, nationality or religion, unless required by law or strictly necessary for the service your provide,” says the pledge.

“It’s time that companies take steps to ensure that using their products doesn’t mean that users have to sacrifice their rights,” Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU legislative counsel, said in a statement. “The way companies treat data can affect whether you are wrongly excluded from job or housing ads because of your gender, targeted for dubious financial products or have your security compromised. Many companies have for too long ignored their obligation to treat data responsibly, prevent information from being used to discriminate, and provide users’ full control over how it is handled.”

No companies have signed the pledge as of yet, but the Security Pledge website includes a list of firms these principles would be relevant to as well as their user reach. “This is a watershed moment for the internet,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, “Millions of people now understand how their data can be weaponized and used against them, and they are demanding change. Cambridge Analytica is just the tip of the iceberg, and this problem doesn’t begin and end with Facebook. If the largest tech companies take the steps outlined in the security pledge, it will change the course of human history for the better, and protect billions of people’s basic rights.”

Source: SecurityPledge.com

2
Apr

Facebook’s redesigned VR avatars look more like you


The avatars in Facebook’s social VR environment, Spaces, could use some work: they have a flat, cartoonish look, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that really reflects your look. Accordingly, Facebook is giving these avatars a makeover. The new designs are much more three-dimensional (they’re somewhat reminiscent of The Sims) with more realistic lighting and materials, and they now offer “hundreds” of additional customizations. You can finally adjust your body type, for starters. You’ll also find new head shapes, hair styles and facial features, and you can fine-tune these features in an editor.

The avatars should have more “lifelike” motion, too.

These personas should reach Spaces sometime this week. They’re probably not going to reel you into Spaces if you weren’t already interested in the concept, but they might help if you were mostly put off by the surreal look or lack of representation. VR is about immersion, after all, and even a slight boost in realism could make Spaces more enticing.

The progression of Facebook's Spaces avatars

Source: Facebook

2
Apr

Grindr reportedly shared HIV statuses with other companies


Grindr’s privacy issues may extend beyond access to data with a login. BuzzFeed News and Norwegian non-profit SINTEF report that Grindr has been sharing its users’ HIV statuses (including their last test date) with two app optimization companies, Apptimize and Localytics. As that data is attached to info like email addresses, GPS info and phone IDs, it’s possible for an intruder to link specific people (beyond just their public profiles) to their health info.

SINTEF also found that Grindr was giving ad companies an extensive range of data that users might not want to share outside of the app, including their gay subculture, relationship status and precise GPS locations. Some of this info was shared in plain text, too, making it relatively easy to swipe.

We’ve asked Grindr for comment. In a statement to BuzzFeed, CTO Scott Chen said the company was following “standard practices” for sharing app data and that the company doesn’t sell info to third parties. Apptimize and Localytics are under “strict contractual terms” that won’t let them share data, Chen added.

The problem, however, isn’t the trustworthiness of the companies — it’s that Grindr is putting sensitive information on servers it doesn’t control. Users may be willing to make their HIV statuses public, but that doesn’t mean they want to share those statuses with corporate partners, no matter how above-board those partners may be. Also, spreading that information to other companies increases the number of attack points for hackers. People are already anxious about data sharing in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the company collected Facebook friends’ info without consent; they might not be pleased at sharing medical info with a wider circle than their would-be partners.

Via: BuzzFeed News

Source: SINTEF (GitHub)

2
Apr

Skydio R1 review: The ultimate follow-me drone comes at a price


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In a park, perched on San Francisco’s east bay, I set down Skydio’s R1 drone, open an app on my phone, click “launch” and do something I would normally never do. I walk straight under a tree, knowing full well that the R1 will follow me and that the branches are directly in its flight path; I am trying to make it crash. I fail. I repeat this task a few more times, even with the drone flying backward but, try as I might, the R1 slips right under (and sometimes over) the tree’s canopy. I am doing nothing but walking, no controller or phone in my hand; the R1 is figuring this all out by itself.

Should I be surprised at this? In theory, no. When drone new-comer Skydio recently revealed the self-flying R1 ($2,499), the main selling point was its superior ability to follow a target, and avoid obstacles at speed. But drones have offered various versions of follow-and-avoid for a while, and in my experience, none has really nailed it. Hence my surprise at how deftly the R1 avoided Californian topiary, right out of the box.

Skydio describes the R1 as a “self-flying camera.” It’s not unusual for companies to emphasize the photography component over the drone itself. But, perhaps for the first time, Skydio is doing itself a disservice. Yes, the R1’s primary function is to record video (up to 4K) of you living your best life, but the exciting part is the drone itself. It’s equal parts terrifying and exciting to watch the R1 duck and dive sign posts, benches and tree cover. Trying to fool this thing became a game. A game that the R1 usually won.

The drone is an unusual beast. The body is long and slim with little in the way of detail beyond a few camera lenses pointing up and down; a USB-C charging port; and the primary camera on the front (on a two-axis gimbal). The customary four propellers are surrounded by a prop-guard, which can’t be removed (for good reason — it houses all the cameras that the R1 uses to see). This means the R1 cuts a weird shape. It’s flat (1.5 inches tall), but wide (13 by 16 inches). It’s about the size of a large pizza box. So, it’s not the most portable device, even though Skydio claims you can put it in a backpack (it’d be a tight squeeze).

After the basic “tree” test, I decided to up the ante. Could the R1 keep up with me on an electric skateboard? Skydio is pitching the R1 at the action sport crowd, after all.

Even though the R1 “flies itself” you do have some control. Using the mobile app, you can move the drone up and down or toward and away from you (which the app confusingly calls “zoom”). You can also yaw (spin on its central axis) to tweak what’s in the frame and pan the camera up or down. Once it detects people, the app identifies them with a crosshairs icon which you tap to designate who you want to follow.

From the app, you can also choose different tracking modes, all of which are fairly self-explanatory: follow, lead, side, orbit and tripod. The latter has the R1 remain put, but rotate to keep the moving subject in frame — ideal for in the middle of a wakeboard circuit or skatepark. You can change these modes mid-flight too, and the R1 seamlessly switches over.

On the electric skateboard, I tried “side” mode, so that I could capture the bay and the San Francisco skyline behind me as I moved. I was riding on a rough path, so getting good speed was difficult, but at around 13 mph, the R1 was doing a good job of keeping up, battling the bay breeze, leaning into the wind sideways. It was only when I spotted a signpost in its path (to the drone, sideways on) that I realized how much it was having to do. The signpost came, and the R1 gently moved up and over it without any fuss.

With my confidence in the R1 growing, I figured orbit mode was about as big a test as you could throw at it. This means, not only does the R1 have to track me, and move around me in a circle, it also has to keep track of obstacles as it goes, and move up and down as the path I’m riding on undulates. I don’t want to gush, but it was pretty impressive to watch this thing go, forcing itself (once more, against the wind), to rotate in front of me, then behind, then back again, while I rode down the path.

As tricky as all that was, the area I rode in was fairly open, barring some signs and a bank of grass. How would it fare through a trail totally covered in trees? It turns out, once again, surprisingly well. As I walked into the overgrown tunnel, the R1 took it all in its stride and cut a safe line through all the trees. This is something a DJI Mavic could theoretically do, but in my experience, such a confined space tends to trigger its sensors and stop it in its tracks.

The whole experience wasn’t perfect, though. Once or twice in my testing, I managed to outpace the R1 (top speed: 25 mph), or at the least outpace the camera, as it lost track of me, resulting in the drone coming to a standstill. It only took me walking back into the frame for it to pick me up again, but it is possible for it to lose you.

Also, the battery life — a modest 16 minutes — could be a limiting factor depending on what you’re doing. That’s the max you can hope for, too. In my case, San Francisco’s power-sapping breeze didn’t help. The main challenge is that when the battery runs out, the R1 just stops and touches down. So, depending where it is, the landing might be a little hairy. One time it ran out while mid “orbit,” it took me a while to realize what was going on (I thought it lost sight of me at first), but it made a relatively safe landing without issue.

Normally having a drone fly itself gives me the willies, even when I can take over the controls. With the R1, reclaiming control isn’t that simple, but I never once felt I had to, and I quickly gained faith in its ability to spot and avoid obstacles.

Another surprise with the R1 is how simple it is to use. I’ve flown several video drones (DJI, AirDog, Yuneec, Karma etcetera), and they all require some degree of learning or oversight. Whether it’s confusing apps, or too many controls to master, it’s often a little too easy to miss your shot, or worse, not record anything at all.

The R1 addresses most of this by whittling the controls down to basically nothing. It starts recording the moment you take off, there’s a built-in 64GB hard drive (good for about an hour and a half of 4K, over four hours at FHD/30 video), so you never have to worry about forgetting the memory card. (The downside: you can forget to clear space on it beforehand.) The R1 comes with two batteries, so you’re looking at about 30 minutes of 4K per outing, so you only need to remember to delete files every three sessions or so.

Navigating the app is a breeze. Once you’ve gone through the initial setup and tutorial videos, everything’s pretty much on one screen. This is where you’ll find virtual controls for moving the R1 around in the air, and flight mode options. And… that’s largely it. Like I said, the camera starts recording at take off, stops when it lands. After that, the app offers up the chance to create a quick, lower-resolution clip (or pull a still frame/photo) to share on social media directly. (Otherwise, you need to connect the drone to a PC to transfer the files later.)

A post shared by James Trew (@thatstrew) on Mar 12, 2018 at 2:14pm PDT

The more I flew the R1, the more I enjoyed it. The simplicity, combined with the clever technology conspire to make a truly user-friendly experience. The image quality from the camera is on par with what you’d expect from a GoPro (but with less fish-eye by default). The only real problem is the price.

For the $2,499 that Skydio is asking, you could buy three DJI Mavic Airs, or even a combo or Mavic Air and Mavic Pro Platinum, and still possibly have some money left over. For budding aerial videographers, that would give you more features and more flexibility (the R1 can capture establishing shots, but it’s limited in control). The narrower focus of the R1 and its higher price will make is a hard sell for most consumers; something more for the heli-ski crowd.

Skydio assures me that the R1 will actually get more features over time via updates. This is good news, and I’m excited to see what’s in the pipeline (and if that changes the value proposition), but for now it’s still a steep entry point that even Skydio admits is better suited to athletes and professional content creators/

And that’s a shame. Skydio has created something that pushes self-flying drones forward. A drone that can truly navigate on its own, at speed and that’s incredibly simple to use. For the action-sports crowd, this is about the best thing on the market right now, if you can afford it. If not, let’s hope that Skydio is able to sell enough to scale its operation to the point where it can take on DJI, even if it’s still at a premium. We need more competition in the skies, and right now (from the US, at least) and Skydio clearly has the technology, but can it win over buyers?

2
Apr

Apple Maps Now Widely Supports Transit Navigation in Ohio, Maryland, Arkansas, and West Virginia


Apple Maps now supports navigation with public transportation in most metropolitan areas of Ohio, Maryland, Arkansas, and West Virginia.

By selecting the Transit tab in Apple Maps on iPhone, iPad, or Mac, users in each state can now access bus and train routes where available, complete with arrival and departure times, service advisories, and other detailed information.

The statewide expansions build upon the feature’s availability in larger cities. Apple Maps users in Ohio, for example, can now navigate with transit in the Dayton, Toledo, and Akron areas, joining Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus.

Additional supported areas include Little Rock in Arkansas, Frederick in Maryland, and Charleston in West Virginia.

Apple Maps has aggressively expanded its transit-supported cities over the past two months to include St. Louis, Missouri; Richmond, Virginia; Norfolk, Virginia; Tucson, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Orlando, Florida; and Columbia, Charleston, and Greenville in South Carolina.

When the feature launched in 2015, it was initially limited to Baltimore, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Sydney, Toronto, and around 300 cities in China.

A complete list of supported cities can be found on Apple’s iOS Feature Availability page. A reliable tipster has informed MacRumors that Charlotte, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Wichita, Indianapolis, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Brunswick, and Portland, Maine are candidates for the feature’s continued rollout this month.

Tag: Apple Maps
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