Author Archive

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More and more people read articles on their smartphones, using their work commute on a train or a visit to their doctor’s waiting room to catch up on the latest news. But with so much reading on tiny mobile devices, a readers’ vision might begin get a little strained.

A new app called Wibbitz lets your eyes take a break from text by creating quick video summaries that combine the biggest facts in the article with easily recognizable images. For 60-120 seconds, a robotic voice reads the article’s text aloud while showing related images and key phrases. The app uses “advanced text analysis and smart algorithms,” as the official website states, creating easy-to-digest summaries for those uninterested in plowing through large blocks of text.

The app, launched by Zohar Dayan and Yotam Cohen, is currently only available for the iPhone. It contains a ‘top news’ category and a ‘market overview’ — information on the stock market — and allows you specify your own news categories. The app also allows you to choose from certain news outlets, organized by topics such as entertainment, sports, gossip, U.S. and technology.

“Our text-to-video technology is based on advanced NLP and machine learning as well as some artificial intelligence components,” Dayan told Mashable in an email.

“Our main goal is to understand the true essence of a story so we can visualize it in the most accurate way… We patented our technology and today we have the most scalable solution for automatically producing videos. Each video takes us just 5 seconds to create and we’re currently algorithmically generating more than 10,000 videos each day, without any human intervention.”

On the social media front, if you like a certain video summary, you can share it with others through Facebook, Twitter and email. You can also invite friends to use the app from Facebook or your address book.

The app, though, seems to falter in some areas. We found Mashable listed under the technology category and decided to see what would happen if we picked an article published earlier that day.

Courtesy – Mashable

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A $500 “nano-camera” that can operate at the speed of light has been developed by researchers in the MIT Media Lab.

The three-dimensional camera, which was presented last week at Siggraph Asia in Hong Kong, could be used in medical imaging and collision-avoidance detectors for cars, and to improve the accuracy of motion tracking and gesture-recognition devices used in interactive gaming.

The camera is based on “Time of Flight” technology like that used in Microsoft’s recently launched second-generation Kinect device, in which the location of objects is calculated by how long it takes a light signal to reflect off a surface and return to the sensor. However, unlike existing devices based on this technology, the new camera is not fooled by rain, fog, or even translucent objects, says co-author Achuta Kadambi, a graduate student at MIT.

“Using the current state of the art, such as the new Kinect, you cannot capture translucent objects in 3-D,” Kadambi says. “That is because the light that bounces off the transparent object and the background smear into one pixel on the camera. Using our technique you can generate 3-D models of translucent or near-transparent objects.”

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The three-dimensional camera, which was presented last week at Siggraph Asia in Hong Kong, could be used in medical imaging and collision-avoidance detectors for cars, and to improve the accuracy of motion tracking and gesture-recognition devices used in interactive gaming.

The camera is based on “Time of Flight” technology like that used in Microsoft’s recently launched second-generation Kinect device, in which the location of objects is calculated by how long it takes a light signal to reflect off a surface and return to the sensor. However, unlike existing devices based on this technology, the new camera is not fooled by rain, fog, or even translucent objects, says co-author Achuta Kadambi, a graduate student at MIT.

“Using the current state of the art, such as the new Kinect, you cannot capture translucent objects in 3-D,” Kadambi says. “That is because the light that bounces off the transparent object and the background smear into one pixel on the camera. Using our technique you can generate 3-D models of translucent or near-transparent objects.”

In a conventional Time of Flight camera, a light signal is fired at a scene, where it bounces off an object and returns to strike the pixel. Since the speed of light is known, it is then simple for the camera to calculate the distance the signal has travelled and therefore the depth of the object it has been reflected from.

Unfortunately though, changing environmental conditions, semitransparent surfaces, edges, or motion all create multiple reflections that mix with the original signal and return to the camera, making it difficult to determine which is the correct measurement.

Instead, the new device uses an encoding technique commonly used in the telecommunications industry to calculate the distance a signal has travelled, says Ramesh Raskar, an associate professor of media arts and sciences and leader of the Camera Culture group within the Media Lab, who developed the method alongside Kadambi, Refael Whyte, Ayush Bhandari, and Christopher Barsi at MIT and Adrian Dorrington and Lee Streeter from the University of Waikato in New Zealand.

“We use a new method that allows us to encode information in time,” Raskar says. “So when the data comes back, we can do calculations that are very common in the telecommunications world, to estimate different distances from the single signal.”

The idea is similar to existing techniques that clear blurring in photographs, says Bhandari, a graduate student in the Media Lab. “People with shaky hands tend to take blurry photographs with their cellphones because several shifted versions of the scene smear together,” Bhandari says. “By placing some assumptions on the model — for example that much of this blurring was caused by a jittery hand — the image can be unsmeared to produce a sharper picture.”

Courtesy – MIT

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Beware, Pocket and Instapaper: the folks at Facebook HQ are testing a feature that encroaches upon your “save-for-later” territory. This new function currently appears for some mobile users as an iBook bookmark-esque button next to status updates with links, although it actually saves the content of the link itself. You can access every saved link via a new menu (with a telltale name) under the Apps section. Before you get too excited for the feature, know that this is the second time Facebook’s given it a spin — the first iteration tested last year, however, archived status updates instead. If the save-for-later function does make it to everyone’s accounts, though, we wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook addicts remain even more glued to their screens.

Courtesy – Engadget

‘Keyboard’ Teaches Kids Computer Science

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Launched by Digital Dream Labs, the cloudBoard Kickstarter project introduces an interactive video game accessory for the kindergarten crowd.

The startup, based in Pittsburgh, consists of five members with a mission to create educational children’s games. Its first product, the cloudBoard, is a board game-video game hybrid, aimed at children aged 4-12. It teaches complex concepts via plastic blocks, which in turn control a video game character.

The blocks themselves are so versatile they can represent almost anything, whether musical notes or atoms in a molecule. This has allowed Digital Dream Labs to create several games for the board already, covering complicated concepts like chemistry and engineering.

With the cloudBoard, players map out a route for their characters using the tiles on the board, before watching the character complete it. This theoretically results in higher-level brain functioning, by connecting an abstract concept to the real world through hands-on learning.

Peter Kinney, cofounder of Digital Dream Labs, says the beauty of the cloudBoard is breaking the child’s focus from what’s happening on the screen. “Having a physical piece that you can hold in your hands also engages more of your mind and gives you a way to relate complicated subjects to something you already understand, which is the basis of hands-on learning,” Kinney says.

The game emphasizes logical choices, rather than cultivating gaming “skillsets.” Players with the most dexterous fingers won’t necessarily do better; gameplay is actually an integral part of the lesson itself.

Digital Dream Labs has worked to create several games for the cloudBoard already. They developed the first, Cork the Volcano, pictured below, alongside the board itself.

Courtesy – Mashable

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Samsung has announced the launch of Galaxy Grand 2, a 5.25-inch smartphone which — like its predecessor, the Galaxy Grand — can best be described as a mid-range smartphone with a large screen.

The HSPA+ device has a 1280×720 TFT screen, a quad-core, 1.2GHz processor, 1.5GB of RAM memory plus 8GB of storage memory, expandable via microSD cards, and an 8-megapixel camera.

The Grand 2′s dimensions are 146.8 x 75.3 x 8.9 mm and 163g in weight, accomodating for a large, 2,600 mAh battery. It comes with Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) and dual-SIM slots.

The Galaxy Grand 2 will be available in black, white and pink. The price and exact date of availability have not been revealed.

Courtesy – Mashable

Ring Watch

Product name: Ring Clock
Price: $195 on Indiegogo
Who would like this?: Early adopters, technophiles, people who run late and hate watches

Move over wristwatch, there’s a new time-teller in town and it doesn’t need a fancy “smart” interface to attract techies. Meet the Ring Clock, a watch for your digits that is nothing –- absolutely nothing –- like the ring watches you wore and subsequently abhorred in middle school.

The trend from the early ’00s has gotten a major overhaul, and the result is something that feels akin to a gadget James Bond might wear. And that’s just the feeling you get before you watch the opening to the video.

Using a wirelessly charging battery and LED lights, the Ring Clock displays the time when you rotate the ring, lighting up three different rows that represent the hour, minute and each second as it passes by. Each turn on the device lights up the time for up to a minute.

The gadget is water-resistant, so you don’t have to take it off when you wash your hands — though showering, swimming, snorkeling or submerging the device in water for long periods of time are not recommended. Much like high-quality wristwatches, the Ring Clock is made of stainless steel, is allergy free and won’t oxidize or turn black.

You’ll get up to a week’s worth of lifetime from one full charge (assuming 15 activations per day) or two hours of constant use. Charging time takes at most two hours, and the charger itself looks akin to a mini UFO.

The ring was first designed by Gusztav Szikszai for a challenge hosted by CGSociety.org called Moving Innovation. The goal was to create a product that couldn’t exist at the time, but could ten years from then, with the right technological innovations. After photos of the product leaked online, Szikszai was flooded with inquireis about where to purchase the device, and he set up an Indiegogo for the project. On that platform, the team raised more than $100,000 over the original monetary goal, and the Ring Clock became a reality.

Courtesy – Mashable

1. Download Attachments to Google Drive
A major change, new Gmail revamped its attachment UI. Instead of downloading attachments to your desktop’s Downloads folder — and honestly, who knows what you’ve lost in that mess — you now have the option to save everything straight to Google Drive. You can even send the download to a specific folder within Drive.

2. A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Action
Another change to the Gmail interface is the new action buttons feature. These buttons appear in your Inbox to the right of email subjects. They scan the contents of your emails for pertinent information, such as dates or flight information, so you can complete tasks, for example, reviewing your Seamless orders, booking reservations or checking flights without having to even open the email.

3. Nothing Like a Handwritten Note
Although Google products support a wide range of languages, if you’re constantly switching between different alphabets, the keyboard can be a pain. Now you can write out characters in your own hand using your mouse or trackpad, to be converted into text using Google’s new input tools.

4. A New Home for Your Apps
All your Google applications got a new home in the upper right-hand corner of your inbox. Simply click the apps icon to easily access your Drive, Calendar, Google+, Contacts and Groups. From here, you can also access your Google+ profile, any other Gmail accounts you’re logged into (by clicking on your picture icon) or just your Google+ notifications, by clicking on the bell.

5. Updated iPad Look
For iPad users, the latest Gmail for iOS app just got a major overhaul, giving you more room for serious multitasking. Holding your iPad in landscape mode gives you a new navigation bar on the left-hand side, where you can switch between the new inbox categories (or your other Gmail accounts) with one tap.

6. A Sleeker Login
While not the most dramatic of changes, Google has started rolling out a new design for its login page, putting the login form front and center and eliminating everything else on the page.

Courtesy – Mashable

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Circuit Scribe is a rollerball pen that uses a silver conductive ink to let you create fully functioning circuits as fast as you can draw, making it cheaper, faster and easier to test out electronics and prototype concepts.

Developed by Electroninks Incorporated, a company originally part of a University of Illinois research lap, Circuit Scribe tries to make the process as easy as possible. No wires, no boards, no soldering; all you need is a sketch and you can begin tinkering with nothing more than a coin battery and an LED.

Circuit Scribe offers a selection of components, from relatively simple buzzers and LED lights, to more sophisticated parts like photo sensors and potentiometers. It can even interface with the Arduino MaKey MaKey, allowing for even more elaborate designs and making it ideal for hackers at any level. With Circuit Scribe, you can create everything from a simple switch to a fully functioning touchpad. The water-based ink dries instantly so you can immediately begin testing on a freshly drawn circuit.

From kids just starting to learn about circuitry to tech hobbyists looking to knock out a quick prototype, Circuit Scribe is aimed at makers of all ages. Their goal is to help educate and make electronics available to as many people as possible.

Less than a week into their Kickstarter campaign, Circuit Scribe is well over it’s initial $85,000 fundraising goal as well as its $250,000 stretch goal, allowing them to build out a robust education platform and STEM outreach program.

Courtesy – Mashable

Build Any Robot You Want, No Programming Required

Modular Robotics, a company based in Boulder, Co., is about to release robot-building kits that let you construct any kind of android you want, no programming required.

The kits, called MOSS, come in three different sizes. The larger ones contain pieces for you to build your robot, which come in various shapes and sizes. All are made of plastic that is molded around several exposed magnets and ball bearings, letting you connect your android building blocks like Legos to construct anything from a car to a robot that fires a Nerf gun.

The company is also planning to release an app to control these semi-autonomous creations. Once you download the app, the software would let you direct the robot from your smartphone or tablet. According to its Kickstarter campaign, you’ll be able to customize these actions — for example, you can tell your android car to move forward or instruct your robot’s head to turn left, all with one or two taps.

MOSS doesn’t require a knowledge of computer programming, Eric Schweikardt, the CEO and design director at Modular Robotics, told Mashable. “It’s trying to give kids education and exposure to these computational components without putting up that barrier.”

Another draw is that they’re not limited to elementary school kids.

MOSS is intended to be intuitive but also has a high ceiling, Schweikardt added.

If the Kickstarter page is any indication, plenty of people are ready to build. The campaign doesn’t end until Dec. 10, but Modular Robotics has already nearly tripled its original goal of $100,000. Donors can receive anything from a company t-shirt ($20) to a “simple” starter kit ($59) to a tour of the facilities ($5,000). The campaign video promises that anyone who contributes enough cash to get a starter kit will receive it before MOSS is commercially available.

“I’m pretty excited to see all the movable and motion-centric robots that people are going to start building,” Schweikardt said.

Delivery is expected for February 2014.

Courtesy – Mashable

Mozilla Lightbeam Shows Who’s Watching You Online

In the spirit of online transparency, and for those paranoid about organizations watching your every move, a new tool from Mozilla lets you monitor who is following your digital footprint.

Lightbeam is a free extension available for download on Mozilla’s Firefox browser that promises to “illuminate the inner workings of the web.” It uncovers which third-party companies are watching your online activity — most likely brands and advertisers looking to share your data or directly target ads.

“As a part of Lightbeam, we’re creating a big-picture view of how tracking works on the Internet, and how third-party sites are connected to multiple other sites,” Mozilla said in a statement.

The company aims to give web users control of their data and privacy by using interactive visualizations in the form of graphs, clocks and lists. Lightbeam users can sift through this collected data to see the sources of images and other information.

“The visualization grows with every site you visit and every request made from your browser,” Mozilla said in the statement. “In addition to the graph view, you can also see your data in a clock view to examine connections over a 24-hour period or in a List view to drill down into individual sites.”

Courtesy – Mashable

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