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Can bonding with your virtual self alter your perceptions?

May 12, 2013


If you create and modify your own virtual reality avatars, could what happens to these alter egos influence how you perceive virtual environments?

Penn State researchers found this question relevant to designing more realistic and immersive virtual reality exercises and games. They assigned random avatars to one group of participants, but allowed another group to customize their own avatars.

When placed in a virtual environment with three hills… read more

A drug that improves endurance

July 17, 2013

Electron microscopy analysis of muscle from Nr1d1−/− mice (with lower Rev-erbα) and WT (wild type, or normal) mice. Black arrows: swollen, less dense mitochondria; white arrowheads, normal mitochondria. Scale bar, 1 μm.  (Credit: Estelle Woldt et al./Nature Medicine)

A drug candidate designed by scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) significantly increases exercise endurance in animal models, an international group of scientists has shown.

These findings could lead to new approaches to helping people with conditions that acutely limit exercise tolerance, such as obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and congestive heart failure, as well as the decline of… read more

Software upgrades to bionic eye enable color recognition, improve resolution, image focus, zooming

August 7, 2013


The first bionic eye to be approved for patients in the U.S. is getting software upgrades.

As KurzweilAI has reported, the FDA-approved Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System from Second Sight Medical Products transmits images from a small, eye-glass-mounted camera wirelessly to a microelectrode array implanted on a patient’s damaged retina.

The array sends electrical signals via the optic nerve, and the brain interprets a visual image.… read more

Google Fiber to launch next week

July 19, 2012


Google just sent out invitations to a “special event” in Kansas City on July 26 that is undoubtedly the launch of its much-anticipated fiber-to-the-home network, Gigaom reports.

Google announced plans to build the gigabit network back in February of 2010 and thousands of municipalities competed to be the future home of the planned network.

In March, it selected Kansas City as the… read more

Glasses provide subtitles for foreign language conversations

July 25, 2012


Drawing inspiration from Google’s upcoming Project Glass head-mounted glasses-style display, computer engineer and designer Will Powell put together a make-shift device to show some of the dramatic ways life will change in our augmented future, Smithsonian magazine reports.

The video shows Powell’s Frankenstein concoction cobbled together from 9 different pieces of equipment: a set of glasses with built in screens is… read more

Memory improves for older adults using computerized brain fitness program

August 7, 2012

(Credit: Dakim Brain

UCLA researchers have found that older adults who regularly used a brain fitness program played on a computer demonstrated significantly improved memory and language skills. The team studied 59 participants with an average age of 84, recruited from local retirement communities in Southern California.

The volunteers were split into two groups:  the first group used a brain fitness program for an average of 73  20-minute sessions across… read more

Can you out-think a computer in judging photos?

Deep-learning algorithm can weigh up a neighborhood better than humans.
September 30, 2014

A new algorithm can outperform humans at predicting which of a series of photos is taken in a higher-crime area, or is closer to a McDonald's restaurant.

An online demo puts you in the middle of a Google Street View with four directional options and challenges you to navigate to the nearest McDonald’s in the fewest possible steps.

While humans are generally better at this specific task than the algorithm, researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) found that a new algorithm consistently outperformed humans at a variation of the task in which… read more

A free database of the entire Web may spawn the next Google

January 24, 2013


A nonprofit called Common Crawl is now using its own Web crawler and making a giant copy of the Web that it makes accessible to anyone.

The organization offers up over five billion Web pages, available for free so that researchers and entrepreneurs can try things otherwise possible only for those with access to resources on the scale of Google’s, MIT Technology Review reports.… read more

First artificial enzyme created by evolution in a test tube

February 1, 2013

3-D structure of the evolved enzyme (an RNA ligase), using 10 overlaid snapshots. In the top region, the overlays show the range of bending and folding flexibility in the amino acid chain that forms the molecule. The two gray balls are zinc ions. (Credit: University of Minnesota)

There’s a wobbly new biochemical structure in Burckhard Seelig’s lab at the University of Minnesota that may resemble what enzymes looked like billions of years ago, when life on earth began to evolve.

Seelig created the fledgling enzyme by using directed evolution in the laboratory.

Working with team members, he subsequently determined its structure.. Lab tests show that the enzyme… read more

McAfee hacker says medtronic insulin pumps vulnerable to attack

April 11, 2012


Some Medtronic insulin pumps are vulnerable to a hacking attack that could let someone break into the devices from 300 feet away, disable security alarms, acquire the serial number, and force them to dispense fatal insulin doses directly into diabetics’ bloodstreams, according to McAfee Inc. computer-security researcher Barnaby Jack.

Research from a consortium of academics in 2008 found that a popular pacemaker-defibrillator… read more

To make open access work, we need to do more than liberate journal articles

January 16, 2013


In the days since the tragedy of Aaron Swartz’s suicide, many academics have been posting open-access PDFs of their research as an act of solidarity with Swartz’s crusade to liberate (in most cases publicly funded) knowledge for all to read.

While this has been a noteworthy gesture, the problem of open access isn’t just about the ethics of freeing and sharing scholarly information. It’s as much —… read more

New retinal implant gives sight to nine blind people

1500 pixels, with no camera required; patients able to read letters
February 22, 2013

subretinal implant powered by external battery-powered coil (credit: K. Stingl et al./Proc. Royal Soc. B)

German and Hungarian researchers have brought sight to nine blind patients with hereditary retinal degeneration, using a subretinally implanted microelectronic chip with 1500 pixels.

The chip size is approximately 3mm x 3mm and is surgically implanted below the fovea (area of sharpest vision in the retina).

It provides a diamond-shaped visual field of 15 degrees diagonally across chip corners.

It is powered by a subdermal coil behind… read more

Mind-reading speller allows full conversations for vegetative-state patients

June 29, 2012

Mind-reading speller

The first real-time brain-scanning speller will allow people in an apparent vegetative state (unable to speak or move) to communicate, according to Maastricht University scientists.

The new technology builds on earlier uses of fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) brain scans by Adrian Owen and colleagues to assess consciousness by enabling patients to answer yes and no questions. fMRI tracks brain activity by measuring blood flow.

“The work led me… read more

Tea trumps coffee for non-cardivascular mortality

September 2, 2014


Drinking tea is associated with 24% reduced non-cardiovascular mortality, reveals a study of 131,000 people presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress by Professor Nicolas Danchin from France.

The study included 131,401 people aged 18 to 95 years who had a health check up at the Paris IPC Preventive Medicine Center between January 2001 and December 2008. During a mean 3–5 years follow-up,… read more

Mining the blogosphere

Concordia NLP researchers develop tools that make sense of social media
September 10, 2012


Can a computer “read” an online blog and understand it? Several Concordia University computer scientists believe so, and are helping get closer to that goal.

Leila Kosseim, project lead and associate professor in Concordia’s Computational Linguistics Laboratory, and  recently graduated doctoral student Shamima Mithun have developed a natural-language-processing system called BlogSum that allows an organization to pose a question and then… read more

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