Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
You ideally want to produce clean hydrogen fuel using clean sources, and Dutch researchers have taken a big step toward making that a practical reality. They've built a solar cell that uses a grid of gallium phosphide nanowires to make hydrogen gas from water. The approach gets a useful yield of about 2.9 percent in lab tests. That may not sound like much, but it's about 10 times more effective than previous techniques and uses 10,000 times less exotic material.
It's still going to take more refinements before this kind of technology is practical. Even hooking up silicon cells to a battery nets a 15 percent yield, for example. If scientists improve their methods, though, you could be driving hydrogen cars whose fuel is eco-friendly at every step, not just when it's in your vehicle.
[Image credit: AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi]
Posted by Augustine at 10:40 AM
Monday, July 20, 2015
Now you see it, now you don’t. But the disappearing act performed by this small sea sapphire isn’t magic: it manage to flex its body to reflect frequencies of light that the human eye simply can’t see.
Posted by Augustine at 6:52 AM
Monday, July 13, 2015
Looks like you didn't have to wait long for ASUS' ZenPad S 8.0 to show up in the US -- Best Buy is now selling the 8-inch Android 5.1 slate for an easy-to-swallow $200. While this isn't the highest-end version (it's carrying 'just' 2GB of RAM and a slower 1.33GHz Atom chip) it's far from a slouch. You're still getting an iPad mini-rivaling 2,048 x 1,536 display, 5-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front cam and 32GB of storage in a frame that's just 0.27 inches thick. You'll have to like ASUS' custom software for the ZenPad S to float your boat, but it's otherwise a solid deal.
Via: Android Central
Source: Best Buy
Posted by Augustine at 8:01 AM
Many servers, supercomputers and other monster systems thrive on high-speed RAM to keep things running smoothly, but this memory is wildly expensive -- and that limits not just the number of nodes in these clusters, but who can use them. MIT researchers may have a much more affordable approach in the future, though. They've built a server network (not shown here) that drops RAM in favor of cheaper and slower flash storage, yet performs just about as well. The key was to get the flash drives themselves (or specifically, their controllers) to pre-process some of the data, instead of making the CPUs do all the hard work. That doesn't completely close the speed gap, but the differences are virtually negligible. In one test, 20 servers with 20TB of flash were about as fast as 40 servers with 10TB of RAM.
This doesn't mean that flash-centric computing will be useful absolutely everywhere. MIT has only demonstrated its technique helping out with database-heavy tasks like ranking web pages. This wouldn't necessarily help much with tasks that depend more on calculations, and the networked design means it this RAM-less approach wouldn't do much to help your home PC. All the same, this could help a lot if it lets your favorite cloud service run faster, or helps cost-conscious scientists devote money toward other projects.
[Image credit: AP Photo/Jens Meyer]
Source: MIT News
Posted by Augustine at 7:52 AM
The latest (and most interesting) entrant to the cord-cutting TV wars is here: Comcast. Tonight the company announced Stream, a service that delivers TV exclusively over the
internet (Correction: it is "IP-based managed network" connection, check after the break for why that matters) to phones, tablets and computers -- but now TVs. The big catch? You'll need Comcast internet service to subscribe, and the Stream TV feeds only work while you're at home. It's only available in select areas to start, and will launch in Boston this summer. For $15 a month, subscribers get about a dozen channels, including all broadcast networks and HBO (but not ESPN or any other cable channels, according to the New York Times). It also has access to the usual TV Everywhere cable authenticated-streaming for when you're away from home, plus Comcast's Netflix-like Streampix service for movies.
As for the at-home restriction on TV service, that's because, as a Comcast representative tells Engadget, this is "an IP-based cable service that offers live, on demand and cloud DVR delivered over our managed network in the home." In case you're somehow not familiar with what that means, it translates to this service not using the open internet everyone else uses to reach subscriber's homes, even though it runs through the same wiring and modem over the last mile. Comcast made the same distinction when it launched video on-demand streaming to the Xbox 360 a few years back, and Reed Hastings was not happy with the explanation. Given the current climate around net neutrality, we can't imagine this launch will go over without any controversy, and expect to hear more about that bit soon.
Stream is very much cable TV without the cable box (or TV) -- assuming you have the company's internet service and live in the right area, all you'll need is a phone call to activate it. Unfortunately, it carries a surprisingly long list of restrictions, even for a brand new service. When Sling TV launched, you could get it everywhere, with PlayStation Vue, it came to your TV via consoles. While Stream has a DVR, network TV and HBO, it doesn't have quite enough to make me interested without a hook-up to real TVs or options for popular cable channels, and isn't going available where I live anyway.
Comcast already has an IPTV service it offers through universities, and made earlier efforts to push TV on phones and tablets in-home with its AnyPlay box. With cloud DVR tech in-hand, the company knows what many of us want -- TV service that works anywhere whether at home or away, with recordings, and smaller/cheaper bundles would be nice -- but will continue to play keep-away for now. If you're still interested, you can sign up for more info here.
Posted by Augustine at 7:51 AM
Saturday, July 11, 2015
If you've been hoping for an AirPlay or Cast-like tool to beam content to your Amazon streaming gadgets, you'll soon be in luck. The company revealed its Fling feature this week, a tool that will allow developers to include a way to control media from a mobile device on your Fire TV. Right now, the software will let you send video, audio and still images from an Android or iOS device to the set-top box (or dongle, we'd surmise) for viewing. Devs can also employ "two-way communication" between the Fire TV and a phone or tablet to "engaging second screen experiences."The company released an SDK so eager app makers can get started, and Karaoke Party and Rivet Radio are among the first selections to employ the tech. Rather than building the tool into it's OS like Apple and Google, Amazon is allowing app developers to add in Fling as they wish. Amazon's mobile devices run a version Google's operating system after all, and some folks who own its streaming gear probably also own an iOS or Android device. That being said, it'll be interesting to see if the likes of Netflix, Hulu and others will decide to opt in.
Posted by Augustine at 9:41 AM
Wednesday, July 08, 2015
The first Google Glass might’ve died an ignominious death, but don’t give up on face computers just yet. Google will most likely launch some kind of updated Glass in the future, and when it does, features like framing up pictures with your fingers could make it a whole lot better than version 1.0.
Posted by Augustine at 7:20 AM
Who here uses Street View to do some virtual traveling? It's not a shabby option if you want to look at places you might never visit within your lifetime, but Google thinks there's still a better way to simulate real-world tours. A team of the company's researchers has developed a technique that uses Google's experimental machine vision algorithm called DeepStereo to transform Street View panoramas into seamless virtual tours. See, Street View photos don't usually capture every detail of a location -- there are always a few frames missing in order to construct convincing digital reproductions of places like museums and houses. DeepStereo can synthesize those missing frames based on the ones that go before and after them, giving Google the ability to create realistic virtual tours.
In order to "train" DeepStero, the team had to feed the algorithm with images captured out of a moving vehicle; after that, it was able to start recreating images. It's still not perfect at this point -- some objects like trees or grass are hard to synthesize and details vanish from the recreated frame if the machine lacks pertinent details. In addition, it takes as long as 12 minutes on a powerful workstation to build a single synthetic frame. DeepStereo's obviously still a young technology, but the team believes it could be used not just to create virtual tours, but to generate environments for movies and virtual reality content in the future.
Posted by Augustine at 7:18 AM
Monday, June 29, 2015
Science just took us a small step closer to HAL 9000.
A new artificial intelligence (AI) program designed by Chinese researchers has beat humans on a verbal IQ test.
Scoring well on the verbal section of the intelligence test has traditionally been a tall order for computers, since words have multiple meanings and complex relationships to one another.
But in a new study, the program did better than its human counterparts who took the test.
The findings suggest machines could be one small step closer to approaching the level of human intelligence, the researchers wrote in the study, which was posted earlier this month on the online database arXiv, but has not yet been published in a scientific journal.
IQ isn't the end-all, be-all measure of intelligence
Don't get too excited just yet: IQ isn't the end-all, be-all measure of intelligence, human or otherwise.
For one thing, the test only measures one kind of intelligence (typically, critics point out, at the expense of others, such as creativity or emotional intelligence. Plus, because some test questions can be hacked using some basic tricks, some AI researchers argue that IQ isn't the best way to measure machine intelligence.
Intelligence Quotient (IQ) Tests, an idea first proposed by German psychologist William Stern in the early 1900s, usually consist of a standard set of questions designed to measure human intelligence in logic, math and verbal comprehension. The verbal questions usually test a person's understanding of words with multiple meanings, synonyms and antonyms, and analogies (for example, a question might ask fo! r the multiple choice answer that best matches the analogy "sedative : drowness.")
Only a handful of computer programs for solving IQ tests exist, which could make this new achievement a pretty big deal.
Bin Gao, a computer scientist at Microsoft Research in Beijing, and his colleagues developed the new AI program specifically to tackle the test's verbal questions.
First, they wrote a program to figure out which type of question was being asked. Next, they found a new way to represent the different meanings of words and how the words were related.
They used an approach known as deep learning, which involves building up more and more abstract representations of concepts from raw data. (For example, Google uses deep learning in its search and translation features.) The researchers used this method to learn the different representations of words, a technique known as word embedding.
Finally, the researchers developed a way to solve the test problems.
The researchers gave a set of IQ test questions to their computer program and to a group of 200 people with different levels of education, recruited using Amazon Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing platform.
Still, the results are striking
The AI's results were striking. Although it scored better than the average person in the study, it didn't fare so well against some participants, such as people 30 and over and people with a master's or doctorate degree.
Other scientists not involved in the study praised the findings, but cautioned that they were just baby steps for now.
Robert Sloan, a computer scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said the Chinese AI's performance was a small step forward, but noted that these kinds of multiple choice questions are just one type of IQ test, and may not be comparable to the kinds of open-ended reasoning tests administered to students by trained psycholo! gists. p>
Within AI, "the places where so far we’ve seen very little progress have to do with open dialogue and social understanding," Sloan told Business Insider. For example, if you ask a child what to do if they see an adult lying in the street, you expect them to call for help. "Right now, theres no way you could write a computer program to do that," he said.
In 2013, Sloan and his colleagues developed an AI that scored the same on an IQ test as a human four-year-old, but the program's performance was extremely varied. If a child varied that much, people would think something was wrong with it, Sloan said at the time.
Hannaneh Hajishirzi, an electrical engineer and computer scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle who designs computer programs that can solve math word problems, also found the results interesting. The Chinese researchers "got interesting results in terms of comparison with humans on this test of verbal questions," she said, adding that "we're still far away from making a system that can reason like humans."
So maybe AI isn't about to take over the world, as Stephen Hawking and others might have us believe. But at the very least, we'll end up with computers that are really good at making analogies.
Posted by Augustine at 12:05 PM
Those dreams of having computers in your clothing might be more realistic than you think. Japanese researchers have developed a printable conductive ink that maintains a circuit even when you stretch fabric to three times its usual length -- you could have athletic gear with hidden activity trackers, sensors and other computing devices. The key is a careful mix of fluorine, an organic solvent and silver flakes which, when combined, keeps transmitting electricity even under heavy abuse.
The current prototype for the ink, a wristband that tracks muscle movement, is pretty crude. You'd need much smaller circuitry before your apparel replaces your step counter or smartwatch. However, it only takes one step to print the ink. As such, it'd be relatively easy to produce on the large scales you need for shirts and wristbands. Smart fitness clothing already exists, but this invention would make it both more commercially viable and a heck of a lot more comfortable.
[Image credit: Takao Someya/University of Tokyo]
Posted by Augustine at 6:22 AM
Thursday, June 25, 2015
If you work with code every day, you’re likely used to GitHub—a place to store code with all the revision history you ever need. Now, though, Google has its own take on the service, open as a beta release for you to use for free.
Posted by Augustine at 8:08 AM
3D printing technology has already revolutionized the aeronautics industry. Manufacturers can create lighter, stronger components at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional production methods. Now a San Francisco-based startup called Divergent Microfactories is trying to do the same in the automotive industry. To that end, the company debuted a 3D printed supercar dubbed "Blade", reportedly the first such vehicle to ever be additively manufactured.
The Blade's chassis is quite unique. Instead of having to generate the entire thing as a single unit, Divergent developed an 3D printed aluminum "Node" joint. The printed carbon fiber tubes that make up the chassis plug into these nodes to form a strong and lightweight frame for the rest of the vehicle. Divergent claims that this method can reduce the weight of the chassis by as much as 90 percent compared to conventional cars though the fact that it's carbon fiber and not steel or aluminum probably has a lot to do with those weight savings. In all, the vehicle weighs just 1,400 pounds (just a touch more than the Caterham Seven 620 R) but features a 700HP engine capable of running on both CNG and gas.
The company plans to produce a limited number of these vehicles to start (surprised Jay Leno doesn't already own one) but hopes to franchise its technology and let smaller boutique manufacturers build their own cars. And seriously, if the Department of Energy can build its own e-Cobra, how tough could it really be?
Posted by Augustine at 8:06 AM
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Who knew that stick computers were suddenly in vogue? In the wake of pocket-sized desktops from Intel, Dell and Google, Lenovo is joining the fray with the Ideacentre 300 Stick. The extra-tiny Windows PC is much like a sleeker, more polished version of Intel's Compute Stick. It shares the same 1.3GHz Atom chip, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of built-in storage as its counterpart, and you'll also have the familiar USB port and microSD card slot for those moments when wireless peripherals won't cut it. The system's biggest difference (and really, biggest draw) is its price. It'll cost $129 when it hits stores in July -- that's about $20 less than the Intel stick, and you're getting a full-fledged home computer versus a corporate "thin client" like Dell's similarly priced Wyse Cloud Connect.
Posted by Augustine at 3:30 PM
Monday, June 22, 2015
Intel quietly launched a free Android app over the weekend, that lets you use your phone as a keyboard and trackpad for your PC. Intel Remote Keyboard was designed for use with mini PCs that are about the size of a flash drive and don't ship with peripherals — but you can use it on any system run...
Posted by Augustine at 8:47 AM