Tag Archives: computers

The First “Scent Message” Has Been Sent Over the Internet

Last Tuesday, the first “scent message” was delivered via e-mail from New York to Paris. The scent: champagne and macaroons.

The new technology was invented by David Edwards and Rachel Field, who showcased their invention, known as the oPhone, last Tuesday at Manhattan’s American Museum of Natural History.

Here’s Edwards, Harvard professor and CEO of Vapor Communications, the company which created the oPhone.

“OPhone introduces a new kind of sensory experience into mobile messaging, a form of communication that until now has remained consigned to our immediate local experience of the world.”

The oPhone is paired with a smartphone app called oSnap. The app allows you to mix and match 32 basic scents which are contained inside small cartridges in the oPhone. The combination of these scents can produce up to 300,000 distinct aromas, according to Edwards.

When sending a message, the user can electronically tag it with any number of scents. This tag is then deciphered by the receiving oPhone, which reproduces the smell for about 10 seconds.

You can pre-order the oPhone for $149 via the company’s Indiegogo campaign.

Check out the full story from NBC here.

This College Just Became the First to Offer Athletic Scholarships to Video Gamers

Don’t forget to let us know how you feel about this by taking the poll at the end of the article!

League of Legends (or LoL as its fans call it) is one of the most popular video games in the world. 67 million people play the game at least one a month, and a whopping 27 million play the game every day.

And as strange as it sounds, millions of people log on to the  LoL servers just to watch other people playing, in hopes that they can learn tactics and strategy.

The game already has a number of international tournaments, which bring together hundreds of LoL players to battle it out for substantial cash prizes. The tournaments even attracts thousands of spectators who just want to watch the digital action live.

A picture from the League of Legends World Championships

Now, a private university in Chicago is offering athletic scholarships to the best high-school aged LoL players out there.

Kurt Melcher is associate athletic direct at Robert Morris College. A former gamer himself, Melcher defends the school’s decision, calling LoL a,

“competitive, challenging game which requires significant amount of teamwork to be successful.”

Kurt Melcher, Associate Athletic Director at Robert Morris

The online multiplayer game is played 5 vs 5, with each player on the team playing a specific role. To win, all of the team members must work together, utilizing each individual player’s strengths and weaknesses to become victorious.

Robert Morris is offering scholarships worth $19,000 (about half the school’s tuition and living costs). They plan on recruiting 27 players to form three varsity teams (each with 9 players). The players will be competing in the North American Collegiate Championship, which has a prize of $100,000 in scholarships.

David Williamson Shaffer is a professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s a fan of the idea, saying,

“It seems to me this fulfills the goals of the university as much as any varsity sport does… It provides support for students who have a passion and want to develop it toward mastery and excellence. It attracts students with talent to the university, and promotes the university through the achievements of those students.”

The LoL North American Championship Series (Photo: Robyn Beck, AFP/Getty Images)

I’m not sure how I feel about this yet. On the one hand, as a former collegiate athlete, I feel like adding video games to the athletic department is almost sacrilegious.

On the other hand however, I recognize that the future of our country (and the world) is in computers and technology, so trying to attract students who are already heavily immersed in these fields makes a lot of sense.

If we’re being totally fair here, does it make any more sense for an academic institution to reward kids for being really good at running, jumping and/or putting a ball in a net than it does to reward them for being good at a computer game which involves lots of strategy and collaboration?

Read more from NPR here.

This Guy’s Mind-Twisting Artwork Is Incredible (Photo Gallery)

Martin de Pasquale is a photographer and digital artist from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He combines amazing photography with photo-manipulating programs like Photoshop, Poser and 3DS Max to create amazing surreal images.

But computer programs alone aren’t enough to make these incredible images- they require meticulous planning ahead of time, like making sure the lighting is consistent. It’s also important that the angles at which images are taken is precise. You can read more about the process from Gizmodo.

Check out some of Pasquale’s best work below. Click an image to enlarge.

You can check out more of Pasquale’s work here.

Japan’s Prime Minister Is Planning to Host the World’s First Robotic Olympics in 2020

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants his country to be on the cutting edge of the robotics industry. During a recent visit to a number of Japanese factories that build robots for industrial and care-giving purposes, Abe revealed his plans to bring about a “robotic revolution” in Japan.

These plans include tripling Japan’s robotics budget to 2.4 trillion yen (~$23.5 billion USD) to make robotics a “major pillar” of Japan’s economic growth in the future. Abe also revealed his intention to host the world’s first robotic olympics.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe examining a robot working on an assembly line at a factory in suburban Tokyo (Photo: AFP)

“In 2020, I would like to gather all of the world’s robots and aim to hold an Olympics where they compete in technical skills,”

he told reporters from Japan’s Jiji Press agency. Abe hopes that the robotics industry can help revitalize Japan’s economy, which has been stagnating under the pressures of deflation for decades now.

He believes that robotics will be particularly important for Japan’s future because of the country’s aging population and declining workforce.

Population pyramids for Japan show how its population is aging whil the size of its younger workforce is shrinking

Abe’s announcement comes during a time of major robot launches in Japan. One of these is a robotic suit which can be controlled just by thinking. It was designed by the company Cyberdyne.

The suit picks up the weak electrical impulses that our brains send to our limbs when we start to move. The robot is then able to move perfectly in sync with that motion, providing extra strength and stability to the movement. It’s hoped that it will drastically improve the lives of people living with ailments that effect movement, like muscular dystrophy or serious arthritis.

A humanoid robot, named “Pepper” was also revealed earlier this month, by major cell phone company SoftBank. Pepper’s creators claim the robot can understand human emotions as well as 70-80% of spontaneous conversation.

The field of robotics is making huge advancements, maybe none more impressive than the robotic suit that allowed Juliano Pinto to kick-off the World Cup back on June 12.

The suit was designed by the Walk Again Project, a project headed by  Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian neuroscientist based at Duke University. Nicoleleis hopes the project will make relatively normal movement a real possibility for people left paralyzed by spinal injuries.

Read the original story from the Telegraph here.

70% of Young Children Can Use A Computer Mouse. Only 11% Can Tie Their Own Shoes (Infographic)

With the rise of modern technology, the look of the classroom has been changing rapidly. Computers are replacing workbooks, iPads are replacing notebook paper, and teachers are increasingly using social media to communicate with their students.

Check out the awesome infographic below to learn more about how modern technology has been changing our education system (click the image to see the full size version):

The NSA Just Admitted That Their Data Collection Systems Are Too Complex for Even Them to Control

If you weren’t aware, the NSA is facing a bunch of lawsuits over their overzealous surveillance programs, which were revealed last summer by Edward Snowden.

One of these lawsuits, Jewel v. NSA, was actually filed before the revelations. The class-action lawsuit, filed on behalf of novelist Carolyn Jewel and a number of other ATT customers, challenges the constitutionality of the NSA programs which were collecting data on American’s telephone and internet activity.

Carolyn Jewel, lead plaintiff in the case against the NSA, outside her home (Photo: Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)

As part of the lawsuit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (who represents the plaintiffs) filed a number of motions to prevent the NSA from destroying data that the EFF planned to use as evidence.

This past Friday, during a hearing over the issue, NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett argued that holding on to the info would be too burdensome for the NSA, saying,

“A requirement to preserve all data acquired under section 702 presents significant operational problems, only one of which is that the NSA may have to shut down all systems and databases that contain Section 702 information.”

NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett

Ledgett continued by arguing that the complexity of the NSA’s surveillance programs meant that efforts by the NSA to preserve their own data might not even work. Not surprisingly, he also tried to get his way using scare tactics, saying that trying to preserve the data would cause,

“an immediate, specific, and harmful impact on the national security of the United States.”

The EFF was surprised by Ledgett’s argument, since the NSA had already been ordered to preserve the data back in 2009. On top of that, a second restraining order was filed in March to prevent destruction of data.

Either way, the EFF’s legal advisor, Cindy Cohn, isn’t buying Ledgett’s arguments. In a recent interview she had this to say about the concerns he raised:

“To me, it demonstrates that once the government has custody of this information even they can’t keep track of it anymore even for purposes of what they don’t want to destroy… With the huge amounts of data that they’re gathering it’s not surprising to me that it’s difficult to keep track– that’s why I think it’s so dangerous for them to be collecting all this data en masse.”

The EFF has said that there is “no doubt” that the NSA has already destroyed some of the information they requested for the lawsuit, but the actual amount data that has been destroyed thus far is unclear.

Read the full story from The Washington Post here.

A Computer Just Passed the Turing Test, Convincing People It Was A 13-Year Old Boy

Alan Turing was a code-breaker in World War II who became a pioneer in the field of computer science after the war ended. In 1950, he theorized that if a machine could be designed that was indistinguishable from a real man, it would be proof that the machine was actually thinking.

To carry out the test, human participants have five-minute conversations with a machine, and afterwards are asked whether they thought there was a robot or a real human on the other end. Despite the fact that the test only requires the computer to fool 30% of the human subjects, no computer had ever succeeded.

That is until last Saturday, when a machine known as “Eugene Goostman” convinced 33% of test subjects that it was a real 13-year old boy.

Participants posed questions to the Goostman through a computer interface to decide whether or not he was real

The machine was tested along with 4 others at London’s Royal Society last Saturday on the 60th anniversary of Turing’s death.

Professor Kevin Warwick is a professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading. He had this to say about the result of the recent Turing Test:

“In the field of artificial intelligence there is no more iconic and controversial milestone than the Turing Test… It is fitting that such an important landmark has been reached at the Royal Society in London, the home of British science and the scene of many great advances in human understanding over the centuries. This milestone will go down in history as one of the most exciting.”

Alan Turing- the designer of the test (Photo: Getty Images)

The machine was designed by the duo of Vladimir Veselov, who was born in Russia but now lives in the United States, and Eugene Demchenko, who was born in Ukraine but now lives in Russia.

Though there have been a handful of claims of machines passing the test before, Professor Warwick points out that none of these tests proved to be “true” Turing tests:

“A true Turing Test does not set the questions or topics prior to the conversations. We are therefore proud to declare that Alan Turing’s test was passed for the first time.”

I wouldn’t say that this is proof that Eugene Goostman was actually thinking (as hypothesized by Turing), but regardless, it is a huge step for the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence.

Read more from The Telegraph here.

Megaupload Founder Puts Up $5 Million Bounty for Help In His Case Against the Government

Kim Dotcom is the founder of Megaupload, a popular website that shared movies, TV shows, and music among other things. Megaupload was thriving up until 2012, when the federal government shut down the website and brought an online piracy suit against the company.

Dotcom has always maintained that the case is stacked against him. He recently tweeted the following:

Dotcom claims that the U.S. government, along with close ally New Zealand (where Dotcom lives), conspired to take down his file-sharing empire at the request of Hollywood studios. Major music labels as well as the film industry have also hit the company with separate lawsuits.

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, who calls himself an, “innovator… not a pirate”

Dotcom talked to the website TorrentFreak.com recently about the bounty:

“We are asking for information that proves unlawful or corrupt conduct by the US government, the New Zealand government, spy agencies, law enforcement and Hollywood…

“It is the opinion of my legal team that disclosure of such information would be lawful. I would also guarantee any whistleblower coming forward would have the best legal representation at zero cost.”

Dotcom and his 3 co-defendants will have their extradition hearing on July 7 in Auckland, New Zealand. If they are extradited, they will face charges of racketeering, money laundering and copyright theft here in the U.S. The charges carry a jail sentence of up to 20 years.

The U.S. Justice Department alleges that Dotcom and his associates netted $175 million in criminal proceeds, costing copyright owners more than $500 million in revenue.

Read the full story from The Guardian here.

#ResetTheNet Campaign: Major Websites Unite To Encourage Widespread Encryption Usage

Just last month, the House gutted the FREEDOM Act, which was put in place after the Snowden revelations to prevent mass cellular surveillance of American citizens in the future.

Internet and privacy activists alike have grown tired of the government’s empty promises about protecting internet privacy. So they decided to launch a campaign to take the issue out of Washington’s hands and put into the hands of the public.

The campaign, known as #ResetTheNet, was initiated by Fight for the Future, and encourages websites and individuals to start using encryption to protect their data. It kicks off today on the one year anniversary of the Edward Snowden revelations of NSA surveillance last year.

Hundreds of websites and other organizations are participating, including Reddit, Imgur, Mozilla, Greenpeace and Amnesty International. Google, who initially refrained from joining, has now endorsed the campaign, and added that they will be, “releasing email encryption tools and data, and supporting real surveillance reform.”

The goal is to not only educate people about encryption but to actually provide them with the online resources to begin encrypting their own information. The campaign’s splash page, which is displayed on many of the participating sites, includes lists of good encryption software and tips for both computers and mobile devices.

Some of the companies participating in the campaign. Click to enlarge
Some of the companies participating in the campaign. Click to enlarge

While encryption definitely makes your data significantly more secure, it is not completely impervious- the NSA has whole departments dedicated to cracking encrypted info.

However, organizers of the campaign believe that if encryption starts to become fairly common, the government simply will not have the resources to be trying to break through everyone’s encryption, forcing them to give up on mass internet surveillance.

Yesterday, Edward Snowden issued a statement with his support for the campaign. He ended it like this:

The official website for the campaign is resetthenet.org. The organizer’s also released this video explaining the campaign:

Read more from RT here.

BONUS: The battle for net neutrality is also being waged right now. After approving a “fast-track” plan which would allow large corporations to pay for preferred real estate (ie. more visibility) on the internet, the FCC invited the public to comment for 120 days before they make their final decision.

Comedian and political satirist John Oliver used his new HBO series, Last Week Tonight, to explain what net neutrality is, why it’s so important, and how the major cable companies pushing to make it happen are screwing the consumer.

Oliver urged all of the internet trolls to take advantage of the FCC invitation to comment, saying,

“…for once in your lives, focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction.”

The massive comment volume following the airing of Oliver’s show crashed the FCC website for a while.

Check out video of Oliver’s net neutrality segment below:

Google Puts $30 Million Up for Grabs In A Lunar Landing Competition

Google has created a lunar landing competition for private teams and/or companies to compete in. The competition, known as the “Google Lunar XPRIZE“, is offering successful participants over $30 million and is being called the “largest international incentive based prize of all time”.

In order to win the prize, a team or company must fist safely land their craft on the surface of the Moon. Then, the craft must travel above, below, or across the moon’s surface for at least 500 meters.

Finally, it must send back at least two “Mooncasts” (a video transmitted live from the lunar surface) for viewers on Earth. All of these tasks must be completed by December 31, 2015.

Google obviously has a financial stake in the $30 million competition, whether it be for publicity, marketing, branding or whatever else, but these are not Google’s only motivations. According to Google Lunar XPRIZE’s official website, the competition also hopes to,

“…create a new “Apollo” moment for this generation and to spur continuous lunar exploration,”

referring to the Apollo 11 mission, which put man on the moon for the first time. The website also points out that,

“More than half of the world’s population has never had the opportunity to view a live transmission from the lunar surface.”

Google Lunar XPRIZE is offering a grand prize of $20 million for the first place winner, but teams will also be competing for bonus prizes throughout the competition by completing specific terrestrial or in-space milestones.

Offering these milestone prizes and extra bonuses helps to encourage teams to continue to compete and innovate for the entirety of the competition, since it gives them the opportunity to obtain a return on their investments even if they don’t ultimately win the grand prize.

Also, the competition will be great publicity for any up-and-coming aerospace and robotics engineers or companies taking part.

Check out the video below to learn a little bit more about Google Lunar XPRIZE…

The teams competing have come from all over the world, and range from groups of college kids to sophisticated engineering and technology companies.

Teams had to register in 2010 and meet specific requirements to be eligible. The count started with 33 qualified teams, but is now down to just 18.

Hopefully one or even several of these teams will soon be opening new doors to the moon.