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Monday
Oct272014

Virtual Reality Therapy for Astronauts in Development 

Oculus RiftThe Virtual Space Station, a behavioral health training and treatment program developed by a colllaborative effort between Dartmouth, Harvard, UCLA and The Troupe Modern Media, will add new  and conflict management content "to help make people feel at ease, at home, happy, comfortable and calm," said Lorie Loeb, a Dartmouth research professor, in a press release.

Currently, the Virtual Space Station includes self-guided training on conflict and stress management. The program also offers a six-session, self-administered depression treatment program guided by psychologist Mark Hegel, Ph.D., a professor at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine and a co-investigator on the project.

The upgraded system will integrate the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and sounds and smells for mood modification. The idea is "to trick the brain and make people feel as if they are in a variety of beautiful and calm settings, such as with their family at home or strolling on the beach," Loeb said.

For example, an astronaut may be able to view photos and videos of his or her family, images of a beach, sounds of waves crashing, odors of saltwater and suntan lotion and a fan to simulate ocean breezes.

The system will be tested in Hawaii, at the HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) Mission 3. A team of six members will spend eight months in simulated Mars habitat. A plan to test the system in Antarctica is also in development.

Friday
Oct102014

Gigapixel Camera Developed For Skin Cancer Screening 

This unique instrument simultaneously photographs a 2 meter tall individual to 75 micron resolution. Credit: Daniel Marks Researchers at Duke University have developed a 250-gigapixel camera that takes high-resolution photos of the human body to detect skin cancer.

The camera is actually 34 cameras in one and allows the researchers to image the skin down to a freckle.   

"The camera is designed to find lesions potentially indicating skin cancers on patients at an earlier stage than current skin examination techniques," said Daniel Marks, Associate Research Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke. "Normally a dermatologist examines either a small region of the skin at high resolution or a large region at low resolution, but a gigapixel image doesn't require a compromise between the two."

A 250 megapixel snapshot of a volunteer with two areas shown in detail. Credit: Duke University

The resolution of high-quality dermatoscopes is still better, but this camera allows for a larger imaging area than a dermatoscope and it could be used for telemedicine.

The camera will have to prove itself in clinical trials before it is available for common medical use.

Thursday
Sep182014

Virtual Romance Apps at Tokyo Game Show

Credit: AFPVisitors to the Tokyo Game Show will find the newest romance simulation apps, where perfect digital men exist.

For example, Voltage Romance Apps' free "Room Share Love Days" game lets players flirt with handsome roommates. These men offer flowers, make heart-shaped chocolates, and kiss and cuddle on command. For now, the game is in Japanese but the English version will be available soon. 

There's also a spy-themed game that is designed for "North American weomen's tastes."

Another game developer, Ambition, ups the weird ante but offering "animal boyfriends," boyfriends that are half animal and half man. They can be commanded to study or work, and the players can buy clothes and accessories for them.  

"The cat boyfriend, which has cat's ears and a human body, is most popular, as its the most sophisticated," a spokesperson for Ambition to AFP.

Another developer, Sunsoft, has games that feature homosexual romances between young, good-looking men.

Friday
Sep122014

Report: Privacy Restrictions Hindering Growth of Facial Recognition Market

In the facial recognition versus privacy debate, there are few easy answers. One thing is for sure, though: Privacy restrictions are actively slowling the growth of the global facial recognition market, according to a new report from Research and Markets. However, the industry is still growing at an impressive rate.

The report find that the global facial recognition market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.5 percent through 2020, which is less than a 2013 report titled “Global Facial Recognition Market 2014-2018” forecast. In this previous report, Research and Markets projected that the global facial recognition market, driven by the government sector, would grow at a CAGR of 26.6 percent over the five years between 2013 and 2018. Part of this lag is due to privacy concerns and restrictions, as the public continues to explore their comfort level associated with facial recognition technology.

The global facial recognition market is valued at about $1.17 billion, with much of the revenue sharing belonging to 2D facial recognition solutions, which are popular in many applications, such as smartphone cameras. The report predicts that 3D facial recognition will show steady growth as the technology continues to improve in accuracy.

According to Research and Markets, future adoption of facial recognition in web applications will be primarily driven by a demand for the technology in such applications as picture tagging and social media. This is the type of everyday use that is likely to familiarize people with the technology, which will help lead to broader acceptance in the future.

Thursday
Aug212014

Voice Recognition Technology Could Lead to Journalist's ISIS Killer

Photo credit: FreeJamesFoley.org

Following the gruesome killing of journalist James Foley on Tuesday, the search is on for his killer – as well as anyone involved in the act. According to experts, digital voice analysis technology could play a role in tracking him down.

A U.S. law enforcement source told FoxNews that a forensic “drill down” is under way to find the killer. By analyzing every aspect of the Foley beheading video, authorities may happen upon a lead and be able to identify the killer from FBI databases of known or suspected terrorists. In particular, the killer’s accent, which appears to be British, may help them hone in on him and his fellow ISIS agents.

Dr. Afzal Ashraf, consultant fellow in international diplomacy at the Royal United Services Institute, told Fox News that voice analysis could help lead to the killer:

“Linguistic technology is very good nowadays at matching voice characteristics,” Ashraf said. “If [the killer] has got a criminal background, there’s a very good chance that he could have been interviewed by police.”

If so, investigators could compare the voice on the Foley video with those from interview archives, much like facial recognition technology enables them to look for visual matches.

Peter Neumann, director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King's College London, said it’s more likely that investigators will narrow down a field of suspects by scouring social media.

Neumann said like most Western militants in Syria, the British terrorist will likely have a Facebook or Twitter account. There, he might give clues to his identity, such as his height, weight and eye color, or even his favorite sports team:

"Just because they are Islamic extremists and behead people doesn't meant they don't talk about football clubs," he said.

Luckily, we live in an age where advanced technology can help drill down on forensic evidence with greater detail than ever before. Here's hoping that investigators can leverage that technology to quickly identify Foley's killer, before anyone else is harmed.