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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.

Thursday
Aug142014

FBI Facial Recognition Catches Fugitive on the Run for 14 Years

For many people, the idea of the FBI’s extensive facial recognition database is a bit creepy. But rest assured that facial recognition in the hands of the government can certainly serve a purpose.

Case in point: Neil Stammer, a former Albuquerque resident wanted by the FBI on a charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, has been captured after 14 years on the run, thanks to a government facial recognition database. According to the FBI, Stammer had traveled extensively overseas and speaks a dozen languages. He had eluded capture for years by moving continuously. Ultimately, he was captured in Nepal just a few weeks ago and returned to New Mexico to face child sex abuse and kidnapping charges.

How did the arrest finally happen? An FBI agent was recently working his way through a stack of unsolved cases, when he came across Stammer’s file. On a whim, he had the FBI’s Office of Public affairs post a new “wanted” poster for Stammer on the agency’s website. He hoped that, even after all these years, it might lead to something.

Meanwhile, the Diplomatic Security Service, part of the U.S. Department of State, was testing new facial recognition software that will be used to detect passport fraud. An agent decided to try the software on FBI wanted posters, and was surprised when Stammer’s face matched a person whose passport photo had a different name entirely. The agent suspected passport fraud, and once he involved the FBI, realized Stammer’s crimes went much deeper than that.

Following Stammer's arrest, we can only hope that the various government agencies can collaborate in the future (intentionally, of course). With the wealth of knowledge availablel to the FBI and other agencies, facial recognition software promises to be a powerful detection and prosecution tool for governments around the world.

Tuesday
Aug122014

First Manmade Biological Leaf

 

Silk Leaf, invented by Julian Melchiorri, is the first manmade biological leaf that breathes and acts just like a real leaf. The silk material, which incorporates a suspension of chloroplasts from real plant cells, engages in photosynthesis, converting carbon dixoide, light and water into oxygen.   

Melchiorri says the Silk Leaf may facilitate space travel. Plants don't grow in zero gravity, but with the Silk Leaf producing oxgyen for a spacecraft, deep-space exploration may be possible.

Here on Earth, it can be used to purify the air around us. It can absorb outside air and vent filtered air into homes and buildings. 

Thursday
Aug072014

First Oragami Robot That Self Folds, Walks Away On Its Own

Science has published a paper from a team of researchers at MIT and Harvard University who have created a robot that can, starting from a flat position, fold itself up into a complex robot that can walk and turn. The robot self folds in about four minutes and walks away at a speed of more than 2 inches per second. It folds, walks and turns without human intervention. No other self-folding robot can function like this without extra intervention. 

"The exciting thing here is that you create this device that has computation embedded in the flat, printed version," said Daniela Rus, one of the Science paper's co-authors. "And when these devices lift up from the ground into the third dimension, they do it in a thoughtful way."

This new technology paves the way for these types of complex robots to be produced quickly and be scalable. 

Wednesday
Jul162014

3-D Printing at Home

Credit: MakerBot

In a pilot program, The Home Depot is selling MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3-D Printers in 12 stores in California, Illinois and New York.

The 12 stores will also have kiosks that are designed to encourage shoppers to experience 3-D printing. Trained MakerBot retail staff will provide 3-D printing demonstrations and offer 3-D printed keepsakes, as well as help with purchase decisions.
The companies hope to educate customers, who range from builders, architects and contractors to designers, landscapers and general consumers, on the benefits of 3-D printing technology.