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Tuesday
Mar042014

DHS Considering Facial Recognition at Border Stations

The Department of Homeland Security is looking to dive into the world of biometrics.

DHS is requesting information from contractors on the use of facial and iris recognition to track the departure of foreign visitors. The technology could help to DHS agents to confirm that pedestrians and drivers leaving the U.S. are who they claim to be. There’s no word yet on whether a similar system might be used for air passengers.

DHS hopes that this type of technology could help them better keep track of travelers who overstay their visas, such as Amine El Khalifi, a Moroccan immigrant who was living in Virginia on an expired 1999 visa when he attempted to bomb the U.S. Capitol Building.

DHS wants to find a “fingerprint, iris, and facial matching" system that could identify more than 97 percent of foreign pedestrians. Most systems currently average 95 percent or better in ideal situations.

While it’s a bit exciting that DHS might invest in such (relatively) cutting-edge technology, we have to wonder how effective it will be in this case. What if people with expired visas never leave—or already have? DHS would never know it using this technique. Besides, what are the odds that foreigners who have overstayed their visas would exit via a border crossing, as opposed to taking a flight out of the country? And finally, how much of a backlog are these systems going to create at each border crossing? Many are already plagued with long lines and staff shortages.

Kudos to DHS for going the technology route to solve a long-term problem. But in this case, biometrics might not be the best bet.

What are your thoughts on this approach? Do you think DHS would actually make some progress using biometrics? Or would it be a waste of resources?

Thursday
Feb272014

Virtual Reality Project Lets Subjects 'Switch Bodies' with Opposite Sex

Researchers in Barcelona are using advanced virtual reality technology to allow subjects to “switch bodies” with the opposite sex.

A group of student’s at Barcelona’s University Pompeu Fabra is the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset in its “The Machine To Be Another” project, which is featured in the video. The project aims to let male and female participants experience how it feels to be in a body of the opposite sex.

Each subject wears a headset, which projects the video feed from their partner’s POV. Then, the two subjects move according to the same set of instructions in order to mirror each other.

“Deep inside you know it’s not your body, but you feel like it is,” digital arts student and group co-founder Philippe Bertrand said in a Wired report.

Thursday
Feb272014

Choosing Restaurants Using Augmented Reality Head-Mounted Displays

Credit: KAIST

Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) wants to help people choose restaurants while on the go. 

They developed K-Glass, a wearable, hands-free head-mounted display that enables users to find restaurants and check out their menus while they are out and about. 

Simply walk up to a restaurant and look at the name. Today's menu and a 3-D image of food will pop up before your eyes. The Glass can even show the number of tables available. 

Hoi-Jun Yoo, Professor of Electrical Engineering at KAIST, and his team developed, for the first time in the world, an AR chip that works just like human vision. This processor is based on the Visual Attention Model (VAM) that duplicates the ability of the human brain to process visual data. VAM, almost unconsciously or automatically, disentangles the most salient and relevant information about the environment in which human vision operates, thereby eliminating unnecessary data unless they must be processed. In return, the processor can dramatically speed up the computation of complex AR algorithms.

The AR processor also has a data processing network similar to that of a human brain's central nervous system. When the human brain perceives visual data, different sets of neurons, all connected, work concurrently on each fragment of a decision-making process; one group's work is relayed to other group of neurons for the next round of the process, which continues until a set of decider neurons determines the character of the data. Likewise, the artificial neural network allows parallel data processing, alleviating data congestion and reducing power consumption significantly.

"Our processor can work for long hours without sacrificing K-Glass's high performance, an ideal mobile gadget or wearable computer, which users can wear for almost the whole day," Professor Yoo said in a press release. "HMDs will become the next mobile device, eventually taking over smartphones. Their markets have been growing fast, and it's really a matter of time before mobile users will eventually embrace an optical see-through HMD as part of their daily use. Through augmented reality, we will have richer, deeper, and more powerful reality in all aspects of our life from education, business, and entertainment to art and culture."

Thursday
Feb202014

Study Findings Offer Reason for Emotional Relationship Between Us, Dogs

One of the test subjects. Credit: Eniko KubinyiDog owners know that our furry best friends are very in tune with our emotions. One reason for this may be because dogs have dedicated voice areas in their brains, just as we do, and dog brains, like those of people, are also sensitive to acoustic cues of emotion. This first study of brain function between humans and any nonprimate animal was published in the Cell Press journal Current.

"Our findings suggest that [dogs] also use similar brain mechanisms to process social information. This may support the successfulness of vocal communication between the two species," said Attila Andics of MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Hungary, in a press release.

Group photo of all the test subjects. Credit: Borbala Ferenczy

 

Andics and his colleagues trained 11 dogs to lay motionless in an fMRI brain scanner. That made it possible to run the same neuroimaging experiment on both dog and human participants—something that had never been done before. They captured both dogs' and humans' brain activities while the subjects listened to nearly 200 dog and human sounds, ranging from whining or crying to playful barking or laughing.

The images show that dog and human brains include voice areas in similar locations. Not surprisingly, the voice area of dogs responds more strongly to other dogs while that of humans responds more strongly to other humans.

There were also similarities in the ways the dog and human brains process emotionally loaded sounds. In both species, an area near the primary auditory cortex lit up more with happy sounds than unhappy ones. Andics says the researchers were most struck by the common response to emotion across species.

Wednesday
Feb192014

Can Google Glass Make You an Instant Expert?

Behold the power of augmented reality. With a forthcoming Google Glass app, drivers become mechanics, with the information they need to fix their car problems overlaid on their engine via Glass.

Imagine quickly and easily fixing a common engine problem without a visit to the mechanic or even a glance at your manual. It could save you untold time and money -- while also protecting you from getting ripped off. With new apps being created all the time, Glass promises all that and more.

Just imagine the possibilities. Astronauts could use Glass to fix complicated technical problems in space. Award-winning chefs could walk home cooks through complicated recipes. Medical apps could help Glass users perform basic first aid and emergency procedures.

Oh, wait: A few of those already exist:

We can't wait to see where Glass shows up next.