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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.

Thursday
Feb132014

Virtual Reality Makes Flying More Relaxing

Virtual reality is currently being tested on airplanes to mask the interior cabin and create illusions of comfort and relaxation. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO in Stuttgart are working on a project called "VR Hyperspace" to make this a reality. This research project is led by The University of Nottingham in the U.K.

Ideas being tested in a mock-up plane cabin include displaying images on the surfaces of the cabin and complete immersion in a head-mounted display that can change both spatial and body awareness. So far, there's a see-through mode as shown in the above photo, a tropical island scene or a stream running through a forest. Business travelers can even run Office applications on the built-in display system, while still enjoying the virtual reality scene. Test subjects are already reporting that they feel an increased level of comfort and spaciousness and that time flies by more quickly.

Tuesday
Feb112014

Virgin Galactic to Begin Space Flights This Year

 

The countdown is on, wealthy space enthusiasts. Virgin Galactic will begin commercial flights into space in the second half of 2014.

The interest is definitely there: Virgin said it’s collected $80 million in deposits and has sold 680 tickets at $250,000 a pop.

Flights will take off from the Virgin Spaceport, which is located in southern New Mexico. They’ll climb 50,000 feet into the outer atmosphere, giving passengers their first taste of true weightlessness.

Virgin will start full test flights this spring. In the meantime, check out the video of one of their early-stage tests, which was conducted in January. In it, SpaceShipTwo reached 71,000 feet and achieved top speeds of Mach 1.4—which is 1.4 times the speed of sound.

According to reports, the first Virgin Galactic flight will be made by Richard Branson and his family. However, the company must first obtain FAA approval on its commercial license.

Thursday
Feb062014

SMS Now Stands for Scent Message Service

We've been talking about smell-o-vision for years. You often hear celebrity TV chefs talk about their desire to share scents with audiences watching at home. Now, Scentee, a free Japanese app by Mixed Reality Lab, lets users send scents through smartphones. The app comes with a smartphone attachment, priced at $35 plus shipping charges, that releases a scent, such as roses, strawberry, coffee, lavender and rosemary. Each cartridge costs $5. More scents, such as coconut and jasmine, will be added in the near future. 

Users can also set scented notifications for emails, Facebook “Likes” and timers. Imagine instead of the radio or chimes, you wake up to the smell of coffee in the morning.

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