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+ - Mechanical Insects Evolve The Ability To Fly Though A Window ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "You might think that the world has enough insects without creating robots in the same style. In this case, however, the real interest is in the way the ability to fly though a window can evolve without anyone really trying.
This particular robot, DelFly — see, is a miracle of miniaturisation. It weighs just 20 grams including a 1-gram autopilot and 4 grams devoted to a stereo vision system. It was designed at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. The idea was to try to evolve behaviour that would get the autonomous system to fly though a window all on its own. This involves finding the window and working out a flight configuration that gets DelFly though the window.
DelFly learned using the genetic algorithm, An initial population was created at random and then tested in simulated environment. Each individual was rated on their success and a fitness value computed. The best individuals are used to create a new generation by crossover and mutation. After 150 or more generations the behaviour tree proved about 88% successful which should be compared to an 82% success rate for a hand-crafted tree.
So put simply the DelFly evolved to fly though the window — just like the real thing."

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+ - Pi In Space!->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Raspberry Pi that is.
When British astronaut Tim Peake heads off to the International Space Station in November 2015 he will be accompanied on his 6 month mission by two augmented Rapsberry Pis, aka Astro Pis. The Astro Pi board is a Raspberry Pi HAT and provides — gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer and sensors for temperature, barometric pressure and humidity. It also has a real time clock, LED display and some push buttons — it sounds like the sort of addon that we could do with down here on earth as well! It will also be equipped with both camera module and an infra-red camera.
UK school pupils are being challenged to write Rapberry Pi apps or experiments to run in space. During his mission Tim Peake will deploy the Astro Pis, upload the winning code whilst in orbit, set them running, collect the data generated and then download it to be distributed to the winning teams.
If this doesn't get kids turned on to computing and science nothing will."

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+ - StreetPong - Makes Waiting For Traffic Fun ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "The extremely wacky idea, which has been put into real use in Germany, is an interactive game of Pong that you can play with the pedestrian waiting on the other side of the road. You control the ball using arrows on the push-button unit that activates the crossing. The devices are now known as ActiWait, and the thinking is that by giving you a way to avoid boredom while waiting for the lights, they’ll cut down on pedestrians attempting to cross the road without the protection of the lights. If you think its a great idea then there is an IndieGogo campaign on,with 38 days to go. if you put up 10,000 euros then you get a pair of game units to attach to a traffic crossing of your choosing — of course it's down to you to get official permission to do so. As an upgrade I'd recommend Froggy Freeway – the sight of those frogs getting squashed would be a much better deterrent to jumping the lights."
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+ - Spectrum Vega – A Blast From The Past ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "A new games console is being launched based on the 80s classic, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Within days of the start of its Indiegogo campaign all of the 1000 Limited Edition Spectrum Vegas had been claimed but there is still the chance to get your hands on one of the second batch.
The Sinclair Spectrum Vega is really retro in the sense that it plugs into a TV, so avoiding the need for a monitor, and comes complete with around 1,000 games built-in. Games are accessed through a menu based system, and once selected load automatically taking the player directly into the game play mode. This is very different from the original Spectrum with its rubber-topped keyboard and BASIC interface.
If you have existing Spectrum games you’d like to play, you can use an SD card to load them onto the Vega, though the current publicity material doesn’t give much clue as to how you go from ancient cassette tape to SD card. As for programming new games, there are ZX Spectrum emulators for Windows that are free and ready to use – but this raises the question of why we need retro hardware at all."

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+ - Finland Dumps Handwriting In Favor Of Typing ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "It seems incredible that in the 21st century schools are still teaching children to scratch marks on paper. Well in Finland they are taking a step in the direction of the future by giving up teaching handwriting.
The Savon Sanomat newspaper reports that from autumn 2016 cursive handwriting will no longer be a compulsory part of the school curriculum. Instead the schools will teach keyboard skills and "texting". The idea of teaching proper keyboard skills to children is unquestionably a great idea, the idea of texting is a little more dubious and many will mourn the loss of a traditional skill like cursive writing.
So what about a world where cursive writing is forgotten?
What do you do when your computer is dead and you need to leave a note? The death of cursive script probably isn't the death of handwriting but the death of doing it quickly and with style. Some no doubt will want to master it just for the sake of it — like driving a stick shift."

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+ - What Does The NSA Think Of Cryptographers? ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "A recently declassified NSA house magazine, CryptoLog, reveals some interesting attitudes between the redactions. What is the NSA take on cryptography?
The article of interest is a report of a trip to the 1992 EuroCrypt conference by an NSA cryptographer whose name is redacted.We all get a little bored having to sit though presentations that are off topic, boring or even down right silly but we generally don't write our opinions down. In this case the criticisms are cutting and they reveal a lot about the attitude of the NSA cryptographers. You need to keep in mind as you read that this is intended for the NSA crypto community and as such the writer would have felt at home with what was being written.
Take for example:
Three of the last four sessions were of no value whatever, and indeed there was almost nothing at Eurocrypt to interest us (this is good news!). The scholarship was actually extremely good; it’s just that the directions which external cryptologic researchers have taken are remarkably far from our own lines of interest.
It seems that back in 1992 academic cryptographers were working on things that the NSA didn't consider of any importance. Could things be the same now?
The gulf between the two camps couldn't be better expressed than:
The conference again offered an interesting view into the thought processes of the world’s leading “cryptologists.” It is indeed remarkable how far the Agency has strayed from the True Path.
The ironic comment is clearly suggesting that the NSA is on the "true path" whatever that might be.
Clearly the gap between the NSA and the academic crypto community is probably as wide today with the different approaches to the problem being driven by what each wants to achieve. It is worth reading the rest of the article."

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+ - A Worm's Mind In A Lego Body ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) is tiny and only has 302 neurons. These have been completely mapped and one of the founders of the OpenWorm project, Timothy Busbice, has taken the connectome and implemented an object oriented neuron program. The neurons communicate by sending UDP packets across the network. The software works with sensors and effectors provided by a simple LEGO robot. The sensors are sampled every 100ms. For example, the sonar sensor on the robot is wired as the worm's nose. If anything comes within 20cm of the "nose" then UDP packets are sent to the sensory neurons in the network. The motor neurons are wired up to the left and right motors of the robot.
It is claimed that the robot behaved in ways that are similar to observed C. elegans. Stimulation of the nose stopped forward motion. Touching the anterior and posterior touch sensors made the robot move forward and back accordingly. Stimulating the food sensor made the robot move forward.
The key point is that there was no programming or learning involved to create the behaviors. The connectome of the worm was mapped and implemented as a software system and the behaviors emerge.
Is the robot a C. elegans in a different body or is it something quite new?
Is it alive?
These are questions for philosophers, but it does suggest that the ghost in the machine is just the machine. The important question is does it scale?"

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+ - Raspberry Pi A+ Details Leaked->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "After the Raspberry Pi B was upgraded to the B+ it was inevitable that the model A would follow. We were even promised something "special" by Eben Upton in a recent interview. Despite trying to keep it secret, Element 14, a major Raspberry Pi retailer has published some details by way of a web page getting ready to sell you a new model A+ (the page has now been removed).
The board layout looks very different and it is much smaller than the model A or B+. Judging from the photograph, the A+ board just encompasses the four standard mounting holes which makes it approximately 56x65mm — the model B+ is 56x85mm.
The key improvements are the new 40-pin GPIO socket, which makes the model A+ fully compatible with the HAT expansion standard. This means that any new HAT expansion cards should now work with the A+. It also specifically has a connector for the, as yet unannounced, Raspberry Pi touch screen. This was partially demoed in a recent interview and marked as "coming soon".
The other welcome change is the micro SD port, but the new A+ still has only a single USB 2 connector. There is also no word on what the device's power consumption is, but it has to be lower than the model B+ because it is basically the same design minus the Ethernet chip.
The model A+ is good news, except of course for all those Raspberry Pi case makers who will now have to redesign their model A cases.
No price as yet, but it would be a big surprise if it wasn't $25"

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+ - Google Introduces Signed-In Maps - Gets All The Location Data->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "The announcement on the Google Geo Developers blog has the catchy title No map is an island. It points out that while there are now around 2 million active sites that have Google Maps embedded they store data independently, The new feature, called attributed save, aims to overcome this problem by creating an integrated experience between the apps you use that have map content and Google Maps and all it requires is that users sign in. So if you use a map in a specific app you will be able to see locations you entered in other apps.This all sounds great and it makes sense to allow users to take all of the locations that have previously been stored in app silos and put them all together into one big map data pool. The only down side is that the pool is owned by Google and some users might not like the idea of letting Google have access to so much personal geo information. It seems you can have convenience or you can have privacy.
It might just be that many users prefer their maps to be islands."

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+ - The Astonishing Rise Of Dart ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "If the signs are to be believed Dart, Google's JavaScript replacement is shooting up the popularity stakes. Should Dart be the next language you learn?
This month's Dart TIOBE index shows an amazing increase in interest — yes its a hockey stick. After showing only small pulses of interest since its introduction in late 2011, Dart has suddenly entered the top 20 languages at number 17 after a rapid and sustained spike starting at the end of July 2014. To give you some idea of where this places the language, its TIOBE ranking is better than F# and close to Ruby. From nothing much to being as popular as Ruby means you probably need to take notice of Dart in the future.
Of course there are all of the usual caveats about the TIOBE index, but no matter what you think is being measured, something clearly started happened at the end of July and it is still happening. It is so unusual that the thought that someone might be gaming the TIOBE index does occur."

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+ - Amazon Robot Picking Challenge 2015->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "We have all heard the stories about how Amazon treats workers in its fullfilment centers. Well now it seems it wants to do the right thing — and replace all of them by robots.
The Amazon Picking Challenge at ICRA (IEEE Robotics and Automation) 2015 is about getting a robot to perform the picking task. All the robot has to do is pick a list of items from the automated shelves that Amazon uses and place the items into another automated tray ready for delivery. The prizes are $20,000 for the winner, $5000 for second place and $1000 for third place. In addition each team can be awarded up to $6000 to get them and their robot to the conference so that they can participate in the challenge. Amazon is even offering to try to act as matchmaker between robot companies and teams not having the robot hardware they need. A Baxter Research Robot will be made available at the contest.
A robot picker sounds like it could be removing humans from a job that would be much better suited to robots — but then of course, the humans wouldn't have jobs.
We talk a lot in the abstract about the effect that robots have on employment and are very smug about the idea that robots grow the overall job market by creating new jobs in other areas, but here we have a crystal clear situation. The people doing the picking aren't going to be getting jobs that have been created by the robots. The robots will simply take their jobs."

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+ - Mozilla Labs Closed And Nobody Noticed->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "When Google Labs closed there was an outcry. How could an organization just pull the rug from under so many projects?
At least Google announced what it was doing. Mozilla, it seems since there is no official record, just quietly tiptoes away — leaving the lights on since the Mozilla Labs Website is still accessible. It is accessible but when you start to explore the website you notice it is moribund with the last blog post being December 2013 with the penultimate one being September 2013.
The fact that it is gone is confirmed by recent blog posts and by the redeployment of the people who used to run it. The projects that survived have been moved to their own websites. It isn't clear what has happened to the Hatchery -the incubator that invited new ideas from all and sundry.
One of the big advantages of open source is the ease with which a project can be started. One of the big disadvantages of open source is the ease with which projects can be allowed to die — often without any clear cut time of death. It seems Mozilla applies this to groups and initiatives as much as projects. This isn't good."

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+ - Google's Neural Networks See Even Better ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Google is becoming as well known for neural networks as the other kind. The annual ImageNet large-scale visual recognition challenge, ILSRVC, is the a testing ground for all manner of computer vision techniques, but recently it has been dominated by convolutional neural networks which are trained to recognize objects simply by being shown lots of examples in photographs.
In 2012 there was a big jump in accuracy when a deep convolutional net designed by Alex Krizhevsky, Ilya Sutskever and Geoffrey E. Hinton proved for the first time that neural networks really did work if you had enough data and enough computing power. This is the neural network that Google has used in its photo search algorithm and, of course, the team they hired to implement it.
This year's competition also brought a jump in performance. Google's GoogLeNet,, yes Goog-le-net, named in honour of LeNet created by Yan LeCun, won the classification and detection challenge while doubling the quality over last year's results. This year the GoogLeNet scored 44% mean average precision compared to the best last year of 23%.
In simple recognition tasks neural nets are as good as humans so a more difficult task has now become the focus of attention. Not only do the nets have to recognize photo of a single object — dog, cat etc., they now have to recognize multiple objects in a photo, a dog with a hat on say, and localize the objects by drawing bounding boxes. This is much harder and tens of thousands of CPU cores were used to train GoogLeNet.
Once nets can recognize individual object and where they are they are well on the road to scene analysis and description — a long-time goal of computer vision systems. A robot with GoogLeNet could with the right higher level software see what was about them."

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+ - The First Sophisticated Domestic Robot - The Dyson 360 Eye ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Yes it's a vacuum cleaner! But you knew it would be. The real question is why has it taken so long to make a sophisticated robot to do the menial job of cleaning the floor. The typical Roomba style robot vac runs around at random bumping into things and getting tangled in anything it can find. It is an endearing little machine and once you have owned one the idea of not having one is unthinkable but... it is still a little dim, even for the menial job of cleaning the floor.
Enter the Dyson 360 Eye which was launched last week. This is an upmarket cleaner. Not only does it have a radial root cyclone suction machine it also has, as it's name suggests, 360 degree vision.
A 360 degree panoramic lens lets an infrared sensor see all around. The sensors work in conjunction with a video camera to place objects in the scene. As it moves around it builds a model that is accurate to 5mm. It uses SLAM — Simultaneous Localization And Mapping — which is one mark of an advanced robot. In short — this Dyson knows where it is.
And what is the advantage of this?
Simple — the robot doesn't bump into things and it can clean systematically, which is much more satisfying for a human observer at the very least.
Add to this radial root cyclone suction, tank track to avoid slipping or getting stuck and an iOS and Android app to control it and you have a very desirable floor cleaning robot — but is it overkill? At more than $1000 it will be available early next year and you can pre-order now even if you only want it to hack. See it in action in the video."

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+ - Wire The Programmer To Prevent Buggy Code ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Here's a new idea.
You might have heard of aids that keep a driver from falling asleep by detecting how alert they are but what about the same idea applied to programmers. In this case the object isn't to stop a crash, well it sort of is, but a bug.
Microsoft Researcher Andrew Begel, together with academic and industry colleagues have been trying to detect when developers are struggling as they work, in order to prevent bugs before they are introduced into code. A paper presented at the 36th International Conference on Software Engineering, reports on a study conducted with 15 professional programmers to see how well an eye-tracker, an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor, and an electroencephalography (EEG) sensor could be used to predict whether developers would find a task difficult. Difficult tasks are potential bug generators and finding a task difficult is the programming equivalent of going to sleep at the wheel.
Going beyond this initial investigation researchers now need to decide how to support developers who are finding their work difficult. What isn’t known yet is how developers will react if their actions are approaching bug-potential levels and an intervention is deemed necessary. Presumably the nature of the intervention also has to be worked out. So next time you sit down at your coding station consider that in the future they may be wanting to wire you up just to make sure you aren't a source of bugs. And what could possibly be the intervention?"

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Mr. Cole's Axiom: The sum of the intelligence on the planet is a constant; the population is growing.