Category Archives: Articles

A Camera That Covers Every Angle

360Fly
Photograph by Sam Kaplan

For 16 years, EyeSee360 has made panoramic cameras for the military and other industries. Now the company has adapted its technology for the 360Fly, a consumer video camera that allows anyone to record a whole scene—360 degrees around and 240 vertically—without moving. Users mount the baseball-size camera on a tripod or GoPro-style on a helmet or surfboard. The lens captures the image, and the camera sends footage to a phone or computer over Wi-Fi. Viewers can watch the video as a single framed shot or click-and-drag to see the entire scene almost as if they were there.

360Fly

Horizontal field: 360 degrees

Vertical field: 240 degrees

Approximate resolution: 1,500 x 1,500 pixels

Weight: 4.2 ounces

Price: $450 (est.)

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Popular Science.

Mobile App Analyzes A Drink Menu For You

SipSnapp
Screenshot via Kickstarter

A good drink is an important part of a good dining experience, be it a pint of your local microbrew or a glass of pinot noir. While some of us may fancy ourselves as beer or wine connoisseurs, the average customer might not be able to tell ale from pale ale, pinot blanc from pinot grigio.  Worry not: there’s an app for that.

SipSnapp is a mobile app that aims to provide you with enough information to can make an informed decision. Once you’ve settled in your seat, open the app, and snap a picture of the drinks menu in front of you. Within a minute, SipSnapp reads the list from the menu and returns a detailed analysis: brewer, style, user ratings and so on — all the facts you need to make a wise decision of what drink to order.

Currently, the app’s Kickstarter campaign has raised $467 of their pledged $30,000 total with 28 days to go. Their first prototype, if they reach the funding goal, would focus only on beer. Aside from snapping photos, searching can also be done by drink name and results will include user ratings and comments from Ratebeer.com. Another feature of the app is that it learns of your personal preferences over time, and in a Netflix style, recommends beers that you would like when it pops up on the menu. The SipSnapp team also projects future features that will include a wine section, searching for available drinks according to location, and a paid premium service.



Miniature Roomba-Like Printer Hits Funding Goal

Pocket Printer

The printer, if you even own one, is likely your most despised device. It’s loud; it jams; it requires a fountain of ink that is literally more expensive than imported Russian caviar. Any forward progress on that front is appreciated.

The latest is a tiny robot from a startup called ZUtA Labs, called the Pocket Printer: a fist-sized, Roomba-like robot that rolls across paper, trailing letters behind it like Hansel and Gretel dropping breadcrumbs. With 17 days to go, the project has reached its $400,000 funding goal, with pre-orders of the devices going for about $200 a pop. 

 

 

The printer’s still in the prototype phase; you can see it eke out a little printed Hello in the campaign video above. So, we have a while before we can see what it can really do. That said, the about section lists a 40-second print time for an “average” page, which doesn’t seem especially efficient. Maybe we’ll recoup that time from all the jams we won’t have to deal with?



'Titanfall' Is The Most Addictive Game Ever

Super World
Because Titanfall’s multiplayer matches are cloud hosted, developers no longer have to make tough choices—like whether to add players or artificially intelligent background characters—to save processing power. “Other AI running around makes the world much more interesting,” says Respawn software engineer Jon Shiring.
Courtesy Respawn Entertainment

On March 11, Electronic Arts will release Titanfall (Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC; $60), an online first-person shooter that promises to reinvent shooting-your-friends-in-the-face technology. Developed by Respawn Entertainment, it comes with a notable pedigree. Respawn co-founder Vince Zampella created the Call of Duty franchise before leaving Activision, and his team has the best track record in the business for creating preternaturally compelling games (the CoD series has sold more than 100 million copies). With new gameplay concepts and technology, Titanfall will be this year’s shooter to beat. Here’s why.

Expert Manipulation

Zampella’s team devised CoD’s grabbiest feature, an awards system that gives players weapons based on experience points. It’s an extremely effective method for keeping players engaged. Titanfall adds several twists, such as “burn cards,” single-use items that provide a quick stat boost or extra muscle.

Bodies In Motion 

Most shooters are played on the ground, but Titanfall lets players move like parkour athletes—running on walls and taking massive leaps. “People start playing it normally,” says Zampella, “but after a certain point it clicks: ‘I can jump over that fence.’ Now, when I play a game without wall running, I feel like something’s missing.”

Better Connector

Network-induced delays in multiplayer sessions (a.k.a. “lag”) are instant immersion killers and the bane of a gamer’s existence. All Titanfall games will be hosted on Microsoft’s global network of servers, Xbox Live Compute, which promises to make multiplayer scenarios less susceptible to interruption. 

This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Popular Science. 



Toe-Tickling Shoes Let You Navigate The City By Touch

If you’ve spent any time lately walking on busy city sidewalks, you’ll know that many people are gazing steadily into smartphone screens as they get around, often at the expense of seeing who and what are right around them. Presumably they’re checking texts and email, or using online maps and other apps to find shops, restaurants, doctors’ offices, and other destinations.

By focusing so intently on our screens and following a set route from point A to point B, have we sacrificed chance encounters with the unexpected? That’s what MIT Media Lab researcher Dhairya Dand suggests. “Today we immerse in our digital lives through smartphones,” he writes. “We don’t get lost anymore, we don’t wander, wonder and discover.”

Dand has set out to solve this disconnection with his “SuperShoes,” which decouple sight from the map-based navigation equation, and replace it with the sense of touch. Flexible insoles are embedded with vibrating motors under the toes, which connect wirelessly to an app on the user’s smartphone. The phone in turn taps into information stored in a cloud account where the user has already input likes and dislikes: hobbies, shops, foods, people, interests and more.

Enter a destination into the app and put the smartphone away in a bag or pocket.  The tiny motors in each insole then communicate directions via toe-tickle. “[L]eft toe tickles – turn left, right toe tickles – turn right, no tickle – keep going, both tickle repeatedly – reached destination, both tickle once – recommendation, both tickle twice – reminder,” Dand writes.

Dhairya Dand's SuperShoes insole
Feel Your Way
The SuperShoes insoles includes small motors that tickle the wearer’s toes to indicate which direction to walk, a microcontroller, and a low-power Bluetooth transmitter that wireless connects the insoles with the user’s smartphone.
Dhairya Dand

The tickling interface lends itself to several functions beyond being a tactile map. They can also act as tour guide to points of interest, known and unknown; as a reminder when the user nears a site related to a to-do task (like buying a quart of milk at the nearest bodega); as a prompt to get up and take a worry-free walk break during free time, knowing that you’ll make your way back in time for your next meeting or other calender commitment; and, as a way to safely encounter new things in the city, by taking different routes between regular destinations without getting lost.

“The novel feature of the SuperShoes is that it can instill ‘acts of random serendipity’ — suggest a different route to work in the morning,” writes smart clothing guru Syuzi Pakchyan on the FashioningTech blog, “or suggest a scenic walk for mediation, adding a level of discovery and exploration to one of the best forms of exercise — walking.” And one of the best ways to spur creativity, according to some new science.

Although the accompanying video suggests Dand has tested SuperShoes with a number of users, he does not seem to have released any specs for how to build and program up your own set of tickling insoles, or made the app or cloud platform public. Perhaps he’s hoping to follow a path to market being taken by a similar recent project out of MIT Media Lab: Lechal, a shoe with a tactile feedback system in the insole that can help the blind and visually impaired get around more safely.



India's 'Bollywood Oscars' in Florida for U.S. debut

TAMPA, Florida Fri Apr 25, 2014 2:36pm EDT

Bollywood Actress Priyanka Chopra (C) and Actress Sonakshi Sinha and Anil Kapoor (R) entertain the crowd ahead of the 15th International Indian Film Academy Awards in Tampa, Florida April 24, 2014. REUTERS/Mohammed Jaffer-SnapsIndia

1 of 3. Bollywood Actress Priyanka Chopra (C) and Actress Sonakshi Sinha and Anil Kapoor (R) entertain the crowd ahead of the 15th International Indian Film Academy Awards in Tampa, Florida April 24, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Jaffer-SnapsIndia

TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) – Celebrities and dignitaries from India and the United States descended on Florida this week for the “Bollywood Oscars,” an awards event making its first-ever U.S. stop with the aim of creating deeper ties between the two countries.

The International Indian Film Academy’s awards show set for Saturday has been compared to the Super Bowl in terms of its security needs, traffic management and planning. But its expected worldwide viewership of 800 million far surpasses the championship American football game’s 111.5 million viewers on average in 2014.

The film academy’s choice of Tampa, home to Florida’s third-largest South Asian community, to host its first U.S.-based awards show in the event’s 15-year history came as a happy surprise to some fans.

“I jumped out of my seat,” said Rubia Qureshi, 22, a local resident who grew up watching Bollywood films, known for their distinctive and elaborate song-and-dance performances. “I’m the biggest fan.”

Qureshi and her mother, who is of Pakistani heritage, joined hundreds of others eager to snap photos of movie stars as they arrived at the Tampa airport and walked the industry’s signature green carpet. Fans were so excited at the arrival of actress Deepika Padukone on Wednesday that they knocked over a security barrier.

Other celebrities taking part in the event include American actors John Travolta and Kevin Spacey as well as India’s Anil Kapoor, best known to U.S. audiences for his 2008 role in “Slumdog Millionaire,” and Shah Rukh Khan, an actor who has more than 7.4 million followers on Twitter.

STAR SIGHTINGS

The star sightings have created a buzz, but perhaps more exciting to local officials is the potential economic impact of hosting the awards as well as the prospect of building stronger business, cultural and tourism ties with India.

This week’s event is expected to bring 30,000 visitors and $11 million in revenue, organizers said. It also will lay the groundwork for longer-term opportunities with business owners who attend, said Tampa cardiologist Kiran Patel, the event’s biggest private backer.

“Ultimately this is not a four-day event,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “This is a multi-decade relationship.”

The $2 billion Indian film industry has a wide global reach and produces more movies each year than Hollywood, though the U.S. film industry generates five times more revenue, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The film academy’s decision to come to the United States, and particularly Tampa, is credited in part to the strength of the city’s Indian-American community, which numbers more than 23,500 people.

The effects of the community’s organization and growth can be seen throughout the Tampa Bay area where several large movie houses show Bollywood films. Indian restaurants and grocery stores are common, weekly cricket games are held at county parks and nearly a dozen Indian temples dot the area.

The film academy’s kickoff event on Wednesday night drew as many as 8,000 people to a downtown park, 40 percent of whom were not of Indian heritage, the mayor said. There they got a taste of the rich culture as deejays spun Indian music and local Bollywood-style dance troupes performed.

Kapoor said connections have grown wherever he has traveled for the Indian awards show, and he predicted the same result for the countries with the world’s two biggest film industries.

“It bridges the gap which has been between Hollywood and Bollywood,” he said.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and G Crosse)

Malians who sang out against conflict get Songlines honors

LONDON Wed Apr 23, 2014 8:06pm EDT

Mali's Cheikh Ag Tiglia, Ousmane Ag Mossa, Wonou Walet Sidati, Ibrahim Ag Ahmed Salem, and Aghaly Ag Mohammedi (L-R) of the Touareg desert blues band Tamikrest, pose at Barbican Hall before the Sahara Soul concert in London in this January 26, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/Files

Mali’s Cheikh Ag Tiglia, Ousmane Ag Mossa, Wonou Walet Sidati, Ibrahim Ag Ahmed Salem, and Aghaly Ag Mohammedi (L-R) of the Touareg desert blues band Tamikrest, pose at Barbican Hall before the Sahara Soul concert in London in this January 26, 2012 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor/Files

LONDON (Reuters) – Malian ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate, whose album “Jama Ko” urged his countrymen to stand together just as Mali erupted in conflict, has won the Best Artist accolade in the annual awards for world music magazine Songlines.

Tuareg band Tamikrest, who decried the ravages of the war in their album “Chatma”, won the Best Group category.

“Given what happened in Mali in the past year and a half, it’s not a surprise that two of these awards go to Malian artists,” Songlines Editor-in-Chief Simon Broughton said.

“I’m pleased that it’s Malians from other ends of the country,” he told Reuters, referring to different fronts in the conflict.

The Best Cross-Cultural Collaboration award went to Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Senegalese kora (harp-lute)player Seckou Keita.

Best Newcomer was Family Atlantica, a London-based band led by Venezuelan singer Luzmira Zerpa which brings together the music of Africa and Latin America.

Kouyate, who plays the banjo-like ngoni and wears flowing robes on stage, has been a mainstay of the Malian music scene for years. He and his band, Ngoni ba, which features his two sons, were recording “Jama Ko” in the capital Bamako when a coup took place in March 2012.

“The title track is a call to Malians to pull together. After that it all fell apart, but it shows the urgency of the message. It made him a statesman figure,” Broughton said.

“He comes from a traditional griot (story teller) background and it shows him as a contemporary griot, a voice of the country. There’s a rather regal presence about him too. Musically its gorgeous. Lovely arrangements, great songs. A political manifesto.”

The coup in Mali was followed by chaos and an Islamist take-over of the country’s north which saw music banned in towns taken over by hardliners. A Tuareg separatist revolt also spread

before a French military force intervened to restore order.

Tamikrest are one of a number of politically motivated Tuareg bands who followed in the wake of the ordinal Sahara desert bluesmen, Tinariwen. Now based in Algeria, they see themselves as distinct from Malians.

Their album “Chatna”, desert rock mixed with funk and dub, is dedicated to Tuareg women and features the keening vocals of woman singer Wonou Walet Sidati.

“It’s nice that given what happened in Mali last year, they brought this album out that looks at the women, talks about the problems that these conflicts bring and that it’s the women who often have to deal with them in many ways,” Broughton said.

“It’s quite a poignant record. There’s thread of sadness that runs through it.”

VALLEYS AND SLAVE ROUTES

At first glance an unlikely combination, harpist Finch and kora player Keita seamlessly blend the music of the Welsh Valleys and Senegal. A big hit at last year’s Womad event, they have since played at festivals all over the world.

“As soon as I heard the record I knew this was something special. There is a filigree delicacy. Usually in these fusions they are opposites but here you can’t tell who is doing what.”

“The thing that makes this is the personalities of the musicians that they get on so well,” Broughton said.

Newcomer award winners Family Atlantic are earning a reputation as a terrific live band, fronted by the flamboyant, Zerpa, with her extravagant costumes and dances, and featuring Londoner Jack Yglesias and Nigeran-Ghanaian Kwame Crenstil.

Their music is rooted in the African Diaspora and both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

“It’s Africa meets South America meets London…the classic slave trade routes. They’re really fun but they make a musical point about the connection. It is telling a musical narrative,” Broughton said.

More than 8,000 Songlines readers from 65 different countries voted for the awards shortlist, with the editorial board deciding the final winners. The magazine celebrates its 100th edition with the issue announcing the awards.

(Editing by Michael Roddy and Jeremy Gaunt) nL6N0N752E

Watch Out For iBeacon—Because It’s Watching You

iPhone 4’s glass back
John Mahoney

Last June, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software, sneaked something big into his Worldwide Developers Conference keynote. On a slide listing features that would debut in iOS 7, an unfamiliar word appeared: iBeacons. An iBeacon is a small module that makes a spontaneous Bluetooth connection with a nearby smartphone to deliver packets of information. In December, stores, arenas, and other venues began to test the hardware, pushing coupons and other location-based information to customers. Like any technology, iBeacon is not inherently good or bad; it’s how we use it that will make the difference.

To understand iBeacon, it’s important to understand the underlying technology, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Unlike previous Bluetooth devices, BLE ones don’t need to maintain a constant (and battery-draining) connection in order to share data. Instead they ping packets of information from their stationary locations. Only when another device comes into range will the two make a connection and share data. Manufacturers of health and fitness trackers have already put BLE to good use, creating devices that can gather data for days without a recharge. iBeacon makes it even easier to implement such exchanges, but not every company has our best interests as much at heart. 

Pling! Your phone lights up: “Making tuna salad? Don’t forget the mayo! 20 percent off MegaMart brand.”

iBeacon will allow companies to mine and use data about you in real time. With multiple iBeacons in place, stores can pinpoint your precise location, allowing them to monitor your browsing habits and promote products you’re likely to buy. We’re used to Amazon doing this, but soon your local MegaMart will be able to also. Say, for instance, you pick up tuna fish and then some celery. Pling! Your phone lights up: “Making tuna salad? Don’t forget the mayo! 20 percent off MegaMart brand.” While we’re curious about this new era of extreme couponing, it’s easy to see how stores might misuse it. 

That said, there are some helpful uses for location-specific information. Major League Baseball parks, including Citi Field in New York, will use iBeacons to guide you to your seats. (Citi will also use the system to sell you discounted hot dogs.) Radius Networks, a Washington, D.C., company, has released an iBeacon development kit, which individuals can use to build their own apps. Museums are talking about using the technology to push information about artwork to visitors as they move through galleries. And there’s potential for fun: Companies have used iBeacon to set up large digital scavenger hunts, and developers are cooking up games that could allow for spontaneous pickup matches that bridge the real and virtual worlds. 

The trouble is, iBeacon is an all-or-nothing scenario. The only surefire way to turn it off is to turn Bluetooth off altogether—also shutting down the connection to your headset or fitness tracker or smartwatch. But that’s not realistic; we’re attached to Bluetooth. Which means it’s up to individual developers and companies to make the right choices and treat us, our privacy, and our attention with a little respect.

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Popular Science. 



Turn Empty Beer Cans Into Sun-Tracking Cameras

Dan Bracaglia

In a world of digital cameras and instant gratification, photographer Justin Quinnell embraces pinhole photography, a technique hundreds of years old. He uses beer cans and photographic paper to record the gradual shift in the sun’s path over the course of several months. Quinnell originally designed his simple beer-can solargraph camera for students at Falmouth University in England, but early experimentation quickly blossomed into a personal obsession. “The indestructibility of a pinhole camera opens up some fun possibilities,” he says. “The only viewfinder you need is your imagination.” Build and deploy your own by following these steps.

Materials:
∙ Empty 20- or 24-oz. aluminum can
∙ 6-cm. disc (cut from black card stock)
∙ 25-by-7–cm. strip (cut from black card stock, with 1-cm. notches on one long side)
∙ Roll of black gaffer tape
∙ 8-by-5–in. sheet of semimatte photo paper (i.e., half of an 8-by-10–in. sheet)
∙ Plastic cable ties

Tools:
Can opener, pin, scissors, red light, blow-dryer, computer, flatbed scanner

1) Remove the can’s top with a can opener, and poke the middle of its side with a pin. Next, cut out the disc and notched strip from the black card stock.

2) Wrap the strip around the can’s base, and bend the notches inward at a 90-degree angle. Tape the disc on top of the notches to form a removable black lid.

3) Move everything into a darkened room. Turn on the red light to see, and insert 1⁄2 sheet of photo paper into the can facing the pinhole. Put tape over the pinhole.

4) Tape the lid over the can’s open end, and secure it with gaffer tape. (Use plenty of tape to ensure the camera is light-tight and waterproof.)

5) Take the project outside, aim the pinhole toward the southern sky, and vertically fasten the can to a signpost with cable ties. Uncover the pinhole.

6) Wait a month to a year (the longer the exposure, the more solar tracks appear). After the wait is over, cover the pinhole and take the camera indoors.

7) Remove the lid, and blow-dry the photo. Place it on a flatbed scanner, and make one-—and only one—high-resolution scan. (Don’t do a preview scan!)

8) Open the image, enhance its contrast (e.g., via “auto-equalize” or “auto-levels” commands), and invert the colors. Save the image to your computer.

Approximate time to build this project: 15 minutes
Cost: Less than $1 per photo
Difficulty: 1/5

Result After 6 Months
Justin Quinnell/PinholePhotography.org

April 27, 2014: Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day (for details visit pinholeday.org)
Email your solar graph scans to manual@popsci.com

WARNING: Wear protective gloves when cutting beer cans. Also mind the law; strapping up empty cans in public may be viewed as littering—or worse.

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Popular Science.



Testing The Sleep Trackers

Brooke Testing Sleep Bands
Photo by Michael Wasilewski

Many of the latest fitness trackers also claim to monitor sleep, so I decided to test a few. I strapped four of them to my arm 24/7 for a week of self-designed experiments. Some nights, I curbed caffeine, exercised early, and got to bed on time. Other nights, I suffered from jet lag, stayed up way too late watching Homeland, or experienced the ill effects of too much bourbon. The results were mixed.

Jawbone Up24
Courtesy Jawbone

1. Jawbone Up24: Easiest to Use

How it works: An accelerometer that measures motion tracks both activity and rest (including sleep). An algorithm uses its data to calculate calories burned based on the user’s sex, weight, height, and age.
My take: The app breaks down sleep into light and deep phases, supposedly based on small differences in body movement. Yet on nights where my notes say I woke many times, the Up24 claims I slept soundly. $149.99
Data: 5
Ease of use: 10

Looks: 8
Comfort: 10

 

 

 

 

 

Basis B1
Courtesy Basis

2. Basis B1: Best Sweat Monitor

How it works: An accelerometer and sensors track heart rate, calorie burn, skin temperature, and perspiration.
My take: The unit repeatedly failed to sync with the app and website, and the minimal sleep data didn’t match how I really slept. (But its sweat feature did encourage me to lower the thermostat at night.) The company says a new version this year will evaluate REM and deep sleep, as well as tossing and turning in bed. $199
Data: 2
Ease of use:
Looks: 5
Comfort: 7

 

 

 

Fitbit Force
Courtesy Fitbit

3. Fitbit Force: Sleekest

Update: In February 2014, Fitbit voluntarily recalled the Force because some wearers got a rash from the device. This story was prepared for Popular Science magazine before The Consumerist broke the story about Force rashes. Fitbit no longer sells new Forces and people who own Forces may return them for a full refund. Learn more about the recall at The Consumerist.

How it works: In addition to an accelerometer, a calorie-burn algorithm, and a meal log, the device has an altimeter to measure number of stairs (or hills) climbed.
My take: The attractive, comfortable, and straightforward Fitbit Force was the only device I’ll consider wearing in the future. But it gave me identical scores on a night I slept really well and on one when I slept horribly after a Homeland marathon. $129.95
Data: 4
Ease of use: 10
Looks: 9
Comfort: 10

 

 

 

BodyMedia Fit Link
BodyMedia

4. BodyMedia Fit Link: Best Sleep Tracker 

How it works: It has sensors for sweat, skin temperature, heat flux, and an accelerometer.
My take: Although itchy and awkwardly placed on my upper arm, it was the most accurate. On terrible nights, it was the only one that came close to reflecting how many times I woke up. But it wasn’t perfect, claiming 78 percent sleep efficiency* on the night I felt I slept the best and 90 percent when I had jet lag. $119
Data: 8
Ease of use: 8

Looks: 4
Comfort: 3
*Sleep efficiency: Percentage of minutes in bed that were actually spent sleeping

 

 

Plus: One App

Sleep apps generally use a smartphone’s internal accelerometer to monitor movement in bed, requiring you to put your phone facedown on the corner of your mattress. I tried Sleep Cycle, which claims to record sleep patterns and sound a morning alarm within a 30-minute range when your sleep is lightest (for the least groggy start to the day). In practice, its sleep grades were suspect. The dreadful Night of Bourbon, which included waking up at 4 a.m. with heartburn, scored a respectable 81 out of 100. 99¢

Click here to read more about the science of sleep.

Next page: One day in the fitness-tracked life.

A Day In The Fitness-Tracked Life

Fitness trackers are increasingly ubiquitous, generally supplying metrics on how much you eat, exercise, and sleep. During my informal sleep experiment I took advantage of all the bands’ capabilities to see how they compared.

Here’s a snapshot from one 24-hour period, starting early on December 6 and ending the following morning. My notes say I was jetlagged and felt groggy in the daytime. In addition to a few walks with my dog, I tried a 60-minute spin class around noon in hopes that the exercise would help readjust my sleep cycle. That evening, I went out to dinner and indulged in big mugs of beer. I felt that I slept pretty well, waking at least once around four o’clock in the morning.

None of the trackers perfectly captured my day. Food-wise, it was difficult to enter meals, especially since I cooked from scratch or ate at a restaurant for each meal instead of making pre-packaged food with available nutritional information. All of the devices seemed to underestimate my calorie intake. Not all could capture my exercise routines, either, and there were discrepancies in how well I slept. And none of the data perfectly matches between one device and the next.

Jawbone Up24

The minimal data for this device displays through a smartphone app. Logging food was a little tricky—unless I entered it in real time, I had to manually change the time for every food item. As for exercise, the app let me manually input a spin class since the band couldn’t capture the intensity of the workout.

Quick stats:

Calories consumed: 1,815

Calories burned: 2,072

Steps taken: 9,939

Time slept: 7 hr 59m

Timeline:

Exercise:

Food:

Sleep:

Basis B1

The sleep data, available both on a website and an app, was the least descriptive, although this may be improved with a recent software upgrade (which I haven’t tried). Tracking food wasn’t an option, and although Basis can automatically detect exercises such as running and cycling, it can’t recognize movement on a stationary bike and has no option to manually input activities.

Quick stats:

Calories consumed: NA

Calories burned: 2,114

Steps taken: 8,937

Time slept: 8 hr 24 min

Timeline:

FitBit Force

The data displays through both an app and a website, and is relatively easy to read. Food was easy to log, although the app didn’t capture nutritional data. As with the Jawbone, I was able to manually input my spin class.

Quick stats:

Calories consumed: 1,637

Calories burned: 2,348

Steps taken: 11,660

Time slept: 8 hr 6 min

Dashboard (note the sleep time listed here is from Thursday night, not Friday):

Exercise:

Food:

Sleep:

BodyMedia Fit Link

This band had by far the most comprehensive data. Everything was available both online and in an app, although the online dashboard had a lot more power. As with the Jawbone and FitBit, I could manually enter the extra exercise that the band couldn’t capture.

Quick stats:

Calories consumed: 1,780

Calories burned: 2,342

Steps taken: 10,571

Time slept: 6:59

Dashboard:

A shorter version of this article appeared in the March 2014 issue of Popular Science.



U.S. movie studios sue Megaupload, founder Dotcom

NEW YORK Mon Apr 7, 2014 11:27pm EDT

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom talks to members of the media outside the New Zealand Court of Appeals in Wellington September 20, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Coote

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom talks to members of the media outside the New Zealand Court of Appeals in Wellington September 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mark Coote

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Several major U.S. studios filed a copyright infringement lawsuit on Monday against the file-sharing website Megaupload and its ebullient founder, Kim Dotcom.

Megaupload, which U.S. authorities shuttered in 2012, facilitated a “massive copyright infringement of movies and television shows,” according to a statement issued by the Motion Picture Association of America on Monday.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, all MPAA members, are Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp, Disney Enterprises Inc, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios Productions, Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros Entertainment Inc.

“Megaupload wasn’t a cloud storage service at all, it was an unlawful hub for mass distribution,” Steven Fabrizio, an attorney for the MPAA, said in the statement.

U.S. authorities allege Megaupload cost film studios and record companies more than $500 million and generated more than $175 million by encouraging paying users to store and share copyrighted material, such as movies and TV shows.

Dotcom says Megaupload was merely an online warehouse and should not be held accountable if stored content was obtained illegally.

Monday’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, said Dotcom and other defendants “profited handsomely” by providing thousands of copyrighted works over the Internet to millions of Megaupload users without authorization or license.

Movies whose copyrights Megaupload infringed, according to the lawsuit, include Avatar, Forrest Gump and Transformers, according to the lawsuit.

Commenting on Twitter on Monday, Dotcom said U.S. authorities “probably demanded” that the studios file the lawsuit “because they initiated this … Hollywood science fiction script of a case. Embarrassing.”

The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages as well as attorney’s fees. It claims the studios are entitled to Megaupload’s profits and up to $150,000 per infringement.

The lawsuit comes as Dotcom is fighting a bid by U.S. authorities to extradite him from New Zealand to face online piracy charges over the now-closed website. He is also known as Kim Schmitz and Kim Tim Jim Vestor, according to the lawsuit.

Dotcom’s U.S. attorney Ira Rothken said that Monday’s suit was a way for the country’s film industry to go after Megaupload if the U.S. Department of Justice fails to extradite Dotcom and his colleagues to the United States from New Zealand. An extradition hearing is scheduled for July.

“The MPAA is suddenly realizing that we’re a few months away from the extradition hearing, and once Kim Dotcom and the others prevail in the extradition hearing they’ll have more resources and more assets,” Rothken told Reuters.

“The MPAA wants to have cover if the Department of Justice fails in the extradition and the criminal case.”

He predicted that the judge in the civil suit would likely stay the case pending the extradition hearing, adding that Megaupload will also seek access to evidence stored on its servers housed in Virginia to defend against the suit. Dotcom has been denied access to that evidence for the extradition hearing.

Meanwhile, the legal storm has not stopped Dotcom, a German national with New Zealand residency, from delving into politics, launching a party last month to contest New Zealand’s general election in September.

(Reporting by Bernard Vaughan; Additional reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Ken Wills)

Denzel Washington wins raves on Broadway for 'A Raisin in the Sun'

NEW YORK Fri Apr 4, 2014 1:21pm EDT

Denzel Washington, nominated for best actor for his role in ''Flight'', arrives at the 85th Academy Awards nominees luncheon in Beverly Hills, California February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Denzel Washington, nominated for best actor for his role in ”Flight”, arrives at the 85th Academy Awards nominees luncheon in Beverly Hills, California February 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Denzel Washington may be best known for his film roles, but the award-winning actor is dazzling theater critics in the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s acclaimed 1959 play “A Raisin in the Sun.”

“Heart-stopping,” “a Broadway bulls-eye” and “nothing short of revelatory” are just a few of the accolades used to describe director Kenny Leon’s production, which opened on Thursday at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

“It captures the play’s passion, pathos and intelligence, without stinting on Hansberry’s dry humor,” the New York Post said.

Hansberry’s story about a struggling African-American family seeking a better life after inheriting a windfall was the first play written by an African-American woman to be produced on Broadway.

Washington, 59, plays an ambitious chauffeur with big dreams of success but no business acumen to achieve it.

“Reprising Sidney Poitier’s role, Washington is stunning as the dreamer-schemer Walter Lee Younger, whose frustration throbs at the heart of an American classic that is as deeply humorous as it is affecting,” said the New York Daily News.

Trade magazine Variety described Washington’s performance as a “triumph,” while the New York Post said he was “incredibly believable.”

Although the Academy Award winner for the 2001 crime drama “Training Day” and the 1989 Civil War film “Glory” is nearly 25 years older than Hansberry’s original Walter, his energy and exuberance on stage is convincing.

“The performance is a personal triumph for Washington, who refrains from star-strutting to fold himself into a tight-knit ensemble of committed stage thesps who treat this revival like a labor of love,” Variety said.

This was not Washington’s first successful foray on Broadway; the actor picked up a Tony Award in 2010 for “Fences.”

AUTHENTIC FEELING

Washington leads an all-star cast that includes LaTanya Richardson Jackson (“Malcolm X,” “Sleepless in Seattle) as his mother Lena, the strong, loving matriarch of the family.

British actress Sophie Okonedo, a best supporting Oscar nominee in 2005 for “Hotel Rwanda,” makes her Broadway debut as his devoted wife, Ruth. Anika Noni Rose (“Dreamgirls” and “For Colored Girls” is his younger, intellectual sister Beneatha, a college student with dreams of attending medical school.

“LaTanya Richardson Jackson shows us the wit and grit that have sustained Lena; Sophie Okonedo, likewise, conveys Ruth’s weariness and resilience to heart-wrenching effect,” said USA Today.

The New York Times added: “Ms. Rose stands out as a revelatory Beneatha.”

Although Washington is the star attraction, the Hollywood Reporter credits the ensemble cast for giving the revival its authentic feeling.

“The warmth as well as the frictions and frustrations of a real family ripple through this lived-in production, with an accomplished cast that nestles deep into every moment of humor, hope and sadness,” it said.

Hansberry was the first African-American playwright to win the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. She died of pancreatic cancer in 1965 at the age of 34.

(This story was refiled to change “win” to “wins” in headline)

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

YouTube sees money in gaming-video eyeballs

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Apr 1, 2014 1:19pm EDT

Visitors stand in front of a logo of YouTube at the YouTube Space Tokyo, operated by Google, in Tokyo February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Shohei Miyano

Visitors stand in front of a logo of YouTube at the YouTube Space Tokyo, operated by Google, in Tokyo February 14, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Shohei Miyano

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – To imagine how YouTube might one day become a money-spinner for content producers, consider the power of the irreverent video gamer and online star PewDiePie over his young, free-spending audience.

Each time the wildly popular YouTube impresario has donned Razer headphones in one of the many zany videos that feature him playing games, the product has sold out.

PewDiePie, who is not paid to endorse the brand, “really helped us in terms of getting traction on a much larger audience,” said Min-Liang Tan, chief executive of San Diego-based Razer, which makes gaming hardware. “It’s incredible that YouTube personalities are coming up … and I think it can only grow.”

PewDiePie’s uncanny trendsetting talent highlights the potential that content related to video games holds for Google Inc as it looks for ways to build its YouTube video platform into a powerful new revenue stream.

Advertisers and media companies are indeed already placing big bets on the likes of PewDiePie and others creating gaming-related content in a bid for the prime but underserved audience of 18- to 34-year-olds that devour video games.

Just last week Walt Disney Co agreed to fork over as much as $950 million to buy Maker Studios, one of YouTube’s largest production and distribution networks. PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, is Maker’s biggest star.

The success of the 24-year-old, with his profanity laced improvisational videos, matches the explosive growth of video-game-based channels on YouTube. His channel has more than 25 million subscribers who can view his content for free, more than Beyonce’s and President Barack Obama’s channels combined.

Video gamers, who spent more than $70 billion last year on hardware and software, have gravitated to YouTube. Two of the 10 most-subscribed channels and four of the most-viewed channels on YouTube are gaming channels, according to Zefr, an online video marketing and rights management company based in California.

Meanwhile, online video production outfits such as Maker have grown into million-dollar operations over the past couple of years. Lingering questions about their profitability have not deterred investors.

Last year, DreamWorks bought Awesomeness TV, a YouTube teen network, whose videos offer everything from beauty tips to life advice, in a deal that could total $150 million if it reaches certain earning targets. Time Warner Inc’s Warner Bros has bet heavily on gaming-focused network Machinima by participating in two hefty funding rounds.

How Disney monetizes Maker’s online video network and whether the deal would affect the prospects of PewDiePie and other content creators remain to be seen.

But gaming content on YouTube – anything from reviews and video of gameplay to unboxing of hardware – is undoubtedly drawing a disproportionate number of eyeballs, given Zefr’s assessment. This has sponsors and potential buyers excited.

Subscriptions across YouTube’s hundreds of video game channels tripled in 2013 from 2012, according to Erica Larson, head of industry, media and entertainment-gaming at YouTube. Some of the more popular content makers rake in six-figure annual revenues, she said.

Google, which bought YouTube in 2006, is now aiming to attract advertising dollars by bringing slickly produced content to a platform that once featured mostly amateur videos. Gaming is a bright spot in that effort.

YouTube, one of Google’s most prized assets, has been slow to monetize. As traditional online advertising matures, the search giant is exploring new ad models to generate revenue. Online video advertising is considered one of the most promising sources of future growth for Internet companies.

Google has started to woo marketers as it seeks a bigger slice of television ad budgets for YouTube. For instance, it has begun offering audience guarantees to advertisers and reserved ad slots on some of its most popular videos in exchange for spending commitments, as first reported in the Wall Street Journal on Monday.

AD DOLLARS

Social Blade, a YouTube analytics firm, estimates that ad revenue on popular gaming channels ranges from about 60 cents to $5 per thousand ad views. Based on a channel’s popularity, videos can get thousands to millions of views.

Social Blade estimates PewDiePie’s 2013 revenue to be anywhere from $1.6 million to $16.1 million, a range that illustrates the difficulty of independently determining YouTube revenue. The gamer did not respond to requests for comment but has dismissed the estimate on Twitter without disclosing details.

YouTube and outfits like Maker take an undisclosed cut of the revenue. Most content makers “are making money through ads, but some are working with game companies on creating content for them,” YouTube’s Larson said.

Take Devin Super Tramp, the YouTube alias of Devin Graham. He makes promotional videos for companies with big brand names, including game publisher Ubisoft.

Graham’s first video, inspired by the shadowy world of Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed” game, featured a parkour artist leaping over and around obstacles in an urban landscape, dressed in the distinctive getup of the game’s protagonist.

The video attracted 13 million views in its first three months after it was posted and is close to more than 33 million views to date. Ubisoft took notice of its popularity and partnered with Graham to make more videos.

Graham, who dropped out of college three years ago to build a YouTube video production company with partners such as PepsiCo and Ford Motor Co, declined to disclose his revenue but said product placements, selling video footage and advertising revenue help him turn a profit.

THE INFLUENCERS

Working with YouTube trendsetters like Graham can help companies garner millions of views during promotional campaigns, said Justin Landskron, Ubisoft’s director of digital marketing.

“These people … are considered by their subscribers, many of them, as tastemakers. And that introduction ends up being incredibly valuable word of mouth,” he told Reuters.

For now, it’s a challenge to pin down in dollars and cents how companies benefit from such tie-ups, or the value of the gaming audience. But it’s clear that gaming is among the top genres where YouTube’s audience is concentrated.

The 700,000 YouTube videos on “Grand Theft Auto V” have collectively attracted more than 5 billion views, according to Zefr, which helps clients like Hasbro Inc and Adidas AG discover influential channels and personalities.

In a nod to online video’s persuasive power, big brands that once worked ceaselessly to identify and take down copyright-infringing videos are now open to working with grassroots content makers, Zefr co-founder Zach James said.

Some publishers allow the independents to use copyrighted intellectual property and give them resources to produce videos. Often the publishers will run ads in the videos or ask the content producers to include links to game trailers, Graham explained.

“Now they’ve seen the value,” he said. “They’re happy because it’s free publicity and exposure.”

(Reporting by Malathi Nayak; additional reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Frank McGurty and Prudence Crowther)

New photos of Kurt Cobain death scene yield no new clues: police

OLYMPIA, Washington Fri Mar 21, 2014 5:42pm EDT

Kurt Cobain arrives with wife Courtney Love, holding their daughter Frances Bean Cobain, for the MTV Music Awards show in Los Angeles in this September 9 1992, file photo. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/Files

1 of 4. Kurt Cobain arrives with wife Courtney Love, holding their daughter Frances Bean Cobain, for the MTV Music Awards show in Los Angeles in this September 9 1992, file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser/Files

OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) – A cold case investigator has found several rolls of undeveloped film from the scene of Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain’s 1994 death, but Seattle police said on Thursday they do not expect the discovery will alter a finding that he committed suicide.

The grunge rock hero died in Seattle at age 27 of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

Seattle Police Detective Michael Ciesynski in recent months began sorting through evidence from the investigation into Cobain’s death to familiarize himself with the case in anticipation of next month’s 20th anniversary of the incident and the attention it is expected to draw.

Ciesynski found three or four rolls of film in an evidence vault from the case and had them developed, said Detective Renee Witt, spokeswoman for the Seattle Police Department.

The photos may show the scene from angles previously not seen, and appear to be of better quality than some existing photos, Witt said.

News of the discovery was first reported by KIRO 7 News, a Seattle TV station. KIRO reported on its website that police had “re-investigated” the case, a statement Witt said could give the mistaken impression that the case has been reopened.

“There are no new developments, no new twists or turns in the case,” Witt said. “He came upon this film, and that’s pretty much it. It is still a suicide.”

The photos were taken by police investigating Cobain’s death, Witt said. It is not clear why they remained undeveloped for 20 years, she said, though the original investigators may have regarded them as redundant and unnecessary to develop.

Witt said the police department had released two of the photos to the public. Neither photo shows Cobain, but instead reveals items found at the scene, including a pair of sunglasses, a cigar box, a hunting-style hat and a pack of cigarettes.

Cobain rose to fame as the lead singer and songwriter of Nirvana, arguably the defining band of the grunge era that dominated rock music, and much of popular culture, for several years in the 1990s.

Nirvana broke through to mainstream pop success with the smash hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the first single from the band’s second album, “Nevermind,” released in 1991.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb, Gunna Dickson and Mohammad Zargham)

You Don't Really Want Online Multiplayer Videogames

Samurai Gunn

In the age of Call of Duty and Halo and every other massively popular videogame, an idea has formed: if you can’t play the game online, with the option to duke it out with or against friends or strangers, it’s missing a fundamental piece. If a game is released to consumers without the function, it’s suddenly cause for a demerit. Why, after all, wouldn’t you have that option? There’s no reason not to include it, right? 

Well, no, not quite. In an excellent piece for PolygonBennett Foddy, creator of the amazing frustration-generation machine QWOP, lays out the case for creating a game that can only be played with friends sitting around in a living room. The idea is simple, genuine, and makes sense from a creative and technical standpoint.

The bane of every gamer is lag. Occasionally, you’ll be playing online, and suddenly the game will skip a few frames ahead. The information you’re getting is different from what someone else is getting, and the server is attempting to reconcile those two facts. He explains:

Though modern video game netcode is hideously complex, the problem it seeks to solve is simple enough: Even in the absolute best-case scenario, when we have a dedicated server and everyone on it has a ping in the teens, it still takes a lot of time for your computer to communicate with the server, and for the server to communicate with the other players.

As a result, your computer is always getting information that is a few frames out of date, even if your opponent is on a fast connection and located on a computer nearby. Much of the time, your computer does not agree with your opponent’s computer about what’s going on in the game. This is known as “lag.”

As Foddy points out, this is a function of computers failing to work in sync, and no amount of coding finesse can really “fix” the issue: 

Lag is not the kind of problem that can be eliminated by clever programming; it’s just a fact about how fast you can send messages to the server. At most, developers can write code that makes the problem less noticeable for the player. So for the past two decades, programmers have toiled to find new ways around this fundamental problem.

There are, however, some workarounds. Clever designers have attempted to get computers and game systems to pre-emptively predict lag and adjust what you see on your screen accordingly, or design a game from the ground-up to make it possible and pleasant for multiplayer action. The issue is, this simply doesn’t work for every game–games that require direct, fast-paced interaction between players can be ruined by lag. If designers don’t anticipate this from the day they start building the game, it can be in tatters by the time it’s released. There’s nothing inherently wrong with making a game with that in mind, but it shouldn’t required and expected of every game. That stifles creativity, and leads to an expectation that ultimately doesn’t help designers or players.

You can read the whole Foddy article here. Might change your mind about what you want from a game. You can also play another of his games, PoleRiders, right here

[Polygon]

    



Microwave Listens To Your Popcorn Popping, For Perfect Timing

You’re eating your popcorn in front of your home television and bite into an unpopped kernel. The deception! You put all of your faith in this popcorn, only to have it end like this. You may never love again. The solution: open your heart to another, more careful microwave. 

The recently launced Whirlpool Microwave Hood Combo with TimeSavor (ha ha, as a savvy consumer, I get it) can listen to the sound of your food cooking, meaning it knows the rate that the kernels are popping, and can adjust the cooking time appropriately. (This probably has applications for other foods, but mostly popcorn.) The world as we knew it has irrevocably changed.

[via Food Beast]

 

 

    



Creating New Gear To Help Humans Survive Arctic Odds

TROMSØ, Norway– Imagine you’re one of 6,000 passengers on a cruise ship in the Arctic Ocean far from Greenland or the nearest shore when the boat hits an iceberg and begins to sink. Or you’re working on an offshore oil rig in the Barents Sea when gusts of 80 MPH blow you into the frigid ocean. You’d be lucky if you had the physiology of Lewis Pugh, the seemingly bionic athlete who swam across the North Pole in 2007. If you’re like most mortals, however, you might say a prayer, or curse your elusive God, and then descend into shock and, perhaps, death long before paramedics in an ice breaker or helicopter arrive.

As climate change causes more Arctic ice to melt, many more tourism, fishing and cargo ships, as well as oil and gas and mining companies, are heading to the once-ice covered High North. So far most commercial activity has occurred in ice-free waters in the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea. But in 2010 the historically ice-clogged Northern Sea Route, which skirts Russia to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, opened up enough to allow an ice breaker to cross from Norway to China. Last year 71 commercial ships passed through that route, which dramatically shortens the Europe-Asia routes that pass through the Suez Canal or Panama Canal. The pace of this traffic is far outstripping the speed at which nations and companies are building out search and rescue and other medical support infrastructure. Medical hubs are hundreds, even thousands, of miles away.

Tschudi Shipping
Tschudi Shipping Company AS transporting iron ore on a cargo ship through the Northern Sea Route from Kirkenes, Norway, to China, in 2010. This was the first non-Russian commercial shipment through the Arctic to China.
courtesy Tschudi Shipping Co.

This undesirable calculus keeps Michael Tipton up at night. He is a physiologist at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom who studies human physiological responses to extreme cold air and water. “Of any single event, I suspect a cruise liner accident would be the most catastrophic one I could think of,” says Tipton, co-author of the book Essentials of Sea Survival.

An accident in the Arctic could easily dwarf those of the Costa Concordia off of Italy in 2012 or the Estonia in the Baltic Sea in 1994. Both of those occurred in far warmer waters. Cruise ships are now much bigger – holding up to 6,000 passengers – and many tourists coming to the Arctic are increasingly older retirees, with less experience and physical strength. By comparison, the Titanic, on which 1,700 passengers died, had a capacity of 2,000. And it ran into an iceberg not far offshore. In the Arctic oceans passengers of a cruise liner have two major strikes against them when it comes to chances of surviving an accident: they would be much farther away from rescue services and their survival time in the water is much less than in temperate water.

Tipton spoke at a recent conference, called Arctic Frontiers, which was held in the city of Tromsø, above the Arctic Circle in Norway. Scientists, industry officials, and leaders of Arctic Council nations and indigenous cultures met to explore human health, economic and environmental impacts of a changing Arctic.

The distance from icy Arctic waters to existing medical centers is mind-boggling. For instance, last September a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter crashed in M’Clure Strait in the Arctic Ocean, roughly 370 miles west of Resolute, a small Inuit hamlet on an island in the Northwest Passage. All three men in the aircraft, who were conducting ice research, died of hypothermia in the ocean. Martin Fortier, executive director of ArcticNet, a consortium that manages Canada’s Arctic scientific research, told the Arctic Frontiers conference that the crash site was 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) from Trenton, Ontario, the nearest medical center. For perspective, he said, “That’s about as far as traveling from Tromsø to Africa.”

Those three men might have died anyway. But the likelihood of their demise was no doubt increased because they were not fully equipped for a crash; only one of them was wearing a full immersion suit, and it was not fully zipped up. And only one was wearing a life jacket. Wearing the proper protective clothing can vastly increase your chances of surviving in Arctic (or Antarctic) environments – whether you’re on a cruise ship, working in a rare earth mineral mine, tracking reindeer, or dog sledding through deep snow.

Researchers in academia, as well as in the clothing and fabric industries, are pushing the technical boundaries to better equip humans for living, working and traveling in extreme cold environments. So far they are not angling to see their test models on the cover of Vogue. Survivability trumps style. Test subjects donning a dry suit and many probes are submerged into a tub of freezing cold water for three hours as researchers –who spray them with more ice water every 10 minutes – measure how much they shiver, how quickly ice forms around them, how quickly and intensely blood stops flowing to their hands, toes and other extremities.

Hilde Faerevik is a senior scientist at Sintef, Scandinavia’s largest independent research organization. She manages Sintef’s ColdWear Project, which designs and tests survival suits and other clothing and materials for people working in the Arctic. At the Arctic Frontiers conference Faerevik pointed out that our ability to survive in cold water, for instance, depends on a complex interaction between individual human variables (such as body fat, age, gender, physical and mental fitness, level of hydration), duration of exposure, level of heat production from the body, other available equipment, climate, and so on.

Her talk reminded me of a time when I was an unwitting test subject for a full-body dry suit. The test lab was the ice-sprinkled, 31-degrees-Fahrenheit Southern Ocean near Palmer Station, a small U.S. research outpost off the Western Antarctic Peninsula, which I visited in December 2010. Despite donning the ice water-ready outfit, it felt counterintuitive, if not suicidal, to jump in the water. But it was part of a safety drill, and sure enough, once the psychological shock of hitting the water subsided, I could have stayed floating as tiny spec on the ocean for a long time, thanks to the gear I was wearing.

The Writer At Sea
Susan Moran floats in the Southern Ocean in Antarctica in a Hellyy Hansen dry suit during a Zodiac water-rescue training.

Sea Air Barents

Every human body is different. What Lewis Pugh needs to survive his polar swim (not much, apparently), or even what English adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes needs to traverse Antarctica on foot (a lot), may not match what most of us would need to live, work or ski in the Arctic. What is certain, notes Tipton, is that left to our innate physiology alone, we humans would still be living close to the equator. “Man is a tropical animal,” he told the conference. “We have used our intellect, technology, to move out of the tropics.” Way out. Step outside your research base or ship a few hundred miles from the North Pole, and you get a -51°C (-60°F) wake-up call.

Some recent advancements by researchers at Sintef lie at the intersection of electronics and textiles. But unlike Google Glass or other wearable electronics that are the rage among the high-fashion digerati below the Arctic Circle, the sensors, LED lights and other gadgets that are embedded in these outfits are meant to keep you alive in the freezing cold air or water. For instance, having an emergency contact alarm built into a jacket and an LED built into a neoprene glove lighting the way you point puts fewer steps into crying for help or when the body and mind are compromised.

Hansen Protection, a division of outdoor clothing maker Helly Hansen, works with Sintef to design and commercialize protective gear for various extreme environments. Among the outfits it made and sells is the bright orange helicopter transport suit, called the Sea Air Barents, the latest improvement from the previous Sea Air model. Sintef is also working with Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil to design functional and comfortable clothing for oil rig and other workers. According to a Statoil field study, 67 percent of Statoil employees at Melkoya, a liquid natural gas plant near Hammerfest, Norway (70 degrees North latitude), work outdoors in areas exposed to “severe weather conditions” every day. Petroleum workers who were exposed to ambient temperatures of 5°C (41 -51°F) or colder (they were tested down to -25°C, or -13°F) experienced lower skin and body temperatures and a reduced manual performance. The studies concluded that existing protective clothing for petroleum workers in the High North is not adequate to maintain manual performance and thermal balance.
 

Technological innovations are often tested by and for the military or costly private expeditions before they trickle into the marketplace for more commercial and consumer applications. For instance, Steve Holland, president of SJH Projects, worked with physiologist Michael Tipton and his colleague Geoff Long to design gear for Sir Ranulph’s attempt last year to cross Antarctica in the winter, as well as his previous treks to the North Pole and Antarctica. (Sir Ranulph, who is nearly 70, continues to test human limits in extreme terrain despite having lost much of the fingers on his left hand to frostbite–first at the North Pole in 2002 (after dipping his bare hand into the ice water to pull equipment from the sea) and then again in Antarctica last year. Here is a photo of Sir Ranulph’s hand.

Holland and others designed Sir Ranulph’s and his crew’s gear after rigorous, some would say torturous, testing. For the clothing, Holland and Long subjected human guinea pigs to a cold chamber chilled to -53°C (-63°F) while they moved in various positions to measure the temperature and dexterity of their extremities as they performed tasks, as well as how effectively the fabric wicked body moisture away from the subjects’ skin.

Subject in cold chamber after four hours, testing clothing designed for Sir Fiennes’ The Coldest Journey.
Courtesy Steve Holland, SJH Projects

 

Ultimately, Sir Ranulph wore full protective clothing with up to 5 pounds of batteries and cords that heated up the helmet, gloves, boots and other items. “We had to design equipment for The Coldest Journey equipped for absolutely no possibility of being rescued whatsoever,” says Holland.

Such brutal conditions as Sir Ranulph’s treks may make working on an oil rig in the Barents Sea –with shelter not far away — look like vacation in the Bahamas. But designing equipment for such extremes can also inform textile innovations for more common use in the Arctic. As Tipton says, even if our physiology is geared for the equator, it’s the technology that our brains develop that will keep us venturing farther and farther north.
 

    



Alec Baldwin strikes back at critics, vows to leave N.Y

NEW YORK Mon Feb 24, 2014 11:48am EST

Host Alec Baldwin speaks during the NFL Honors award show in New York in this file photo taken February 1, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/Files

1 of 3. Host Alec Baldwin speaks during the NFL Honors award show in New York in this file photo taken February 1, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri/Files

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Actor Alec Baldwin said New York City’s tabloid media culture was forcing him to move out of town after a series of headline-grabbing incidents he was involved in last year, according to an article published on Monday.

“I probably have to move out of New York,” Baldwin said in a New York Magazine article. “I just can’t live in New York anymore.”

Emmy-award winning Baldwin, who was repeatedly portrayed in press accounts last year as a hot-headed homophobe and bigot, struck out at prominent gay journalists who had criticized his behavior.

Baldwin described columnist Andrew Sullivan and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper as the “Gay Department of Justice” after both men publicly criticized his alleged behavior and language.

“I haven’t changed, but public life has … You’re out there in a world where if you do make a mistake, it echoes in a digital canyon forever,” Baldwin said in a cover story entitled “I Give Up”.

Last February, Baldwin was accused by a New York Post photographer who is African-American of using a racial slur.

Following “Sopranos” actor James Gandolfini’s June funeral in New York, Baldwin called a British reporter a homophobic slur in a tweet.

The actor repeated his defense in the New York Magazine article that he did not view the term he used as a homophobic slur.

Baldwin, who grew up on Long Island, currently lives in Manhattan with his wife and new baby.

In the article, Baldwin also recounted a Broadway feud with Shia LaBeouf that led to his co-star being fired from the cast of the play “Orphans” after the two argued during rehearsals.

He said he was “fired” from his late-night talk show on cable TV news network MSNBC “all of the sudden, out of nowhere…”

The show, “Up Late with Alec Baldwin,” was axed after the actor apologized for comments he made to a New York photographer, shown in a video on celebrity website TMZ.com that a gay rights group described as homophobic.

In the article, he described TMZ.com managing editor Harvey Levin as a “cretinous barnacle on the press”.

“For me, (2013) was actually a great year, because my wife and I had a baby,” the actor said.

“But, yeah, everything else was pretty awful.”

(Reporting By Chris Francescani; Editing by Scott Malone and Sophie Hares)

Oscar hopefuls shake different money trees on way to screen

LOS ANGELES Sat Feb 22, 2014 12:50pm EST

A large Oscar statue is seen in the Dolby Ballroom during the 86th Oscars Governors Ball press preview in Hollywood, California February 20, 2014. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

A large Oscar statue is seen in the Dolby Ballroom during the 86th Oscars Governors Ball press preview in Hollywood, California February 20, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Joe Newcomb, a failed minor league baseball player who struck it rich as a Texas chemical trader, will be among those crossing their fingers in the Dolby Theatre audience on March 2 when the Academy Awards are handed out.

Newcomb financed scrappy best picture Oscar contender “Dallas Buyers Club.” In the category of film financiers, he’ll be joined by Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison’s daughter Megan, who provided funds for “American Hustle” and “Her,” by “12 Years a Slave” backer Bill Pohlad, whose family owns the Minnesota Twins baseball team, and financiers who assembled investors in Asia and the Middle East to back “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

There have always been oil men and others eager to invest in Hollywood, the last few years indicate they are playing an increasingly important role in financing Oscar contenders.

Five of the nine films nominated for best picture this year made it to the big screen with the help of investors who are outside the Hollywood studios. It’s a trend that’s intensified in recent years, as studios try to reduce their risk in making films.

“The studios’ business model no longer accommodates a lot of pictures that strive for the type of critical success that would support an Oscar campaign,” said Steven Prough, managing director of investment banking firm Salem Partners.

“They want films that have a higher likelihood of appeal to worldwide audiences, which is generated by large budgets and special effects.”

Pohlad and Ellison have been among the hopefuls before. Ellison financed last year’s Oscar nominee “Zero Dark Thirty,” while Pohlad backed 2006 contender “Brokeback Mountain” and “The Tree of Life,” which was nominated in 2012.

Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures emerged as the hot new player in Hollywood in the last few years, and not only for her check book, but also because of her willingness to take risks and support directors.

Ellison “just really believed in us and stood fast by us on a project that may have scared many other people,” said “American Hustle” director David O. Russell. “She really trusted her own instincts, and I’m forever indebted to her for that.”

WHIP OUT BLACK AMEX

Newcomb came to the rescue of the team making “Dallas Buyers Club,” and stepped in when the original investors left the project three days before shooting was set to begin. A delay would mean the film would lose its star, Matthew McConaughey, who was scheduled to begin shooting for the HBO drama “True Detective,” said Newcomb.

The one-time minor league pitcher heard about the film when he was in Los Angeles with his friend and neighbor, Chicago White Sox slugger Adam Dunn, discussing an investment in a new “Major League” movie with actor Charlie Sheen, Newcomb said.

After reading the “Buyers Club” script, the Woodlands, Texas, businessman said he whipped out his American Express black card to help the film get started, then began contacting friends in the oil and natural gas business.

His Truth Entertainment put together $1.6 million from the investors, Newcomb says. The film also got a $1 million tax credit from Louisiana and financed the remaining $3 million.

“It’s fun, but it’s also a great alternative investment for someone who wants more than they can get from the stock market or a financial institution,” said Newcomb, who offered his investors a 20 percent return on their money.

They’ll soon get their money back plus the return, he said. The film is being distributed by Focus Features, a unit of Comcast’s NBC Universal group, and has collected more than $24 million in domestic ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo.

‘MAILBOX MONEY’

“After that they’ll be getting mailbox money,” Newcomb said, by cashing checks in the future as the film continues to generate revenues as it plays on TV and is sold on DVD sales and online streaming.

Red Granite, a three-year-old Los Angeles-based film finance and production company, may not be sharing nearly as many profits for the film, “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The firm raised the equity for director Martin Scorsese’s film, which has a $100 million budget, from wealthy investors in the Middle East and Asia.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” is nominated for five Oscars, including for its stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill. It has ticket sales of more than $336 million worldwide, about half of which goes to theaters. Fees are also paid to Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, which distributed the film in the U.S. and some foreign territories.

Riza Aziz and Joey McFarland, Red Granite’s founders, had no comment, their publicist said. Megan Ellison and Bill Pohlad also declined interviews.

But even those who leave the Dolby Theatre without a statue won’t necessarily feel like losers, said Amir Malin, the former CEO of studio Artisan Entertainment and the managing principal of media investment firm Qualia Capital.

“Intangibles, primarily the sexiness and glitz of the business,” said Malin, “matter far more than investors are willing to let on.”

(Editing by Mary Milliken; Editing by Ken Wills)

Welcome to Utopia, coming to a screen near you

LAREN, The Netherlands Tue Feb 18, 2014 12:34pm EST

LAREN, The Netherlands (Reuters) – In a windswept enclosure southeast of Amsterdam, shivering volunteers are building a home for themselves from scratch, under the constant gaze of television cameras relaying their struggles to the outside world.

They are contestants in “Utopia”, the latest reality show from John De Mol, the man behind “Big Brother” and many other shows that have made the Netherlands synonymous with reality television.

And if “Big Brother”, launched some 15 years ago, presaged a later world of social media, with its proposition that private lives are better widely shared, De Mol thinks “Utopia” reflects the concerns of today’s audiences.

“Our trendspotters came back with one consistent message,” he said.

“People are worried about their finances, about their jobs, about their futures, about governments interfering in their lives. So we said: ‘Why don’t we let them build the world they’ve always wanted, a Utopia for themselves’?”

Perhaps the original brainwave behind reality television came more easily in a country where people rarely close their curtains on long winter evenings, giving passers-by on the chilly streets of Amsterdam’s 17th-century canal district a view into peoples’ living rooms.

The trend set by De Mol with “Big Brother” became a huge financial success too, earning millions for Dutch investors and drawing the attention of media giants to the Netherlands.

Just last week, Warner Bros said it would buy Dutch production company Eyeworks for a reported 200 million euros ($274.05 million). Eyeworks has produced a slew of reality shows, including “Obese,” “My Kid is Too Fat,” and “Slumdog Holiday” which aired in 150 countries.

FARMERS’ BRIDES

The Dutch television industry has ballooned since the 1980s, when three public channels mostly put out foreign re-runs and only aired programming a few hours a day.

Now, when surfing Dutch television on any given night, reality shows dominate. Subjects range from wilderness survival and weight loss, to high school drama and farmers looking for brides, the finale of which had a quarter of the nation – more than four million viewers – glued to their televisions.

The Dutch were the third largest exporters of “formats”, or camera-ready ideas for television shows, in a global market worth 9.3 billion euros between 2006 and 2008, behind the United States and Britain, according to industry group FRAPA.

“It’s in our genes,” said Patty Geneste, founder of Absolutely Independent, an agency that takes formats and develops them for sale around the world.

“If you have a small domestic market, you want to sell to as many countries as possible.”

In the control room for “Utopia”, rows of producers and editors sit in front of giant screens, tracking the show’s inmates 24 hours a day with gentle flicks of the joysticks controlling the cameras.

Watching them from plush cinema-style chairs behind a one-way mirror are clients from the United States, Germany, France and much of the rest of the world who have come to decide if “Utopia” is something they want to buy.

“Everyone wants to see the control room: it’s like mission control,” said De Mol. “We’re in the lucky situation that it’s been very busy in that room.”

The 15 people who will spend a year in the enclosure must build their living quarters from scratch, making money by making and selling things (“some wooden toys, maybe, or giving massages,” says De Mol) to people outside the show.

At the end, the participants will vote each other off one by one, with some help from the audience.

The winner will walk away with all the money, while billionaire De Mol and his company Talpa Media hope to profit from sales of the show, which has some 1.5 million viewers a week in a country of 17 million.

For starters, Talpa Media has just inked a deal with Fox for a U.S. version.

CANNIBALS

De Mol insists the Dutch environment is special. Public broadcasters in the Netherlands make headlines with programming that would never make it onto the screen elsewhere.

Two presenters tried out cannibalism by feeding each other with surgically removed parts of their bodies.

Another broadcaster ran a game show with an unusual twist, testing refugees whose asylum bids had been rejected on their knowledge of the Netherlands.

The growth and importance to the Dutch economy of ever more creative forms of entertainment, at the expense of traditional industries such as manufacturing, alarm some viewers.

“It’s not a normal city anymore,” says novelist Herman Koch of the culture that is refashioning the Amsterdam region.

“Sometimes it seems a city of just artists and creatives.”

(Editing by Mike Roddy and Tom Heneghan)

This Full-Color 3-D Printer Sounds Too Good To Be True. Is It?

ProDesk3D
botObjects

Back in May, a startup called botObjects unveiled what seemed like a stunning consumer gadget: the world’s first full-color, desktop 3-D printer, the ProDesk 3D. The idea–an entry-level printer that crafts gorgeous objects–was hailed, here and elsewhere, as a potentially great entry into the field. But not long after, doubts started to creep in. A printer with the specifications (color across the spectrum, good resolution) and reasonable price ($3249 plus shipping) of the ProDesk could represent a major leap forward in home printing. How, exactly, did this machine work? Who was the team behind it? And why were details on it so scarce? “If this were a concept I would go easy on it but they say they have this device and it will be on the market in weeks. I am highly skeptical,” Joris Peels wrote at VoxelFab in an article called “My doubts about BotObjects.”

“My opinion has not changed,” Peels wrote me recently. “I will only believe in botObjects if the thing is sitting on my desk.”

The company has been taking paid pre-orders for months, but missed a planned shipment date of October (it’s now set for shipment in March); meanwhile, scrutiny and skepticism of the printer and company has only increased. There’s even a Twitter account, @botobjectstruth, dedicated to compiling grievances from unhappy botObjects customers. There was an accompanying website, too, although the account recently tweeted this:

 

 

The duo behind the printer, CTO Mike Duma and CEO Martin Warner, are, by their own admission, media shy, granting few interviews to reporters and even less access to their machine. (TechCrunch sent a videographer to view the printer, reported that it did, in fact, exist, and posted an article without a video.) So I was pleasantly surprised when I asked a publicist for an interview and became one of the anointed, sitting down the next day in a New York suite between Duma and Warner for a 30-minute chat–with the printer present. But even now, with a deadline past and controversy intensifying, the pair is tight-lipped about the printer. 

 

 

“I hope you realize we’re being very transparent,” Warner told me in his British accent, garrulous and smiling. The proof: I was allowed to take a phone video of the printer in action, but only on the condition that it last approximately 30 seconds and did not show the bottom display. Warner took the phone from my hands to inspect it after I was done. 

I told Warner I would have to mention those restrictions in the article, for transparency’s sake. “Is that really good information to have?” he asked me. (Considering some of the information the company declined to provide, and at least one dubious detail–well, yes, it could be good information to have.)

Before taking a look directly at the machine, I had a few questions about its marketing. Warner and Duma, at first, hadn’t posted a video of the ProDesk working, although they since have, and the first images of objects the machine had printed were these:

ProDesk Objects
botObjects

Why, I asked Warner and Duma, had they decided to post renderings, instead of photos, to show the power of the ProDesk? (I assumed the images were computer-generated or -enhanced; the website only has an ambiguous “[e]arlier images printed on the ProDesk3D, see the gorgeous colors you can create for your models.”) They told me these were photos, taken professionally, in a dark room, and had neither been rendered nor digitally manipulated. (Click here to see a larger version of the vase.) Amateur sleuths had been posting on message boards and forums, attempting to dissect the light and shadow in the images to prove they were renderings. Those people, Warner and Duma said, were looking for something that wasn’t there. 

They told me these were photos, taken professionally, in a dark room, and had neither been rendered nor digitally manipulated.

Sure. Potentially frustrated customers posting on message boards? Not the best source of information. So instead I asked a professor of computer science at Brown University who specializes in computer renderings, John Hughes, to take a look. He wrote me back after I sent the images and source website:

My opinion is that the middle one [the vase] certainly appears to be rendered rather than real. (The table in the other two looks enough like the table in the middle one that I have doubts about them as well.) 

The main evidence is at the place where the vase meets the table. The dominant light in the scene is above the vase, and a little closer to the camera than is the vase — you can tell that from the shadow. It’s also an area light rather than a pinpoint light (which you can also tell from the shadow). But at the right-hand side of the vase-to-table joint, the table is no darker near the vase than it is an inch or so to the right. That’s an effect that’s almost impossible to achieve with real lighting, unless you have some of the best lighting folks around. 

The striations, seen in another, more definitively photographic image of the vase, didn’t seem to quite match up in the directional pattern of the image, Hughes wrote. There’s also the fact that “the table is exactly horizontal in the image. It’s not off by a single pixel. That’s really hard to do, even for a first-rate photographer.” 

So…I think that they’re renderings. Finally, if you chase the link for the vase to http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:55203, you see that this particular vase has strong horizontal striations, and some fairly specular reflection (i.e., shiny highlights). The center pic doesn’t show that at all.

(I followed up with Warner on this via phone. “I don’t know what to say to that,” he said. “It’s just completely preposterous.” He asked if I had any more questions, asked when I planned to publish this story, and hung up without saying goodbye.)

The more photo-like images of the vase were added to the site some time after the first round of images; the images of the robot and recorder are the only ones of their kind on the site. As for why the company normally forbids journalists from taking their own images: “We’re very protective of our brand,” Warner says.

Warner has more experience on the business side of dealings, working on multiple software-related projects, according to his website, although on-the-fringe hardware like 3-D printing seems like a major step sideways. Duma handled the technical side of the conversation, explaining the finer points of how the ProDesk works while the machine whirred and blipped, although there are still gaps that haven’t been accounted for.

Vase Photos
botObjects

Here’s how they say it works, in a basic outline: the cartridges feed plastic up through printer heads at the top of the machine, combining different strands of filament to mix the colors. The filaments are heated it in the nozzle at the top, and the printer spits out layer upon layer of plastic, until an object is formed. In the ProDesk, the company says, two fans keep the machine relatively cool as it pumps out nearly 400-degree Fahrenheit material.

One of the claims that has induced the most skepticism of the project is that can fit such complicated mechanics in a desktop-sized frame: there are four different color cartridges (CMYK, or cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, which can be mixed together to form any color) and a cartridge for a supporting material. I watched it start printing out an object (a small, pink piece of machinery), and then asked Duma how they’d managed to pack the cartridges. He told me the filaments were treated with an “additive.” I asked what the additive was. “We’re not disclosing that at this time,” he told me. This was a common refrain. I asked approximately how many printers they’d pre-sold, and Warner told me that was not being “disclosed,” although it was “a lot.” The reason they’d missed the October deadline was due to problems discovered late in stress testing, although the specifics, beyond the fact that there were issues with the chip set and case, weren’t being disclosed.

According to Warner, everything innovative about the machine is patent pending. A search of the patent database and a call to the patent office didn’t turn up anything, at least with botObjects’ name on it; in the followup call, Warner told me he wasn’t sure if the patents were available online, but said that “certainly at some point we could share them.”

When we met, I asked if it was the patenting process that stopped them from saying what the additive was. Warner paused, stared briefly, and chuckled. Surely, he said, knowing that information would only help the competition.

Assuming botObjects reaches its March shipment goal, and the printers start being delivered, intrepid buyers may crack the machine open to figure out the mechanics. In the meantime, there are questions we might not get answers to. “There are things that are never released,” Warner told me, “and for good reasons.”

    



Fingerprint Security Is Not the Future. (And God Help Us If It Is.)

iPhone 5s
Kelvinsong, Wikimedia Commons

In September, Apple debuted the new iPhone 5s. Among the many updates (amazing camera! faster chip!) was the Touch ID sensor. With Touch ID, 5s owners use their fingerprints to unlock their phones and authorize payment for App Store, iTunes, and Newsstand downloads. It’s the first mainstream use of biometric security for consumers, which makes Touch ID a nifty feature. Apple says it’s secure: Fingerprint data is stored on a quarantined section of the phone’s processor, doesn’t sync with iCloud, and is blocked from third-party use. But the 5s probably won’t be the last device with biometric security. And that brings up a tough question: Have we reached the point where we’re giving away more to technology than we’re getting in return?

Biometric identification is a good thing—in theory. Fingerprints are one of the most foolproof identifiers we have. According to Apple, there’s only a 1 in 50,000 chance that a part of someone else’s print could randomly match with Touch ID. That uniqueness could lead to enhanced security elsewhere. The most immediate application is digital payment. Earlier this year, 50 students at the School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota, enrolled their prints in a pilot program that allows them to make purchases at stores on campus. A French supermarket chain has participated in a beta program that replaces PINs at the register with fingerprints and pulse detection. 

We’re used to trading personal information for convenience. So far, those trades have worked out in our favor.

The trouble is payment systems are not as secure as we’d like them to be. Consider your credit card: A single payment passes through a series of authentication steps during processing, each one vulnerable to attack. In 2012, for instance, Global Payments, a processor for all four major credit card companies, suffered a security breach that compromised 1.5 million card numbers and accrued nearly $94 million in losses. And last summer, a federal grand jury indicted a group of Eastern European hackers thought to be responsible for stealing 160 million credit card numbers in a series of coordinated cyber attacks. Estimated damages are in the hundreds of millions. 

The creation of a biometric payment system would mean surrendering fingerprint data to companies with a history of security breaches. If prints were irreproducible, that might not be such a concern. But it’s not particularly hard to hack a fingerprint. A laser printout of a digital fingerprint has just enough relief for a counterfeiter to cast a glue-based copy. (German hacker group Chaos Computer Club used a similar technique to trick Touch ID within two weeks of its launch.) Therein lies the rub.

We’re used to trading personal information for convenience. We do it on social media and websites every day. Credit cards require us to give away our data for the convenience of using credit over cash. So far, those trades have worked in our favor, but that’s because the systems have always included an escape clause. The digitally violated can update social-media pages, change passwords, or cancel cards. That’s not the case with biometrics. A fingerprint’s greatest strength—its uniqueness—is also its greatest weakness. And once it’s compromised, you’ll never get it back.

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Popular Science. 

    



Two Texas 'Tykes' football coaches suspended; pushed kids to hurt, swear

SAN ANTONIO, Texas Tue Feb 4, 2014 11:47am EST

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) – Two volunteer coaches of the eight- and nine-year old football players featured on the reality TV show “Friday Night Tykes” have been suspended for encouraging dangerous play or bad behavior, league officials said on Tuesday.

The Texas Youth Football Association featured in the Esquire Network series that started last month has drawn criticism from those who say the coaching borders on child abuse, but has been praised by others for teaching kids how to be tough.

“They were suspended for violations of the coaches’ code of conduct,” said Brian Morgan, the TYFA’s chief executive.

Charles Chavarria, head coach of the Junior Broncos, was suspended for the entire 2014 season. Morgan said the coach “willfully encouraged players to injure other players” with helmet-to-helmet hits that health experts said could cause head and neck injuries.

“He pointed to a spot on the players’ helmet and said, ‘you hit them right here, I guarantee they will go down one by one’,” Morgan said.

Amid rising concern that repeated hits to the head, even mild ones, can have long-term negative health effects including dementia and aggression, the National Football League last year banned helmet-to-helmet hits.

Chavarria wrote on his Twitter feed: “Just wanted 2 say thanks for all the support from friends & family. It’s been hard, but I’ve learned a lot! I’m truly sorry.”

Marecus Goodloe, the coach of the Northeast Colts, was suspended for six games – the entire spring season – for encouraging his kids to use profanity.

Goodloe also apologized on his Twitter feed.

The show depicts how the children are pushed to their limits, even crying in their helmets or sprawled out on the field after taking a hard hit from another player.

Chavarria and Goodloe will continue to appear on the TV series for the rest of this year’s run, which was filmed during the fall 2013 football season.

“This has not been indicative of how our coaches act,” Morgan said, adding that the suspended coaches may have been “caught up in the moment” of being on television.

Morgan, who has faced a raft of criticism of the league from viewers, concedes he was not a fan of reality TV before becoming involved in it, and said he is less of a fan now.

“We saw this as a peek behind the curtain of youth football in Texas,” he said, adding, “knowing what I know now, I’m not sure I would approach this the same way.”

The league is in talks with the producers for a second season of the program.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Scott Malone and Alden Bentley)

Somebody Hacked A Fridge To Send Spam

A Probably-Not-Hacked Fridge

Have you heard of the Internet of Things? It’s, like, the most important Internet since the first Internet.

It’s a series of connected devices. One day soon, when your alarm clock goes off, your coffee pot will turn on. When you’re having a rough week, your toaster will deliver life-affirming aphorisms to your Kindle, probably. But there is a dark side to this Internet.

A team of security researchers at Proofpoint uncovered a botnet–a potentially malicious team of infected computers–used to send email spam. The botnet infected 100,000 home gadgets, including televisions, routers, and “at least one” fridge, according to the company. Three-quarters of the emails were sent from regular computers, but the rest were from Internet of Things stuff, like the fridge. 

A botnet isn’t a new form of attack: by controlling computers from multiple IP addresses, hackers can make spam more difficult to block. In this case, no more than 10 emails were sent from each IP. Most of those devices were inflitrated for simple security reasons, like users failing to change default passwords on devices, Proofpoint says.

So the idea of a hacked fridge might be silly, but it’s not so far-fetched when you’re essentially stuffing an email-capable computer inside of an oven. Perhaps now try responding to all Nigerian prince letters asking if they are an appliance. 

[Business Insider]

    



British phone-hacking trial revelation shocks actor Jude Law

LONDON Mon Jan 27, 2014 6:33am EST

Actor Jude Law attends the premiere of ''Sleuth'' in New York, October 2, 2007. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Actor Jude Law attends the premiere of ”Sleuth” in New York, October 2, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer

Related Topics

LONDON (Reuters) – Film star Jude Law told Britain’s phone-hacking trial on Monday that reporters and photographers used to hound him and that they even appeared at events he had organized secretly for his children.

“I became aware I was turning up at places having arranged to go there secretly and the media would already be there,” said Law, who is currently appearing on stage in London’s West End in a production of Shakespeare’s “Henry V”.

The jury was told that voicemail messages from Law had been found at the home of Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator for tabloid newspaper the News of the World.

Law, 41, is the most high-profile figure to give evidence for the prosecution at the trial of two former Rupert Murdoch editors on charges of phone-hacking, which began at the end of October last year and is due to last until May.

Smartly dressed in a grey suit, Law said press attention in his private life had increased significantly after he was nominated for an Oscar for “The Talented Mr Ripley” in 2001 and split from his then wife Sadie Frost.

He told London’s Old Bailey court that packs of photographers would regularly appear when he was out with his children.

Former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson are on trial accused of conspiring to illegally intercept voicemail messages on mobile phones.

They are also accused of authorizing illegal payments to public officials while Brooks faces charges of perverting the course of justice by attempting to conceal evidence from police.

Brooks, Coulson and five others deny all the charges.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)

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