Glimpses of the Future February 2015

Google’s Uprated Translate App Now Works In Real-Time

Google’s recently uprated Translate now can now translate conversations between major languages in real time.

A few years ago such an achievement was thought to be decades away. The new app can also translate street signs and other signs important to travellers.

To use the real-time speech translation in a conversational setting, users need only open the app and press the microphone button. If speech in a foreign language is detected first it will be immediately translated into the user’s native language, spoken aloud and displayed on-screen. The user can then press the microphone button again to respond in their native tongue and have it immediately translated to the foreign language.

From this point forward, the app will recognize both languages as they are spoken and will translate them each time a phrase is uttered. There is no further need to press the microphone button, and the individuals are able to have a seamless conversation with their smartphone or tablet acting as interpreter.

This will disrupt translators and will boost the travel industry (to mention only two effects).

Can This Scalp Pad And SmartPhone App Really Change Your Mood?

Thync, a new scalp pad and smartphone app, is intended to allow you to adjust your mood by gentle electrical stimulus to the brain. First reports suggest the device works very well.

Shown at the recent CES show in Las Vegas, Thync offers either a “relaxing” pattern of stimulation or an “energising” pattern.

Although still in prototype, Thync is expected to go on sale in the next six months. If it works as promised it could have a major impact on treatment for depression, anxiety and other ills. It may also be used recreationally.

Vastly Improved Malware Detection Software

Hyperion is a new malware detection software that can quickly recognize malicious software even if the specific program has not been previously identified as a threat.

The software has been licensed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to R&K Cyber Solutions LLC (R&K).

Hyperion, which has been under development for a decade is claimed to offer more comprehensive scanning capabilities than existing cyber security methods.

By computing and analysing program behaviours associated with harmful intent, Hyperion can determine the software’s behaviour without using its source code or even running the program.

Temporary-Tattoo Reads Blood-Glucose Level From Skin

Trunkster is a new range of luggage for which the designers have swapped zippers for a rolltop door, and added some high-tech solutions to the problems faced by many modern travellers.

A removable 15,000 mAh battery plus USB port means you can charge your phone several times on any journey, while a built-in digital scale lets you weigh your luggage simply by lifting it. And for US$40 extra, you can also add a GPS tracking device to ensure your luggage never gets lost in transit.

Can We Decode The Language Of The Human Nervous System?

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a flexible prototype device that can measure blood-glucose levels. The device consists of precisely-patterned electrodes printed on temporary tattoo paper.

After the tattoo is applied to the patient, a “very mild” electrical current is also applied to their skin. This causes sodium ions in the fluid between their skin cells to migrate toward the electrodes. Those ions carry glucose molecules from the fluid with them.

Using a built-in sensor, the tattoo then measures the strength of the electrical charge produced by that glucose. As a result, it’s able to ascertain the glucose levels in the patient’s bloodstream.

When available, this skin patch and its associated app will be life-changing for diabetics and useful to all interested in their health (which is most of us).

Electric Roller-Skates Give You A Personal Travelator

French startup Rollkers is offering a set of motor-powered “under shoes” that slide around your sneakers and give you a few extra mph’s of forward momentum.

Rollkers strap-on under shoes are designed more as a small form of electric mobility, not so much as a high-powered toy. Sort of like a pedelec bike for the feet, Rollkers add motor power to your everyday stride, quickening your pace to up to 7 mph (11 km/h).

According to the company, Rollkers don’t require any training and offer self-balancing stability – all you have to do is walk forward to engage the motor.

Low-powered, micro-desalination will provide an answer.

At Last: Clever People Raise The Alarm About Strong AI

Dozens of scientists, entrepreneurs and investors involved in the field of artificial intelligence, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, have signed an open letter warning that greater focus is needed on its safety and social benefits.

The letter and an accompanying paper from the Future of Life Institute (FLI), which suggests research priorities for “robust and beneficial” artificial intelligence, come amid growing nervousness about the impact on jobs or even humanity’s long-term survival from machines whose intelligence and capabilities could exceed those of the people who created them.

Other signatories to the FLI’s letter include Luke Muehlhauser, executive director of Machine Intelligence Research Institute, Frank Wilczek, professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Nobel laureate, and the entrepreneurs behind artificial intelligence companies DeepMind and Vicarious, as well as several employees at Google, IBM and Microsoft.

Consortium Established To Boost Digital Health In Eire

A new early stage start-up programme called FutureHealth has been launched in Ireland, with the aim of finding and supporting potential new ventures in the digital health sector.

Run by NDRC and University College Dublin (UCD), the programme is sponsored by EY, Enterprise Ireland and Icon Clinical Research and there are places available for ten start-up teams working in digital health over an eight-week period.

The successful teams will have the opportunity to validate their ideas, build their teams and get access to leading mentors in the health sciences, clinical research innovation and investment community.

Outdoor 3D Displays That Do Not Require 3D Glasses

Vienna University of Technology physicists have designed a radical autostereoscopic (“glasses-free”) laser display that will send different ultrathin laser beams directly to individual viewers’ eyes, with full sunlight readability. The objective: create a realistic 3D illusion that changes as viewers walk or fly around the virtual object, with up to several thousand 3D viewing zones — each zone displaying a different view.

Current 3D movies only show two different pictures — one slightly different for each eye. The new display can create hundreds or thousands of pictures — one for each viewing location (or viewer).

The new display is designed to be very bright, so it can be used outdoors, even in bright sunlight.

“Greener” Plastic Recycling Uses Half The Energy And No Water

Mexican startup Ak Inovex has developed a new method of recycling plastic that is claimed to do away with water and only consume half the energy of previous systems. At the same time, the company says, it produces plastic pellets of equal or better quality, resulting in an environmentally friendlier process that also promises to be significantly cheaper.

Plastic recycling can turn discarded bottles and other scrap into a myriad of useful objects, helping produce anything from polyester clothes to 3D printing filaments and even diesel fuel.

However, it is has been a long, laborious affair that consumes plenty of resources – especially water. Among other things, the plastic needs to be thoroughly washed to get rid of impurities, carefully dehydrated inside an oven, and then water-cooled once again as the newly-formed plastic filaments are cut into small pellets.

Mouthpiece Will Allow Deaf People To “Hear”

Researchers at Colorado State University are developing an electric mouthpiece that transmits spoken words to the user by buzzing their tongue.

The mouthpiece uses a microphone-equipped earpiece to pick up sounds which are then converted into electrical signals. Those signals are then sent by Bluetooth to the retainer, which the user holds in their mouth. When they press their tongue up against the device, a series of electrodes in it respond to the received signals by selectively stimulating nerves in different parts of the tongue.

After a period of training, it is believed that users could learn to associate specific patterns of “tongue tingles” with given words. The developers compare the system to Braille, in which blind people mentally convert bumps felt with their fingertips into written letters and words.

MIT Develops Algorithm To Help Robots Recognise Everyday Objects

One of the most challenging and widely studied areas in artificial intelligence and robotics is object recognition. A research team from MIT has now built an algorithm that will make object recognition easier.

The new algorithm aggregates multiple vision perspectives that help the system to recognize four times more objects as compared to a single perspective. This system minimises the number of misidentifications.

The algorithm has been developed to work at ten times the speed of existing object recognition systems. With this speed and the accuracy, it is likely that it will help the hasten the deployment of household robots in real time domestic environments.

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