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The Challenges and Threats of Automated Lip Reading

SlashDot - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 10:45am
An anonymous reader writes: Speech recognition has gotten pretty good over the past several years. it's reliable enough to be ubiquitous in our mobile devices. But now we have an interesting, related dilemma: should we develop algorithms that can lip read? It's a more challenging problem, to be sure. Sounds can be translated directly into words, but deriving meaning out of the movement of a person's face is much more complex. "During speech, the mouth forms between 10 and 14 different shapes, known as visemes. By contrast, speech contains around 50 individual sounds known as phonemes. So a single viseme can represent several different phonemes. And therein lies the problem. A sequence of visemes cannot usually be associated with a unique word or sequence of words. Instead, a sequence of visemes can have several different solutions." Beyond the computational aspect, we also need to decide, as a society, if this is a technology that should exist. The privacy implications extend beyond that of simple voice recognition.

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The MOOC Revolution That Wasn't

SlashDot - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 9:41am
An anonymous reader writes: Dan Friedman at TechCrunch is ready to call Massive Open Online Courses a failure. Originally hailed as a revolution in learning, MOOCs have seen disappointing course completion numbers. Coursera and Udacity, two of the most prominent online learning hubs, have seen about 8 million enrollments in the past few years. Unfortunately, half of those students didn't even watch a single lecture, and only a few hundred thousand completed the course they signed up for. Friedman says, "[N]ew technologies enable methods of "learn by doing" that just weren't possible before we could deliver immersive experiences to people's laptops and phones. In the 1960's, Jerome Bruner expanded an educational theory known as constructivism with the idea that students should learn through inquiry under the guidance of a teacher to grasp complex ideas intuitively. That process of trial, failure, and then being shown the correct path has been proven to drive student motivation and retention of learning. What we don't yet know is if that process of trial and failure can become 10x more engaging when delivered through a new medium such as Minecraft or Oculus. ... These new immersive worlds promise to hold the attention of students in ways textbooks never could."

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Drone-Based Businesses: Growing In Canada, Grounded In the US

SlashDot - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 8:36am
An anonymous reader writes: As small drones become affordable, and as clever people come up with ideas on how to use them, we've been hearing about more and more plans for drone-based business. In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration was quick to shut down such ideas in order to give themselves time to regulate the nascent industry. Not so, in Canada. Thanks to a simple permit system, anyone wanting to use a drone for commercial purposes can do so in Canada by simply applying and waiting a few weeks. Around 1,500 of these permits have been granted already, and Canada's private drone industry is flourishing as a result. Drones have been used for agriculture analysis, TV production, real estate photography, law enforcement, and many other tasks.

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Early Reviews of Destiny: Unfulfilled Potential

SlashDot - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 7:30am
Destiny is a first-person shooter set in a persistent, online world. It was released on Tuesday by Bungie, the development studio behind Halo, and billed as a blending of console shooters and progression-based MMOs. Reviews for the game are finally trickling out, and most publications say it's merely average. (Though it's worth noting that the social and multiplayer portions of the game are difficult to evaluate in such a short timeframe, and like many MMOs, Destiny will continue to see active development.) Polygon's Arthur Gies reports, "Destiny doesn't look real, but rather, it looks like painted concept art, meticulously assembled and presented to you at all times. Instead, it's the suggestion, through Destiny's concept, its soundtrack and its visual presentation, that Destiny is big. That there's a whole universe out there to explore, a reality worth discovering. There isn't, though." Jeff Gerstmann at Giant Bomb had a similar reaction: "There are cool little flashes of brilliance in Destiny, but a lot of it feels like a game designed by people who weren't sure what sort of game they were designing. Is it a loot shooter? Sort of, but the loot isn't very good. Is it an MMO? No, but you'll occasionally encounter other players out in the field. A story-driven shooter like the Halo franchise? Sure, if you don't mind digging through the developer's website to find those little bits of lore." The Escapist's Jim Sterling concludes, "Destiny exists in the shadow of multiple games, taking a little from each, and doing nothing truly remarkable with any of it. It's a prime example of how the nebulous concept of 'content' can be used to puff up a game without adding anything to it."

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Medical Milestone: Scientists Reset Human Stem Cells

SlashDot - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 4:21am
SternisheFan sends news that researchers from the University of Cambridge have made a breakthrough in the production of human pluripotent stem cells. The goal when developing this kind of stem cell is to have them as early in the cell's lifecycle as possible, so that they're more like true embryonic stem cells and can fulfill whatever role is needed. But all of them made so far are advanced slightly down their developmental pathway. The new work, published in the journal Cell (abstract), has found a way to "reset" the cells by introducing two genes that induce a developmental "ground state."

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Amazon Is Killing Off Its Free P2P Money-Transfer Service WebPay On October 13

SlashDot - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 1:18am
An anonymous reader writes: Amazon WebPay, a free online money-transfer service, is shutting down October 13, 2014. This means you'll no longer be able to send, receive, or request money using just your email address and the Amazon Payments webpage. There were hints back in June that the service would be going away soon. Amazon sent out an email this week to active Amazon Payments account users notifying them it is pulling the plug.

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Early iPhone 6 Benchmark Results Show Only Modest Gains For A8

SlashDot - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 11:12pm
MojoKid writes: Historically speaking, we typically see impressive performance gains each time Apple releases a new custom processor for its mobile products. Certainly that was true of the A7 SoC, the world's first 64-bit smartphone processor. So, can we expect the same kind of performance bump from the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, both of which sport the new custom A8 SoC? Maybe not. The iPhone 6 recently surfaced in results for the Basemark X benchmark and armed with a dual-core 1.4GHz Cyclone CPU and A8 GPU, the iPhone 6 scored 21,204.26 and a earned a place at the top of the chart, though not by much. By comparison, the iPhone 5s scored 20,253.80 in the same benchmark. In other words, the iPhone 6 is currently less than 5 percent faster than the iPhone 5s, at least as far as the Basemark X benchmark is concerned.

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California Declares Carpooling Via Ride-Share Services Illegal

SlashDot - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 9:10pm
An anonymous reader writes: Ride-share companies like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar got letters from the California Public Utilities Commission this week telling them that carpool features for their services are illegal. "Basically, the CPUC says that under California law it's illegal for these ride-sharing services to charge passengers an individual fare when carrying multiple people in one vehicle. If the companies would like to add a carpool feature, they first have to request an adjustment to their existing permits with the CPUC or petition the state legislature to modify the law. Uber, Lyft and Sidecar all unveiled carpool features last month. The three companies say the feature lets strangers in multiple locations, but heading the same direction, share rides and split fares — saving passengers up to 50 percent per ride." This news arrives just as Uber gave in to the demands of striking drivers who claim the company is undermining their ability to earn a livable wage.

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Curiosity Rover Arrives At Long-Term Destination

SlashDot - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 7:13pm
When NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars, the mission team had a particular destination in mind: Mount Sharp. Just over two years and about nine kilometers of driving later, Curiosity has arrived at Mount Sharp. It will now begin its ascent of the mountain (PDF), first analyzing basal rocks with a "paintbrush" texture, then moving further to observe hematite-bearing rocks further up the slope. It will then proceed into an area laden with clay-bearing rocks, and finally to the upper reaches of the foothills, which contain rocks with magnesium sulfate in them. The team has selected routes and driving modes that they hope will slow the steadily accumulating damage to the rover's wheels.

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City of Turin To Switch From Windows To Linux and Save 6M Euros

SlashDot - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 6:31pm
jrepin writes: The municipality of Turin in Italy hopes to save 6 million Euro over five years by switching from Windows XP to Ubuntu Linux in all of its offices. The move will mean installing the open source operating system on 8,300 PCs, which will generate an immediate saving of roughly €300 per machine (almost €2.5m altogether, made up from the cost of Windows and Office licences) — a sum that will grow over the years as the need for the renewal of proprietary software licences vanishes, and the employees get used to the new machines.

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Categories: Geek News

Verizon Working On a La Carte Internet TV Service

SlashDot - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 5:50pm
An anonymous reader writes: One of the reasons people have been fleeing cable TV in droves is the idea that they're paying for hundreds of channels but only using a handful. Even though that's not really true, Verizon is now working on an internet TV service that lets people pick and pay for only the channels they want. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said, "I think everyone understands it will go to a la carte. The question is what is that transition look like ... I don't think there is anyone that would stand up here and say the only way it's going to be offered five years from now is linear and it's going to be tied to your TV set because frankly they will miss the market and they will be the ones left behind."

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Congress Can't Make Asteroid Mining Legal (But It's Trying, Anyway)

SlashDot - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 5:07pm
Jason Koebler writes: Earlier this week, the House Science Committee examined the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act, a bill that would ensure that "any resources obtained in outer space from an asteroid are the property of the entity that obtained such resources." The problem is, that idea doesn't really mesh at all with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, a document that suggests space is a shared resource: "Unlike some other global commons, no agreement has been reached at to whether title to extracted space resources passes to the extracting entity," Joanne Gabrynowicz, a space law expert at the University of Mississippi said (PDF). "There is no legal clarity regarding the ownership status of the extracted resources. It is foreseeable that the entity's actions will be challenged at law and in politics."

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Categories: Geek News

SanDisk Releases 512GB SD Card

SlashDot - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 4:25pm
Lucas123 writes: SanDisk has announced the world's highest capacity SD card, a 512GB model that represents a 1,000-fold increase over the company's first 512MB card that it shipped a decade ago. The SanDisk Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I memory card has a max read/write rate of 95MB/s and 90MB/s, respectively. The card is rated to function in temperatures from -13 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. The 512GB model retails for $800. The card also comes in 128GB and 256GB capacities.

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CERN Tests First Artificial Retina Capable of Looking For High Energy Particles

SlashDot - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 3:41pm
KentuckyFC writes: Pattern recognition is one of the few areas where humans regularly outperform even the most powerful computers. Our extraordinary ability is a result of the way our bodies process visual information. But surprisingly, our brains only do part of the work. The most basic pattern recognition—edge detection, line detection and the detection of certain shapes—is performed by the complex circuitry of neurons in the retina. Now particle physicists are copying this trick to hunt for new particles. A team at CERN has built and tested an artificial retina capable of identifying particle tracks in the debris from particle collisions. The retina can do this at the same rate the LHC smashes particles together: about 800 million collisions per second. In other words, it can sift through the data in real time. The team says the retina outperforms any other particle-detecting device by a factor of 400v.

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Harvard's CompSci Intro Course Boasts Record-Breaking Enrollment

SlashDot - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 2:59pm
alphadogg writes: Harvard College's CS50, the school's Introduction to Computer Science course for undergrads, has attracted about 1 in 8 students this fall — a new record for the school and yet another sign of just how hot this field is becoming for the job-hungry. Overall, 818 undergrads (or 12% of the student body) signed up for the challenging course this semester (PDF), and nearly 900 students are registered when factoring in graduate and cross-registered students. Topics on the syllabus include Linux, cryptography, HTML and JavaScript. David Malan, a Harvard CompSci grad, teaches the course.

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Categories: Geek News

Software Patents Are Crumbling, Thanks To the Supreme Court

SlashDot - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 2:10pm
walterbyrd writes: In June, when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a software patent, many in the tech industry hoped it would be the beginning of sweeping changes to how the patent system handles software. Just a few months later, lower courts are making it happen. Quoting Vox: "By my count there have been 10 court rulings on the patentability of software since the Supreme Court's decision — including six that were decided this month. Every single one of them has led to the patent being invalidated. This doesn't necessarily mean that all software patents are in danger — these are mostly patents that are particularly vulnerable to challenge under the new Alice precedent. But it does mean that the pendulum of patent law is now clearly swinging in an anti-patent direction. Every time a patent gets invalidated, it strengthens the bargaining position of every defendant facing a lawsuit from a patent troll." Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports on alleged corruption in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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Categories: Geek News

HP Buys Cloud Provider, Gets Marten Mickos To Head Its Cloud Division

SlashDot - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 1:28pm
jfruh writes: In 2010, HP tried to buy its way into the analytics game by shelling out billions for Autonomy, a deal that was a famous disaster. But that isn't stopping the company from making big buys: it will be buying Eucalyptus, a cloud provider headed by ex-MySQL AB CEO Marten Mickos, and bringing Mickos in to head the new HP Cloud division.

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Categories: Geek News

Liquid Sponges Extract Hydrogen From Water

SlashDot - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 12:45pm
New submitter gaelfx writes: Researchers at Glasglow University have an interesting method for separating the hydrogen out of water: Liquid Sponges. Most methods of extracting the hydrogen involve some form electrolysis, but these generally require some pretty expensive materials. The researchers claim that they can accomplish this using less electricity, cheaper materials and 30 times faster to boot. With both Honda and Toyota promising hydrogen fuel cell cars in Japan within the next few years (other manufacturers must be considering it as well, if not as publicly), does this spell a new future for transportation technology?

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Kickstarter's Problem: You Have To Make the Game Before You Ask For Money

SlashDot - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 12:02pm
An anonymous reader writes with this piece about Digital Knights, the studio behind the Kickstarter campaign project Sienna Storm, which was cancelled this week after the team raised only 10% of their $180,000 target, despite a compelling concept (a card based espionage game) and a reputable team including the writer of the original Deus Ex, Sheldon Pacotti. The team is now seeking alternative funding before reaching out to publishers, but in an interview given this week, Knights CEO Sergei Filipov highlights what he sees as a recent and growing problem with crowdfunding games: an expectation to see a working prototype. "It seems at least 50 or 60 percent of the game needs to be completed before one launches a campaign on Kickstarter," he says. It's a chicken and egg cycle some indie developers will struggle to break out of, and shows just how far we've come since Tim Schafer's Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter burst the doors open two years ago.

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Ask Slashdot: Advice On Building a Firewall With VPN Capabilities?

SlashDot - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 11:20am
An anonymous reader writes "I currently connect to the internet via a standard router, but I'm looking at bulking up security. Could people provide their experiences with setting up a dedicated firewall machine with VPN capabilities? I am a novice at Linux/BSD, so would appreciate pointers at solutions that require relatively little tweaking. Hardware-wise, I have built PC's, so I'm comfortable with sourcing components and assembling into a case. The setup would reside in my living room, so a quiet solution is required. The firewall would handle home browsing and torrenting traffic. Some of the questions knocking around in my head: 1. Pros and cons of buying an off-the-shelf solution versus building a quiet PC-based solution? 2. Software- versus hardware-based encryption — pros and cons? 3. What are minimum requirements to run a VPN? 4. Which OS to go for? 5. What other security software should I include for maximum protection? I am thinking of anti-virus solutions."

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