Archive for June, 2011

June 28, 2011

Smartphone App Helps You Find Friends in a Crowd

The software, called eShadow, makes its debut at the IEEE International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems (ICDCS) on June 23 in Minneapolis.
It uses nearby wireless networks and smartphones’ wireless communication technologies to alert users that a friend who also uses the software is in the area — and gives directions to that friend’s location.
Dong Xuan, associate professor of computer science and engineering at Ohio State University, hopes that his research group’s software will also build bridges between strangers who share personal or professional interests.
At a business meeting such as ICDCS, for example, the software could remind a user of a forgotten acquaintance’s name, or help him or her make new professional contacts in the same area of research.
Since it enables face-to-face meetings, eShadow is a complement to online social networks such as Facebook, which excel at connecting people who are far apart, Xuan said.
“Today, online social networking has advanced dramatically, but our ability to meet people face-to-face hasn’t gotten any easier,” he said. “We want eShadow to close social gaps and connect people in meaningful ways, while keeping the technology non-intrusive and protecting privacy.”
The name eShadow comes from the idea that users input their interests into the software, and their smartphone broadcasts those interests to certain other users of the software — but only within 50 yards of the phone. So as users move, the broadcast follows them around like a shadow.
As to users’ safety, Xuan feels that, at least for some situations, meeting someone in person is safer than meeting them online.
“Online, people can steal others’ identity, or lie easily without detection. It’s much harder to pull off a masquerade in person,” he said.
Plus, users only share information which they want to share, and can observe potential friends at a distance before deciding whether to introduce themselves. Young people, Xuan pointed out, are especially comfortable with putting personal information online, and could readily adapt to using the software.
That said, people can be selective about who they wish to receive their eShadow signals. Users can select individuals from their phone’s contact list, and specifically de-select people as well.
“Say I’m from Ohio State, and someone else is from the University of Michigan, so I don’t want to talk to them. I just tell the software to ignore anyone who says they’re from Michigan,” Xuan laughed.
The researchers’ biggest challenges concerned efficient use of wireless communication, explained doctoral student Jin Teng. He and his colleagues wrote algorithms that let smartphones send and receive eShadow signals quickly, but without overwhelming a network.
In outdoor tests on the Ohio State campus, they measured how fast the software could detect users who were 20, 30, and 50 yards apart. They tested different numbers of users, from two to seven.
In all cases, the software was able to connect people within about half a minute — an average of 25 seconds for two users, and 35 seconds for seven.
Xuan noted that eShadow’s algorithms could be useful beyond socializing. Soldiers could use something akin to eShadow to locate each other on the battlefield.
Presently, the software works best when people move infrequently. Xuan and his research group are enhancing it to better accommodate motion. They are also extending it from Windows Mobile to support multiple smartphone platforms such as Android, and exploring opportunities for publicly releasing the software in the near future.
Other engineers on Xuan’s team include Xiaole Bai, an assistant professor of computer and information science at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, and Boying Zhang, Xinfeng Li, and Adam C. Champion, all doctoral students at Ohio State.
This research was funded by Xuan’s National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, an NSF Computer and Network Systems grant, and an Army Research Office grant.
June 10, 2011

Motorola Unveils The Android Powered Motorola Triumph

Motorola recently announced a new Android powered Motorola Triumph smartphone. This handset runs on the old Android 2.2 (Froyo) Operating System and it will be available exclusively to Virgin Mobile customers in the US. The Motorola Triumph comes with a 4.1 inch WVGA display, 1 GHz processor, 5 megapixel camera with HD (720p) video recording, 32 GB expandable memory and more.

June 9, 2011

>WebOS-Based HP TouchPad Tablet Coming July 1

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Thanks to Stan Schroeder of Mashable 
Hoping to try out a tablet that’s not iOS or Android based? A new alternative is hitting the market: HP’s WebOS-based tablet, the TouchPad, will be shipping in the U.S. on July 1.
The Wi-Fi version of the device can be pre-ordered in North America and Europe on June 19. It’s coming to the U.S. on July 1, and will arrive in the UK, Ireland, France and Germany a few days later. Canadians can expect the TouchPad in mid-July.
HP says the TouchPad will reach Australia, Hong Kong, Italy, New Zealand, Singapore and Spain “later this year.”
The HP TouchPad is a 13.7 mm thin, 9.7-inch tablet with a dual-core 1.2 Ghz Snapdragon processor, 16 or 32GB of storage, 1 GB of RAM, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and a 1.3-megapixel camera for video calls.The 16 GB version of the device costs $499.99, while the 32 GB version costs $599.99.
June 9, 2011

>MyCare — The ‘Card’ That Could Save Your Life

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The MyCare Card stores personal medical data (e.g. information on existing medical conditions, allergies and medication being taken) and plugs into a laptop’s USB port, enabling the data to be accessed in just a few moments.
It is the first device of its type to have been trialled in the UK.
This working prototype has been developed by City University London and Coventry University, with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
If the card’s owner is taken ill or involved in an accident, paramedics can simply retrieve the card from their pocket or handbag and use the data to gain instant access to their full medical history.
As well as using the data to inform their on-the-spot decisions, paramedics can phone key information ahead to a hospital if necessary.
Initial trials have been successful and the development team now hopes to work with organisations in the healthcare sector to undertake a full-scale pilot programme. If that programme is also completed successfully, the system could be available for patient use within around 3-4 years.
“When dealing with a medical emergency, patients may be unconscious or unable to communicate with paramedics for some other reason,” says Professor Panicos Kyriacou of City University, “our device makes potentially life-saving data easily accessible. For example, it’s vital to know whether a patient is allergic to latex. If they are, use of latex gloves by a paramedic might be fatal.” 
The MyCare Card is designed for voluntary use by patients. All data would be held on the card securely so that it could not be accessed if the card were lost.
A patient would keep the card in their possession and add or alter a range of personal information (e.g. on next of kin) on their home PCs. A plug embedded in the card is simply slid out and inserted into a computer; bespoke software then automatically runs from the card. This personal medical data-browsing software was also developed as part of the project.
When treated at a surgery, clinic or hospital, the patient would hand the card over to the medical professionals and the medical information on the card would be updated.
Card updates could also be made at pharmacies when collecting prescription medicines. The patient themselves would be able to view but not alter any of this medical data.
Although patient-held electronic health record cards have been trialled in some parts of the world, the MyCare Card has a number of unique features:
The software underlying the system is written in a portable way using Python programming language, meaning it can be ported easily between different computers and different computer operating systems.
The software is very modular and easy to extend, which means it is simple to add new features and database record types.
The MyCare system has been developed on an open-source basis, enabling a wide range of people to be involved in reviewing and contributing to the development process.
As part of the project, detailed surveys have been undertaken by Coventry University, led by Professor Andree Woodcock, to assess attitudes to the MyCare Card among health professionals and the public, including those with and without computer skills. These surveys have highlighted the need for a full pilot-scale study to enable all the key issues to be examined in detail (e.g. would GPs be happy to use such a system?).
“The MyCare Card has specifically been designed to be easy to use regardless of your level of computer literacy,” says Professor Kyriacou.
The 3-year ‘NHS MyCare’ project received total EPSRC funding of just over £260,000.
Access to information stored on the card is secured using user authentication protection similar to online banking. The card prototypes were developed at Coventry University, where the user surveys were also organised; the system’s underlying software was developed at City University London.
More information is available at: http://www.myc2.org
Courtesy ScienceDaily
June 9, 2011

>Clonezilla – An open Source way of disk partitioning

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Clonezilla (http://www.clonezilla.org/) is a partition or disk cloning tool similar to Symantec Ghost. It saves and restores only blocks in use on the hard drive if the file system is supported. For unsupported file systems, dd is used instead. It has been used to clone a 5 GB system to 40 clients in about 10 minutes.
June 7, 2011

>Examining the Brain as a Neural Information Super-Highway

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The brain functions as a complex system of regions that must communicate with each other to enable everyday activities such as perception and cognition. This need for networked computation is a challenge common to multiple types of communication systems. Thus, important questions about how information is routed and emitted from individual brain regions may be addressed by drawing parallels with other well-known types of communication systems, such as the Internet.
The authors, from the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Centre, Toronto, Canada, showed that — similar to other communication networks — the timing pattern of information emission is highly indicative of information traffic flow through the network. In this study the output of information was sensitive to subtle differences between individual subjects, cognitive states and brain regions.
The researchers recorded electrical activity from the brain and used signal processing techniques to precisely determine exactly when units of information get emitted from different regions. They then showed that the times between successive departures are distributed according to a specific distribution. For instance, when research study participants were asked to open their eyes in order to allow visual input, emission times became significantly more variable in parts of the brain responsible for visual processing, reflecting and indicating increased neural “traffic” through the underlying brain regions.
This method can be broadly applied in neuroscience and may potentially be used to study the effects of neural development and aging, as well as neurodegenerative disease, where traffic flow would be compromised by the loss of certain nodes or disintegration of pathways.
This research was funded by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Santa Fe Institute Consortium to TP and a J.S. McDonnel Foundation grant to ARM.
Courtesy ScienceDaily
June 7, 2011

>Virtual Shopping in 3D

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Courtesy Businessweek.
Linda Smith walked on stage at the Spring 2011 Demo Conference in Palm Desert, Calif., on Feb. 28 and tried on clothes. Looking at herself in an interactive mirror, she tested out virtual dresses, handbags, and jewelry. The interactive “fitting room,” called Swivel, is a mix of software created by her company, FaceCake Marketing Technologies of Calabasas, Calif., and a hacked 3D camera from Microsoft’s (MSFT) Kinect gaming console.
Kinect started out as a controller-free gaming system, but developers such as FaceCake are writing new applications for the system’s 3D camera. Kinect cameras essentially transform computers into two-way mirrors whose system can see users. One potential use of Kinect is making accurate 3D models of people to help them purchase everything from swimsuits to jeans online.
In 2011, 148.1 million shoppers, or about 83 percent of U.S. Internet users ages 14 and older, will make a purchase online, according to eMarketer. In the first quarter of 2011, retail e-commerce sales totaled $46 billion, according to the Census Bureau of the U.S. Commerce Dept. Yet almost 38 percent of women don’t buy online, according to Forrester Research (FORR), because they want to be able to see and touch items before they hand over a credit card. Retailers have tried to help shoppers overcome reservations with new visualization tools such as augmented reality, which lets customers try on clothes virtually, according to eMarketer. “The more lifelike you can make your e-commerce experience, the better that experience will be,” says Noah Elkin, principal analyst at eMarketer. “If you’re a retailer, it will make your site a more persuasive place to go to make that purchase.”
Augmented Relality Applications
In the retail sector, companies have been experimenting with two-dimensional augmented-reality applications that let customers try on clothes virtually. Last Sept. 10, Macy’s (M) installed a Magic Fitting Room in its Herald Square Store in New York. Within minutes, shoppers were trying on the most popular tops, dresses, and jackets, creating as many as 16 outfits that could be stored in a digital closet and then shared on Facebook and by e-mail. Over the next six weeks, more than 16,000 fitting sessions were completed, according to the maker of the Magic Fitting Room, digital marketing and technology agency LBI International (LBI:NA).
Similarly in April, Swiss watchmaker Tissot ran an interactive display in a Harrods window, inviting passersby to try on watches. Mobile apps also let EBay (EBAY) shoppers try on sunglasses or outfits superimposed on photos of themselves. Still, these efforts lack the depth of 3D images.