A New Kind of Microchip Mimics the Human Brian in Real Time

A team of scientists in Switzerland has managed to cram 11,011 electrodes onto a single two-millimeter-by-two-millimeter piece of silicon to create a microchip that works just like an actual brain. The best part about this so-called neuromorphic chips? They can feel.

Don’t over interpret the word “feel” though. The brain-like microchips built by scientists at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich are not a sentient beings, but they can carry out complex sensorimotor tasks that show off the network’s cognitive abilities. And what’s more impressive is that all of this happens in real time. Previous brain-like computer systems have been slower and larger, whereas the Swiss system is comparable to an actual brain in both speed and size. That’s exactly what the team was trying to do. “Our goal is to emulate the properties of biological neurons and synapses directly on microchips,” says University of Zurich professor Giacomo Indiveri.

The next step for these neuromorphic chips is to take on more and more complex tasks. In a paper published this week by the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers who built the chips suggest that they could connect the neuromorphic chips to sensory systems like an artificial retina. This is somewhat of a fascination for the community of scientists trying to build a brain-like computer. Stanford professor Kwabena Boahen rose to prominence after developing a silicon retina that behaved like a biological retina, and since then, he’s been working on ways to mimic the brain using artificial circuits.

A New Kind of Microchip Mimics the Human Brian in Real Time.

Leap Motion controllers now shipping


Would you look at that? Seems Leap Motion’s eagerly awaited motion controller has started shipping a few days early — well, a few days before its delayed July 22nd date, but we’ll take it. We’ve received a couple of confirmations from future Leapers that their devices are on the way. Until they actually arrive, however, why not take a look at some of the apps developers have been working on for the system?
Source: Engadget.

Microsoft pushes HomeOS further with Lab of Things, but where’s the mobile angle? — Tech News and Analysis

Microsoft has launched what it calls its Lab of Things, a cloud-based framework that links to the company’s HomeOS, which monitors and controls connected devices inside home environments. The Lab of Things arrived Monday at the Microsoft Research event, and apparently HomeOS has been around for a while. A quick trip through the Microsoft research page shows examples of the HomeOS efforts going as far back as 2010 and a big media push from last spring.
But in digging into HomeOS and the Lab of Things news today, I’m struck by how odd Microsoft’s vision seems to be with regard to the connected home. For example, Microsoft’s HomeOS vision centers around a home PC (it can be a netbook or a laptop) that the devices talk to — something that seems more at home in 2003 than in 2013. However, Lab of Things looks like part of an evolution to that disparity, by tying the HomeOS to Microsoft’s Azure cloud.
From the documentation around the Lab of Things:

Lab of Things is a shared infrastructure designed to help researchers develop and evaluate technologies in the home environment. Lab of Things provides a common framework to write applications and has a set of capabilities beneficial to field deployments including logging application data from houses in cloud storage, remote monitoring of system health, and remote updating of applications if needed (e.g. to change to a new phase of the study by enabling new software, or to fix bugs).

Microsoft’s HomeOS supports Z-wave devices as well as sensors built using Microsoft’s Gadgeteer hardware. Since this is a research-oriented project, the idea is pitched to academics who want to try to set up connected home environments. They use the HomeOS and Lab of Things to set up the connected devices on a home network (in this case the laptop running HomeOS is akin to any number of hubs out there on the market) and then tell the devices what they want them to do.
Read more @ GigaOm.

Google Chromekey may be a $35 HDMI stick PC | Android | Geek.com

Google may be working on an inexpensive HDMI stick PC of its very own called the Chromekey. It’s going to be quite a bit different than Dell’s Project Ophelia or the innumerable Android sticks you may have read about.

There’s some debate about what kind of software the Chromekey will ship with. If the name is accurate, you’d expect Google to go withChrome OS. Then again, Google has an OS that’s built specifically the kinds of displays that feature HDMI ports — Google TV. Android’s a pretty good fit on those screens, too.

But Chrome OS might make the most sense if Google’s intent here is to capture a chunk of the desktop computing market. An inexpensive Chrome OS stick that offers decent performance could be an excellent fit for schools and shared computers (like those in hotels and libraries). It’d even fit the bill for homes where web surfing is pretty much the only computing that’s going on.

Droid Life has received other information, however. Their source says that the Chromekey will act as a sort of wireless receiver and will work in conjunction with Google’s apps on existing (and future) devices. You may, for example, be able to queue up a YouTube playlist on your phone and beam it to the Chromekey for big screen viewing.

Read more @ Geek.com.

Spyware used by governments poses as Firefox, and Mozilla is angry | Ars Technica

Mozilla has sent a cease-and-desist letter to a company that sells spyware allegedly disguised as the Firefox browser to governments. The action follows a report by Citizen Lab, which identifies 36 countries (including the US) hosting command and control servers for FinFisher, a type of surveillance software. Also known as FinSpy, the software is sold by UK-based Gamma International to governments, which use it in criminal investigations and allegedly for spying on dissidents.

Mozilla revealed yesterday in its blog that it has sent the cease and desist letter to Gamma “demanding that these illegal practices stop immediately.” Gamma’s software is “designed to trick people into thinking it’s Mozilla Firefox,” Mozilla noted. (Mozilla declined to provide a copy of the cease and desist letter to Ars.)

The spyware doesn’t infect Firefox itself, so a victim’s browser isn’t at risk. But the spyware “uses our brand and trademarks to lie and mislead as one of its methods for avoiding detection and deletion” and is “used by Gamma’s customers to violate citizens’ human rights and online privacy,” Mozilla said. Mozilla continues:

Through the work of the Citizen Lab research team, we believe Gamma’s spyware tries to give users the false impression that, as a program installed on their computer or mobile device, it’s related to Mozilla and Firefox, and is thus trustworthy both technically and in its content. This is accomplished in two ways:

1. When a user examines the installed spyware on his/her machine by viewing its properties, Gamma misrepresents its program as “Firefox.exe” and includes the properties associated with Firefox along with a version number and copyright and trademark claims attributed to “Firefox and Mozilla Developers.”

2. For an expert user who examines the underlying code of the installed spyware, Gamma includes verbatim the assembly manifest from Firefox software.

The Citizen Lab research team has provided us with samples from the following three instances that demonstrate how this misuse of our brand, trademarks and public trust is a designed feature of Gamma’s spyware products and not unique to a single customer’s deployment:

  • A spyware attack in Bahrain aimed at pro-democracy activists;
  • The recent discovery of Gamma’s spyware apparently in use amidst Malaysia’s upcoming General Elections; and
  • A promotional demo produced by Gamma.

Each sample demonstrates the exact same pattern of falsely designating the installed spyware as originating from Mozilla. Gamma’s own brochures and promotional videos tout one of the essential features of its surveillance software is that it can be covertly deployed on the person’s system and remain undetected.

The Citizen Lab report provides pictorial evidence of the impersonation:

FinFisher doesn’t just masquerade as Firefox. The Citizen Lab report says it has also been used to target Malay language speakers by “masquerading as a document discussing Malaysia’s upcoming 2013 General Elections.”

Read more @ Ars Technica.

Nest Energy Services link home cooling to utilities’ cloud data

As clever as the Nest Learning Thermostat can be, its intelligence only extends as far as the front door: it hasn’t really been aware of how neighbors or the seasons affect our power bills. Nest Labs is improving that connection to the outside world through Nest Energy Services, a new program that links its device to the collective, cloud-based knowledge of utility companies. When owners are with an Energy Services-aware provider, the thermostat will know when to brace for an energy “rush hour” and automatically limit its cooling during peak (read: expensive) periods. It also gives a heads-up for seasonal discounts that fine-tune the temperature schedule over the course of a few weeks. Unlike previous utility-guided approaches, Nest users can always retake control if they genuinely can’t stand the heat.

Only Austin Energy, Green Mountain Energy, Reliant and Southern California Edison have lined up for the synced climate control so far, although Nest is sweetening the deal by expanding utility-based discounts for the thermostat itself. Customers of National Grid can get an immediate $100 rebate through Nest, while those who sign up with Reliant can still receive their thermostats for free with certain plans. The deals are calculated tradeoffs for companies likely to recoup their investment down the road, but they could represent big wins for homeowners still jittery about paying up front to save money later.

Read more @ engadget.

Girl Scouts Chapter Introduces Game Design Merit Badge

The Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles have introduced a Game Design merit badge to help encourage its members to get interested in a variety of science and technology fields.

Girl-Scouts

The L.A. Girl Scouts chapter partnered with the Women in Games International organization to create a curriculum for the patch. Girls will be required to program their games as well as design them, using software called Gamestar Mechanic.

The Boy Scouts of America introduced a Game Design merit badge last month, but it does not include the programming requirement.

The Girl Scouts’ version hasn’t been approved by the national organization yet, thus it is only available to Girl Scouts in the Los Angeles chapter. According to NBC News, it’s designed for girls in 4th to 6th grade.

The games industry has recently been more aware of the gender discrepancies in its ranks. A few months ago game creators took to hashtag #1reasonwhy to talk about reasons the industry doesn’t employ enough women, uncovering issues like sexism in some workplaces. A game design merit badge could certainly be one way to get more young women interested in programming and creating games as a career.

Girl Scouts Chapter Introduces Game Design Merit Badge.

TechCrunch: Microsoft Makes 1,000 Windows 8 Quickstart Kits Available To iOS Developers: $25 For Win 8 Pro & Parallels For Mac

windows8_quickstart
Two weeks ago, Microsoft launched its Windows 8 Quickstart kits for web developers who want to test their web apps on Internet Explorer 10 and Windows 8 on their Macs. That offer sold out very quickly, but today, Microsoft announced that it is making another 1,000 of these kits available on Swish, with 10,000 more coming throughout the rest of the year.

The offer will go live at 2:30 p.m. PT today. Until then, it’s only available to DEMO attendees.

For just a $25 donation to either code.orgKhan Academy or Watsi.org, as well as $8 in shipping costs, these developers will get a copy of Windows 8 Professional, Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac, and “iOS to Windows porting support from top engineers.” The kits are scheduled to ship in early June.

The focus this time is on iOS developers, and anybody who wants to get one of these kits will have 60 seconds to get past a number of multiple-choice questions to prove that they are indeed developers. To get this offer, you will have to show that you know your way around UIView, UIViewController and similar topics that iOS developers are likely intimately familiar with. Last time, the offer and puzzle were geared toward web developers and was relatively easy to solve.

For now, just 1,000 of these kits are available, but Microsoft says it plans to make about 10,000 available at various app builder events in the U.S. and international dev camps throughout the year.

As Microsoft notes, the company is extending this offer because it wants iOS developers to “get started creating your own apps for Windows Store.”

Source: TechCrunch

AnandTech: Google Announces Glass Specs, Developer SDK, Shipment to Glass Explorers in Waves

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Google dropped a bunch of Glass related news today. First up are some high level specifications which posted in an FAQ document. There’s still no word about SoC or platform beyond the rumors we’ve heard in the past that Glass is like a WiFi-only Galaxy Nexus. This is the first time we’ve seen official disclosure of some level of specifications however. From the spec page we get the following, which I’ve put in a table.

Google Glass Specs
Google Glass
SoC Unknown
Display 640×360 “Equivalent of a 25 inch high definition screen from eight feet away”
Camera 5 MP forward facing, with 720p video
Audio Bone Conduction Transducer
Connectivity 802.11b/g WiFi, Bluetooth
Storage 16 GB NAND total, 12 GB free
Battery Unknown mAh, “1 full day of typical use”
I/O microUSB
Requirements Android 4.0.3 or Higher with My Glass app

Google is very light on detail here, and doesn’t give resolution directly although it’s obvious looking at the UI Guidelines from the SDK that 640×360 is the native resolution of the projection system. There’s no explicit callout of what SoC is inside (although OMAP4 continues to be a persistent rumor) or battery size in milliamp hours or watt-hours. In addition we see the inclusion of 802.11b/g and no 802.11n, which is a bit curious, although I suspect most of the time Google Glass will be tethered to a smartphone over Bluetooth for connectivity with the companion application. Google also released the Mirror API documentation and a few sample applications alongside.

Read the full article @ AnandTech

Geek.com: Netflix will finally be moving to HTML5

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In a move that the more astute members of the video-watching populace have been waiting for, Netflix announced its plans to finally leave Microsoft Silverlight behind, and move on over to HTML5 and also modern times.

Netflix uses Silverlight, Microsoft’s answer to Flash, to stream videos across the web to both Windows and OS X computers. Unfortunately, as many Linux users lament, Silverlight was one of the barriers preventing Netflix from running on the Linux platform. Sure, you could run it through Wine, but that would certainly be overkill just to play half of that episode of West Wing so you have something to watch while you quickly eat dinner. Netflix cited Microsoft’s closure of Silverlight 5 in 2021 (currently eight years away) as the reason why it’s looking for a new platform. However, we all secretly know it’s because Silverlight was always somewhat of a silly choice, and Netflix now has a legitimate reason to leave it behind without burning a bridge withMicrosoft.

Another benefit of Netflix switching is that HTML5 isn’t a browser plugin, whereas Silverlight is. It’s not difficult to install a browser plugin, but they can create extra issues, such as certain browsers not supporting them, or some people believing they’re a security risk.

The first implementation of HTML5 Netflix will come in Chrome OS, and the company has been testing it on the ARM-based Samsung Chromebook. After they deem Chromebook testing a success, they will then move to the big boys of Windows and OS X.

As for Linux, Silverlight wasn’t the only barrier. Netflix uses a proprietary DRM that runs on Windows and OS X, but not Linux. So, it’s not yet clear if this move to HTML5 will remove the need to run Netflix in Wine. If the user comments responding to Netflix’s announcement are any indication, though, people sure want to see Netflix come to Linux.

Source: Gook.com