Posts Tagged ‘Tech’

While Google has been working towards perfecting visual search for a while now (note the similar images option in image search), it is reportedly in the final stages of acquiring an e-commerce firm called Like.com that specializes in the technology, for approximately $100 million.

Munjal Shah, the CEO and co-founder of Like.com, declined to comment on the matter. Like.com has received large investments in the past from numerous venture capital firms, and made its name in the industry with its novel approach to online apparel shopping, using visual search and adaptive technology to help its customers find suitable fashion purchases. If the reports turn out to be true, look forward to better search (and better mobile search) from the search giant, affecting relevancy more beyond the image result level.

Courtesy –



Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

Eager to try Android on your netbook? Well, now you can.


Before Google announced the Chrome OS, many of us were more than looking forward to seeing how the company’s Android operating system would run on netbooks. However, when Google dropped its Chrome OS bomb, we were left wondering about the fate of Android on netbooks. After all, the Chrome OS is being designed for netbooks. What would be the point of Android on anything but phones once the Chrome OS becomes available next year?

With the help of LiveAndroid you don’t have to wait to try it out. LiveAndroid has been around for a while now. Originally launched in May, LiveCD allows you to run the Android OS on x86 platforms without actually installing the software. Up until now this was only useful to those with netbooks that actually have an optical drive. However, the folks at LiveAndroid last week announced a LiveUSB version, especially handy for those of you with netbooks or notebooks that don’t have a disc drive.

Anyone willing to give this a shot? Let us know how you get on if you do! You can download the iso file from LiveAndroid’s Google Code-hosted project page

Read Full Post »

Indian Government has instructed the Department of Telecommunication to send notices to RIM, Skype, and Google to grant access to all communications that take place over their networks. Within 15 days, each of these companies will be required to open all the data, so that it can be read by the security and intelligence agencies. Else…..

It looks like we might join the Chinese and lay traditional marigold garlands on Google India Headquarters as the Government might ban these companies if they fail to comply. Although, taking into account the recent terrorist attacks, the Government’s stance is justified to an extent. However, we feel that such negotiations must take place in the background. On the other hand, once in hands of Government officials, it wouldn’t be surprising if one can get all your mail and data for a bunch of green notes. None of these companies has responded to the notices as of yet.

Better start cleaning your Inbox to be on the safe side !

Read Full Post »

For the last few months, we’ve seen all the major internet browsers compete for features and updates, even while the market share policies and discussions were held at bay from the tech-world. We were happy watching Mozilla and Opera having a stable hold, Safari moving upwards, and Chrome building its market share as well as version number to sync with the others.

Despite having the largest bite in the web browser market share pie, IE has been subjected to a gradual and constant fall for the last couple of years while the other browsers steadily gained on it. But it seems much has changed in last two months, and the Big Blue e wasn’t resting this summer-vacation! If we go with the statistics, it shows us Internet Explorer having a potential growth of approximately 0.5% from May to June. That’s not all; the graph also shows Firefox losing half as much what IE gained, and Opera giving room of rest of the percentage to IE.

What could this possibly mean to the IT world? Is IE again slowly taking over the internet behind everyone’s eyes, or is it just that the other browsers aren’t compelling enough any more for the users? Is it because of the feature convergence that IE is coming with each of its major version releases to match with the other giants? Or, possibly it is just a failure of Firefox that it couldn’t hold on to its market when even Safari and newest player Chrome are climbing upwards?

Yes, it’s true that IE9 is coming with loads of improvements and potential to reorder many calculations, but that couldn’t be a possible reason to boost up the usage share of its previous versions. If features were the reason, then IE6 hardly stands any chance to take a sip in this battle of titans. Is Firefox losing its appeal? Well, that may further increase the usage of Chrome etc. but the users who do away with Firefox very rarely take IE as a replacement for good.

There may be some other explanations, some of which may seem meaningful, others not; we will present you with this analysis which, of course, does not render the discrepancy as a freak of nature, but a regular phenomenon that comes upon us periodically. Let us explain how…

If you take another look at the browser market share figure of 2009, a similar result extracts out of it too. The IE market share increases in the months of May and June (and then decreases again). We have produced the result for 2009, but if you are curious, you can research on it for the years before this and would see nearly the same result. So at least we know, this anomaly is just a routine occurrence; now we’ll take a look at the possible reason…

With April, a new fiscal year begins. It’s a fact that every organization tries to reorganize at this period of time, and so do their IT departments. With this in hand, we can assume most of the office PCs get their OSes reinstalled or freshly formatted, of which most are Windows. Unlike Europe, without having the browser ballot screen (even that is only for Windows 7), the rest of the world is bound to have Internet Explorer pre-installed in their systems. European organizations who still haven’t switched to Windows 7 yet, are left with no other choice than kick off the Blue e to connect to internet for the very first time.

Believe it or not, most of the organizations still prefer to use Windows XP as their operating system of choice and IE6 as the primary browser. Despite its primitiveness, the fact that IE6 is still being used is because its limitations are treated as the advantage in the official sector, where advanced web page rendering, HTML5, streaming video, and web 2.0 features are neither needed not intended to be used by the employees. So, an IT administrator is free from applying advanced website filtering and firewall rule settings, making it easier to manage the network. At first it may seem to make the organizational network insecure, but the administrator can now put that effort to manage the network gateway system to keep the bad guys off the network. So as it works out quite well, most of the organizations stay with this solution in hand.

Now, you won’t wonder why even IE6 is having a usage boost, would you? Because, even if you want to download Firefox, you need to start by opening Internet Explorer, eventually increasing the overall usage at this particular time of the year. Microsoft can only turn the game a bit when IE9 comes out, but till then, it’ll just have to settle for steadily declines and periodical rises in browser usage shares…

Read Full Post »

FASHION crime it may be, but a multicoloured dayglo glove could bringMinority Report-style computing to your home PC.

Interest in so-called gesture-based computingMovie Camera has been stoked by the forthcoming launch of gaming systems from Microsoft and SonyMovie Camera that will track the movements of players’ bodies and replicate them on screen. But an off-the-shelf system that can follow delicate hand movements in three dimensions to manipulate virtual objects remains tantalisingly beyond reach.

The problem with systems such as Microsoft’s Project Natal for the Xbox is that they do not focus on the detailed movement of hands, limiting the degree to which players can manipulate virtual objects, says Javier Romero, a computer-vision researcher at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. Arm movements can be captured but more subtle pinches or twists of the wrists may be missed.

Until now, capturing detail required expensive motion-capture systems like those used for Hollywood’s special-effects fests. These utilise markers placed around the body, or sensor-studded data gloves in which flexible sensors detect joint movements. “Really accurate gloves cost up to $20,000 and are a little unwieldy to wear,” says Robert Wang, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Artificial Intelligence Lab.

Wang has developed a system that could bring gesture-based computing to the masses and it requires nothing more than a pair of multicoloured latex gloves, a webcam and a laptop .

Hands where I can see them (Image: CSAIL)

The key to the system is the gloves, each of which is comprised of 20 patches of 10 different colours – the maximum number a typical webcam can effectively distinguish between. The patches are arranged to maintain the best possible separation of colours. For example, the fingertips and the palm, which would frequently collide in natural hand gestures, are coloured differently.

The upshot is that when a webcam is used to track a glove-clad hand, the system can identify each finger’s location and distinguish between the front and the back of the hand. “It makes the computer’s life easier,” says Wang.

Once the system has calculated the position of the hand, it searches a database containing 100,000 images of gloved hands in a variety of positions. “If you have more images than that it slows the computer down, and if you have fewer then you don’t provide an adequate representation of all the positions the hand can be in,” Wang explains.

Once it finds a match it displays it on screen. The process is repeated several times per second, enabling the system to recreate gestures in real time.

Wang presented some early-stage research at last year’s SIGGRAPH meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. “Back then it only worked in windowless rooms and took half an hour to calibrate,” says Wang. Now it can be calibrated in 3 seconds, he says.

Wang has already shown that the system can correctly replicate most of the letters of the American Sign Language alphabet, although those that require rapid motion (J and Z) or involve the thumb (E, M, N, S and T) have yet to be perfected.

The gloves are so cheap to make – costing about a dollar – that they could bring gesture-based computing to a wider audience, says Douglas Lanman, an expert in human-computer interaction at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. But if it’s going to have truly widespread appeal, it will need to lose the gloves. “Wearing a glove is an inconvenience,” he says. “Markerless motion-capture is where I think the field is moving, and where the larger commercial market will be.”

Last month, at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Anchorage, Alaska, Romero and his colleague Danica Kragicdemonstrated how markerless motion-capture may be possible. Their system also uses a webcam and a database of hand positions to recreate an on-screen version, but attempts to pick out a bare hand in a stream of video from a webcam by detecting flesh colours. If you reach down and pick up a ball, say, the program will aim to find a matching image in its database of the positions the had adopts as it reaches down and picks up a spherical object.

Identifying a hand using skin colour is far more difficult than picking out a multicoloured glove. Even once a hand is detected, it is a massive challenge to accurately identify its position – especially if it is holding something, says Kragic. “The object blocks out parts of the hand, preventing the computer from knowing what the hidden bit is doing.”

To tackle the problem, Romero and Kragic created a reference database containing images of hands picking up 33 different objects, such as a ball or a cylinder. They then set up a webcam, which captured 10 frames per second, and tested their system’s capabilities by filming people grasping a cup, a ball or a pair of pliers. The database had images of a hand picking up a ball, but nothing for a cup or pliers. The system successfully created virtual representation of a hand grabbing a ball, and came as close as it could to the cup by displaying a hand grasping a cylinder. It came up empty with the pliers.

These are exciting results nonetheless, says Romero, because they show that the system can not only reconstruct the gestures of empty hands, but can also generalise when dealing with some unknown objects. The shape of the pliers, and the grasp used to pick them up were too different from anything in the database for the system to find a match, but by expanding the reference database it should be possible to overcome that, he says.

To make identification faster, Romero has incorporated an algorithm to rule out unlikely hand positions based on previous estimates of hand pose. For example, if the last hand position was a hand stretched out with splayed fingers, the algorithm rules out database images of hands that are clenched into a fist. While this helps the system operate in real time, it creates problems of its own: if the hand moves very fast, it can indeed “jump” from being splayed out to being clenched. In this situation, Romero’s set-up struggles because that algorithm will rule out the correct pose.

Romero claims the system is already attracting interest from makers of prosthetics, who want to improve their understanding about how people grip objects.

It will also, of course, interest game makers, says Takaaki Shiratori of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

COURTESY: http://www.newscientist.com

Read Full Post »

Christian Kandlbauer mind-controlled arm prosthesis

A mind-controlled robotic arm is bringing new independence to an Austrian man who lost his arms, even allowing him to drive a car, the arm’s maker announced earlier this week. Christian Kandlbauer passed his driving test “with flying colors” using a mind-controlled arm prosthesis. Created by the German firm Otto Bock HealthCare, the arm has allowed 23-year-old Christian Kandlbauer to pass a driving test with flying colors, giving him the freedom to drive the seven kilometers to and from work each day without assistance. The device is the first mind-controlled arm prosthesis in Europe. After a high-voltage electrical accident struck Kandlbauer back in 2005, both his arms had to be amputated. His right arm has since been replaced by a myoelectric DynamicArm, which now operates the steering wheel when he drives his specially equipped Subaru Impreza, modified for him by Paravan. Taking the place of his left arm, however, is the new, seven-jointed prosthetic arm, which he controls in real time using just his thoughts. He now operates that arm to control the direction indicator lights, horn and all other safety-related devices of his vehicle.

Targeted Muscle Reinnervation

The prosthesis is based on targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR), a process by which four key arm nerves are systematically relocated to the surgically segmented chest musculature. Once reinnervation is complete — it can take several months — the surface of the chest forms an interface to the patient’s brain. Electric nerve impulses coming from this region can actually be sampled and processed by surface electrodes, according to Otto Bock. Now, powerful micro-controllers in the prosthesis calculate the motor commands underlying the impulses in real time and generate the equivalent control commands for the arm. For Kandlbauer, who works in a garage, it’s been a dream come true. He obtained his driver’s license in October and has been traveling back and forth to work in his own vehicle ever since.

‘An Important Extension’

“What’s remarkable about the Otto Bock prosthetic technology is the way they have re-engineered the nervous system to make the prosthesis more useful,” James Cavuoto, editor of Neurotech Reports, told TechNewsWorld. “Innovative strategies like this will likely grow the market for motor prostheses in the years ahead,” Cavuoto added. Indeed, following 10 years of pioneering work in TMR, “it is exciting to see this promising new source of command signals being applied to commercial, clinical prostheses,” agreed Gerald Loeb, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California. It’s not clear whether it’s truly a case of “mind-control,” however, “particularly because other researchers have been working — with much less success — on reading out command signals directly from the brain, where the term seems more appropriate,” Loeb told  Nevertheless, TMR is “an important extension of the original concept of myoelectric control because it enables users to operate multiple degrees of freedom in a way that is much more natural and intuitive than has been possible before,” he explained. “That sort of command capability is essential to take advantage of the much more sophisticated mechatronic hands and arms that are being developed by several research and commercial groups, including Otto Bock,” Loeb added.

A High-Tech Index Finger

Otto Bock is also working on a “high-tech index finger” for Kandlbauer that can sense temperature, identify rough and smooth surfaces and feel the strength of a handshake. “Micro-sensors that record the temperature, gripping strength and surface characteristics of the object being gripped are integrated into the tip of the index finger on the prosthetic hand,” explained Hubert Egger, head of the mind-controlled arm project. Currently, however, the prosthesis with sensory perception is only a prototype. It will likely take another four years of development before Kandlbauer can use it on a day-to-day basis, Otto Bock said.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »