By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Laboratories frequently "reclassify" genetic mutations. But there is no reliable system for telling patients or doctors that the results of their genetic tests are no longer valid. From a report: The results of a genetic test may seem final -- after all, a gene mutation is present or it is not. That mutation increases the risk of a disease, or it does not. In fact, those findings are not as straightforward as they might seem, and the consequences may have grave implications for patients. While a person's genome doesn't change, the research linking particular bits of DNA to disease is very much in flux. Geneticists and testing labs constantly receive new information that leads them to reassess genetic mutations. As a result, a mutation seen as benign today may be found dangerous tomorrow. And vice versa. But there is no good way to get the new information to doctors and patients. The result: The gene test you had a few years ago might yield a startlingly different result now. The problem affects a minority of patients, mostly people with unusual mutations. The more common disease-causing mutations -- like those that predispose you to breast or colon cancer -- are so well studied that their meaning is not in doubt. In a recent study, researchers at Myriad Genetics, a diagnostic company, reviewed data on 1.45 million patients who had genetic tests from 2006 to 2016 to see if the results originally reported still held true. The lab issued new reports for nearly 60,000 of them, meaning the old results had been superseded by new data. But many patients who carry mutations that have been reclassified remain in the dark.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's talk-of-the-town department
Improvements in CGI mean neither age nor death need stop some performers from working. From a report: From Carrie Fisher in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to Paul Walker in the Fast & Furious movies, dead and magically "de-aged" actors are appearing more frequently on movie screens. Sometimes they even appear on stage: next year, an Amy Winehouse hologram will be going on tour to raise money for a charity established in the late singer's memory. Some actors and movie studios are buckling down and preparing for an inevitable future when using scanning technology to preserve 3-D digital replicas of performers is routine. Just because your star is inconveniently dead doesn't mean your generation-spanning blockbuster franchise can't continue to rake in the dough. Get the tech right and you can cash in on superstars and iconic characters forever. [...] For celebrities, these scans are a chance to make money for their families post mortem, extend their legacy -- and even, in some strange way, preserve their youth. Visual-effects company Digital Domain -- which has worked on major pictures like Avengers: Infinity War and Ready Player One -- has also taken on individual celebrities as clients, though it hasn't publicized the service. "We haven't, you know, taken out any ads in newspapers to 'Save your likeness,'" says Darren Hendler, director of the firm's Digital Humans Group. The suite of services that the company offers actors includes a range of different scans to capture their famous faces from every conceivable angle -- making it simpler to re-create them in the future. Using hundreds of custom LED lights arranged in a sphere, numerous images can be recorded in seconds capturing what the person's face looks like lit from every angle -- and right down to the pores.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's things-to-ponder department
Pete Warden, an engineer and CTO of Jetpac, writes: When I talk to people about machine learning on phones and devices I often get asked "What's the killer application?". I have a lot of different answers, everything from voice interfaces to entirely new ways of using sensor data, but the one I'm most excited about in the near-team is compression. Despite being fairly well-known in the research community, this seems to surprise a lot of people, so I wanted to share some of my personal thoughts on why I see compression as so promising. I was reminded of this whole area when I came across an OSDI paper on "Neural Adaptive Content-aware Internet Video Delivery". The summary is that by using neural networks they're able to improve a quality-of-experience metric by 43% if they keep the bandwidth the same, or alternatively reduce the bandwidth by 17% while preserving the perceived quality. There have also been other papers in a similar vein, such as this one on generative compression [PDF], or adaptive image compression. They all show impressive results, so why don't we hear more about compression as a machine learning application? All of these approaches require comparatively large neural networks, and the amount of arithmetic needed scales with the number of pixels. This means large images or video with high frames-per-second can require more computing power than current phones and similar devices have available. Most CPUs can only practically handle tens of billions of arithmetic operations per second, and running ML compression on HD video could easily require ten times that. The good news is that there are hardware solutions, like the Edge TPU amongst others, that offer the promise of much more compute being available in the future. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to apply these resources to all sorts of compression problems, from video and image, to audio, and even more imaginative approaches.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
schwit1 shares a report: The U.S. is back on top as the most competitive country in the world, regaining the No. 1 spot for the first time since 2008 in an index produced by the World Economic Forum [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], which said the country could still do better on social issues. America climbed one place in the rankings of 140 countries, with the top five rounded out by Singapore, Germany, Switzerland and Japan. All five countries' scores rose from 2017, with the U.S. notching the second-biggest gain after Japan's. [...] The Global Competitiveness Report this year assessed 140 countries on 98 indicators that measure business investment and productivity. The indicators are organized into 12 main drivers of productivity including the nations' institutions, tech savvy, infrastructure, education systems, market size and innovation.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's whatever-it-takes department
Hoping to avoid injuries, gamers get physical training; squat jumps, ginger smoothies and yoga. From a report: Esports, the world of professional videogaming, is looking more and more like other sports, with big sponsors, prize money, fan bases -- and player injuries. In response, teams are educating players on ergonomics, hiring personal chefs and sending gamers to the gym [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. Sweden's Ninjas in Pyjamas, one of esports' most accomplished teams, distributes an illustrated fitness guide to players with nearly two dozen recommended "core" exercises like burpees, Superman lifts and squat jumps. It has also instituted a "no pizza" rule before morning matches and mandated teams take pregame walks. Before matches, hand-warming packets are doled out to its two dozen players. "If you have warm hands, you reduce the risk of injury versus cold hands," says Hicham Chahine, Ninjas' chief executive. The potential for injuries -- most frequently in the wrists, hands and fingers -- is rising due to the popularity of the $900 million esports universe. With new leagues and a proliferation of competitions, for some games, tournaments are popping up nearly every other week. "Everyone is susceptible to injuries in everything that is done to an extreme," says Veli-Matti Karhulahti, of Finland's University of Turku, who along with co-author Tuomas Kari, has published peer-reviewed research on physical activity in esports. South Korean team KT Rolster hired a nutritionist two years ago who dictates breakfast, lunch and dinner. Brown rice was substituted for white rice. Players craving fast food or instant ramen must now make a special request to do so, says Jeong Je-seung, KT Rolster's coach and a former professional gamer. In his playing days, Mr. Jeong says low salaries meant "if you could eat three times a day as an esports player back then it was enough." Top players can now earn millions of dollars annually in prize money and sponsorships. The 2018 world championship for "Dota 2," a game where teams raid opponentsâ(TM) bases, carried a purse of nearly $25 million.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's never-forget department
dmoberhaus writes: Paul Allen died on Monday evening at the age of 65. Motherboard spoke with SETI researchers about how the Microsoft co-founder single-handedly saved the American Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence by building the first dedicated SETI radio telescope and its legacy one decade later. Less than a year after NASA's SETI program started, it was shut down by members of Congress who didn't want to spend money on the "great Martian chase." In order for the program to continue, it needed private funding. "Fortunately, one of the earliest SETI Institute supporters was Barney Oliver, who founded and directed Hewlett Packard laboratories," reports Motherboard. "So in 1993 Oliver called Bill Hewlett and David Packard of Hewlett Packard, Intel founder Gordon Moore, and Paul Allen to ask for their support." They supported Project Phoenix, a SETI program that ran from 1995 to 1998.
SETI astronomers then realized that they needed a dedicated SETI radio telescope, or array of small telescopes, if the search were to have any chance of success. Allen was able to foot the $25-million bill required to build this array of telescopes. The telescope array was built in northern California, "the first facility specifically built for SETI in the U.S.," Motherboard notes. "The cost of building a 350-telescope array ended up being far more expensive than anyone at the SETI Institute had anticipated, however. By the time the Allen Telescope Array came online in 2007, only 42 telescopes had been built and Allen's donation had largely been consumed." The report notes that the Allen Telescope Array "has analyzed 200 million signals from thousands of stars, studied unusual high-energy radio emissions, and even scanned the "spliff-shaped" Oumuamua asteroid for signs of intelligent life."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department
Krystalo quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today launched Chrome 70 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The release includes an option to disable linking Google site and Chrome sign-ins, Progressive Web Apps on Windows, the ability for users to restrict extensions' access to a custom list of sites, an AV1 decoder, and plenty more. You can update to the latest version now using Chrome's built-in updater or download it directly from google.com/chrome.
An anonymous Slashdot reader adds: "The most anticipated addition to today's release is a new Chrome setting panel option that allows users to control how the browser behaves when they log into a Google account," reports ZDNet. "Google added this new setting after the company was accused last month of secretly logging users into their Chrome browser accounts whenever they logged into a Google website." Chrome 70 also comes with support for the AV1 video format, TLS 1.3 final, per-site Chrome extension permissions, TouchID and fingerprint sensor authentication, the Shape Detection API (gives Chrome the ability to detect and identify faces, barcodes, and text inside images or webcam feeds), and, last but not least, 23 security fixes.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's doesn't-need-saving department
A couple months ago, it was reported that the dearly departed mobile brand known as Palm would be making a comeback. That day has finally come. Yesterday, Palm announced The Palm, a credit card-sized Android smartphone that's supposed to act as a second phone. Droid Life reports: The Palm, which is its name, is a mini-phone with a 3.3-inch HD display that's about the size of a credit card, so it should fit nicely in your palm. It could be put on a chain or tossed in a small pocket or tucked just about anywhere, thanks to that small size. It's still a mostly fully-featured smartphone, though, with cameras and access to Android apps and your Verizon phone number and texts.
The idea here is that you have a normal phone with powerful processor and big screen that you use most of the time. But when you want to disconnect some, while not being fully disconnected, you could grab Palm instead of your other phone. It uses Verizon's NumberSync to bring your existing phone number with you, just like you would if you had an LTE smartwatch or other LTE equipped device. Some of the specs of this Verizon-exclusive phone include a Snapdragon 435 processor with 3GB RAM, 32GB storage, 12MP rear and 8MP front cameras, 800mAh battery, IP68 water and dust resistance, and Android 8.1. As Kellen notes, "It does cost $350, which is a lot for a faux phone..." We've already seen a number of gadget fans perplexed by this device. Digital Trends goes as far as calling it "the stupidest product of the year."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's now-supported department
Google Maps is adding a new feature that will let you search for charging stations and provide you with useful information about that station. The feature is rolling out today and will be available on both Android and iOS. Engadget reports: Just search for "EV charging stations" or "EV charging," and Google Maps will locate those nearby. It will also tell you what types of ports are available, how many there are as well as the station's charging speeds, and businesses with charging stations will now have a link that will lead you to more information about their setup. Additionally, you'll be able to see what other users thought of the station, as Google Maps will bring up user-posted photos, ratings and reviews. Google Maps will include information about charging stations from Tesla and Chargepoint worldwide. In the US, it will also source info about SemaConnect, EVgo and Blink stations. UK users will have access to Chargemaster and Pod Point stations, while Australia and New Zealand EV drivers will see info on Chargefox stations. Unfortunately, you won't be able to tell if individual charging stations are occupied. Also, Google doesn't have Electrify America, a Volkswagen subsidiary that's building a nationwide network of fast-charging stations with universal technology.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: An Amazon employee is seeking to put new pressure on the company to stop selling its facial recognition technology to law enforcement. An anonymous worker, whose employment at Amazon was verified by Medium, published an op-ed on that platform on Tuesday criticizing the company's facial recognition work and urging the company to respond to an open letter delivered by a group of employees. The employee wrote that the government has used surveillance tools in a way that disproportionately hurts "communities of color, immigrants, and people exercising their First Amendment rights."
"Ignoring these urgent concerns while deploying powerful technologies to government and law enforcement agencies is dangerous and irresponsible," the person wrote. "That's why we were disappointed when Teresa Carlson, vice president of the worldwide public sector of Amazon Web Services, recently said that Amazon 'unwaveringly supports' law enforcement, defense, and intelligence customers, even if we don't 'know everything they're actually utilizing the tool for.'" The op-ed comes one day after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos defended technology companies working with the federal government on matters of defense during Wired's ongoing summit in San Francisco. "If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the U.S. Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble," Bezos said on Monday.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department
"Qualcomm is launching a family of chips that can add incredibly high-speed Wi-Fi -- at speeds up to 10 gigabits per second -- to phones, laptops, routers, and so on," reports The Verge. The Wi-Fi standard used for something like replacing a virtual reality headset's data cable with a high-speed wireless link is being updated. Qualcomm's latest chips improve a wireless technology called WiGig, which relies on a connection standard known as 802.11ad, which can hit speeds up to 5 gigabits per second over close to 10 meters. The new generation of that wireless standard, called 802.11ay, can reach speeds twice as fast, and can do so up to 100 meters away, according to Dino Bekis, the head of Qualcomm's mobile and compute connectivity group. The Wi-Fi Alliance says the new standard "increases the peak data rates of WiGig and improves spectrum efficiency and reduces latency." From the report: So why not just use this as normal Wi-Fi, given how fast it gets? Because that range is only line-of-sight -- when there's literally nothing in the way between the transmitter and the receiver. This high-speed Wi-Fi is based on millimeter wave radio waves in the 60GHz range. That means it's really fast, but also that it has a very difficult time penetrating obstacles, like a wall. That's a problem if you want a general purpose wireless technology. That's why 802.11ay, like 802.11ad before it, is being used as an optional add-on to existing Wi-Fi technology. If you're one of the people who has a need for these extreme wireless speeds, then maybe you'll find a use for it. Just keep in mind, you'll probably need to keep your router and the device receiving these high speeds in the same room in order for it to work, due to the whole "walls" issue. WiGig will also be competing with 5G, as it offers "similarly fast speeds over similarly limited distances," reports The Verge. "[T]he two standards may be competing as an option for delivering internet from a tower to a home -- that's what Facebook's Terragraph is doing with WiGig, and it's what Verizon is doing with 5G."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's is-anyone-really-surprised department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: Facebook announced Portal last week, its take on the in-home, voice-activated speaker to rival competitors from Amazon, Google and Apple. Last Monday, we wrote: "No data collected through Portal -- even call log data or app usage data, like the fact that you listened to Spotify -- will be used to target users with ads on Facebook." We wrote that because that's what we were told by Facebook executives. But Facebook has since reached out to change its answer: Portal doesn't have ads, but data about who you call and data about which apps you use on Portal can be used to target you with ads on other Facebook-owned properties.
"Portal voice calling is built on the Messenger infrastructure, so when you make a video call on Portal, we collect the same types of information (i.e. usage data such as length of calls, frequency of calls) that we collect on other Messenger-enabled devices. We may use this information to inform the ads we show you across our platforms. Other general usage data, such as aggregate usage of apps, etc., may also feed into the information that we use to serve ads," a spokesperson said in an email to Recode. That isn't very surprising, considering Facebook's business model. The biggest benefit of Facebook owning a device in your home is that it provides the company with another data stream for its ad-targeting business.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-back department
The New York attorney general subpoenaed more than a dozen telecommunications trade groups, lobbying contractors and Washington advocacy organizations on Tuesday, seeking to determine whether the groups sought to sway a critical federal decision on internet regulation last year by submitting millions of fraudulent public comments, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation. From a report: Some of the groups played a highly public role in last year's battle, when the Republican-appointed majority on the Federal Communications Commission voted to revoke a regulation issued under President Barack Obama that classified internet service providers as public utilities. The telecommunications industry bitterly opposed the rules -- which imposed what supporters call "net neutrality" on internet providers -- and enthusiastically backed their repeal under President Trump. The attorney general, Barbara D. Underwood, last year began investigating the source of more than 22 million public comments submitted to the F.C.C. during the battle. Millions of comments were provided using temporary or duplicate email addresses, others recycled identical phrases, and seven popular comments, repeated verbatim, accounted for millions more.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's whatever-floats-your-boat department
An anonymous reader shares a report: "Helsinki VTS, thank you for permission to depart," the captain says over the radio. He checks with the Vessel Traffic Service to see if there's anything to be looking out for. Just one other big ship, but also lots of small boats, enjoying the calm water, which could be hazards. Not a problem for this captain -- he has a giant screen on the bridge, which overlays the environment around his vessel with an augmented reality view. He can navigate the Baltic Discoverer confidently out of Finland's Helsinki Port using the computer-enhanced vision of the world, with artificial intelligence spotting and labeling every other water user, the shore, and navigation markers. This not-too-far-in-the-future vision comes from Rolls-Royce. (One iteration of it, anyway: The Rolls-Royce car company, the jet engine maker, and this marine-focused enterprise all have different corporate owners.) The view provided to the crew of the (fictional) Baltic Discoverer is an example of the company's Intelligent Awareness system, which mashes together data from sensors all over a vessel, to give its humans a better view of the world. But that's just the early part of the plan. Using cameras, lidar, and radar, Rolls wants to make completely autonomous ships. And it's already running trials around the world. "Tugs, ferries, and short-sea transport, these are all classes of vessels that we believe would be suitable for completely autonomous operations, monitored by a land based crew, who get to go home every night," says Kevin Daffey, Rolls-Royce's director of marine engineering and technology. Suitable, because they all currently rely on humans who demand to be paid -- and can make costly mistakes. Over the past decade, there have been more than 1,000 total losses of large ships, and at least 70 percent of those resulted from human error. [...] Moreover, the economic case for automating shipping is clear: About 100,000 large vessels are currently sailing the world's oceans, and the amount of cargo they carry is projected to grow around 4 percent a year, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Beyond preventing accidents, human-free ships could be 15 percent more efficient to run, because they don't need energy-gobbling life support systems, doing things like heating, cooking, and lugging drinking water along for the ride.Read Replies (0)