Sunday, June 29, 2014

Intelligent Autonomous Flying Robots Learn and Map Environment As They Fly

RE: drones for film:  
When I was doing 3D animation, we would animate cameras like any other object. Typically, you can create motion paths in 3D space so that the movement can accelerate and travel smoothly. Certainly, one could program a drone in this same way, similar to the rollercoaster simulation coupled with oculus rift. 
No reason that an operator would have to navigate a drone - the article below made me think about this - imagine if an intelligent drone could operate from a library of established routes and routines with enough smart factor to adapt autonomously depending on conditions. I suppose the drone could begin creating it's own library of routes. I'm not sure I'll ever be ready to board a drone for transport. A heavy duty transport drone.

The research paves the way for robots to work intelligently alongside humans in ways that are currently familiar only through science fiction films. The robots could play important roles in crisis situations such as search and rescue missions, or operate in environments where it would be dangerous for humans to work.

Using simple flying robots, called Quadcopters, the team, based in Sheffield’s Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering (ACSE), has created software that enables the robot to learn about its surroundings using a forward facing camera mounted at the front of the machine.
The robot starts with no information about its environment and the objects within it. By overlaying different frames from the camera and selecting key reference points within the scene, it builds up a 3D map of the world around it. Other sensors pick up barometric and ultrasonic data, which give the robot additional clues about its environment. All this information is fed into autopilot software to allow the robot to navigate safely, but also to learn about the objects nearby and navigate to specific items.

"We are used to the robots of science fiction films being able to act independently, recognise objects and individuals and make decisions," explains Professor Sandor Veres, who is leading the research. "In the real world, however, although robots can be extremely intelligent individually, their ability to co-operate and interact with each other and with humans is still very limited.
"As we develop robots for use in space or to send into nuclear environments – places where humans cannot easily go – the goal will be for them to understand their surroundings and make decisions based on that understanding."

Another key task for these robots is to be able to interact and co-operate with each other without overloading communications networks – a vital ability in emergency situations where networks will already be overloaded.

Programming developed by the team enables the Quadcopters to work out how to ‘politely’ fly past each other without colliding. The robots start off flying at the same altitude and then need to collaborate to work out which robot would fly higher and which would fly lower so they are able to pass.

"The learning process the robots use here is similar to when two people meet in the street and need to get round each other," explains ACSE research fellow, Dr Jonathan Aitken. "They will simultaneously go to their left or right until they coordinate and avoid collision."
The researchers used a computer concept called game theory to programme the quadcopters. In this framework, each robot is a player in the game and must complete its given task in order to ‘win’ the game.

If the robots play the game repeatedly they start to learn each other’s behaviour. They can then perform their task successfully – in this case getting past the other robot – by using previous experience to estimate the behaviour of the other robot.
"These simple tasks are part of a major research effort in the field of robotics at Sheffield University," says Professor Veres. "The next step is to extend the programming capability so that multiple robots can collaborate with each other, enabling fleets of machines to interact and collaborate on more complex tasks."

Additional information

Engineering in Sheffield
The Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sheffield - the 2011 Times Higher Education’s University of the Year - is one of the biggest and best engineering faculties in the UK. Its seven departments include over 4,000 of the brightest students and 900 staff, and have research-related income worth more than £50M per annum from government, industry and charity sources. Its research income recently overtook the University of Cambridge, confirming its status as one of the best institutions in the world to study engineering. The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) confirmed that two thirds of the research carried out was either Internationally Excellent or Internationally Leading.

The Faculty’s expertise is extensive – its academic departments and two interdisciplinary programme areas cover all the engineering disciplines. They are leaders in their fields and outstanding contributors to the development of new knowledge, with world-leading academics linking their research to the teaching of the engineers of tomorrow.
The Faculty has a long tradition of working with industry including Rolls-Royce, Network Rail and Siemens. Its industrial successes are exemplified by the award-winning Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the new £25 million Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC).

The Faculty of Engineering is committed to ensuring students studying at Sheffield continue to benefit from world-class labs and teaching space through the provision of the University's new Engineering Graduate School. This brand new building, which will become the centre of the faculty´s postgraduate research and postgraduate teaching activities, will form the first stage in a 15 year plan to improve and extend the existing estate in a bid to provide students with the best possible facilities while improving their student experience.
Engineering in Sheffield


For further information, please contact:
Shemina Davis
Media Relations Manager
The University of Sheffield
0114 22 5339

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Scientists Successfully Grow Full Head of Hair On Bald Man

posted on

 "A man with almost no hair on his body has grown a full head of it after a novel treatment by doctors at Yale University. The patient had previously been diagnosed with both alopecia universalis, a disease that results in loss of all body hair, and plaque psoriasis, a condition characterized by scaly red areas of skin. The only hair on his body was within the psoriasis plaques on his head. He was referred to Yale Dermatology for treatment of the psoriasis. The alopecia universalis had never been treated.

After two months on tofacitinib [an FDA-approved arthritis drug] at 10 mg daily, the patient's psoriasis showed some improvement, and the man had grown scalp and facial hair — the first hair he'd grown there in seven years. After three more months of therapy at 15 mg daily, the patient had completely regrown scalp hair and also had clearly visible eyebrows, eyelashes, and facial hair, as well as armpit and other hair, the doctors said."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Computer becomes first to pass Turing Test in artificial intelligence milestone, but academics warn of dangerous future

Eugene Goostman, a computer programme pretending to be a young Ukrainian boy, successfully duped enough humans to pass the iconic test

A programme that convinced humans that it was a 13-year-old boy has become the first computer ever to pass the Turing Test. The test — which requires that computers are indistinguishable from humans — is considered a landmark in the development of artificial intelligence, but academics have warned that the technology could be used for cybercrime.
Computing pioneer Alan Turing said that a computer could be understood to be thinking if it passed the test, which requires that a computer dupes 30 per cent of human interrogators in five-minute text conversations.

Eugene Goostman, a computer programme made by a team based in Russia, succeeded in a test conducted at the Royal Society in London. It convinced 33 per cent of the judges that it was human, said academics at the University of Reading, which organised the test.

It is thought to be the first computer to pass the iconic test. Though other programmes have claimed successes, those included set topics or questions in advance.

A version of the computer programme, which was created in 2001, is hosted online for anyone talk to. (“I feel about beating the turing test in quite convenient way. Nothing original,” said Goostman, when asked how he felt after his success.)

The computer programme claims to be a 13-year-old boy from Odessa in Ukraine.

"Our main idea was that he can claim that he knows anything, but his age also makes it perfectly reasonable that he doesn't know everything," said Vladimir Veselov, one of the creators of the programme. "We spent a lot of time developing a character with a believable personality."

The programme's success is likely to prompt some concerns about the future of computing, said Kevin Warwick, a visiting professor at the University of Reading and deputy vice-chancellor for research at Coventry University.
"In the field of Artificial Intelligence there is no more iconic and controversial milestone than the Turing Test, when a computer convinces a sufficient number of interrogators into believing that it is not a machine but rather is a human," he said. "Having a computer that can trick a human into thinking that someone, or even something, is a person we trust is a wake-up call to cybercrime.
"The Turing Test is a vital tool for combatting that threat. It is important to understand more fully how online, real-time communication of this type can influence an individual human in such a way that they are fooled into believing something is true... when in fact it is not."

The test, organised at the Royal Society on Saturday, featured five programmes in total. Judges included Robert Llewellyn, who played robot Kryten in Red Dwarf, and Lord Sharkey, who led the successful campaign for Alan Turing's posthumous pardon last year.

Alan Turing created the test in a 1950 paper, 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence'. In it, he said that because 'thinking' was difficult to define, what matters is whether a computer could imitate a real human being. It has since become a key part of the philosophy of artificial intelligence.
The success came on the 60th anniversary of Turing's death, on Saturday.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system - 48-72 hrs.

Protection from chemotherapy immunosuppression indicates effect could be conserved in humans

Wu_Suzanneby Suzanne Wu

Researcher Valter Longo at work
Corresponding author Valter Longo (USC Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)
In the first evidence of a natural intervention triggering stem cell-based regeneration of an organ or system, a study in the June 5 issue of the Cell Stem Cell shows that cycles of prolonged fasting not only protect against immune system damage — a major side effect of chemotherapy — but also induce immune system regeneration, shifting stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal.

In both mice and a Phase 1 human clinical trial, long periods of not eating significantly lowered white blood cell counts. In mice, fasting cycles then “flipped a regenerative switch,” changing the signaling pathways for hematopoietic stem cells, which are responsible for the generation of blood and immune systems, the research showed.
We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system.
Valter Longo
The study has major implications for healthier aging, in which immune system decline contributes to increased susceptibility to disease as people age. By outlining how prolonged fasting cycles — periods of no food for two to four days at a time over the course of six months — kill older and damaged immune cells and generate new ones, the research also has implications for chemotherapy tolerance and for those with a wide range of immune system deficiencies, including autoimmunity disorders.

“We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system,” said corresponding author Valter Longo, Edna M. Jones Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and director of the USC Longevity Institute. Longo has a joint appointment at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged,” Longo said. “What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. So we started thinking, well, where does it come from?”

Fasting cycles

Prolonged fasting forces the body to use stores of glucose, fat and ketones, but it also breaks down a significant portion of white blood cells. Longo likens the effect to lightening a plane of excess cargo.
During each cycle of fasting, this depletion of white blood cells induces changes that trigger stem cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells. In particular, prolonged fasting reduced the enzyme PKA, an effect previously discovered by the Longo team to extend longevity in simple organisms and which has been linked in other research to the regulation of stem cell self-renewal and pluripotency — that is, the potential for one cell to develop into many different cell types. Prolonged fasting also lowered levels of IGF-1, a growth-factor hormone that Longo and others have linked to aging, tumor progression and cancer risk.

“PKA is the key gene that needs to shut down in order for these stem cells to switch into regenerative mode. It gives the OK for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system,” explained Longo, noting the potential of clinical applications that mimic the effects of prolonged fasting to rejuvenate the immune system. “And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting. Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system.”
Prolonged fasting also protected against toxicity in a pilot clinical trial in which a small group of patients fasted for a 72-hour period prior to chemotherapy, extending Longo’s influential past research.

“While chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy,” said co-author Tanya Dorff, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital. “More clinical studies are needed, and any such dietary intervention should be undertaken only under the guidance of a physician.”
“We are investigating the possibility that these effects are applicable to many different systems and organs, not just the immune system,” said Longo, whose lab is in the process of conducting further research on controlled dietary interventions and stem cell regeneration in both animal and clinical studies.

The study was supported by the National Institute of Aging of the National Institutes of Health (grant numbers AG20642, AG025135, P01AG34906). The clinical trial was supported by the V Foundation and the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (P30CA014089).
Chia Wei-Cheng of USC Davis was first author of the study. Gregor Adams, Xiaoying Zhou and Ben Lam of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC; Laura Perin and Stefano Da Sacco of the Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; Min Wei of USC Davis; Mario Mirisola of the University of Palermo; Dorff and David Quinn of the Keck School of Medicine of USC; and John Kopchick of Ohio University were co-authors of the study.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cut off Google Glass program

Cut Off Glassholes’ Wi-Fi With This Google Glass Detector

Image: Julian Oliver
Not a fan of Google Glass’s ability to turn ordinary humans into invisibly recording surveillance cyborgs? Now you can create your own “glasshole-free zone.”

Berlin artist Julian Oliver has written a simple program called that detects any Glass device attempting to connect to a Wi-Fi network based on a unique character string that he says he’s found in the MAC addresses of Google’s augmented reality headsets. Install Oliver’s program on a Raspberry Pi or Beaglebone mini-computer and plug it into a USB network antenna, and the gadget becomes a Google Glass detector, sniffing the local network for signs of Glass users. When it detects Glass, it uses the program Aircrack-NG to impersonate the network and send a “deauthorization” command, cutting the headset’s Wi-Fi connection. It can also emit a beep to signal the Glass-wearer’s presence to anyone nearby.

“To say ‘I don’t want to be filmed’ at a restaurant, at a party, or playing with your kids is perfectly OK. But how do you do that when you don’t even know if a device is recording?” Oliver tells WIRED. “This steps up the game. It’s taking a jammer-like approach.”

Oliver came up with the program after hearing that a fellow artist friend was disturbed by guests who showed up to his art exhibit wearing Glass. The device, after all, offered no way for the artist to know if the Glass-wearing visitors were photographing, recording, or even live-streaming his work.
Oliver came up with the program after hearing that a fellow artist friend was disturbed by guests who showed up to his art exhibit wearing Glass.
Oliver’s program is still a mostly-unproven demonstration, though the 40-year-old New Zealand native has successfully tested it by booting Glass off his own studio’s network. More importantly, it shows how the uneasiness with Glass’ social implications could play out as the device hits the mainstream. Bars in San Francisco and Seattle have already banned Glass-wearers. In January, a Glass-headed movie-goer was suspected of piracy and questioned by Homeland Security agents after wearing the device in a theater. And the inventor of a Glass-like augmented reality setup claimed to have been violently thrown out of a Paris McDonald’s in 2012 based on the restaurant’s no-recording policy.

A program like could make those sorts of no-Glass policies more technically enforceable, though it may have to be adapted as Glass MAC addresses shift in future versions. And Oliver argues that a Glass-booting device is legal so long as the user is the owner of the network. He sees it as no different from cell phone jammers, which have been adopted in many schools, libraries, and government buildings.

Oliver warns, though, that the same Glass-ejecting technique could be used more aggressively: He plans to create another version of in the near future that’s designed to be a kind of roving Glass-disconnector, capable of knocking Glass off any network or even severing its link to the user’s phone. “That moves it from a territorial statement to ‘you can all go to hell.’ It’s a very different position, politically,” he says. For that version, Oliver says he plans to warn users that the program may be more legally ill-advised, and is only to be used “in extreme circumstances.”
As a long-time Berlin resident, Oliver says he sees Glass as a replay of the events surrounding Google Streetview in Germany, where private citizens protested Google’s uninvited photography of their homes and places of work. He sees Glass as another case of Google violating privacy norms and asking questions later.

“These are cameras, highly surreptitious in nature, with network backup function and no external indication of recording,” says Oliver. “To focus on the device is to dance past a heritage of heartfelt protest against the unconsented video documentation of our public places and spaces.”

Our Brains Will Be Hacked, Tracked and Data-Mined

Written by

Jordan Pearson

Gadgets that read your brainwaves are reaching the consumer market. What then? Image: Emotiv
In the near future, companies, hell even the NSA, could be mining our brainwaves for data. It’s bad enough the private details about our lives that are revealed in hoovered up emails and phone calls; imagine if Big Brother was literally reading our minds? That’s some dystopian shit.
We're heading in that direction. Brainwave-tracking is becoming increasingly common in the consumer market, with the gaming industry at the forefront of the trend. “Neurogames” use brain-computer interfaces and electroencephalographic (EEG) gadgets like the Emotiv headset to read brain signals and map them to in-game actions, basically giving the player virtual psychic superpowers.
Now there’s a fear that we’re not doing enough to protect our raw thoughts from getting hacked with "brain spyware" or being tracked and gathered like the rest of our personal data. The concern was raised last month at the 2014 Neurogaming Conference in San Francisco, NPR reported.
“We may wake up in a few years and say, ‘Oh, we should have done something. We should have thought about the privacy of this data,’” Arek Stopczynski, a neuroinformatics researcher at MIT told me in an interview.

It’s possible to glean private information like PIN numbers, credit cards, addresses, and birthdays "leaked" from brain signals.

EEG data is extremely rich, or “high-dimensional,” meaning a single signal can reveal a lot of information about you: if you have a mental illness, are prone to addiction, your emotions, mood, and taste.

Raw brainwave data uploaded to a server for gaming purposes could also be tapped to get a detailed read-out of your psyche. It’s possible to glean private information like PIN numbers, credit cards, addresses, and birthdays "leaked" from brain signals, as researchers demonstrated in a 2013 paper on the privacy and security implications of brain-controlled consumer products.
And unlike your Facebook profile, EGG data is a unique biometric identifier, like a fingerprint. Researchers have demonstrated they can identify people based on their EEG data with an 80-100 percent accuracy rate.

The greatest potential danger when it comes to brainwave data privacy, Stopczynski argued, is the possibility of linking EEG databases to other databases with information about finances or location. “If we don’t do something about it or start talking about it, we will end up with this big dataset of personal EEG data that no one will have proper control over,” he said.

If, let’s just say the NSA, began collecting brain data, they could theoretically match it with other datasets culled from online data mining to create a complete profile of an individual that goes far beyond what they divulge through posts and messages alone.
How can we stop this kind of invasive mining of our minds? The simple answer is that brainwaves can be protected just like any other personal data.

In a recent paper, Stopczynski and several colleagues outlined a security protocol for EEG data, called openPDS.  The system marries two technologies: a smartphone app that reads EEG data and a generic data storage system that only releases the answers to specific queries “asked” by programs and services—not the raw data itself.

So before firing up a neurogame, the user would first have to install a company-provided module that would only be able to calculate specific parts of the data emitted by an EEG headset to generate code that translates into in-game actions.
The goal is to prevent our brain data from being disseminated through cyberspace without our knowledge or say-so, the way personal information from the web is now. Data security experts wants to make sure consumers retain total control over where their brainwaves go, and whose hands they end up in.  

By ensuring that the raw EEG data is never released to another party, Stopczynski’s system would offer users control over their own neurodata. “Eventually, you should own the only copy of your raw data,” he said, “You should not have your data, especially your biometric data, duplicated multiple places.”

Folks may have a cavalier attitude toward online privacy, even a willingness to exchange personal data an all-access pass to the digital world. But I’m inclined to think that our brains are different.
Before neurogaming gives way to other brain-controlled services and products, we might want to make sure that won’t mean giving corporate giants and government snoops unfettered access to our private thoughts. Facebook and the NSA don’t have carte blanche access to our minds just yet, and we should probably keep it that way.