Monday, November 30, 2015

Li-fi: lightbulbs emit data, 100x faster than wifi



Distance between management levels encourages independent thinking

"Distance is a very useful tool that can be used to stop negative behaviours from spreading through an organization,... It creates the freedom to make up your own mind."

Researchers in the Netherlands have found that physical distance is a key factor in determining the extent to which bad behaviour of managers spreads to employees.
"If someone kicks a dog right in front of you, it’ll make you very mad," said Gijs van Houwelingen, a researcher at the Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands.
"But if you hear about someone somewhere in the world kicking a dog, you probably won’t feel as mad about it."

The research, published in the Journal of Management, sought to find out “how spatial distance between higher and lower management” affects the spread of behaviour and fair procedures in the work place.

A series of experiments were carried out to determine whether middle managers copy or deviate from their boss’s unfair treatment when they work further apart from one another.

In five studies the researchers asked people how their managers treated them, how psychologically close they felt to their manager, and how they treated their own employees.

Researchers also assessed the physical distance between study participants and their boss.
In one experiment, 150 undergraduate business students were asked to play the role of a middle manager with two subordinate employees and a boss.

Participants were told their boss was located in the same room or across campus.

They were also told that their boss would assign them either a fun and creative task with a cash bonus at the end, or a tedious task with no bonus. The participants could say which task they preferred, but their boss made the final decision.

The researchers asked the participants about their boss’s behavior, and then told them to decide how they would treat their own employees.

After analysing the results of this experiment and four others, researchers found that when participants were physically near their boss, they were more likely to imitate their misconduct and treat their subordinates unfairly.

They also found the same effect when someone felt psychologically close—when a participant identified with her boss, they were more likely to imitate his behavior as well.
In their final study, van Houwelingen and his team looked at the psychological impact on employees of physical closeness with their boss.

The study demonstrated that when someone works near their manager, they also feel psychologically closer to them, and the opposite was true at larger distances.
"We saw that the more distant someone is, they’re less likely to identify with their boss or describe themselves in relation to their boss," van Houwelingen said.
Sean Hannah, a professor of management at Wake Forest University’s School of Business said that the study gave rise to a new way of thinking about the relationship between employees and their bosses.

"A lot of that literature talks about frustration and aggression: ‘my boss treats me unfairly so therefore I'll lash out at others to get my aggression out, and I abuse my followers because I can't push back at my leader,’" he said.
"This study charts a new way of looking at this line of research with a more identity-based approach."
Van Houwelingen said that his findings suggest spatial distance plays a crucial role in office ethics which applies to other types of misconduct like stealing or lying.
"Distance is a very useful tool that can be used to stop negative behaviours from spreading through an organization," he said "It creates the freedom to make up your own mind."

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Facial capture, avatar

In the video below Faceshift's Brian Amberg (CTO) and Nico Scapel (Creative Director) talk about face tracking to bring virtual characters to life, using Intel's RealSense depth camera. We first reported on this story that claimed that Apple may have possibly acquired this Swiss start-up back in September. Late yesterday, TechCrunch claims that they've been able to confirm that Apple has indeed acquired the company. 

The video is co-sponsored by Intel to promote their new RealSense 3D depth camera. Yesterday Apple was granted yet another 3D Depth camera patent. In that report we pointed to several inventions Apple now owns that stemmed from their acquisition of Israeli firm PrimeSense. Many of the patents extend a 3D depth camera to future iDevices. At this time it's unknown if Apple will adopt Intel's RealSense 3D depth cameras in the future or introduce their own based on their patented technology. Apple's string of granted patents and other patent-pending inventions would strongly suggest the latter. Apple also has an advanced 3D avatar app in the wings that could be tied to a future iDevice or Mac integrated with a 3D depth camera. 

While TechCrunch makes the claim that some Faceshift employees now work for Apple in Europe, Apple will not confirm the acquisition rumor. Could they simply be ex-Faceshift employees? Yet somehow Apple's denial is seen by TechCrunch as proof that they indeed acquired the young start-up. While it continues to sound interesting and likely that Apple may have indeed acquired the company, it's still unclear if they actually did. TechCrunch's report didn't quite prove their claim with a noncommittal comment by Apple.

Global refugees take long detours through Latin America to reach the US

Global refugees take long detours through Latin America to reach the US

Recent events involving Syrian refugees arriving at North American borders have brought to light the increased global traffic along the continent’s migrant routes

When eight Syrians handed themselves in to immigration authorities on the Texas-Mexico border last week, the incident was held up by conservative politicians as a troubling reflection of the new threats facing the US after the Paris terror attacks.
Similarly, news that five Syrian men had been detained in Honduras with false Greek passports was presented as a novel – and potentially sinister – development.
But both groups are most likely part of a steady stream of migrants from around the world, who have in recent years quietly started to follow the well-trodden routes used by Latin Americans to reach the United States.
As well as Syrians, migrants from Nepal, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Pakistan now regularly make the long detour through Latin America, joining the flood of Central American migrants seeking refuge from violence.
Officials say that the nationalities using the migrant routes vary as humanitarian or political crises flare up around the world: the number of Syrians started to increase since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011, and has ballooned as the civil war has worsened; more Cubans have sought to reach the US since Havana began to reestablish diplomatic relations with Washington.

“Over the past decade, Latin America has definitely become a route of entry to the US for Asian and African migrants, said Ernesto Rodríguez, a migration expert at Mexico Autonomous Institute of Technology (ITAM).
That shift is becoming a serious concern in the region, prompting authorities from transit countries to call an emergency meeting on “extra-territorial” migrants in Costa Rica on Tuesday.
Policemen escort five Syrian men after they were detained at Toncontin international airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Policemen escort five Syrian men after they were detained at Toncontin international airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photograph: Reuters
A Colombian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the number of Cubans was a concern but that the meeting would also address concerns about “other nationalities”.
“By volume they aren’t even 2% of the irregular migrants that transit through our countries, but given recent events, there is concern that some could pose security threats,” the official said.
Over the past decade Colombia has become a major hub for non-Latin American migrants headed toward the United States because of its strategic position and abundance of criminal trafficking networks.

One US Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in Colombia called the smuggling organizations along the route a “federation of independent operators” who hand groups of migrants off to each other, each charging for one leg of the journey.

The voyage from Asia or Africa to the US via these routes can cost as much as $12,000, Colombian investigators have found.

The routes vary and are constantly shifting: the Syrians detained in Honduras passed through Turkey, Brazil, Argentina and Costa Rica before reaching Tegucigalpa, where they have since claimed political asylum, saying that their lives were in danger in Syria.

Many migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East fly to Brazil, Venezuela or Ecuador, whose visa requirements are relatively lax. Travelling over land through Colombia, they brave the dense jungle of the Darien Gap to reach Panama and continue their journey northward.

“Most travel with smugglers who choose and change their routes depending on legal options in different countries,” says Rodriguez. “When Ecuador removed visa requirements for all nationalities, it became a major entry point for traffickers.”

Immigrants from Central America, Nepal and Bangladesh are seen in a trailer truck after being detected by police X-ray equipment in Mexico. Photograph: Attorney General's Office/Reuters
Colombia is an attractive route because it is not a crime to have entered the country irregularly. The worst that can happen is that migrants get deported back to their point of entry.
But Ecuador will not accept deportees who are not nationals of that country. “All we can do is drop them off at the bridge at the border and walk away,” says one Colombian official.
Most often, smugglers tell migrants that if they are caught they should request refugee status. Once asylum is requested, authorities grant them a safe conduct pass for five days to present their case to the foreign ministry. Most never show. They use the reprieve to continue their journey northward.
In Colombia, 68 Syrians have been detained since 2012, as well as 372 Somalis, 132 Pakistanis and 18 Eritreans, according to figures from Migración Colombia.

In Mexico over 300 Nepalese were apprehended between January and September this year – more than quadruple the number in 2014, while the number of Indians detained has more than doubled to 310. Seven Iraqis were detained in Mexico the first nine months of 2015, compared to a total of five in the previous three years. And at least 40 Syrians have been apprehended trying to make it to the US since the outbreak of civil war in 2011.
 The number of migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa pale in comparison to Cubans who have chosen to take the land route to the United States rather than the traditional sea journey toward the Florida coast. The number of Cubans entering the US has surged since President Obama announced a renewal of diplomatic ties with the Caribbean country last December following more than 50 years as cold war enemies.

This recent exodus is promoted by fears that the so-called wet-foot, dry-foot policy – which fast-tracks legal residency for undocumented Cubans in the US as long as they arrive by air or overland – could soon come to an end.

Almost 27,300 Cubans entered the US in the first nine months of this year – a 78% rise on the same period last year, according to the Pew Research Centre. Two-thirds of those travelled overland through Mexico and entered the US at the Texas border. Many others have been stopped along the way; Mexico detained 6,447 Cubans in the first nine months of 2015, and more than 4,000 were apprehended in Colombia in the first eight months of the year.

According to the Asssociated Press, 2015 may witness the biggest outflow of Cubans since the 1980 Mariel boatlift that brought 125,000 people across the Florida Straits.

Many of those are likely to head south before they head north, said Rodríguez. “Smugglers are always looking for easier routes, which is why we’ve seen the increase flow through Latin America.”


Monday, November 9, 2015

BRIC investing is officially dead at Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs' asset management business has killed off its BRIC fund, concluding that it would not “experience significant asset growth in the foreseeable future.

LONDON (CNNMoney) – BRIC investing has officially fallen out of favor.

Goldman Sachs’ asset management business has killed off its BRIC fund, concluding that it would not “experience significant asset growth in the foreseeable future.”

The powerful investment bank was the original champion of investing in Brazil, Russia, India and China, which became known as BRIC nations.

Goldman’s former chairman Jim O’Neill coined the “BRIC” acronym in 2001 and brought the world’s attention to strong growth potential in these large emerging markets. The acronym was later expanded to BRICS to include South Africa.

However, the promise of BRIC countries has faded as Brazil’s economy slumps, Russia struggles with low oil prices and international sanctions, and China’s economy slows after previously posting double-digit growth figures.

Goldman’s BRIC fund was created in June 2006 and experienced wild swings during the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

An official filing shows that it averaged a measly 3% average annual return and underperformed the MSCI BRIC index.

Goldman warned in September that it planned to fold the BRIC fund into a more diversified emerging market fund on Oct. 23.

Even though the BRIC era appears to be over, Goldman Sachs said it’s not time to give up on all emerging markets.

“Over the last decade emerging market investing has evolved from being tactical and opportunistic to being a strategic part of most asset allocations,” said Andrew Williams, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs. “We continue to recommend that our clients have exposure to emerging markets across asset classes as part of their strategic asset allocation.”

An October report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies questioned whether the BRICS still matter, arguing that “the foundation of the BRICS concept is beginning to crumble.”

“Conflicting interests and the indisputable political, social, and cultural differences among the group’s members have kept the BRICS from translating their economic force into collective political power on the global stage,” the report said. “And with economic prospects decreasingly promising, the notion of the BRICS as a political project seems too fragile to stand on its own.”

Thought decoder for speech

Our understanding of the brain has come a long way in the past thirty years, but most brain-related medical procedures remain incredibly complicated and dangerous. Neurologist Phil Kennedy has been working on brain-computer interfaces since the 1980s. He was most notably involved in letting a patient with "locked in" syndrome interact with the outside world through a brain-controlled computer cursor. But the FDA has gradually ramped up its safety demands, and in the past decade they've shut down Kennedy's research. So he did what any determined inventor would do: he went to a hospital in Belize and had surgeons there implant electrodes on his own brain so he could continue his research.

"After returning home to Duluth, Georgia, Kennedy began to toil largely alone in his speech lab, recording his neurons as he repeated 29 phonemes (such as e, eh, a, o, u, and consonants like ch and j) out loud, and then silently imagined saying them. ... Kennedy says his early findings are 'extremely encouraging.' He says he determined that different combinations of the 65 neurons he was recording from consistently fired every time he spoke certain sounds aloud, and also fired when he imagined speaking them—a relationship that is potentially key to developing a thought decoder for speech." Eventually, Kennedy had to have the implants removed, but he hopes the data he gathered will help push the FDA toward supporting this research once more