Thursday, March 30, 2017

VR touch - haptics

taste online

With the use of electrodes and sensors -- and zero lemons -- a group of researchers at the University of Singapore have announced that they can convince you that you're drinking lemonade, even if it's just water. Plus, they can send you a glass of lemonade virtually over the internet. In an experiment that involved 13 tasters, the subjects' taste buds were stimulated using electricity from receiving electrodes; LED lights mimicked a lemony color. Some were convinced that the water they were drinking was, in fact, almost as sour as lemonade. According to researcher Nimesha Ranasinghe, the experiment proved that taste can be shared online: "People are always posting pictures of drinks on social media -- what if you could upload the taste as well? That's the ultimate goal." Each of the subjects was given a tumbler filled with a liquid that was either cloudy white, green, or yellow. They were told to place their tongues on the rim of the tumbler before sipping. Then they took a taste and rated the beverage on appearance and taste. Some of the liquids were plain water and some were lemonade. "We're working on a full virtual cocktail with smell, taste, and color all covered. We want to be able to create any drink." Why would anyone want to drink a virtual lemonade? Advocates of virtual eating say that virtual foods can replace foods that are bad for you, that you may be allergic to, or that you shouldn't eat because of a medical condition.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Elon Musk neuralink

Elon Musk launches Neuralink, a venture to merge the human brain with AI


Rockets, cars, and now brain chips

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is backing a brain-computer interface venture called Neuralink, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company, which is still in the earliest stages of existence and has no public presence whatsoever, is centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the eventual purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. These enhancements could improve memory or allow for more direct interfacing with computing devices.
Musk has hinted at the existence of Neuralink a few times over the last six months or so. More recently, Musk told a crowd in Dubai, “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” He added that “it's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output." On Twitter, Musk has responded to inquiring fans about his progress on a so-called “neural lace,” which is sci-fi shorthand for a brain-computer interface humans could use to improve themselves.
These types of brain-computer interfaces exist today only in science fiction. In the medical realm, electrode arrays and other implants have been used to help ameliorate the effects of Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and other neurodegenerative diseases. However, very few people on the planet have complex implants placed inside their skulls, while the number of patients with very basic stimulating devices number only in the tens of thousands. This is partly because it is incredibly dangerous and invasive to operate on the human brain, and only those who have exhausted every other medical option choose to undergo such surgery as a last resort.
This has not stopped a surge in Silicon Valley interest from tech industry futurists who are interested in accelerating the advancement of these types of far-off ideas. Kernel, a startup created by Braintree co-founder Bryan Johnson, is funding medical research out of the University of Southern California to try and enhance human cognition. With more than $100 million of Johnson’s own money — the entrepreneur sold Braintree to PayPal for around $800 million in 2013 — Kernel and its growing team of neuroscientists and software engineers are working toward reversing the effects of neurodegenerative diseases and, eventually, making our brains faster and smarter and more wired.
“We know if we put a chip in the brain and release electrical signals, that we can ameliorate symptoms of Parkinson's,” Johnson told The Verge in an interview late last year. (Johnson also confirmed Musk’s involvement with Neuralink.) “This has been done for spinal cord pain, obesity, anorexia… what hasn’t been done is the reading and writing of neural code.” Johnson says Kernel’s goal is to “work with the brain the same way we work with other complex biological systems like biology and genetics.”
Kernel, to its credit, is quite upfront about the years of medical research necessary to better understand the human brain and pioneer new surgery techniques, software methods, and implant devices that could make a consumer brain-computer interface a reality. The Wall Street Journal says Neuralink was founded as a medical research company in California last July, which bolsters the idea that Musk will follow a similar route as Johnson and Kernel.
To be fair, the hurdles involved in developing these devices are immense. Neuroscience researchers say we have very limited understanding about how the neurons in the human brain communicate, and our methods for collecting data on those neurons is rudimentary. Then there’s the idea of people volunteering to have electronics placed inside their heads.
“People are only going to be amenable to the idea [of an implant] if they have a very serious medical condition they might get help with,” Blake Richards, a neuroscientist and assistant professor and the University of Toronto, told The Verge in an interview earlier this year. “Most healthy individuals are uncomfortable with the idea of having a doctor crack open their skull.”

Apple AR

Report: Apple’s been developing AR glasses for over a year, launch at least a year away

- Mar. 27th 2017 7:46 am PT 

Following up after an earlier report from Bloomberg on Apple’s behind the scenes efforts developing augmented reality tech, Financial Times is out with a profile today highlighting efforts by Apple, Facebook, and Magic Leap to build AR smart glasses.
Building on Bloomberg’s report that detailed Apple’s team of hundreds of engineers working on augmented reality features for iPhone that could later debut in a glasses product, FT says Apple has been working on the project for over a year and claims a launch is still at least a year away and “perhaps much longer.”
Apple first began to build a team to examine the feasibility of a head-worn device more than a year ago. Now, it is devoting more resources to its augmented-reality efforts, with the aim of taking it from a science project towards a consumer product, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. However, any launch is still at least a year away, perhaps much longer. Apple declined to comment.
As its engineers have become more adept at miniaturisation technology with products such as its AirPods wireless headphones and the iPad’s Pencil, AR seems to have overtaken Apple’s secretive car project as the company’s top priority for its next big launch, beyond the iPhone.
The report adds that secretive startup Magic Leap will beat both Apple and Facebook to releasing a product with the company planning augmented reality eyewear for release later this year. That product is said to compete with Microsoft’s HoloLens and cost around $1000:
The “light-field” eyewear is said to be smaller than Microsoft’s HoloLens, with a wider field of view, but larger than a regular pair of glasses. The headgear will be tethered to a small pack that provides battery and processing power, to put in a pocket or attach to a belt, and is likely to cost in excess of $1,000. Magic Leap declined to comment.
Several reports in recent months have detailed what appear to be hints that Apple is planning augmented reality features for its next-generation iPhones. In addition to related acquisitions, several supply chain reports have said the next iPhone’s will use 3D depth-sensing technology to add augmented reality features to the device’s camera. That could allow for applications such as augmented reality gaming and facial recognition, but it’s still unclear exactly what Apple is planning.
You can read FT’s full report (behind paywall) here.