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Photonic quantum computers: A brighter future than ever

Photonic quantum computers: A brighter future than ever | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
(Phys.org) —Harnessing the unique features of the quantum world promises a dramatic speed-up in information processing as compared to the fastest classical machines.
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How Amazon tricks you into thinking it always has the lowest prices

How Amazon tricks you into thinking it always has the lowest prices | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

“Amazon may not actually be the lowest-priced seller of a particular product in any given season,” the report reads, “but its consistently low prices on the highest-viewed and best-selling items drive a perception among consumers that Amazon has the best prices overall — even better than Walmart.”

The study was part of a white paper Boomerang released on Tuesday to bring attention to the idea of price perception in e-commerce. The startup has created a “price perception index,” which it described as “a numerical pricing model that captures customer psychology of price perception. It does so by providing a tangible statistic of how a company’s products…are priced, relative to the competition, weighted by customer interest.”...


Via Doug Hall, Jeff Domansky
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Doug Hall's curator insight, January 13, 5:37 PM

Interesting POV on Amazon marketing, pricing and online shopping strategies.

Jeff Domansky's curator insight, January 13, 6:18 PM

Here's a fascinating look at Amazon, it's pricing strategies and its product marketing tactics.

Intelishift's curator insight, January 13, 7:29 PM

They are even very clever with #cloud hosting.

 

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The Untold Story Of The Invention Of The Game Cartridge

The Untold Story Of The Invention Of The Game Cartridge | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
If you’ve ever used one, you have two men to thank: Wallace Kirschner and Lawrence Haskel, who invented the game cartridge 40 years ago while working at an obscure company and rebounding from a business failure. Once the pair's programmable system had been streamlined and turned into a commercial product—the Channel F console—by a team at pioneering electronics company Fairchild, it changed the fundamental business model of home video games forever. By injecting flexibility into a new technology, it paved the way for massive industry growth and the birth of a new creative medium.
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Is a computer in a mouse the 'next evolution of the PC'?

Is a computer in a mouse the 'next evolution of the PC'? | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

Engineers at a Polish start-up have crammed an entire computer into the tiny space inside a mouse, and are now looking for help to bring it to market.
The makers of the device claim that it’s the next step in the evolution of the PC, one which “should have been made a long time ago”.
“The computer industry needs freshness and Mouse-Box has got plenty of it,” says the Mouse-Box website.
Somehow, inside the snazzy red mouse is 128GB of storage, Wi-Fi, a micro HDMI port to connect to a monitor or projector and a four-core 1.4GHz processor from UK-based ARM.
It also has an accelerometer and a gyroscope.


Via Alexander Crépin
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Synthetic Biology Researchers engineered E. coli to rely on artificial amino acids

Synthetic Biology Researchers engineered E. coli to rely on artificial amino acids | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

By rewriting the DNA of Escherichia coli so that the bacterium requires a synthetic amino acid to produce its essential proteins, two research teams may have paved the way to ensure that genetically modified organisms don’t escape into the environment. The life-or-death dependence of the newly engineered E. coli on synthetic amino acids makes it astronomically difficult for the genetically modified organism to survive outside the laboratory, explains Harvard Medical School’s George M. Church, who led one of the teams reporting the discovery in Nature (2015, DOI: 10.1038/nature14121).

 

That’s because no pool of synthetic amino acids exists in nature, he explains. A similar strategy was simultaneously published by Farren J. Isaacs and his colleagues at Yale University, also in Nature (2015, DOI: 10.1038/nature14095). The discoveries help construct improved containment barriers for genetically modified bacteria currently used in the biotech-based production of products as diverse as yogurt, propanediol, or insulin, Isaacs says. They also set the stage for expanding the use of genetically modified organisms in applications outside the lab, Isaacs adds. For example, he says, the bacteria could be used as the “basis for designer probiotics for diseases that originate in the gut of our bodies, or for specialized microorganisms that clean up landfills or oil spills.”

 

“There are all these ideas for using engineered cells [outside the confines of a lab], but the problem is that they’re not contained,” comments Christopher A. Voigt, a synthetic biologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This is the proof-of-principle work for addressing that problem.” To make the genetic firewall, both teams made changes to E. coli’s genome so that the bacteria’s protein production machinery inserts a nonnatural amino acid when it reads a specific three-base-pair codon. “They’ve extended the genetic code so that it can take a 21st amino acid,” explains Tom Ellis, a synthetic biologist at Imperial University, in London, who was not involved in the work. The two teams used different synthetic amino acids, but both groups selected mimics of phenylalanine, a bulky, hydrophobic amino acid.

 

Next, both teams scoured E. coli’s genome for essential proteins that the organism needed to survive. They looked for areas in those proteins where the synthetic amino acids might replace natural amino acids. Although both teams combined computational design and evolutionary biology to select which amino acid to replace in three essential proteins, Church’s team relied more on the former approach and Isaacs’ team on the latter.

 

Finally, they showed that when the engineered bacteria have access to a pool of the synthetic amino acids, they can build their essential proteins. With no access to the synthetic amino acids, protein production stalls and the bacteria die.

 

The teams performed extensive tests to see whether the newly engineered bacteria could evolve ways to sidestep the need for synthetic amino acids. Whenever the microbes managed the feat, the researchers tweaked the DNA until the bacteria depended solely on the synthetic amino acids.

 

Previous strategies for containing genetically modified bacteria seem “naive” in hindsight, Ellis says. These earlier strategies employed kill switches, which are “systems where the organism dies if some compound or environmental cue wasn’t given,” he adds. “Here the kill system is fully embedded in the heart of the bacteria.”

 

In theory, the strategy could be extended to other genetically modified organisms, such as plants, Voigt says. “It will probably be really hard, but not impossible,” he adds. According to Ellis, the next step is to get the platform working in yeast, which will be “an order of magnitude harder than bacteria.”

 

Another important step is to improve containment by ensuring that all DNA engineered into the organism relies on the synthetic amino acid, Ellis says. “If you accidentally spill the bacteria into the environment, it’s going to die,” he says. “But that DNA is left behind. The genetically modified genes could be incorporated into other bacteria through horizontal transfer,” he warns. “To alleviate all fears, we need to ensure that all genes you add to an organism—say for making insulin or biofuels—are also behind the genetic firewall and somehow encode the 21st amino acid.”


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Sharrock's insight:

I didn't know why synthetic biology might ensure our safety to a certain degree. I love this quote: "Another important step is to improve containment by ensuring that all DNA engineered into the organism relies on the synthetic amino acid, Ellis says. “If you accidentally spill the bacteria into the environment, it’s going to die,” he says. “But that DNA is left behind. The genetically modified genes could be incorporated into other bacteria through horizontal transfer,” he warns. “To alleviate all fears, we need to ensure that all genes you add to an organism—say for making insulin or biofuels—are also behind the genetic firewall and somehow encode the 21st amino acid.”" 



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Fernan Aguero's curator insight, January 23, 8:14 AM

Horizontal gene transfer of engineered genes is a big warning, of course. But one must not assume lightly that engineered bacteria cannot survive in the environment. Synthetic aminoacids may not exist in nature as such, but what about chemical analogs (e.g. produced by a plant, insect, fungi) that may substitute them?

 

OK, I'm just being skeptic :)

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The secrets of fake flavours - BBC News

The secrets of fake flavours - BBC News | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Artificial flavours are more complex than first appears. Chris Baraniuk discovers a world of sensory trickery – and a curious myth about fake banana.

Via Mirella Cais
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Robot Writing Moves from Journalism to Wall Street | MIT Technology Review

Robot Writing Moves from Journalism to Wall Street | MIT Technology Review | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Software that turns data into written text could help us make sense of a coming tsunami of data.
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33rd Square | Volition as a Key To Artificial General Intelligence

33rd Square | Volition as a Key To Artificial General Intelligence | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

Volition, like intelligence, is an element of interest and utility to both philosophers and researchers in artificial intelligence. Could looking at the biological roots of volition help define a way to approach artificial general intelligence?


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Brain's reaction to virtual reality should prompt further study, suggests new research

Brain's reaction to virtual reality should prompt further study, suggests new research | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
UCLA neurophysicists have found that space-mapping neurons in the brain react differently to virtual reality than they do to real-world environments. Their findings could be significant for people who use virtual reality for gaming, military, commercial, scientific or other purposes.


"The pattern of activity in a brain region involved in spatial learning in the virtual world is completely different than when it processes activity in the real world," said Mayank Mehta, a UCLA professor of physics, neurology and neurobiology in the UCLA College and the study's senior author. "Since so many people are using virtual reality, it is important to understand why there are such big differences."
The study was published today in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
The scientists were studying the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in diseases such as Alzheimer's, stroke, depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder. The hippocampus also plays an important role in forming new memories and creating mental maps of space. For example, when a person explores a room, hippocampal neurons become selectively active, providing a "cognitive map" of the environment.
The mechanisms by which the brain makes those cognitive maps remains a mystery, but neuroscientists have surmised that the hippocampus computes distances between the subject and surrounding landmarks, such as buildings and mountains. But in a real maze, other cues, such as smells and sounds, can also help the brain determine spaces and distances.
To test whether the hippocampus could actually form spatial maps using only visual landmarks, Mehta's team devised a noninvasive virtual reality environment and studied how the hippocampal neurons in the brains of rats reacted in the virtual world without the ability to use smells and sounds as cues.
Researchers placed a small harness around rats and put them on a treadmill surrounded by a "virtual world" on large video screens—a virtual environment they describe as even more immersive than IMAX—in an otherwise dark, quiet room. The scientists measured the rats' behavior and the activity of hundreds of neurons in their hippocampi, said UCLA graduate student Lavanya Acharya, a lead author on the research.


The researchers also measured the rats' behavior and neural activity when they walked in a real room designed to look exactly like the virtual reality room.
The scientists were surprised to find that the results from the virtual and real environments were entirely different. In the virtual world, the rats' hippocampal neurons seemed to fire completely randomly, as if the neurons had no idea where the rat was—even though the rats seemed to behave perfectly normally in the real and virtual worlds.
"The 'map' disappeared completely," said Mehta, director of a W.M. Keck Foundation Neurophysics center and a member of UCLA's Brain Research Institute. "Nobody expected this. The neuron activity was a random function of the rat's position in the virtual world."
Explained Zahra Aghajan, a UCLA graduate student and another of the study's lead authors: "In fact, careful mathematical analysis showed that neurons in the virtual world were calculating the amount of distance the rat had walked, regardless of where he was in the virtual space."
They also were shocked to find that although the rats' hippocampal neurons were highly active in the real-world environment, more than half of those neurons shut down in the virtual space.
The virtual world used in the study was very similar to virtual reality environments used by humans, and neurons in a rat's brain would be very hard to distinguish from neurons in the human brain, Mehta said.
His conclusion: "The neural pattern in virtual reality is substantially different from the activity pattern in the real world. We need to fully understand how virtual reality affects the brain."
Neurons Bach would appreciate
In addition to analyzing the activity of individual neurons, Mehta's team studied larger groups of the brain cells. Previous research, including studies by his group, have revealed that groups of neurons create a complex pattern using brain rhythms.
"These complex rhythms are crucial for learning and memory, but we can't hear or feel these rhythms in our brain. They are hidden under the hood from us," Mehta said. "The complex pattern they make defies human imagination. The neurons in this memory-making region talk to each other using two entirely different languages at the same time. One of those languages is based on rhythm; the other is based on intensity."
Every neuron in the hippocampus speaks the two languages simultaneously, Mehta said, comparing the phenomenon to the multiple concurrent melodies of a Bach fugue.
Mehta's group reports that in the virtual world, the language based on rhythm has a similar structure to that in the real world, even though it says something entirely different in the two worlds. The language based on intensity, however, is entirely disrupted.
When people walk or try to remember something, the activity in the hippocampus becomes very rhythmic and these complex, rhythmic patterns appear, Mehta said. Those rhythms facilitate the formation of memories and our ability to recall them. Mehta hypothesizes that in some people with learning and memory disorders, these rhythms are impaired.
"Neurons involved in memory interact with other parts of the hippocampus like an orchestra," Mehta said. "It's not enough for every violinist and every trumpet player to play their music flawlessly. They also have to be perfectly synchronized."
Mehta believes that by retuning and synchronizing these rhythms, doctors will be able to repair damaged memory, but said doing so remains a huge challenge.
"The need to repair memories is enormous," noted Mehta, who said neurons and synapses—the connections between neurons—are amazingly complex machines.
Previous research by Mehta showed that the hippocampal circuit rapidly evolves with learning and that brain rhythms are crucial for this process. Mehta conducts his research with rats because analyzing complex brain circuits and neural activity with high precision currently is not possible in humans.
Explore further: Activity in dendrites is critical in memory formation

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10 Diseases That Might Afflict Us In The Future

10 Diseases That Might Afflict Us In The Future | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Today, humans suffer from a wide range of diseases and disorders that didn't exist in the past, a trend that will likely continue well into the future. Here are 10 unexpected and wholly unpleasant diseases we'll eventually have to contend with.

George Dvorsky, 04/12/2014


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Study on Provasil reveals breakthrough for cognitive health and memory performance

Study on Provasil reveals breakthrough for cognitive health and memory performance | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Greenceutics, a global contract research organization, has released their findings that suggest that the use of Provasil may help to significantly improve overall cognitive health and...
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33rd Square: Teaching Robots How To Manipulate Objects By Having Them Watch YouTube Videos

33rd Square: Teaching Robots How To Manipulate Objects By Having Them Watch YouTube Videos | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Using convolutional neural networks, a team of researchers has taught robots how to manipulate objects by having them watch videos from the Internet.
Sharrock's insight:
"The researchers found that their CNN system achieved 93% success in object recognition, and 76% on grasp recognition. This ended up with a 83% success rate for manipulation actions by the robots, although they admit the robot did get confused about how to handle the tofu." :excerpt
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Hector the stick insect-inspired robot takes its first steps

Hector the stick insect-inspired robot takes its first steps | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Hector, the stick insect-inspired robot built by a research team at Bielefeld University in Germany that we first covered in 2011, could be forgiven for feeling lonely as the only one of its kind in world, but has lately been too busy learning to...
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Phys.Org Mobile: New algorithm can separate unstructured text into topics with high accuracy and reproducibility

Phys.Org Mobile: New algorithm can separate unstructured text into topics with high accuracy and reproducibility | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
"To create a better algorithm, Amaral took a network approach. The result, called TopicMapping, begins by preprocessing data to replace words with their stem (so "star" and "stars" would be considered the same word). It then builds a network of connecting words and identifies a "community" of related words (just as one could look for communities of people in Facebook). The words within a given community define a topic. "The algorithm was able to perfectly separate the documents according to language and was able to reproduce its results. It also had high accuracy and reproducibility when separating 23,000 scientific papers and 1.2 million Wikipedia articles by topic."
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Here's What Killed The British Technology Industry

Here's What Killed The British Technology Industry | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
In the case of Alan Turing, we should not only remember what he lived for, but what he died for. Which was nothing.
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How the Next Generation of Botnets Will Exploit Anonymous Networks, and How to Beat Them | MIT Technology Review

How the Next Generation of Botnets Will Exploit Anonymous Networks, and How to Beat Them | MIT Technology Review | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Computer scientists are already devising strategies for neutralizing the next generation of malicious botnets .
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Atoms can indeed be in two places at the same time, shown by indirect measurement

Atoms can indeed be in two places at the same time, shown by indirect measurement | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

Almost 100 years ago physicists Werner Heisenberg, Max Born und Erwin Schrödinger created a new field of physics: quantum mechanics. Objects of the quantum world – according to quantum theory – no longer move along a single well-defined path. Rather, they can simultaneously take different paths and end up at different places at once. Physicists speak of quantum superposition of different paths. At the level of atoms, it looks as if objects indeed obey quantum mechanical laws. Over the years, many experiments have confirmed quantum mechanical predictions. In our macroscopic daily experience, however, we witness a football flying along exactly one path; it never strikes the goal and misses at the same time. Why is that so?

"There are two different interpretations," says Dr. Andrea Alberti of the Institute of Applied Physics of the University of Bonn. "Quantum mechanics allows superposition states of large, macroscopic objects. But these states are very fragile, even following the football with our eyes is enough to destroy the superposition and makes it follow a definite trajectory."


But it could also be that footballs obey completely different rules than those applying for single atoms. "Let us talk about the macro-realistic view of the world," Alberti explains. "According to this interpretation, the ball always moves on a specific trajectory, independent of our observation, and in contrast to the atom." But which of the two interpretations is correct? Do "large" objects move differently from small ones?


The physicists describe their research in the journal Physical Review X: With two optical tweezers they grabbed a single Caesium atom and pulled it in two opposing directions. In the macro-realist's world the atom would then be at only one of the two final locations.  Quantum-mechanically, the atom would instead occupy a superposition of the two positions.


"We have now used indirect measurements to determine the final position of the atom in the most gentle way possible," says the PhD student Carsten Robens. Even such an indirect measurement (see figure) significantly modified the result of the experiments. This observation excludes – falsifies, as Karl Popper would say more precisely – the possibility that Caesium atoms follow a macro-realistic theory. Instead, the experimental findings of the Bonn team fit well with an interpretation based on superposition states that get destroyed when the indirect measurement occurs. All that we can do is to accept that the atom has indeed taken different paths at the same time.


"This is not yet a proof that quantum mechanics hold for large objects," cautions Alberti. "The next step is to separate the Caesium atom's two positions by several millimetres. Should we still find the superposition in our experiment, the macro-realistic theory would suffer another setback."


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Phys.Org Mobile: Scientists tame Schrodinger's cat for a new type of quantum computer

Phys.Org Mobile: Scientists tame Schrodinger's cat for a new type of quantum computer | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
lasers have been used to drive such quantum processes. But millions of stable beams would have to be carefully aligned in order to be able to work with the very large number of ions required to encode a useful amount of data.
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Of Bugs and Men: Cricket Ranching in America

Of Bugs and Men: Cricket Ranching in America | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Armstrong’s reptilian customers tend to favor crickets around four weeks old, and alive. Buyers looking for human-grade crickets want adults, which means more time on the farm.
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This Ingenious Machine Turns Feces Into Drinking Water | Bill Gates | LinkedIn

This Ingenious Machine Turns Feces Into Drinking Water | Bill Gates | LinkedIn | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
The Omniprocessor is a safe repository for human waste. Today, in many places without modern sewage systems, truckers take the waste from latrines and dump it into the nearest river or the ocean—or at a treatment facility that doesn’t actually treat the sewage. Either way, it often ends up in the water supply. If they took it to the Omniprocessor instead, it would be burned safely. The machine runs at such a high temperature (1000 degrees Celsius) that there’s no nasty smell; in fact it meets all the emissions standards set by the U.S. government.
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Infographic: Why the 'Internet of Things' Hasn't Really Caught On Yet - Adweek

Infographic: Why the 'Internet of Things' Hasn't Really Caught On Yet - Adweek | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
With all the hype about the Internet of Things—new connected products intended to bring greater efficiencies and simplicity to life—it may be surprising how few consumers are actually adopting these new technologies.  "Despite predictions of rapid...

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Imagination and reality flow in opposite directions in the brain

Imagination and reality flow in opposite directions in the brain | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

As real as that daydream may seem, its path through your brain runs opposite reality. Aiming to discern discrete neural circuits, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have tracked electrical activity in the brains of people who alternately imagined scenes or watched videos.

 

"A really important problem in brain research is understanding how different parts of the brain are functionally connected. What areas are interacting? What is the direction of communication?" says Barry Van Veen, a UW-Madison professor of electrical and computer engineering. "We know that the brain does not function as a set of independent areas, but as a network of specialized areas that collaborate."

 

Van Veen, along with Giulio Tononi, a UW-Madison psychiatry professor and neuroscientist, Daniela Dentico, a scientist at UW-Madison's Waisman Center, and collaborators from the University of Liege in Belgium, published results recently in the journal NeuroImage. Their work could lead to the development of new tools to help Tononi untangle what happens in the brain during sleep and dreaming, while Van Veen hopes to apply the study's new methods to understand how the brain uses networks to encode short-term memory.

 

During imagination, the researchers found an increase in the flow of information from the parietal lobe of the brain to the occipital lobe -- from a higher-order region that combines inputs from several of the senses out to a lower-order region. In contrast, visual information taken in by the eyes tends to flow from the occipital lobe -- which makes up much of the brain's visual cortex -- "up" to the parietal lobe.

 

"There seems to be a lot in our brains and animal brains that is directional, that neural signals move in a particular direction, then stop, and start somewhere else," says. "I think this is really a new theme that had not been explored."

 

The researchers approached the study as an opportunity to test the power of electroencephalography (EEG) -- which uses sensors on the scalp to measure underlying electrical activity -- to discriminate between different parts of the brain's network.

Brains are rarely quiet, though, and EEG tends to record plenty of activity not necessarily related to a particular process researchers want to study.

 

To zero in on a set of target circuits, the researchers asked their subjects to watch short video clips before trying to replay the action from memory in their heads. Others were asked to imagine traveling on a magic bicycle -- focusing on the details of shapes, colors and textures -- before watching a short video of silent nature scenes.

Using an algorithm Van Veen developed to parse the detailed EEG data, the researchers were able to compile strong evidence of the directional flow of information.

 

"We were very interested in seeing if our signal-processing methods were sensitive enough to discriminate between these conditions," says Van Veen, whose work is supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. "These types of demonstrations are important for gaining confidence in new tools."


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Vloasis's curator insight, November 22, 2014 11:10 AM

So imagination input flows from the parietal to the occipital lobe, while visual input flows vice versa.

Diane Johnson's curator insight, November 23, 2014 8:46 AM

Interesting findings from electrical and computer engineering studies. Useful connections to the information processing DCI's.

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CES: 2015: Nvidia Shows Off a Deep-Learning Vehicle Vision | MIT Technology Review

CES: 2015: Nvidia Shows Off a Deep-Learning Vehicle Vision | MIT Technology Review | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
A commercial device uses powerful image and information processing to let cars interpret 360° camera views.
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Scientists Discover Species Of Frog That Gives Birth To Live Tadpoles | IFLScience

Scientists Discover Species Of Frog That Gives Birth To Live Tadpoles | IFLScience | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
You’re probably all familiar with the slimy, jelly-like frogspawn from which tadpoles emerge; the vast majority of frogs reproduce this way, with females laying eggs which are then fertilized by males.
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