Consider e-Commerce Platforms with Augmented Reality

Some e-commerce platforms are staying ahead of old and new competitors by integrating Augmented Reality to give consumers, better online shopping experience.

Initially, an e-commerce website was initially seen by physical store owners as a temporary solution while weathering out the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the prolonged health crisis, the resulting economic recession and other extraordinary occurrences that transpired thereafter, have convinced them that they have to make e-commerce a permanent solution.

While many online shoppers are not too keen on buying items without first trying them on for size and fit; or at the least imagine how they actually turn out, e-commerce websites can now provide the solution by integrating Augmented Reality (AR).

That way, online shoppers will be able to try on apparels, or place objects in their own environments. All they need to do is to superimpose 3D digital representations that can provide them realistic visualizations of how they will appear in it, or with it, in the real world.

E-Commerce Solutions Providers with AR Features

Currently, Amazon and IKEA now have AR tools that enable their shoppers to virtually place home improvement items in their respective environment. Online shoppers can have a look-see on how a potential purchase will turn out before making a final choice, and decision to buy. As e-commerce solutions providers, these two giant online outlets simply offer digital spaces to sellers, manufacturers and distributors by enrolling their brands under a managed online selling system.

Shopify, an e-commerce platform provider introduced a 3D Warehouse app In anticipation that a multitude of entrepreneurs will be looking for a technology provider who will help them build an online store quickly and efficiently.

The new feature enables merchants to upload 3D Models of their products, which they can link to Shopify’s AR or Virtual Reality (VR) technology. However, the 3D product models should meet the standards required by Shopify’s AR and/or VR modules.

Earlier Studies Warned Cell Phones Can Allow Spread of Virus

Cellphones, especially the smartest ones help many people endure the COVID-19 lockdown; but researchers say they’re the biggest carriers of microbes.

The info is from earlier public health research reports published a few years ago. They now come to mind as people across the globe are going through a period of isolation and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The most appalling and alarming description that researchers had given back then in describing cell phones as the most unsanitary object is that

These devices actually exist as petri dishes of unpleasant microbes that are definitely not the ideal to have and hold during a modern plague.

Now do we stop and wonder if our smartphones are clean enough to keep us safe from possible COVID-19 transmission?

Cell Phones: Ten Times Dirtier Than Toilet Seats

In 2017, researchers at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan reported that an average cell phone is ten times dirtier than a toilet seat.

Emily Martin, University of Michigan’s assistant professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health commented that cell phones tend to get pretty gross. People habitually carry their cell phones even in situations where before doing anything, they would normally wash their hands. Ms. Martin added that one of the worst places where people use their phone is in the bathroom,

A Deloitte survey found out that generally, Americans are into checking their cell phones by as many as 47 times each day. That being the case, the devices open up plenty of opportunities for microorganisms to shift from a person’s fingers to his or her handheld device.

At the time of their research, Professor Martin said that most of the organisms they found on the cell phones they examined were not pathogens that can make people seriously sick.

Still, scientists at the University of Arizona (UA) also conducted a similar study. They examined the handheld devices of high school students, to get an idea on the average number of germs that could be crawling on cell phones. Their findings revealed that as many as 17,000 bacterial genomes had spread on the cell phones examined. The UA scientists also concluded that when compared to toilet seats, cell phones carry ten times more in numbers of bacteria.

Microbiologist Had Warned that Through Cell Phones, Viruses Can Spread

In light of the reports published by public health researchers, Dr. Susan Whittier, the Director of Columbia University Medical Center’s clinical microbiology had warned that we are not moving through sterile environments. Since numerous environmental contaminants exist around us, viruses can also spread by way of cell phones.

Astrology App: Horoscopes Read by Algorithms and AI

Astrology has been trending since 2018, so much so that app creators have put astrological knowledge into algorithms for an AI to assemble. Since the results are generally accurate, horoscope readings are usually shared at social media sites.

Providing “mystical services” has been around since thousands of years ago, albeit rendered through varying practices. Now that we are in the Age of Technology, we can use apps to receive daily interpretations of the positions of the sun, the moon, and the planets appearing in the 12 equal divisions or zodiac sections of the heavens.

How the AI assembles and generate horoscopes or predictions will then depend on the app user’s birthday, taking into account the positions of the sun, the moon and other planets on that particular date.

Two years after astrology started trending on the Internet, technology has helped the “mystical services” market, including online aura reading, to reach heights as a $2.2 billion industry. The free-to-download astrology app “Co–Star,” which distinguishes its horoscope reading services from other apps by using “data from NASA,” now boasts of about five (5) million registered users and more than 800,000 Instagram followers.

Moreover, “Co–Star” sends out readings in the form of Push Notifications, described as direct but straight-up messages. Although some think the notifications they receive are at times a bit rude for comfort, the style takes away the stigma previously attributed to horoscopes. It does not gloss over what a user’s sun sign is saying as truths about his or her personality, and of how it influences one’s way of living his or her life.

How “Co–Star” Generates Horoscope for App Users

“Co—Star” is one of the many astrology apps benefiting from the renewed interest in horoscopes that was spurred mostly by millennials. As with any mystical practice of reading the stars, the app requires users to provide exact details about their biographical circumstances, such as day, time and place of birth. That way, the program can develop their respective birth chart with accuracy .

In an interview conducted by “The Verge,” the content writing team for the “Co-Star” app said that the process of creating horoscopes sent via Push Notifications starts with referencing and studying books not only about astrology. They use literature about psychology, as well as other information they get to learn from the streets and in social media.

Still, the company’s lead content writer Ona Mirkinson, said that astrology study is the major component of their content production.

Banu Guler, the CEO and co-founder of Co—Star explained that the content team are actually, not creating personalized horoscopes from scratch on a daily basis. Instead, the process involves creating different snippets that the AI assembles and maps out to each app user’s birth chart.

Ms. Guler asserted that astrology today is unlike the “old-school” astrology of the older generations. The kind of horoscopes that used to appear at the back of magazines, were based on the sun sign reading that a British astrologer named R.H. Naylor, created in 1930 to help sell news dailies.

She remarked that the reason why Co—Star’s astrology has gained popularity is because it gives users the feeling that a human is talking about their reality; but as a form of self-care and in building relationships. Ms. Guler added that this is what astrology is good at, and it is the reason why the practice of reading stars has been around for 2,500 years.

IowaReporterApp : Underscoring the Importance of Software Development Life Cycle

The Iowa caucuses fiasco focused on the failure of the IowaReporterApp to properly and quickly compile the results of the Iowa caucuses. Shadow Inc., the company commissioned to develop the election-reporting app naturally received the blame. The firm acknowledged as much, in order to take away doubts over the accuracy of the Iowa caucuses voting results.

“The underlying data transmitted and collected by the Iowa Democratic Party via Shadow mobile app were accurate and sound; but our process to generate and transmit data to the IDP by way of the app was not.”

Shadow’s admission was not enough to explain the circumstances surrounding the fiasco because there are questions that needed proper explanations.

Rather than use Shadow’s IowaReporterApp, the precinct leaders tallied results based on the paper trail or hard copies of the election of the delegates in every Iowa precinct. However, telephones were overwhelmed and the precincts were understaffed, which led to confusion, and subsequently, conflicting and delayed reports.

Overall, the Iowa Democratic caucus debacle led to theories that cast doubts on the security of the Iowa Democrats’ voting system and the results generated.

Information Technology (IT) experts point out that the root cause of the Iowa caucus problem was basically, a case of flawed software development process; or what is known in the computing industry as the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).

IowaReporterApp had one important job to do but failed to carry out because it was not programmed to scale; or have the ability to adjust in order to serve an increasing number of users. Add to that the failures in the app’s deployment and execution, aggravated by poor connectivity in some areas.

Underscoring the Importance of Software Development Life Cycle

Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is also called Software Development Process. This particular concept is important because it fundamentally describes stages of an application’s development, with each stage developing its own process and deliverables, all fed into the next stage as part of the app building and enhancing processes. The importance of SDLC is that it serves as a guide for the developer in meeting the client’s objectives.

Part of the SDLC is the testing stage, which in the case of the IowaReporterApp was carried out by way of a few tests. According to reports, those few tests already revealed critical issues but were not thoroughly addressed because Shadow Inc had to deliver as scheduled.

Actually, the installation/deployment stage was also faulty, because the app became available to users only on January 18, 2020, roughly two weeks before the caucuses took place. In a Vice article, Jonathan Green, chairman of Democratic caucus in the precincts of Fremont Township and Lone Tree, said the app was not working properly when it was deployed.

Green, who is himself an IT system administrator by profession, said he received final instructions via email on the day of the caucuses (Feb. 03). The final instruction was that in case the IowaReporterApp “stalls/frees/locks up,” precinct leaders should call the results instead.

Facebook Intends to Correct Its Facial Recognition Feature with a De-Identification System

Facebook’s research group, the Facebook AI Research (FAIR) developed a de-identification (De-ID) system as a means to deflect adversarial contentions and intentions against FB’s facial recognition feature.

FAIR sees the De-ID system as a method that would protect the privacy of users, in the event that their photos and videos appear at the social media site, with or without their knowledge and consent. The De-ID system will slightly alter certain facial characteristics to make the facial recognition feature ineffective, and therefore prevent auto-recognition and auto-identification.

 

FAIR is scheduled to introduce the De-ID system that it developed for the Facebook platform, at the week-long International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV). It will be held in Seoul, South Korea from October 27 2019 (Sun) to November 02, 2019 (Sat.)

FAIR De-ID System Comes a Bit Too Late

The De-ID development comes a bit too late, as it came closely at the heels of Facebook’s failure to stop a class-action lawsuit from proceeding. FB lawyers tried to obtain the support of a higher court via an appeal to stop the multibillion-dollar class-action lawsuit filed against Facebook’s facial recognition practices.

The De-ID system if it had been originally introduced as among the options available to FB users, could have prevented the class action lawsuit filed under the strength of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. Although a state law, it requires companies operating in Illinois, to institute a public policy prior to collecting and storing biometric data of customers and/or users, including those collected and stored by face-scans. The law also requires laying out of details on how the company stores every biometric data collected.

 

As far as Illinois Facebook users are concerned, they have a right to sue Facebook for privacy violation because of the social media site’s automated facial recognition technology. The system enables others to easily identify a user, by his or her appearance in a photo uploaded and posted by that person or even by another FB user.

Such capability was incorporated as a function of the Tag Suggestions feature, which through the facial recognition system, divulges the identity of every person appearing in publicly posted photos on Facebook.

Facebook attempted to secure a higher court’s support in stopping the proceedings, by arguing that the plaintiffs to the class-action lawsuit have not presented any evidence of concrete injury. Moreover, Facebook’s appeal also contested the lower court’s authority in certifying that cases filed by numerous plaintiffs, qualify as a class-action lawsuit.

However, in a 3-0 decision, the appeals court turned down Facebook’s request and instead gave the lower court authority to continue with the lawsuit proceedings.

Nat Geo and New Hampshire University’s Marine School to Investigate Sea Floors Where Earheart Disappeared

National Geographic explorer Robert Ballard and researchers at the Marine School of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) are about to embark on a mission that could shed light on the disappearance of America’s most famous female aviator, Amerlia Earhart.

In carrying out the mission, the team will be using robotic technology developed and provided by UNH’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping. A robot, classified as an autonomous surface vehicle or ASV, can reach the hard-to-reach seafloor of the waters where Earhart had transmitted her last distress call. .

Prior to the famed pilot’s disappearance in 1937, she was able to send radio signals that indicated she was able to make a successful landing. Evidence showed that she may have landed in the western Pacific Ocean, near the coral reefs surrounding the island of Nikumaroro. Navy pilots though who surveyed the islands several days after Earheart’s disappearance, did not see any plane. This led them to surmise that the aircraft may have toppled off and fell into the deep.

Ballard and the UNH marine researchers will be boarding the EV Nautilus, bringing with them an ASV specifically known as the Bathymetric Explorer and Navigator or BEN. BEN is a robot with a unique capability to explore the seafloor and provide a map of the shallow areas next to the island where Earhart had transmitted her last radio call. The area has been assessed as too deep for divers to explore, as well as too shallow for safe navigation of the Nautilus.

The maps of the seafloor that BEN will generate using its deep-water sonar systems, will provide the EV Nautilus crew with guides on where to send remotely operated vehicles (ROV) that will perform the actual search for remnants of Earhart’s plane.

The National Geographic TV channel will be featuring the expedition in a two-hour special captioned as “EXPEDITION AMELIA,” on October 20, 2019. Aside from NatGeo’s explorer Robert Ballard, the TV special will see UNH research engineers Val Schmidt, KG Fairbarn, and Andy McLeod aboard the EV Nautilus. Completing the UNH Marine School’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping’s robotics team for seafloor mapping is Roland Arsenault, as lead of the on-shore crew supporting the deep sea marine exploration. .

About BEN

BEN the robot is outfitted with state-of-the-art seafloor mapping systems, multibeam echo-sounder (Kongsberg EM2040P) and an Applanix POS/MV navigation system.

The Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping developed a mission planning software to oversee the robot when making 3D topographic impressions. In addition, the Center also developed a “back-seat-driver” control software to pilot BEN during the seafloor mapping activities.

New Edition of “Mazor X™ Robotic Technology Enhances Safety and Precision of Spinal Fusion Surgery

A new edition of the AI-aided “Mazor X™ robotic technology called the “Mazor X™ Stealth,” helps spine surgeons perform spinal fusion with greater safety and with ensured accuracy. Combining the power of computer analytics, virtual instrumentation, robotic technology, and 3D images, the “Mazor X™ Stealth Edition” furnishes a compleat robotic guidance platform.

How Does the “Mazor X™ Stealth” Work?

Prior to the day of operation, the spine surgeon develops a surgical “blueprint” or plan, of how the procedure will be carried out. During actual surgery, the computer will use that surgical “blueprint” in ensuring that the procedure will be carried out as planned. The AI or the computer software translates and communicates to the Surgical Arm, the trajectories identified in the plan, practically making the procedure predictable and precise.

The “Mazor X™ Stealth” robotic guidance platform attaches to the operating table and to the patient. Once in position, the Surgical Arm of the platform will guide the surgeon in correctly placing the screws into the trajectories defined in the “surgical blueprint.” This robotic technology, therefore, makes the most important yet time-consuming part of the surgical procedure, easier and faster to perform, and with precision.

Included as feature of the robotic-guided platform, is a stable connection to the patient via biocompatible devices. These are rigidly affixed to the patient’s skeletal anatomy, as a means of ensuring precision throughout the surgery.

What is Spinal Fusion and When is the Surgical Procedure Recommended?

Spinal fusion is a method used in correcting problems associated with the vertebrae, which are the small bones of the spine. Akin to a “welding” process, it is a surgical procedure that fuses two or more of the badly deformed vertebrae together. After spinal fusion surgery, the fused bones heal into one solid vertebra that will no longer be affected by motion; whilst restoring stability of the spine.

As a rule, surgery of the spine is recommended only when the doctor has identified the exact cause and source of pain. As means of doing so, imaging tests have to be performed by way of X-rays, Computerized Tomography Scans (CT Scan), and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

Patients who undergo spinal fusion experience severe pain caused by any of the following: tumors, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, herniated discs, spondylolisthesis, or infection. Readers interested in understanding these spinal disorders and about spinal fusion can find more information at the website of the Central Texas Spine Institute in Austin.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Continuing Pursuit of Noninvasive Robotic Control

The College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota, has achieved an important development in the area of noninvasive robotic device control. Made possible by way of a noninvasive brain-computer interface (BCI), researchers were able to create a successful, first-of-its-kind mind-controlled robotic arm, which manifests ability to track and follow a computer cursor uninterruptedly.

Still, BCIs using noninvasive external sensing as alternative to brain implants, receive murkier signals. That being the case, the robotic arm developed, currently has lower resolution and less accurate control. This suggests that when using only the BCI to control the robotic arm, the results are not at par with one that is controlled by a brain-implanted devices.

Nonetheless, BCI researchers at CMU are determined to forge ahead, as they intend to build neurorobotic technology using less, or non-invasive method in ways that can help patients on a daily basis.

Significance of BCI in Modern Technology

BCI or Brain-Computer Interface is a technology that uses brain activity, particularly brain electric signals in translating voluntary choices into active commands. The purpose of which is to enable individuals with impaired function, carry out communication and control applications to a device in ways that allow them to actually benefit from the technology.

BCIs have been proven capable of achieving good performance in controlling robotic mechanisms, using only signals received from brain implants. Currently though, only robotic arms controlled by BCIs built with invasive brain implants,have demonstrated high precision.

However, brain implants not only present substantial costs, but also potential risks, which limit their tests to a mere handful of clinical cases. Moreover, implants require a high degree of surgical and medical expertise to ensure correct installation and operation.

That is why the challenge that BCI researchers face is to develop BCI that uses noninvasive technology. The main goal is to develop a robotic device that can empower patients suffering from paralysis, to control their environment or move their robotic limbs, using their own thoughts.

Bin He. the Trustee Professor and Department Head of Biomedic Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, aims to ultimately achieve such a goal even if by one breakthrough at a time. He remarked that although major advances in mind-controlled robotic mechanisms have been successful, the devices use brain implants.

Researchers at CMU believe that the robotic arm they created, can lead to successful advancements in its development as a high-precision neurorobotic device, controlled by noninvasive CBI

Under-Desk Elliptical: Fitness Gadget that Allows You to Exercise Even During Office Hours

If you are one of the many whose daily grind is working behind an office desk around the clock, sometimes even more than once around the clock, it is likely that you are very much in need of exercise.

Checkout the new fitness gadget that looks like the pedals of a cross-trainer elliptical, small enough to place under your desk as a stationary exerciser. The under-desk elliptical is bluetooth-enabled and comes with a free app that allows monitoring of progress stats via smartphone.

Its functionality as a mini elliptical is so subtle that you can proceed with the workout quietly, without having to distract occupants of neighboring cubicles or office desks.

What Makes an Elliptical Equipment Effective as a Fitness Tool

Ellipticals work differently from treadmills because it affords foot comfort even as the left and right foot roll from heel to toe, similar to how your feet move during running. Although touted as a low impact exercise device, use of a portable under-desk elliptical trainer can rid you of 100 to 150 calories. The amount burned, actually depends on the resistance level at which the portable mini exerciser is set. A typical under-desk exerciser has as many as eight different levels.

In order to make the mini elliptical trainer effective, it is important for a user to sit up straight throughout. Another thing is the need to use the provided wheel stoppers to prevent a roller chair from sliding away.

The drawback here is that the stoppers may not work if you are using a bigger chair. The only solution is to replace the big chair with a smaller roller chair, or with a conventional four-legged seating appurtenance.