Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has created or reconfigured at least 263 organizations to tackle some aspect of the war on terror. Thirty-three new building complexes have been built for the intelligence bureaucracies alone, occupying 17 million square feet – the equivalent of 22 U.S. Capitols or three Pentagons. The largest bureaucracy after the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs is now the Department of Homeland Security, which has a workforce of 230,000 people. The rise of this national security state has entailed a vast expansion in the government’s powers that now touch every aspect of American life, even when seemingly unrelated to terrorism. Some 30,000 people, for example, are now employed exclusively to listen in on phone conversations and other communications within the United States. — Fareed Zakaria (via azspot)
Occupy Cleveland ruffians arrested in plot to blow up bridge.
Authorities say at least three of the men are self-proclaimed anarchists who had considered “a series of evolving plots over several months.”
Why does no one refer to these men as terrorists? Can they not also be terrorists in addition to anarchists?
Google in talks with car makers to bring self-driving cars to market.
According to a Google project manager, an announcement on when self-driving cars will be available to the public could be made as early as next year. This comes after it was revealed that Google is “in talks with car manufacturers to see what their level of excitement is and how do we work with them”.
Safety - or perceived risks - are going to be the biggest problem with bringing the technology to market. Google has identified this and says they want to log at least 1 million miles with their test cars before the technology is offered to the public.
Meanwhile MIT’s media lab has been solving another problem the cars would cause - how pedestrians would know an autonomous car had seen them at a crossing. When making eye contact with the driver is no longer an option, MIT came up with the solution of making small lights that swivel in the direction of the pedestrian.
The lights swivel to look at you when the sensors detect you, and blue LEDs flash to indicate the car has seen you. Directional speakers swivel toward you, too, and the car tells you it’s safe to cross. The system can also flash bright white LEDs to get your attention.
Sonar sensors can detect if a pedestrian is too close to the side of the car. If they do, LEDs in the wheels to turn from green to orange and red—getting redder as you get closer—to warn you, and let you know the car knows you are there.
(Source: detroitnews.com, via 8bitfuture)
Steve Wozniak: Windows Phone is more beautiful and intuitive than Android, it’s ‘no contest’
Never one to mince words, Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak has this week expressed his thoughts on Windows Phone, and how it competes against the popular mobile platforms of our day: Android and iOS. In a phone interview with Gina Smith (coauthor of Woz’s autobiography) and Dan Patterson, Wozniak is effusive in his praise for the Windows Phone interface, describing it as beautiful and highly intuitive.
US Senate passes bill requiring ‘Black Boxes’ in cars.
Senate Bill 1813 requires all cars from 2015 to have ‘Vehicle Event Data Recorders’ to be installed. According to the bill, the data remains the property of the car’s owner/lessee, unless a court authorizes retrieval, or the information is to be used in an investigation under certain sections of US law. The information can also be used “for the purpose of determining the need for, or facilitating, emergency medical response in response to a motor vehicle crash”.
After the system has been in place for two years, the system will be the subject of a study on the safety impact and the impact on individual privacy.
UK engineers have begun critical tests on a new engine technology designed to lift a spaceplane into orbit. The proposed Skylon vehicle would operate like an airliner, taking off and landing at a conventional runway. Its major innovation is the Sabre engine, which can breathe air like a jet at lower speeds but switch to a rocket mode in the high atmosphere. Reaction Engines Limited (REL) believes the test campaign will prove the readiness of Sabre’s key elements. (via BBC News - Key tests for Skylon spaceplane project)
EyeRing finger-mounted connected cam captures signs and dollar bills, identifies them with OCR (hands-on) — Engadget
Ready to swap that diamond for a finger-mounted camera with a built-in trigger and Bluetooth connectivity? If it could help identify otherwise indistinguishable objects, you might just consider it. TheMIT Media Lab’s EyeRing project was designed with an assistive focus in mind, helping visually disabled persons read signs or identify currency, for example, while also serving to assist children during the tedious process of learning to read. Instead of hunting for a grownup to translate text into speech, a young student could direct EyeRing at words on a page, hit the shutter release, and receive a verbal response from a Bluetooth-connected device, such as a smartphone or tablet. EyeRing could be useful for other individuals as well, serving as an ever-ready imaging device that enables you to capture pictures or documents with ease, transmitting them automatically to a smartphone, then on to a media sharing site or a server.
We peeked at EyeRing during our visit to the MIT Media Lab this week, and while the device is buggy at best in its current state, we can definitely see how it could fit into the lives of people unable to read posted signs, text on a page or the monetary value of a currency note. We had an opportunity to see several iterations of the device, which has come quite a long way in recent months, as you’ll notice in the gallery below. The demo, which like many at the Lab includes a Samsung Epic 4G, transmits images from the ring to the smartphone, where text is highlighted and read aloud using a custom app. Snapping the text “ring,” it took a dozen or so attempts before the rig correctly read the word aloud, but considering that we’ve seen much more accurate OCR implementations, it’s reasonable to expect a more advanced version of the software to make its way out once the hardware is a bit more polished — at this stage, EyeRing is more about the device itself, which had some issues of its own maintaining a link to the phone. You can get a feel for how the whole package works in the video after the break, which required quite a few takes before we were able to capture an accurate reading.
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