Scientists Create Virtual Functioning Brain

University of Waterloo neuroscientist Chris Eliasmith has spent the better part of his working years in figuring out just how one is able to build a brain.

Well, he has compiled his thoughts into a book with complete instructions, describing the grey matter’s architecture as well as the manner where all of the different components interact.

Eliasmith’s team has come up with what is said to be “the world’s largest simulation of a functioning brain.” It is called Spaun.

Spaun is capable of recognizing numbers, taking note of lists and remembering them while writing them down. And it is also capable of passing some basic aspects of an IQ test.

Spaun has taken more than a year to build, which is quite some time for a simplified model of the brain. It is capable of capturing many aspects of neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and psychological behavior.

If this is all true about the creation of Spaun this would be one of the most significant advances in artificial intelligence in history.

Let’s all pray Spaun doesn’t turn evil and decide to gather all robots, tech gadgets and other machines and rise up to take on the human race. But that doesn’t seem very likely, at least not until they become a little more advanced from this early stage of course.


Infographic Reveals Users Average Amount of Time Spent on Social Networks Each Month

The law firm Morrison and Foerster’s Socially Aware Blog have managed to gather the relevant data on how much time one spends on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social networking websites.

Google+ gets about 100 million active users per month, while Facebook comes in at an impression 1 billion. This data has been translated into how many hours these networks are used.

It seems that the average user on a monthly basis spends close to 7 hours on Facebook, and a rather meager 3 minutes on Google+. Interestingly though it seems that their data has revealed that on average users spend only 21 minutes a month on Twitter.

Source: Ubergizmo

Survey on the Most Popular Cell Phone Activities in 2012

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project obtained readings on some of the most popular cell phone activities among adults in nationally representative phone surveys in the spring and summer.

It’s no secret that the use of cell phones has become so common place, that people, like myself, use them to do just about everything throughout the day. Because cell phones now have the capabilities to accomplish these tasks.

So naturally the number of people who own a cell phone has increased and so has the number of people that use their devices to do much more than make phone calls. Cell phones have become a portal for an ever-growing list of activities. Fully 85% of American adults own and use their cell phones in various ways.

These results come from two Pew Internet tracking surveys:

    • One was conducted between August 7-September 6. 2012 with 3,014 American adults (ages 18+). Among them were 2,581 the cell phone owners and the margin of error in the survey for findings among cell owners is plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

    • The second survey was conducted between March 15-April 3, 2012 among 2,254 adults, including 1,954 cell owners, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

Both surveys were conducted on landline and cell phones and in English and Spanish.

Read the full Report Here (PDF)

Breakdown of survey chart:

Taking Photos:
2010: 76% of users
Now: 82% of users

2007: 58% of users
Now: 80% of users

Accessing the Internet:
2008: 25% of users
Now: 56% of users

Send and Receive Email:
2007: 19% of users
Now: 50% of users

Record Video:
2007: 18% of users
Now: 44% of users

Download Apps:
2009: 22% of users
Now: 43% of users

Look for Health Information:
2010: 17% of users
Now: 31% of users

Check Bank Account:
2011: 18% of users
Now: 29% of users

GM First to Integrate Siri Into Cars Coming in 2013

Apple’s voice assistant developed for iOS products like the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5 has many great features and allows users to do things like create messages, make phone calls, create reminders, set alarms, perform searches and all this just by using their voice.

Obviously there is the potential use for Siri in cars as a means to interact with our phone without having to look at it or touch it at all. This feature is also known as “Eyes Free” which was announced at the WWDC keynote and was part of Siri’s update in iOS 6.

GM has announced that they will be the first of nine automakers to incorporate Siri’s Eyes Free feature into its vehicles come 2013. The vehicles that will have this feature first integrated will be: the Chevrolet Spark, the Sonic LTZ and RS.

What the Eyes Free feature does is it integrates a button into automobiles in which drivers simply have to press in order to activate Siri without having to reach for their phone. Once Siri has been launched, users will be able to perform the same tasks that they normally are able to.

The remaining eight partners expected to introduce Eyes Free to their vehicles include BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler, and Honda.

Smartphone Battery Life can be Doubled with Better Power Use, According to MIT Startup

Startup company ETA Devices, founded by MIT professors Joel Dawson and David Perreault, is working on a system to cut base station power consumption in half and eventually do the same with smartphones.

Device data speeds and data consumption are constantly growing, more now than ever, and the strain this puts on cellphone batteries and base stations has both frustrated users and increased overall power consumption. MIT Technology Review reports that ETA Devices’ new technology could turn that around.

The system works by optimizing the power amplifier, which converts electricity to radio signals in both cellphones and base stations. The amplifier works in both a high-power mode for sending data and a lower-power standby mode, but because making sudden jumps between power levels can distort the signal, the standby mode is kept at a level that consumes far more power than it needs.

“It means you are pulling a lot of energy just to keep the thing on,” Dawson says. “With high data rate communication, you wind up needing far more standby power than signal power.”

ETA Devices installs a system that can choose between different voltages as many as 20 million times a second, selecting the most appropriate one, to make this more efficient.

ETA Devices are developing a version that could fit in smartphones, potentially doubling battery life when using a data connection. There is no product that has been produced as of yet, as they are still in the research stage. But ETA Devices hopes to announce a product for base stations at the 2013 Mobile World Congress in February. The ultimate goal is a version that could work with multiple standards, including CDMA, GSM, and LTE.

Medical Devices that Operate on Ear-Power are in Development

Ear-Powered Chip in Comparison to the Size of a Penny

Ear-Powered Chip in Comparison to the Size of a Penny

Basically ears work by converting vibrations of the eardrum into electrochemical signals that can be interpreted by the brain, and the current for those signals is supplied by an ion-filled chamber deep within the inner ear. This is essentially a natural battery.

Scientists are now looking at using that battery to power devices that could be implanted in the ear, without affecting the recipient’s hearing. A team of scientists from MIT (The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary), and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology have recently succeeded in running an ultra-low-power radio-transmitting chip using power from these battery chambers in guinea pigs’ ears.

According to Gizmag, The “battery chamber” is located in the cochlea. It is internally divided by a membrane, some of the cells of which are designed to pump ions. The arrangement of those specialized cells, combined with an imbalance of potassium and sodium ions on opposite sides of the membrane, are what creates the electrical voltage.

The chip is not located in the guinea pigs’ ear but is on the outside, but it is small enough to fit inside of the ear. The voltage generated by the chamber isn’t enough to continually power the chip, however. Therefore, the chip incorporates power conversion circuitry, that allows a charge to build up in a capacitor.

Once that capacitor is sufficiently charged, the chip transmits a signal to an external receiver, it can take anywhere from 40 seconds to four minutes to build up enough power to do this. This also allows for the timing of the chip’s transmissions to be used as a measure of the electrochemical properties of each guinea pig’s ears.

An external burst of radio waves is used to supply that initial boost to initially power the chip’s control circuit. Once it’s going, the circuit is able to sustain itself using only ear-power.

Even if the battery chamber did provide a stronger current, the chip could still only use a fraction of it, because if there were too much power being drawn from the chamber it would effect the guinea pigs’ hearing. The guinea pigs used in the experiments showed no loss of hearing, however, when tested.

Radio-Transmitting Chip Powered by the Ear

Radio-Transmitting Chip Powered by the Ear

Facebook to Exchange Free WiFi Hotspots for Check-ins

With the ability to check-in virtually anywhere you go from Facebook, to let your friends know where you are, and with this feature becoming more popular as time goes by Facebook is looking to capitalize on users check-ins.

This is good news because this will not only benefit Facebook, but it will benefit users as these check-ins will be “exchanged” for free WiFi. According to reports, it seems that Facebook is currently trialing some sort of pilot program in which they provide some businesses with “Facebook routers” which provide free WiFi hotspots to customers.

Customers will just need to check-in at their location and they will then be directed to that business’s Facebook page, where depending on the business, deals and special offers could also be given to those that check-in and the customer will get free access to WiFi hotspot.

This is not only good for the user who gets free WiFi, but also to the business that gains more exposure. Also for Facebook who will get the free data which helps create more specific ads, which may not really be what most people want to hear is that Facebook will gather even more specific data about you. Although this doesn’t mean that those who refuse to check-in don’t get the free WiFi, in fact the WiFi will still be provided but will require a password that should be given by the establishment.

Japanese Android Developers Arrested for Infecting 270,000 Phones With Malware

Today Japanese police arrested five Android developers for embedding a virus into their Android apps.

It is well known that there are plenty of ‘High-Risk’ applications in the Google Play store as well as on third party Android marketplaces. According to Japanese police they initially suspected only 90,000 infections from these apps, but they found that these guys collected 10 million separate pieces of information from their series of apps. According to Google Play, some apps have been downloaded 270,000 times.

The developers technique to get people to download their virus-ridden software was they simply took names of popular games, and added “The Movie” to the end. So,  for instance, “Angry Birds: The Movie.”.

Just another case of Android malware and viruses being distributed on Android devices. Hopefully the new ‘Bulit-in Malware App Scanner’ introduced in Android’s latest OS will help to fix this problem.

More Than 290,000 Google Play Android Apps Labeled as ‘High-Risk’

According to new research done by Bit9, One-quarter of more than 400,000 Android apps examined in the Google Play store pose security risks to mobile-device users.

Security vendor Bit9 categorized these Android apps as “questionable” or “suspicious” because they could gain access to personal information to collect GPS data, phone calls or phone numbers and much more after the user granted “permission” to the app. “You have to say ‘yes’ to the application or it won’t run,” pointed out Harry Sverdlove, Bit9 CTO.

Bit9 claims that games, entertainment and wallpaper apps especially seem to want to grab users data, even though their functions would seem to have little direct use for that data. Bit9 notes this doesn’t mean these apps are malware per se, but they could do damage if compromised because the user has granted so much permission.

Bit9 is now compiling a “reputation” database of Android apps, according to Sverdlove. The firm is also going to move on to other app stores, including those from Apple and Amazon, in order to create mobile security products that can protect users based on risk-scoring of apps. 

Bit9 categorized these “questionable” and “suspicious” apps it found in Google Play below:

    • 42% access GPS location data, and these include wallpapers, games and utilities

    • 31% access phone calls or phone numbers

    • 26% access personal data, such as contacts and email

    • 9% use permissions that can cost the user money

Bit9 looked through Google Play to collect detailed information about 412,000 mobile apps, including publisher, popularity, user rating, category, number of downloads, requested permissions and price.

Of the 412,222 Android apps evaluated from Google Play, Bit9 says more than 290,000 of them access at least one high-risk permission, 86,000 access five or more and 8,000 apps access 10 or more permissions “flagged as potentially dangerous.” The report defined risk level according to relative degrees of privacy intrusion and the app’s feature set.

The study also included a survey of 138 IT professionals responsible for mobile security for over 400,000 users in their organizations. Below are the results:

    • 78% think phone makers do not focus enough on security, but 71% allow employee-owned devices to access their organization’s network.

    • Only 24% deploy some form of app monitoring or control to grant visibility into employees’ devices.

    • 96% allowing personal devices also allow employees to access email using the device, while 85% allow access to company calendar data.

    • 84% feel Apple iOS is “more secure” than Android and 93% of respondents allow iOS to access their network. Only 77% allow Android devices, and in something of a surprise, 13% say they allow rooted Android or “jailbroken” iPhone devices onto their networks.

Source: Network World