Tag Archives: Technology

The Curmudgeon Chronicles: Smartass Technology

This week, braving dreary weather, R and I visited one of our favorite wineries, where one of our favorite people manages the tasting room. She gently reminded me that I’ve been remiss in my blog posting, so Linda, this one’s for you!

Spacious tent, faux fur blankets, space heaters, wine and good company make a cozy oasis on a chilly, rainy afternoon.

Back to the topic at hand.

I’m all for smart technology, such as the dishwasher that senses when my dishes aren’t dry enough, or when I need to refill the rinsing agent so the glasses don’t have leprosy.

On the other hand, some inanimate objects seem to have been designed with a real smart-alecky attitude. Like my smartphone’s spelling “correction”, which regularly replaces perfectly good English with gibberish. Or its more obscure settings, which convey general condescension toward those of us who grew up with princess phones. (What? You can’t find that function? Bwaa-ha-ha…!)

Where does the term “smart alec” come from, you ask? (OK, you didn’t, but now don’t you want to know?)

It originates from the exploits of one Alec Hoag, an infamous con man in 1840’s New York. He and his wife Melinda, along with an accomplice known as French Jack, operated a con called the Panel Game, in which prostitutes and their pimps robbed customers. Or so says Wikipedia.

What’s next in phones, I wonder. Will the built-in camera automatically subtract 10 pounds and add hair to hairless heads? Will it flash a warning to delete a tactless text before we send it? Will it short-circuit if we drunk dial our ex-lovers or horrible bosses? Wouldn’t any of these features improve our lives more than AutoCorrect? I rest my case.

Smartass tech is poised to invade other aspects of our lives, too. Imagine a fridge equipped with auto-lock if you open it too often. Or between meals. Likewise, a scale that proudly announces your last weight. Or a mirror that self-writes helpful suggestions such as, “Time to color your hair” or “Ever considered Botox?”

Soon we’ll have self-driving cars, which could be useful for those of us who don’t have chauffeurs. But will they refuse to go somewhere they feel isn’t in our best interest, such as the racetrack or the restaurant that gave us heartburn?

The line between human and machine grows ever thinner, my fellow curmudgeons. Stay vigilant!

Good News Monday: The Eyes Have It

Sharing a cool article today on a major scientic advance for the blind.

Doctors Are Preparing to Implant the World’s First Human Bionic Eye

Photo by Eternal Happiness on Pexels.com

The same implants could potentially treat paralysis as well.

by VICTOR TANGERMANN on Futurism.com

A team of researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, has built a bionic device that they say can restore vision to the blind through a brain implant.

The team is now preparing for what they claim will be the world’s first human clinical trials of a bionic eye — and are asking for additional funding to eventually manufacture it on a global scale.

It’s essentially the guts of a smartphone combined with brain-implanted micro electrodes, as TechCrunch reports. The “Gennaris bionic vision system,” a project that’s more than ten years in the making, bypasses damaged optic nerves to allow signals to be transmitted from the retina to the vision center of the brain.

The system is made up of a custom-designed headgear, which includes a camera and a wireless transmitter. A processor unit takes care of data crunching, while a set of tiles implanted inside the brain deliver the signals.

“Our design creates a visual pattern from combinations of up to 172 spots of light (phosphenes) which provides information for the individual to navigate indoor and outdoor environments, and recognize the presence of people and objects around them,” Arthur Lowery, professor at Monash University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering, said in a statement.

The researchers are also hoping to adapt the system to help those with untreatable neurological conditions, such as limb paralysis, to regain movement.

“If successful, the MVG [Monash Vision Group] team will look to create a new commercial enterprise focused on providing vision to people with untreatable blindness and movement to the arms of people paralyzed by quadriplegia, transforming their health care,” Lewis said.

trial in July showed that the Gennaris array was able to be transplanted safely into the brains of three sheep using a pneumatic insertor, with a cumulative 2,700 hours of stimulation not causing any adverse health effects.

It’s still unclear when the first human trials will take place.

“With extra investment, we’ll be able to manufacture these cortical implants here in Australia at the scale needed to progress to human trials,” Marcello Rosa, professor of physiology at Monash and MVG member, said in the statement.

The news comes after Elon Musk’s brain computer interface company Neuralink announced it’s testing its coin-sized interface prototype in live pigs. The end goals are similar: to treat brain issues including blindness and paralysis.

Whether the Monash device is technically the first bionic eye, though, may come down to semantics.

A separate brain implant, a “visual prosthetic” device, developed by scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, recently allowed both blind and sighted participants to “see” the shape of letters, as detailed in a paper published in May.

Why Lies Spread Faster Than the Truth

It’s not your imagination. Misinformation travels faster than a speeding bullet — or a potentially deadly virus — , making this video worth a look.

Thanks to the EnlightenedMind blog for the timely reminder.

white plane on the sky

Photo by Immortal shots on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Calling Them Out

As a proud —  dare I say “defiant” — owner of an older iPhone,  I was pleased to read that Apple’s rapacious strategy of planned obsolescence has been noted.

They were fined 25 million euros (£21m, $27m) for deliberately slowing down older iPhone models.  France’s competition and fraud watchdog DGCCRF imposed the fine, saying that consumers were not warned.  I’m hoping other countries follow suit.

To a company that size, I’m sure this is the equivalent of a tiny flea bite. But it does indicate that if you’ve noticed your older model is slowing down for no apparent reason, you’re not going crazy.

Which is always good to know.

justitia-2597016_640

Good News Monday: Climate Change Could Be Rigged

Old oil and gas rigs might have a new lease on life that could benefit both industry and the planet, says a study from the University of Edinburgh.

Instead of decommissioning North Sea oil and gas rigs, which costs a boatload of money, they could be refitted — for 10x less — as pumping stations for self-contained carbon dioxide storage sites below the seabed.

The sites could be used to lock away CO2 produced by power stations, as well as emissions generated by natural gas production.

oil-rig-2191711_640.jpg

Images from pixabay.com

 

Good News Monday: Game of Drones

If the word “drone” conjures negative thoughts of spying and remote warfare, here’s something cheerful to contemplate.

Drones and digital tags are helping scientists study humpback whales in remote areas of the Antarctic, where in-person access is limited.

A partnership among Duke University Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Lab (MaRRS), Friedlaender Lab, California Ocean Alliance, and the World Wildlife Fund is using drone photography to study how the whales feed, how healthy they are, and how they’re being affected by climate change.  Drone images are also used to count local populations.

Game-changing technology, at its best.

brown dolphin figurine

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: The Future Looks Less Sh**ty

Breaking news: Scientists have developed a way to keep poop from sticking to toilet paper. (Does this make your day, or what?!)

Apparently, the slippery spray-on coating — like Teflon for TP — could prevent bacteria build up, reduce the amount of water needed to flush, and leave the toilet cleaner.

Want to read the whole story? Click here.

white toilet paper

Photo by hermaion on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Mammo Mia!

There’s a fascinating article in October Vogue magazine about a new device that could change the way health care workers perform breast exams.

Imagine — something faster and more pleasant than squashing your boobs in a giant panini press!

iBreastExam is a handheld cancer screening tool about the size of a travel-sized clothing steamer.  Using Cloud technology rather than radiation, the padded electronic sensor can detect abnormal lumps as small as five millimeters. And it only takes a few minutes to assess multiple quadrants in each breast and then store the info.

Already in use across developing countries where access to radiology and conventional mammograms is limited at best, iBreast Exam is now becoming available to primary care physicians and gynecologists in the U.S.

Despite some limitations — e.g., it’s unable to detect tiny amounts of calcium that may indicate precancerous cells — the tool’s sensitivity is equivalent to a mammogram. For women showing early warning signs, the standard (and proven) mammo would likely be the next step.  But for women with healthy indicators, this might be all that’s needed.

Good news indeed for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

awareness cancer design pink

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

 

Good News Monday: An App for Hunger

This is a genius idea that’s helping people in Africa.  Seems simple enough that we could implement this in communities worldwide.

“Oscar Ekponimo’s childhood experiences in Nigeria motivated him to create an app called Chowberry. (When his father was unable to work, the family went hungry.)

His app records retailer information about products that are about to expire. Local charities can then purchase the food at a discounted price and distribute it to the community — saving the food from being tossed into a landfill.”

assorted vegetable lot

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: A Bus That Drives Down Pollution

It’s only a prototype, but the future of city air is looking a lot brighter. The bus is equipped with an air filter that absorbs over 99% of pollution particles and emits purified air as it travels.

The jury’s still out on how many buses a city could afford to buy in order to make a dent, but solving both traffic congestion and nasal congestion? That’s a clean sweep!