Posted on

Polluted lake in Bangalore catches fire

Image: The News Minute / Youtube

Once known for its elaborate lake systems, Bangalore, also known as India’s Silicon Valley, has been reeling under the pressure of increasing population and pollution.

And all this culminated into “Smoke on the water” followed by fire in the lake on early Thursday evening. This however, is not the first time the city’s frothy lakes have witnessed the phenomenon but its scale was unprecedented.

Dense smoke emerged from the middle of Bellandur lake on Thursday, catching fire soon afterwards. The smoke was so dense that it took the fire department hours to locate the source, and get access to the spot, according to a report on The Hindu.

Waste has been dumped in the lake deliberately. Either someone has set it on fire, or the chemicals inside the lake may have got ignited, a fire official was quoted as saying. A local resident complained about garbage being burnt despite protests and complaints.

The state of the lakes have gotten so dire that even the local authority incharge of rejuvenating the lakes seem helpless. An official blamed the local municipalities for dumping sewage and other waste in the lakes.

“Some amount of solid waste is being dumped there. There is also a thick mat of macrophytes, such as water hyacinth, on which one can actually walk,” Prof. T.V. Ramachandra told the paper.

“Below that, there is methane formation. The fire could have been a cumulative effect of the two, he added.

The fire was put out, but it will only offer little comfort to local residents who have grown accustomed to foul smells and toxic froth which spills onto the roads.

Last year, the same lake had caught fire twice and thousands of dead fishes surfaced in Ulsoor, another lake in the city.

Read more:

Posted on

Unlocking the potential of eye tracking technology

While the year continues to be dominated by headlines touting the universal appeal of Alexa, theres another givesa glimpse of what the big next step in human-computer interaction will be: eye tracking.

The concept of measuring and responding to human eye motion isnt new, but the past year saw a rising interest in the technology. There have been a slew ofacquisitions of eye tracking startups by large firms and the rollout of several devices and software that support eye tracking.

Eye tracking sensors provide two main benefits, says Oscar Werner, vice president of the eye tracking company Tobii Tech. First, it makes a device aware of what the user is interested in at any given point in time. And second, it provides an additional way to interact with content, without taking anything else away. That means it increases the communication bandwidth between the user and the device.

Theres a chance that soon eye tracking will be a standard feature of a new generation of smartphones, laptops and desktop monitors setting the stage for a huge revaluation of the way we communicate with devicesor how they communicate with us.

In the past year eye tracking technology moved from being a promising technology to being adopted in commercial products in a wide array of consumer segments simultaneously, Werner says.

Dominic Porco, chief executive officer at Impax Media, a digital advertising company, says less expensive and more potent hardware; new open source software platforms; and new easier and faster ways of obtaining data to train algorithm models have driven the progress in eye tracking technology.

Companies like NVIDIA have launched products with more powerful GPUs at competitive prices, accelerating the image recognition speeds, Porco says.

Porco adds that popular crowd-sourcing marketplaces such as Amazon Mechanical Turk have enabled the collection of larger and broader datasets to train recognition algorithms. These developments have accelerated progress in eye tracking technology significantly, allowing researchers and developers to go faster through their cycles of experimentation and implementation.

But any technology wont grow unless it can fulfill specific demands and use cases. And in the case of eye tracking, there seems to be no shortage.

Virtual Reality


In a push to create a more immersive experience, VR headset companies are making large investments in eye tracking technology. In fact, in many ways, eye tracking is seen as the technology complementing VR.

VR is about immersion, Tobiis Werner says. But a VR headset without eye tracking will assume that I am speaking to the person in front of my forehead. It is approximating my area of interest to the direction of my forehead. We all know this is not true. Our real interest is where I am looking, and there is often a difference between where I look and the direction of my head. VR headsets need to take your gaze into account be become truly immersive.

Eye tracking technology is key to foveated rendering, a technique where only the portion of the image that lands on the fovea (the part of the retina that can see significant detail) is rendered in full quality.

With foveated rendering, Werner says, there will be a 30 to 70 percent decrease in the amount of pixels drawn, a processing power saving that can translate to higher framerates and the ability to achieve high quality output with 4k headsets as opposed to the 24k level needed to meet natural human vision level.

Also, eye tracking technology will make it possible to reduce graphics distortion caused from not taking eye position account when rendering VR graphics, Werner adds.

Fove, a kickstarter-funded project, is the first VR headset to have embedded eye-tracking. Others are not far behind. In the past months, Google and Facebook acquired eye tracking startups Eyefluence and Eye Tribe respectively, and are expected to embed the technology in their future products.

And SMI, a leader in eye tracking technology, has initiated several partnerships and projects to bring eye tracking to both standalone VR head-mounted displays and smartphone slot-ins.

Eye tracking will also be part of the upcoming Khronos VR API, an open standard under development which has garnered the support of Oculus, Google, NVIDIA and others.

The view that eye tracking will be a key part of second generation headsets is shared by a large number of VR HMD vendors, Werner says. This drives technology development and innovation.

PC Gaming


Another successful VR demo, at HTC, that showed room scale gaming that actually worked.

For decades, weve used gamepads, joysticks, keyboards, mice and other peripherals to make PCs and video game consoles understand where were looking at. With eye tracking, your computer already knows what youre looking at and can react accordingly.

When you want to interact with an object you just look at it and press a button, says Werner. The computer understands which object you want to interact with. You dont need to drag the mouse or controller to the place you are already looking.

Whether its about hacking at an object, aiming at a target, designating a location for the game character to run, or simply changing the direction of the point-of-view camera, eye tracking might make it a whole lot easier for gamers to interact with the gaming environment. This can mean a big deal for games that require a high level of mouse and controller handling.

While it might render previously challenging games too easy, it can also pave the way for games that are much more fast paced.

Eye tracking can also create a cleaner and less intrusive user interface.

In games, graphical artists spend a lot of time creating beautiful environments, Werner says, and are in a constant battle with UI interaction designers that need to place UI elements on top, since it clutters the immersive feeling.

With eye tracking, Werner explains, you can hide the UI or make it transparent and only make it visible when the gamers gaze is directed toward it. This creates a more immersive feeling and solves a constant battle between graphical artists and UI designers, he says.

For simulations and virtual worlds, eye tracking can enable gaze aware objects, where game objects or characters will react to the gaze of the player to make the simulation more realistic, Werner says. This means that youll have to be careful not to stare too long at a mercenarys purse when entering a tavern in your favorite RPG.

Tobii itself offers a line of tack-on eye-tracking devices and eye-tracking embedded laptops and has worked with gaming companies on eye-tracking-enhanced versions of popular games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider, Deus Ex and Watch Dogs 2.

It is unlikely that eye tracking will replace controllers any time soon, but according to Werner, thanks to the technology, PC games will take into account one of the most powerful interaction methods we as humans have, our eyes. PC gamers will be able to utilize an additional control mechanism complementing the mouse and the controller. This will drive more natural and interaction without taking anything away.

Medicine and accessibility


Beyond the consumer level, the benefits of eye tracking expand to other realms where measurements of human gaze are key to obtaining results and insights.

There is an increasing interest in using eye tracking to help diagnose and potentially treat neurological disorders, says Bryn Farnsworth, science editor at biometric research company iMotions. For example, infants usually like to look at images with peoples facesscenes that have a social element.

Farnsworth explains that infants that go on to develop autism are much more likely to have a preference for images that feature geometric shapes, while for children with the Williams syndrome, Farnsworth says, the situation is reversed, meaning that they show a marked preference for social scenes in comparison to neurotypical children.

This all suggests, Farnsworth says, that the analysis of eye movements may help guide early diagnosis.

A research paper by students at UCSD states that eye tracking technology holds promise as an objective methodology for characterizing the early features of autism, because it can be implemented with virtually any age or functioning level.

Labs such as iMotions are helping researchers obtain those metrics through eye tracking devices in order to better understand and assess the conditions of patients.

Eye tracking company RightEye uses the technology to help physicians in administering test and finding symptoms for illnesses ranging from simple concussions to Alzheimers disease and dyslexia, and to help treat children with autism.

Eye tracking can also be a breakthrough for patients with physical disabilities, especially as affordable, consumer-level devices become available. This is a large area for eye tracking and it is evolving, says Tobiis Werner. Gaze keyboards and control panels powered by eye tracking, Werner explains, give people with diseases such as cerebral palsy and spinal cord injuries a means to communicate, control their environment and develop skills through therapy.



In the current state, the best metric advertisers get from ads are impressions and click numbers. But those numbers do not precisely reflect the effectiveness of ad campaigns because a lot of what gets counted as impressions goes to waste on non-human sources. That is something that changes with eye tracking technology.

The advertising industry is currently in the midst of some major upheaval when it comes to universal standards for measuring ad impact, says Porco, the Impax chief executive. The whole concept of viewability is now being redefined to make more sense in the age of ad blockers and bot traffic.

With eye tracking technology, online advertisers will be able to measure exactly how many actual human eyes actually view their ads when they appear on the page. While gaining precise metrics would be nearly impossible until such time as every computer and mobile device is embedded with eye tracking technology, using eye tracking does give insights into how users interact with ads.

In the physical world, however, eye tracking is already showing promise.

Market research firms are experimenting with directly measured biometric data to precisely determine the composition of people in out-of-home media environments such as retail stores, for audience measurement purposes, Porco says.

Porcos company, Impax Media, is investing heavily in eye tracking technology along with other computer vision techniques to collect attention metrics from its proprietary in-store advertising screens. Were big believers that the future of the ad industry is going to be grounded in attention metrics, as opposed to impressions, and eye tracking is, hands down, the best way to track attention, Porco says.

The data, Porco says, helps advertisers and location partners to assess audience interest in various messaging angles, and to correlate this information with parameters like location, timing and demographics. Its great for media buyers seeking to get the most for their budgets, and for store managers dealing with questions about everything from inventory to staff shift schedules.

While retailers always benefit from collecting information about customers, the area is somewhat a gray and is often subject to controversy and falls across privacy regulations. However, Porco underlines that theres no need to collect identity parameter in order to glean useful insights, and anonymized data about gaze point, age and gender along with duration of view suffice.

Market research


Its important for market researchers to evaluate peoples interactions and expectations across the whole omnichannel customer journey and its key touchpoints, says Simone Benedetto, UX researcher at TSW, an Italy-based market research lab.

Recent advances in eye tracking, Benedetto explains, open up new possibilities in both lab and real world neuromarketing tests.

It is crucial for us to involve users in product and service design and evaluation, Benedetto says. This doesnt mean just to ask them their opinion, but to collect objective data coming from their eyes and brain while interacting with the product or service.

TSW uses mobile eye tracking units along with other wearables in order to get precise user and customer metrics on a wide variety of products and services, both digital (such as online ads, mobile apps, websites, software and device control panels) and physical (such as print material, product packages, cars, home furniture and retail stores).

Being able to weigh the users natural interaction with products and services enables researchers to identify real usability problems and frustration points and collect actionable information that gives insights into customer satisfaction and engagement and drive design decisions.

One of the great advances last year has been the introduction of object tracking in relation to the analysis of data from mobile eye trackers, says iMotions Farnsworth, referring to the process by which specific visual features can be delineated from a scene, and information about how that particular feature is attended to can then be recorded.

This means that an individual can, for example, wear portable eye tracking glasses, interact with their environment normally, and how they attend to certain features can be automatically analyzed how long they look at a street map when theyre out walking, if they notice an advert that they passed, Farnsworth says. Being able to automatically understand how specific features are attended to clearly has great ramifications for understanding humans, and using that knowledge further.

From my perspective theres a huge market behind the exploitation of eye tracking into UX-neuromarketing investigations, Benedetto says. Eye tracking allows the implicit measurement of user behavior, and turns that measurement into quantitative objective data. We have only relied on subjective data for years, and its definitely time for a change.

The future of eye tracking


Close Up of blue eye with computer circuit board lines, digital composite

Tobiis Werner told me he believes a new paradigm of PC usage will emerge, where eye tracking is a fifth modality that, in combination with touch screens, mouse/touchpad, voice and keyboard, will make computers much more productive and intuitive. Gaze always precedes any kind of action that you do with mouse, keyboard and voice, so much smarter user interactions will be designed using these technologies, he says.

As vision is the most used sense among human beings, being able to track and measure it digitally will have a great impact on how we make our intentions known to computers, wittingly or unwittingly.

Read more:

Posted on

Hundreds Rally To Defend Science In Boston Protest

Hundreds gathered in Boston on Sunday to speak out in defense of research and against what they view as the Trump administrations war on evidence-based science.

When science and research are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back, protesters chanted in the citys Copley Square as part of the Rally to Stand up for Science. The gathering was organized;the mobile, pop-up Natural History Museum; the Union of Concerned Scientists; and several other groups.

The demonstration was a way for scientists and science defenders to respond to policies implemented under President Donald Trump, including a gag order at the Environmental Protection Agency, social media censorship of the National Parks and the removal of climate change information from federal websites.

This is about freedom of inquiry, NHM director Beka Economopoulos told the crowd, The Boston Globe reported. From the muzzling of scientists and government agencies, to the immigration ban, the deletion of scientific data, and the defunding of public science, the erosion of our institutions of science is a dangerous direction for our country. Real people and communities bear the brunt of these actions.

The rally comes days after sources said Trump would soon hand down executive ordersto reshape the EPA and after the Senate narrowly confirmed Scott Pruitt who has sued the EPA 13 times to be the agencys chief.

Check out photos and videos below of the protesters and their clever signs:

Read more:

Posted on

Angelina Jolie opens up about family after split with Brad Pitt

(CNN)A new project about family and loss has led Angelina Jolie to talk about her own.

The actress spoke with the BBC about her new movie, “First They Killed My Father,” which she directed and produced.
The Netflix original film tells the story of the Cambodian genocide through the eyes of a child.
    It’s a project that is near and dear to Jolie’s heart. She adopted her first child, son Maddox, from Cambodia after visiting and falling in love with the country 17 years ago, Jolie said.
    “I’ll always be very grateful to this country,” Jolie told the BBC. “I don’t think I ever could give back as much as this country has given me.”
    Maddox, 15, was at the center of a reported incident on a flight with his father, Brad Pitt.
    Pitt and Jolie split in September. The couple had been together for more than a decade when they married in 2014. They are the parents of six children.
    In the BBC interview, Jolie declined to give specifics about what occurred on the plane.
    “I don’t want to say very much about that except it was a very difficult time,” she said. “We are a family and we will always be a family and we will get through this time and hopefully be a stronger family for it.”



      Angelina Jolie opens up about divorce


    Pitt was cleared of any claims of child abuse.
    Jolie said her situation is not unusual and that many families have weathered divorce.
    She’s coping by helping her children, she said.
    “My focus is my children, our children … and my focus is finding this way through,” she said. “As I said, we are and forever will be a family. I am coping with finding a way through to make sure that this somehow makes us stronger and closer.”
    “First They Killed My Father” premiered worldwide this weekend in Cambodia.
    The Jolie-Pitt children, Maddox; Pax, 13; Zahara, 11; Shiloh, 10; and twins Knox and Vivienne, 8, appeared at the premiere with their mother. Maddox was reportedly involved in the production.
    Jolie told the BBC the family is settling into a routine at home.
    “Right now, I’m going through a moment when just everybody’s in my room,” she said. “Two dogs, two hamsters and two children at the moment.”
    The actress is trying to keep it all flowing.
    “It’s wonderful,” Jolie said. “But, usually, I just wake up trying to figure out who’s going to get [the] dog out, who’s going to start the pancakes and did anybody brush their teeth.”

    Read more:

    Posted on

    These Adorable Pets Are Supporting The Women’s March

    As hundreds of thousands of people turn out to call for equality in the wake of President Donald Trumps election, some four-legged supporters came along, too.

    Photos from the Womens March on Washingtonand some of the hundreds of sister events planned around the world show numerous furry companions, many of whom sported signs for the occasion.

    Mostly, theyre dogs.


    Including celebrity dogs …


    Dogs who dont hold back …

    LLUIS GENE via Getty Images
    A dog attending a march in Barcelona, held in solidarity of the Women’s March on Washington.

    And dogs making some great puns.


    #womensmarch #baltimore

    A photo posted by Megan Rogers (@megan_bonnie) on

    There were even some cat protesters, though the ones we saw were expressing their solidarity from home.


    Not every pet was supportive, though.


    You cant win em all.

    Read more: