Researchers Built Sonar Glasses That Track Facial Movements For Silent Communication

A Cornell University researcher has developed sonar glasses that “hear” you without speaking. Engadget reports: The eyeglass attachment uses tiny microphones and speakers to read the words you mouth as you silently command it to pause or skip a music track, enter a passcode without touching your phone or work on CAD models without a keyboard. Cornell Ph.D. student Ruidong Zhang developed the system, which builds off a similar project the team created using a wireless earbud — and models before that which relied on cameras. The glasses form factor removes the need to face a camera or put something in your ear. “Most technology in silent-speech recognition is limited to a select set of predetermined commands and requires the user to face or wear a camera, which is neither practical nor feasible,” said Cheng Zhang, Cornell assistant professor of information science. “We’re moving sonar onto the body.”

The researchers say the system only requires a few minutes of training data (for example, reading a series of numbers) to learn a user’s speech patterns. Then, once it’s ready to work, it sends and receives sound waves across your face, sensing mouth movements while using a deep learning algorithm to analyze echo profiles in real time “with about 95 percent accuracy.” The system does this while offloading data processing (wirelessly) to your smartphone, allowing the accessory to remain small and unobtrusive. The current version offers around 10 hours of battery life for acoustic sensing. Additionally, no data leaves your phone, eliminating privacy concerns. “We’re very excited about this system because it really pushes the field forward on performance and privacy,” said Cheng Zhang. “It’s small, low-power and privacy-sensitive, which are all important features for deploying new, wearable technologies in the real world.” “The team at Cornell’s Smart Computer Interfaces for Future Interactions (SciFi) Lab is exploring commercializing the tech using a Cornell funding program,” adds Engadget. “They’re also looking into smart-glasses applications to track facial, eye and upper body movements.”

A video of the eyeglasses can be viewed here.

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What Will Technology Do in 2023?

Looking back at 2022’s technology, the lead technology writer for the New York Times criticized Meta’s $1,500 VR headset and the iPhone’s “mostly unnoticeable improvements.”

But then he also predicted which new tech could affect you in 2023. Some highlights:

– It’s very likely that next year you could have a chatbot that acts as a research assistant. Imagine that you are writing a research paper and want to add some historical facts about World War II. You could share a 100-page document with the bot and ask it to sum up the highlights related to a certain aspect of the war. The bot will then read the document and generate a summary for you….

That doesn’t mean that we’ll see a flood of stand-alone A.I. apps in 2023. It may be more the case that many tools we already use for work will begin building automatic language generation into their apps. Rowan Curran, a technology analyst at the research firm Forrester, said apps like Microsoft Word and Google Sheets could soon embed A.I. tools to streamline people’s work flows.

– In 2023, the V.R. drumbeat will go on. Apple, which has publicly said it will never use the word “metaverse,” is widely expected to release its first headset. Though the company has yet to share details about the product, Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, has laid out clues, expressing his excitement about using augmented reality to take advantage of digital data in the physical world. “You’ll wonder how you lived your life without augmented reality, just like today you wonder: How did people like me grow up without the internet?” Mr. Cook said in September to students in Naples.

He added, however, that the technology was not something that would become profound overnight. Wireless headsets remain bulky and used indoors, which means that the first iteration of Apple’s headgear will, similar to many others that preceded it, most likely be used for games. In other words, there will continue to be lots of chatter about the metaverse and virtual (augmented, mixed, whatever-you-want-to-call-dorky-looking) goggles in 2023, but it most likely still won’t be the year that these headsets become widely popular, said Carolina Milanesi, a consumer tech analyst for the research firm Creative Strategies. “From a consumer perspective, it’s still very uncertain what you’re spending your thousand bucks on when you’re buying a headset,” she said. “Do I have to do a meeting with V.R.? With or without legs, it’s not a necessity.”

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‘If You Die in the Game, You Die in Real Life.’

Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey, writing on his personal blog: Today is November 6th, 2022, the day of the SAO Incident. Thousands of VRMMORPG gamers were trapped by a mad scientist inside a death game that could only be escaped through completion. If their hit points dropped to zero, their brain would be bombarded by extraordinarily powerful microwaves, supposedly killing the user. The same would happen if anyone in the real world tampered with their NerveGear, the virtual reality head-mounted-display that transported their minds and souls to Aincrad, the primary setting of Sword Art Online.

[…] In SAO, the NerveGear contained a microwave emitter that could be overdriven to lethal levels, something the creator of SAO and the NerveGear itself (Akihiko Kayaba) was able to hide from his employees, regulators, and contract manufacturing partners. I am a pretty smart guy, but I couldn’t come up with any way to make anything like this work, not without attaching the headset to gigantic pieces of equipment.

In lieu of this, I used three of the explosive charge modules I usually use for a different project, tying them to a narrow-band photosensor that can detect when the screen flashes red at a specific frequency, making game-over integration on the part of the developer very easy. When an appropriate game-over screen is displayed, the charges fire, instantly destroying the brain of the user. This isn’t a perfect system, of course. I have plans for an anti-tamper mechanism that, like the NerveGear, will make it impossible to remove or destroy the headset.

Even so, there are a huge variety of failures that could occur and kill the user at the wrong time. This is why I have not worked up the balls to actually use it myself, and also why I am convinced that, like in SAO, the final triggering should really be tied to a high-intelligence agent that can readily determine if conditions for termination are actually correct. At this point, it is just a piece of office art, a thought-provoking reminder of unexplored avenues in game design. It is also, as far as I know, the first non-fiction example of a VR device that can actually kill the user. It won’t be the last.

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India Gambles On Building a Leading Drone Industry

The Indian government wants to develop a home-grown industry that can design and assemble drones and make the components that go into their manufacture. The BBC reports: “Drones can be significant creators of employment and economic growth due to their versatility, and ease of use, especially in India’s remote areas,” says Amber Dubey, former joint secretary at the Ministry of Civil Aviation. “Given its traditional strengths in innovation, information technology, frugal engineering and its huge domestic demand, India has the potential of becoming a global drone hub by 2030,” he tells the BBC. Over the next three years Mr Dubey sees as much as 50 billion rupees $630 million invested in the sector.

[…] However, despite the excitement and investment around India’s drone industry, even those in the sector advise caution. “India has set a goal of being a hub of drones by 2030, but I think we should be cautious because we at present don’t not have an ecosystem and technology initiatives in place,” says Rajiv Kumar Narang, from the Drone Federation of India. He says the industry needs a robust regulator that can oversee safety and help develop an air traffic control system for drones. That will be particularly important as the aircraft become larger, says Mr Narang. “Initiatives have to come from the government. A single entity or a nodal ministry has to take this forward if we want to reach a goal of being the hub by 2030,” he says.

India also lacks the network of firms needed to make all the components that go into making a drone. At the moment many parts, including batteries, motors and flight controllers are imported. But the government is confident an incentive scheme will help boost domestic firms. “The components industry will take two to three years to build, since it traditionally works on low margin and high volumes,” says Mr Dubey. Despite those reservations, firms are confident there will be demand for drones and people to fly them. Chirag Shara is the chief executive of Drone Destination, which has trained more than 800 pilots and instructors since the rules on drone use were first relaxed in August 2021. He estimates that India will need up to 500,000 certified pilots over the next five years.

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Jack Dorsey’s TBD Announces Web3 Competitor: Web5

Jack Dorsey’s beef with Web3 has never been a secret. In his view, Web 3 — blockchain boosters’ dream of a censorship resistant, privacy-focused internet of the future — has become just as problematic as the Web2 which preceded it. Now, he’s out with an alternative. From a report: At CoinDesk’s Consensus Festival here in Austin, TBD — the bitcoin-focused subsidiary of Dorsey’s Block (SQ) — announced its new vision for a decentralized internet layer on Friday. Its name? Web5. TBD explained its pitch for Web5 in a statement shared with CoinDesk: “Identity and personal data have become the property of third parties. Web5 brings decentralized identity and data storage to individual’s applications. It lets devs focus on creating delightful user experiences, while returning ownership of data and identity to individuals.”

While the new project from TBD was announced Friday, it is still under open-source development and does not have an official release date. A play on the Web3 moniker embraced in other corners of the blockchain space, Web5 is built on the idea that incumbent “decentralized internet” contenders are going about things the wrong way. Appearing at a Consensus panel clad in a black and bitcoin-yellow track suit emblazoned with the numeral 5, TBD lead Mike Brock explained that Web5 — in addition to being “two better than Web3” — would beat out incumbent models by abandoning their blockchain-centric approaches to a censorship free, identity-focused web experience. “This is really a conversation about what technologies are built to purpose, and I don’t think that renting block space, in all cases, is a really good idea for decentralized applications,” Brock said. He continued: “I think what we’re pushing forward with Web5 — and I admit it’s a provocative challenge to a lot of the assumptions about what it means to decentralize the internet — really actually is back to basics. We already have technologies that effectively decentralize. I mean, bittorrent exists, Tor exists, [etc].” The full presentation is here.

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