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Google denies that it will fold Chrome OS into Android

 

Chrome OS and Android head says company is committed to the browser-based operating system despite greater integration with smartphone sofwareGoogle has denied the veracity of a report that states the company will fold its Chrome OS for laptops and desktop computers into its Android mobile operating.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Google plans to merge the two operating systems into one single system in 2017, used across smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers. A later report suggested that Google will make Android available for computers.

Google’s smartphones and tablets run Android, while its Chromebooks run Chrome OS, a cut-down version of Linux that runs the company’s Chrome browser relying on web apps and a few select Android apps.

Hiroshi Lockheimer, head of Android, Chrome OS and Chromecast at Google said: “There’s a ton of momentum for Chromebooks and we are very committed to Chrome OS. I just bought two for my kids for schoolwork.”

Google Chromebook Pixel review: beautiful, powerful – but still just Chrome
The company has made moves to make the two operating systems more integrated, providing more desktop Chrome features for the Android version of Google’s Chrome browser, while adding features such as Google Now and support for a select number of Android apps on Chrome OS.

Google’s Chromecast streaming media adapters also run a version of Android, further blurring the lines between Chrome and Android.

Both systems are based on Linux. It would make sense as the basal level to allow both systems to share one underlying codebase. It is likely that Google could create a Chrome OS experience on top of an Android base.

Many have speculated for years that Chrome OS and Android would merge. Google’s launch of an Android tablet, the Pixel C, which has a heavy focus on productivity with a keyboard accessory that turns it into a laptop analogue also saw speculation that Google would phase out Chrome OS.

The Chrome OS operating system has found success in schools running on low-cost but capable laptops for which its apparent immunity to malware and simple setup and management are suited.

For now, Google says that it is committed to Chrome OS and it is likely Android and Chrome OS will co-exist with tighter integration between the two for the foreseeable future.

sign-language-translator

Wearable Sensors Could Translate Sign Language Into English

Wearable sensors could one day interpret the gestures in sign language and translate them into English, providing a high-tech solution to communication problems between deaf people and those who don’t understand sign language.
Engineers at Texas A&M University are developing a wearable device that can sense movement and muscle activity in a person’s arms.
The device works by figuring out the gestures a person is making by using two distinct sensors: one that responds to the motion of the wrist and the other to the muscular movements in the arm. A program then wirelessly receives this information and converts the data into the English translation.

 

After some initial research, the engineers found that there were devices that attempted to translate sign language into text, but they were not as intricate in their designs.
“Most of the technology … was based on vision- or camera-based solutions,” said study lead researcher Roozbeh Jafari, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Texas A&M.
These existing designs, Jafari said, are not sufficient, because often when someone is talking with sign language, they are using hand gestures combined with specific finger movements.
“I thought maybe we should look into combining motion sensors and muscle activation,” Jafari told Live Science. “And the idea here was to build a wearable device.”
The researchers built a prototype system that can recognize words that people use most commonly in their daily conversations. Jafari said that once the team starts expanding the program, the engineers will include more words that are less frequently used, in order to build up a more substantial vocabulary.
One drawback of the prototype is that the system has to be “trained” to respond to each individual that wears the device, Jafari said. This training process involves asking the user to essentially repeat or do each hand gesture a couple of times, which can take up to 30 minutes to complete.
“If I’m wearing it and you’re wearing it — our bodies are different … our muscle structures are different,” Jafari said.
But, Jafari thinks the issue is largely the result of time constraints the team faced in building the prototype. It took two graduate students just two weeks to build the device, so Jafari said he is confident that the device will become more advanced during the next steps of development.
The researchers plan to reduce the training time of the device, or even eliminate it altogether, so that the wearable device responds automatically to the user. Jafari also wants to improve the effectiveness of the system’s sensors so that the device will be more useful in real-life conversations. Currently, when a person gestures in sign language, the device can only read words one at a time.
This, however, is not how people speak. “When we’re speaking, we put all the words in one sentence,” Jafari said. “The transition from one word to another word is seamless and it’s actually immediate.”
“We need to build signal-processing techniques that would help us to identify and understand a complete sentence,” he added.
Jafari’s ultimate vision is to use new technology, such as the wearable sensor, to develop innovative user interfaces between humans and computers.
For instance, people are already comfortable with using keyboards to issue commands to electronic devices, but Jafari thinks typing on devices like smartwatches is not practical because they tend to have small screens.
“We need to have a new user interface (UI) and a UI modality that helps us to communicate with these devices,” he said. “Devices like [the wearable sensor] might help us to get there. It might essentially be the right step in the right direction.”
Jafari presented this research at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 12th Annual Body Sensor Networks Conference in June.

identity-theft

As Privacy Fades, Your Identity Is the New Money (Op-Ed)

Rob Leslie is chief executive officer of Sedicii, which provides technology for eliminating transmission and storage of private identity data during authentication or identity verification, and reducing identity theft, impersonation and fraud. Leslie is an electronics engineer with more 25 years of experience in information technology and business. This Op-Ed is part of a series provided by the World Economic Forum Technology Pioneers, class of 2015. Leslie contributed this article to Live Science’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

You may have heard the phrase, “If the product is free, then you are the product.” It was coined at a time in the not-too-distant past when social networks were in their infancy and we were all mesmerized by the fantastic services we could consume to keep in touch and interact with each other — all for free!

Little did we realize at the time what that bargain actually meant. The vast majority of us had no idea social networks would be monitoring and recording all our interactions  as they learn everything possible about us as people, our habits, our likes and dislikes, and in some cases, our innermost, private secrets. This information, containing the essence of who each of us is, has been used to target us with advertising and other services, making the companies collecting this information global giants that earn billions of dollars in revenue every year. Personal information is extremely valuable.

 

So how much are you really worth?

The problem we have as consumers is that most of us have been unwitting pawns in a giant information game. We want the services for free, but have little concept of the value of the information we give back in return. In fact, the European Commission estimates that the value of personal data in the European Union will hit more than $1 trillion by 2020. [Dutch Student Sells His Data for €350 but at What Price Privacy? (Op-Ed )]

Looking at the profits of the giant Internet companies begs the question: “Is there a case to be made that the trade is not fair and that we are being taken advantage of because we don’t know what the value of our identity and other information really is?”

It is hard to put a value on a single person’s data — but some have already started to try. The U.S. based company, Datacoup, promises to pay users $8 a month to part with their data on everything from credit cards to social media usage.

On one level, such an approach gives consumers a degree of return on data many of us are handing over for free anyway, but on another level consumers are sharing important data with a third party to use for commercial purposes knowing that it will almost certainly be sold to other parties in some form.

Logic dictates that in the world of personal data, all men, or women, are not created equal; any retailer will want to target those with the greatest spending power. In the same way in the business world, if a vendor or service provider can reach the person within an organization with purchasing responsibility they are more likely to achieve a sale. The greatest testament to the value of data is the effort that some will go to in order to acquire it.

The situation as it existed would likely have continued for a long time, as the global public either didn’t care or was unaware of what was happening — or were powerless to do anything about it — had it not been for a principled young man by the name of Edward Snowden . Almost singlehandedly, Snowden has managed to shine a light on the practices of some governments and big business, and has explained what it means for all of us as it relates to our privacy  and our personal data.

This has opened a lot of people’s eyes to what has been happening, such as the U.S. government accessing citizens’ Google and Yahoo accounts. As a result of this changing environment, in a survey by the Pew Research Center in 2014, 91 percent of American adults said that consumers have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by companies.

 

A right to digital privacy
In 2016, it is expected that the European Union will enact a new Data Privacy Directive, encompassing the so-called “Right to be Forgotten.” For the first time, a law will explicitly state that identity and other personal data belong to the individual. This will give all European citizens the right to control how their identity — and maybe more important, their personal data — is consumed. It is the beginning of a radical change in the balance of power in the relationship that consumers have with the companies that provide us services over the Internet. For the first time the consumer will have a voice.
In addition to the consumer being given a voice, this new directive will be backed by stiff penalties for those companies who fail to comply with it. If an organization fails to comply, they may have to pay a price as high as 2 to 5 percent of their global revenue. Because of this, I expect that the nature of the relationship will change and it will put each consumer at the center of his or her personal data universe. It will empower the consumer to make choices as to who, how, when and where identity is consumed, and critically, how a company rewards consent when information is used. In the U.S., Google and other industry players along with data-privacy campaigners have recently been lobbying Congress over data privacy laws, which, at nearly 30 years old, are woefully out of date — and this pressure is only set to increase.
Judging by how much money is made today from people’s identity and personal data, this will be a big opportunity for consumers.
Read more from the Technology Pioneers on their Live Science landing page. Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.

Consumer 3D printer used to create human tissue

 

 

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in the US, have adapted a low cost MakerBot 3D printer to print with biological materials. The team hope their work could one day lead to a world in which transplants are no longer necessary to repair damaged organs.
Traditional 3D printers build hard objects layer by layer, typically from materials such plastic or metal. Printing with soft materials has been highly challenging because each layer requires sturdy support from the layers below.
The researchers developed a new method enabling them to print with soft materials such as collagens, alginates and fibrins that naturally appear in the body. To date, medical 3D printing has been mainly used to create prosthetics.
BBC Click’s Talia Franco spoke to Prof Adam Feinberg about his team’s breakthrough research.