Face-To-Face with the Reality of Digital-Age Interaction

It was Sunday night and we had just finished an amazing meal prepared by my brother. The kids were playing with their cousins and the rest of us were found sitting around the dinner table enjoying each other’s company . . . except that there was no eye contact or direct communication, as everybody was attempting to contribute to the conversation while simultaneously entranced by their smart device of choice. As the only person without a palm-sized dopamine-injector fixed between my eyes and those of my family members, I became disillusioned about the entire experience of these family dinners to the point where I was noticeably ornery for the rest of the evening and the following day.

Some of the most fascinating recent neuroscience research involves the effects of screen time and smart devices on various metrics of well-being, including how we interact and how we experience pleasure. Actually, the foundation of what we understand about the effects of screens and smart device usage on our brains isn’t new at all, it dates back to the 1950’s and B.F. Skinner’s research on what is known as variable scheduling of rewards. Using an ingenious method to examine responses to varying rewards, what Skinner discovered was that the human mind will do virtually anything in attempt to find patterns where none exist. If we know what is happening next, we lose interest really fast, whereas variable input keeps our brain occupied trying to make deductions about cause and effect when there is none. Unpredictability is our brain’s arch nemesis that we simply can’t get enough of, that’s how the dopamine feedback loop works. Those pleasure neurotransmitters aren’t excited by acquiring a known reward, but by the chase where something new lurks around every corner. We are literally hardwired to continuously hunt for the next reward, the less predictable the better.

We’ve all experienced it: attempting to have a conversation with someone playing a video game or swiping through a clickbait link of funny eyebrow pictures. People assure you that they can multitask (as I’ve discussed before, the very idea of multitasking with any efficiency is literally neurologically impossible for humans) and that the device only serves to improve their focus by providing white noise. But it is clear from your perspective that they can’t multitask and that they will do almost anything to get rid of the predictable distraction (you)—mumbled one word answers, selective hearing, etc.—to focus on the screen, which provides an endless stream of new rewards. Following the experience, they reassure you that you had their full attention, even going so far as to recite specifics of the conversation. But the depth of the interaction just isn’t there.

Research has shown that the mere presence of a smart device, even if it isn’t being used, can interfere with social interaction. In an attempt to examine how smartphones influence face-to-face communication, researchers from the University of Essex paired off 68 strangers and asked them to spend two minutes discussing the most interesting experience that they had over the past month. Each pairing was separated from the group in a private booth. In half the booths, a paper notebook was placed on the tabletop. It was out of the direct line of view of both participants, but within reaching distance. On the tabletop of the other booths was placed a smartphone. Following the completion of the conversation, all participants completed a survey about the person they were partnered with. The groupings that had the smartphone in sight were less likely to find their partner interesting, to be able to recount details of their story, and to have an interest in future conversations. To complete the study, the researchers recruited 68 new participants, randomly paired them up and asked half of them to discuss the most meaningful event of the past year and the others to talk about the weather. Again, some booths contained a notebook placed prominently on the table and others with a smartphone in its place. Regardless of what topic they were assigned, the participants who conversed in the notebook booths reported that they felt closer to their new companion and had quickly developed a modicum of friendship and trust. At the conclusion of the debriefing, participants in the smartphone pairings seemed unaware of the effect, with some even suggesting that they did not notice the device on the table.

Why such a powerful subconscious effect? The researchers theorized that digital media devices have become the latest, and greatest, instigator of what is referred to as nonconscious priming. The very presence of a smartphone, even if not in use, seems to trigger in the mind that there are more variable (and therefore more dopamine-inducing) rewards outside of the interaction directly in front of their face. Instead of focusing on the conversation, participants were subconsciously thinking about the wider social network available at just an arm’s length away, which altered both acute behavior and perceptions of the tangible social experience.

Next time you are at a family gathering, at lunch with your coworkers, or watching a movie with your spouse, think about what you would like to get out of that interaction. Do you want to leave that experience feeling closer and knowing more about that person, or are they just a temporary fill-in for the greater possible dopamine fix available on that screen? Don’t let your evolutionary craving to hunt down constantly variable rewards disrupt the human bonding experience.

Dr. Damian Rodriguez is the health and exercise scientist for doTERRA International, LLC. He holds a doctorate in health science, a master’s degree in exercise physiology, and countless professional certifications. He has spent most of his life researching nutrition, exercise, and the lifestyle behaviors associated with optimal health. Along with his passion for health, as someone who lives with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is also involved in bringing awareness to autism spectrum disorders. There are varying opinions about many health and fitness topics. His opinions are his own and not necessarily that of doTERRA International, LLC. Consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to diet and exercise.

 

How to Avoid Decision Fatigue

Don’t let menial decisions effect your ability to make important ones.

There is more to minimalism than hipsters in tiny houses. While it can be cathartic to rid your life of superfluous worldly possessions, there is a real beauty and practical value in simplicity that extends well beyond the scope of not owning more “stuff” than you truly need. Cognitive minimalism has its benefits too. In examining the phenomenon of “decision fatigue,” scientists are beginning to discover that cerebral simplicity may be essential in getting the most out of those decision-making engines bouncing around within our skulls.

We’ve all experienced it: feeling intellectually spent. I spend my work days mulling over mountains of complex science, trying my best to make sense of the latest health, exercise, and nutrition research. After eight hours, I am mentally drained, to the point where choosing what to wear the following day seems like a herculean task. If my wife walks through the door and nonchalantly asks if I could prepare dinner for the kids, it’s almost as if she just asked me to solve the Hodge conjecture. That’s because intense focusing and repeated decision-making stresses our “executive function” capabilities. Executive function is the set of skills that allows you to make decisions, focus on complex tasks, plan and organize, remember details; basically, it’s your ability to get things done. These processes are controlled by the frontal lobe, the same part of the brain that regulates voluntary movement. It’s no coincidence that after a period of intense mental focus, you often feel physically fatigued; your frontal lobe can only handle so much.

The human mind is not without limits. Like a muscle, brain function decreases when its energy has been depleted. Although your brain (and your biceps) can be trained to produce more power and to be more energy efficient, there are strict boundaries on executive function capacity. We’d all like to believe that we are only using 10% of our brain (that, by the way, is a myth), but in actuality, we only have so much cognitive horsepower and we are not working with a bottomless fuel tank. When one executive function task requires a significant amount of your brain’s computing power, that fuel tank isn’t magically topped off when the next complex decision needs to be made. And the latest research is beginning to show that it isn’t just particularly strenuous cognitive tasks that tax our mental bank accounts. Whether you just finished taking the GRE or deciding which flavor of protein powder to put in your oatmeal, every decision you make depletes your executive function aptitude stores. Other studies have shown that when people are suffering from decision fatigue, they often resort to more basic thought processes and are more apt to make decisions they would later regret. Theoretically, this is due to what is referred to as tradeoff resolution. The process of consciously examining different options, committing to one, and then implementing it is cognitively draining.

Life is all about decisions. We can’t go about our day refusing to make menial decisions in order to save that precious and limited executive functioning energy for the big ones, but there are two simple concepts we can all use to maximize cognitive efficiency and reduce decision fatigue.

Automate

We’ve probably all heard stories about successful people unfailingly eating the same thing for breakfast or even wearing the same clothing for years at a time. Along with his tenacious approach to branding and marketing wizardry, Steve Jobs became well known for the black turtleneck, blue jeans and New Balance® sneakers that he wore literally every day. Albert Einstein once said that he was probed more about his one gray suit than he was about general relativity. Automating those mundane daily tasks that aren’t that important, leaves more in the frontal lobe fuel tank for those decisions that are. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it; and by “fix it”, I mean change it. If a particular brand and cut of jeans looks good on you, there is nothing wrong with buying several pairs. Find a consistent meal plan so that going to the grocery store and deciding what’s for dinner doesn’t turn into a daily brain-drain. Don’t use that finite amount of executive function capacity deciding when to fit in your workout, schedule a set time to exercise daily and put it in your calendar. Get into consistent morning and bedtime routines so that each action becomes habit. If you think about it (but not too much), you could probably automate half of the mundane decisions you make on a daily basis. Variety is the spice of life, but spice can be (mentally) exhausting.

Multitasking is no-tasking

Your boss (and your spouse) isn’t going to like this one, but research has actually shown that multitasking is counterproductive. This isn’t some new theory, studies older than your parents have revealed that doing more than one task at a time places considerable demands on cognitive resources and results in decreased execution of each isolated task. Multitasking is actually a misnomer because how the brain handles several tasks at one time…well, it doesn’t really handle them. Your brain is actually repeatedly toggling between tasks and simultaneous processing never really occurs. Every additional task further interrupts neural processing, resulting in disrupted information encoding, storage, and making future retrieval of said information that much more difficult. If the competing tasks involve the same sensory modalities, ability to complete either one is further diluted. Attempting more than one task at a time is driving around an icy information racetrack on ragged tires, then blowing a hole in that executive function tank. The quickest way to walk that decision fatigue line is to attempt several attention-dependent tasks at one time. Focus on activities one at a time, complete one with all eight neural cylinders firing, and move onto the next.

We all make hundreds, even thousands, of decisions each day, all with varying degrees of significance and quantifiable mental capacity cost. Don’t let a surfeit of breakfast options effect your ability to make other, more important decisions. Avoid decision fatigue by automating and focusing on one task at a time.

Dr. Damian Rodriguez is the health and exercise scientist for doTERRA International, LLC. He holds a doctorate in health science, a master’s degree in exercise physiology, and countless professional certifications. He has spent most of his life researching nutrition, exercise, and the lifestyle behaviors associated with optimal health. Along with his passion for health, as someone who lives with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is also involved in bringing awareness to autism spectrum disorders. There are varying opinions about many health and fitness topics. His opinions are his own and not necessarily that of doTERRA International, LLC. Consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to diet and exercise.

No. Mo’. Phobia.

Modern “friendship.”

I’m that guy, the one who still has a flip phone and who has to get tips from his five-year-old about how to effectively use my Twitter account. The first time I used the internet, as a college freshman, I couldn’t help but think, “Yeah, this ain’t gonna last.” Technophobe, luddite, whatever you want to call me, technology and this faux world created by social media confuses me—even scares me a little. And there is no denying it, my lack of technology acumen has been a shortcoming in my career and has hindered social interactive experiences on many occasions. But, research is showing that this constant, no-boundaries, digital age connection can have its downsides too. Nomophobia, being without one’s smartphone, is one of the fastest growing anxiety disorders and can cause legitimate, real-life, health issues.

The statistics are dumbfounding . . . but considering you are likely reading this from your phone, maybe not so much. According to the Pew Research Center, the average smartphone user checks their phone over 150 times a day and most do not go a single waking hour without connecting. We take our phones almost every time we need to use the restroom and never go to bed without it in reach. Nearly 1/3 of adults admit to checking their phones while eating with others at a restaurant, and worse: while they are driving. Our psychological need to remain connected is so extreme that 73% of adults state that misplacing their phone is one the most panic-inducing events they can think of, causing more stress than rush hour traffic or even a sick child. This digital addiction has even spawned a new industry of smartwatches, so you can inconspicuously check your email or receive texts while still appearing to be focusing your attention on the colleagues you are meeting with or the movie you paid $15 to watch.

The time we spend connected and in front of a screen has, no doubt, changed how we interact, how we read, and our ability to comprehend. As someone who has extreme difficulty recognizing and understanding nonliteral and nonverbal communication cues due to a diagnosed neurological condition, this is actually quite amusing. Texting, instant messaging, tweeting: modern communication is essentially fostering the development of Autism Spectrum Disorder characteristics in neurotypical people. Google provides all the collective wisdom of mankind at our fingertips, available with a few mouse clicks, but has done a number on our attention spans and ability to focus. I know very well that if the paragraphs of this blog are too text heavy or if I don’t include any infographics, the chances of you reading it drop dramatically. Among the sites which I am a regular contributor to, our metrics show that video logs often receive ten times the views as do our written content, and I am often asked to explain highly complex scientific topics in under 200 words because the audience often will refuse to read an entire piece if they have to scroll down. Thanks to the phenomenon of “transactive memory,” in which we do not properly encode and store memories because we know that information is readily accessible through other means, research has shown that our short and long-term memories are suffering. Thanks again, Google. And, for those of us who have had the opportunity to sort through job resumes of late, “Twitter language” is a real thing and is an issue resulting in universities having to expand remedial writing courses.

This condition is actually resulting in quantifiable negative health outcomes. According to a 2014 study, hunching over to use your smart device can add up to 50 pounds of pressure on your spine and is resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of young people suffering from chronic back problems. Constant use of technological devices is one of the greatest risk factors for Occipital Neuralgia, a condition in which the nerves that run from the top of the spinal cord up through the scalp become perpetually compressed or inflamed, causing intense pain in the back of the head and neck. Recent polls suggest that nearly 2/3 of adults are now falling asleep with their phone or other device in their bed, a habit which research has shown can dramatically increase sleep deficiency. Very similar to carpal tunnel, “text claw” is the latest condition making many orthopedic surgeons wealthy. Constant use of phones can cause unavoidable cramping, tendon inflammation, and numbness and tingling in the elbow and fingers, which there currently is little treatment for. Maybe scariest of all, your constant connectivity may be curtailing your weight management efforts. One recent study found that those who spend at least five hours per day using their phones were much less likely to engage in regular exercise, had less aerobic endurance, and were heavier than their peers. And the effects were directly proportional to the time spent connected: each additional text or tweet reliably predicted a further decreased level of fitness.

Get rid of the phobia, redevelop an appreciation for the amazing capability of these pocket-sized technological marvels, and improve your health in three easy steps:

  1. Put down the phone and pick up a dumbbell.

Commit to putting the phone away for some part of the day, every day. Use this time to sneak in a workout. For further clarification; no, you don’t need YouTube to get a good workout, and the workout still counts even if you didn’t post pics, so leave the phone in the car or at home. Setting aside a specific daily time to unplug and sweat not only kills two birds with one stone, but also can help you structure the rest of your day. Try setting the tone for the day by doing it first thing in the morning, subconsciously telling yourself that exercise takes precedence over your email.

  1. Sleep alone.

Sleep is one of the most undervalued aspects of health. Research has associated sleep deprivation with everything from developing heart disease to increased cravings for junk food. Not only does heading to bed with our face in a screen keep our mind racing, making it that much more difficult to transition from the state of being awake to the non-rapid-eye-movement phases of sleep, but our smart devices emit “blue light.” When we are exposed at night to this artificial light, it is erroneously detected as sunlight by our brains, causing a decrease in melatonin secretion. Melatonin is the hormone that helps regulate our circadian rhythm and provides our sleeping cues. By making interaction with your phone part of your bedtime routine, you are sending a direct signal to your brain that it is time to wake up. Leave it downstairs or physically lock it up in your night stand an hour before you are ready to hit the sheets and sleep your way to better health.

  1. Intermittent fasting.

It’s the new thing. My social media feeds are filled with statements from e-friends declaring that they are challenging themselves to refrain from social media usage for a day or even a week. It’s ironic that their eventual return to the digital world is broadcasted with statements that their “fast” allowed them to focus more time on their loved ones, get more exercise, and get several things checked off the “honey-do list.” Take it a step further and totally unplug. An hour, a day, even a week—you’ll survive, those emails won’t disappear, and you’ll likely reenter the real world with a new perspective. For your well-being and the health of your relationships, make it a regular habit to consciously disconnect for longer periods of time and focus on the tangible components of your life.

Dr. Damian Rodriguez is the health and exercise scientist for doTERRA International, LLC. He holds a doctorate in health science, a master’s degree in exercise physiology, and countless professional certifications. He has spent most of his life researching nutrition, exercise, and the lifestyle behaviors associated with optimal health. Along with his passion for health, as someone who lives with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is also involved in bringing awareness to autism spectrum disorders. There are varying opinions about many health and fitness topics. His opinions are his own and not necessarily that of doTERRA International, LLC. Consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to diet and exercise.

Why Choose Linux VPS

 

One of the things that most people are going to need these days is web hosting. This is because a lot of people are creating websites for their business or they are creating their own websites just because they want to showcase their talents or their family. Whether the person wants a lot of people to come to their website or they just want to leave their mark on the Internet, they are going to need something like a cheap Linux host for hosting their website. That is why there are a lot of people who are looking for the cheap Linux host for their websites. One of the kinds of cheap Linux host is the Linux VPS hosting.

This is a kind of private virtual server where the person can install and update any kind of software that they want to have on their computer or website. It uses the Linux platform, the great operating system that’s open-source and free. This is why it’s thought to be among the easiest one that people can work with it when it comes to possible options for software and hosting.

Advantages of Hosting With the Linux VPS

When you’re examining these kinds of cheap Linux host, one of the many big advantages you are going to see it’s much less expensive when compared to other kinds of hosting, especially when you are using a cheap Linux host server. That’s even a lot more beneficial when you’re considering this kind of hosting on the w hole. VPS tend to be a lot more affordable as compared with dedicated servers, and you’ll still see a lot of those benefits that you’ll normally see when you’re using the dedicated server that you can actually see and touch. Additionally, this cheap Linux host’s completely independent from the machines on your hosting computer. Its security is also great as the other servers which people are renting.

The other benefits that this VPS type offers are because of Linux itself. It’s a lot friendlier on the resources of the system. As a matter of fact, Linux is going to use fifty percent of the resources for running the application that’s a lot like the one that’s on something like Windows. In addition, with Linux, there aren’t limitations that you have on other systems. This is because Linux is able to handle SSH, DNS, HTTP, FTP, and others. When you toss in the information hat Linux has a lot of different sizes and shapes, it’s really clear that a great choice for a lot of website owners is Linux.

How you can get the best of this kind of cheap Linux host

When you’re searching for the best one of this kind of cheap Linux host, you’re going to want to look around. The good news is that there are lots of choices when it comes to finding a cheap Linux host because people want to get your business. This won’t mean that you should just pick one at random. You should look at a few of the reviews sites and they’ll give you some great insight.

However, the review sites are going to do a lot more than simply tell you about the experiences with the cheap Linux host, although that’s the main reason why lots of people choose to read the reviews. The majority of them are also going to have coupons which are going to take some money off of what you’re going to pay monthly. This is great when you are looking for a cheap Linux host because that is going to bring the price down even more.

Using the websites can also help you with saving a lot of time, and this can add up easily when you’re searching for a cheap Linux host. Through having all those wonderful hosting websites on a list, you are able to narrow down your list somewhat before visiting the websites. Make sure to check out fatcow review for your next cheap web hosting. Even though this doesn’t seem like a lot, it’s going to be a huge one when you’re looking for companies who are offering website space. With all the companies, you have to streamline your process somewhat and that is what the review websites are going to do.

If you’re searching for a cheap Linux host, VPS is one the things you should consider. It’s going to provide you a lot of benefits. It’s going to be cheap, you can use it for just about anything, and it’s found almost anywhere. You will also be able to find the best one using the review sites. When you are using the coupons, you can even save some more money on your cheap Linux host. This is going to help you to save the money that you want to save on your Linux host and make a difference in the long run.

The Feds Just Cleared The Way For 5G, But Don't Hold Your Breath Waiting For It

The U.S. took the lead on cellular technology today when the Federal Communications Commission approved a plan making massive swaths of spectrum available for the next generation of wireless service, called 5G. Pushing the limits of physics, the promise of 5G is huge: data speeds from 10 to 100 times faster than what 4G offers (well over one gigabit per second for 5G) with virtually no lag, known as latency.

There will be some latency getting that technology into your hands, however, with some estimating that it could take up to 2020 just to settle on the standard, and then more time to get the technology into products. You sure won’t see 5G in the iPhone 7, expected in September. Think more about the iPhone 10, at best.

Think also about connected cars, refrigerators, drones—pretty much anything that has a battery or plug. The negligible latency might even enable a doctor in one location to operate on a patient in another location via Internet-connected robotic instruments. “If anyone tells you they know the details of what 5G will deliver, walk the other way,” said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler in a speech on June 20.

Also be wary of what cellular companies promise. Verizon has announced plans to offer 5G in 2017. South Korean carriers are aiming to have service in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. These will probably be limited, preliminary services that come out well before the technical standards have even been set.

What the FCC did today is open up an electromagnetic frontier of frequencies. Now it’s up to wireless companies to homestead the territory. The U.S. will be the epicenter for 5G, because it’s the first place in the world to open up the ultra-high frequencies that will make these data speeds possible: a massive swath of microwaves between 27.5GHz and 71 GHz. This is fundamentally different spectrum than what’s been used before, a range from around 600MHz to 3GHz. The FCC also just announced the intention to make another 18 GHz of spectrum available for 5G in the future.

These high frequencies were essentially considered garbage spectrum due to the technical challenges of making them useful. Today’s announcement by the U.S. about plans for 5G is a bit like its announcement in 1962 about plans to go the Moon. We know it’s technologically possible—once we invent the technology.

The benefit of these high frequencies is that their short wavelengths (a few millimeters) can squeeze in a huge amount of data. The downside is that they can’t carry it very far—as little as a few hundred feet, vs. miles for today’s 4G networks. These waves don’t go through walls nearly as well, either, making use in cities a potential nightmare.

But something has changed since the first cellular networks with their long-wavelength transmitters went up: The Internet is everywhere. It’s no longer far-fetched to imagine cellular transmitters on every block and even every floor of an office building. Wi-Fi already works that way in many places. And antenna technology is advanced enough to focus and direct the beams very precisely, possibly even to get them around obstacles.

Still, it’s going to take a while to build a meaningful amount of micro cells, as well as necessary backhaul: the high-speed wired (generally fiber optic) networks that connects them all to the Internet. Everyone may not be happy about these transmitters popping up all over the place. “Not in my backyard” protests might have to be expanded to include front yard and side yard. As part of its 5G plan, Wheeler said that, “the Commission has streamlined our environmental and historic preservation rules, and tightened our ‘shot clock’ for siting application reviews.” Environmental and historic preservation advocates may not be as sanguine.

For rural areas, where it’s uneconomical to put a cell on every block (if there even are blocks), the FCC is opening up low and midrange frequencies with very wide channels of at least 200 MHz to push through more data at once. Unlike previous cellular technologies that are assigned to fairly narrow ranges of frequencies, 5G is literally all over the spectrum.

The variety of frequencies that make 5G possible poses a final challenge: figuring out how everyone will use them. Some of that spectrum will be licensed. Companies will pay a fee for exclusive use of it, and auctioning off spectrum rights takes time. Other frequencies will be shared; companies will have to negotiate agreements to make that work. A big chunk will be unlicensed, meaning it’s continually up for grabs. That’s how Wi-Fi works; and as anyone trying to get online at a big event knows, it works terribly. Carriers will have to figure out much smarter ways for networks and devices to coordinate in order to avoid electromagnetic traffic jams. (Coincidentally, the US military’s DARPA is sponsoring a competition to develop better technologies for sharing the airways.)

In short, 5G is a very good thing, but good things take time.

Source: New feed

Watching Your Live Streams For Violence And Porn Is Now A Job For AI

Yesterday, a week after the girlfriend of Philando Castile broadcast the aftermath of his shooting by a police officer on Facebook Live, another live stream showing yet more violence began spreading on Facebook. A young black man listening to music with two friends in a car in Norfolk, Virginia, was broadcasting on Facebook Live when he and his cohorts were shot in a flurry of bullets. Unlike the first video, which was briefly taken off Facebook due to a “technical glitch,” the second video remained on the man’s Facebook page.

But as an increasing torrent of violent content is popping up in live streams, platforms like Facebook and Periscope are asking themselves what role they should have in choosing what their users see, and how exactly their teams of moderators will do that.

To the second question at least, platforms have one emerging idea: artificial intelligence.

“Being able to bounce porn inside livestreams or inside pre-recorded videos is already within the grasp of all the major tech companies,” says David Luan, founder of Dextro, a New York-based company that uses machine learning to make sense of video. Software like his is already being used to monitor video that’s both pre-recorded and live-streamed on services like Periscope, YouTube, and Facebook—all of which prohibit sexually explicit content. Luan says AI may be one reason why your feeds on those platforms feature little to no porn.

“We can already pick out when guns are present or when there’s a protest going on,” says Luan. And it can do it quickly. Luan says it takes his technology 300 milliseconds to determine what’s in a video once it hits their servers. That speed would be crucial for a platform like Facebook, with its 1.65 billion users, where live videos can quickly command an enormous audience.

In general, Luan says, image recognition has come a long way in the last two years. Companies like his use models and algorithms to identify concepts in streams as a way to help companies and users find the best content, or the section of a video they’re looking for. As such, artificial intelligence is becoming adept at perceiving objects in both images and video. Twitter’s AI team, known as Cortex, is using a large simulated neural network to determine what is happening in Periscope feeds in real time, in order to better recommend content to users.

And Facebook, which has already made big bets (and significant progress) in facial and object recognition in still images, and is working on a similar system for Live videos.

“One thing that is interesting is that today we have more offensive photos being reported by AI algorithms than by people,” Facebook’s director of engineering for applied machine learning, Joaquin Candela, told TechCrunch in March. “The higher we push that to 100%, the fewer offensive photos have actually been seen by a human.”

AI can even attach sentiment or overarching descriptions to images like “happiness” or “anger.” Clarifai, another company that uses machine learning to analyze video, can recognize 11,000 different concepts, which includes both objects and scene descriptions. Matthew Zeiler, the company’s founder and CEO, says that AI can detect fighting by homing in on, say, clenched fists in a physical fight. But focusing on weaponry can be more predictive, he says, “because we could see these weapons before they’re used.” Once artificial intelligence knows what it’s looking for, it can set off an action—like shutting down a stream, or alerting a moderator—if these elements arise.

While researchers have made significant progress in “teaching” computers to see things in still images, processing live video is much harder. At Twitter, the AI team effectively built a custom supercomputer made entirely of heavy-duty graphics processing units (GPUs) to perform the video classification.

AI is also hampered in understanding the context of a situation, Luan says. “You have things that are very contextual, like someone being heckled in a way that’s really inappropriate, but that depends upon understanding some key characteristics about the scene.”

For example, an algorithm would not understand the racial undertones of a black man breaking a stained glass window depicting slaves picking cotton at one at the nation’s most prestigious universities. Artificial intelligence also wouldn’t be able to understand the nuanced hate speech in the heated argument between a group of white teenagers and a man with tan skin that erupted on a tram in Manchester after the U.K. announced its planned exit from the European Union. That requires cultural and historical context that artificial intelligence isn’t capable of capturing, at least not yet.

But an algorithm would be able to spot the police officer’s gun pointed at Philando Castile bleeding out in the driver’s seat of his car in Diamond Reynolds’s Facebook Live broadcast. What a human moderator with that information would do next is less clear.

The extent to which Facebook uses AI to weed out bad content is unknown, but the moderation system is still mostly human. Once a user flags a widely viewed live stream or video, it’s sent to one of the company’s four moderation operations, in Menlo Park, Austin, Dublin, and Hyderabad, India. There, moderators are told to stop any live stream that’s in violation of Facebook’s community standards, which forbids threats, self-harm, “dangerous organizations,” bullying, criminal activity, “regulated goods,” nudity, hate speech, and glorified violence.

Among the live videos Facebook has stopped this year was one from Paris showed an ISIS sympathizer streaming threats after allegedly murdering a police commander and his partner, and a video from Milwaukee of three teenagers who filmed themselves having sex. Another stream, filmed by a man as he was murdered in daylight on a Chicago street, remains on the site.

Part of the reason human moderators are still necessary—and widely used—in moderation systems is because of what artificial intelligence can’t understand. While AI may be faster at finding indications of violence, humans can understand more complicated scenarios like the altercation between that tram passenger and those angry Manchester teens.

That may be changing. “The pace of development in AI as a whole is super exponential,” says Luan. Gesture recognition is rapidly improving, he says, and while artificial intelligence can’t see concealed weapons, by the end of the year it may be able to.

While the kinds of things that AI is able to turn up and moderate against is getting more refined, that doesn’t mean we’ll be able to do away with human filters altogether. At the end of the day content flagging by human users is a crucial component of any platform, because in aggregate those flags say a lot about the kind of content users want to see as a whole. Furthermore, human moderators provide a crucial role in determining what content has public interest value (“raises awareness” in Facebook’s words) and which doesn’t.

But Facebook isn’t always so clear about why it deems a video permissible or unacceptable. Perhaps as artificial intelligence moderation tools are able to take on more of the burden of moderation and their accuracy inspires a greater degree of confidence, it will give platforms like Facebook and Periscope the opportunity to be more thoughtful and transparent about their decision to take down a video or keep it up.

Source: New feed

Who's Using The iPad Pro At Work? Tattoo Artists

It’s 9:30 on a drizzly morning in San Francisco’s SOMA district, and the day is just getting going at Seventh Son Tattoo. As I sit on a leather couch at the front of the studio with tattoo artist David Robinson, staffers are coming in, coffee is being brewed, and floors are being swept.

One of the other artists is working with an early client; I can hear them talking quietly in the back, along with the sound of a tattoo machine. (They don’t call them “guns” or “pens” anymore.) Robinson is showing me some of his recent tattoo designs, but he has no paper sketches or Polaroids. Everything is on his iPad Pro.

Tattoo artists are making a gradual conversion to digital, and the iPad Pro is proving to be a catalyst for an industry that so far has only reluctantly let go of ink pens and sketch paper. Pen and paper, after all, has been where the art in tattoo art has originated. The iPad Pro, with the help of the Apple Pencil stylus and some advanced image processing software, may be the first affordable technology that feels authentic enough to move artists away from the familiarity of pen and paper.

Robinson has been using the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil combo since December, and it’s gradually become a game changer—or, more accurately, a job changer.

“When it first came out I thought it would be cool to draw on, but I don’t think I realized until I started using it how much more I could use it for,” he said. He’s using the device to both design tattoos and help clients visualize how the tattoos will look on their bodies.

Part of the iPad Pro’s appeal to tattoo artists is simple: The larger version of the device has a huge 12.9-inch touch-screen display—about the size of a magazine—so there’s room to stretch out and do more detailed designs. (There’s also a model in the iPad’s traditional 9.7-inch size.) The design software has gotten better, too. Robinson uses a made-for-iPad app called Procreate, which, while not as feature-rich as Photoshop, contains many of the same basic attributes like layering and a wide variety of pens and brushes. Autodesk’s Sketchbook app is also widely used.

The iPad’s Role in the Process

For Robinson and others in the tattoo trade, the iPad has become a central workspace for the artist and the client. Artists use it to rough out designs both during and after the first in-person meeting with the client.

“[The iPad] has allowed me to draw my sketches directly onto an image of the body part that would be tattooed upon,” says Delaware-based artist Fred Giovannitti. Robinson says that base body image is sometimes emailed from the client, and sometimes taken by the artist in the studio at the first meeting.

The image is then typically loaded into the iPad where it occupies a layer in the image-processing app (like Procreate). The artist can then sketch tattoo ideas on another layer over the body image. Or, as Giovannitti points out, the client will often have sample images of the desired design, which can also be imported into a layer and used as a guide for the design.

For some clients, there may be more than one of these “anchor images.” A “sleeve” tattoo, for example, may comprise three distinct images, each to be placed on a different part of the arm and each occupying a different layer in Procreate.

Tattoo artist Fred Giovannitti sketches a tattoo design with his iPad Pro.

From here, Giovannitti uses the Pencil in Procreate to tie the images together in a cohesive way. “I will use a brush or pencil tool to figure out how I will use an organic flow to tie all the images together into on composition tailored for a three-dimensional canvas,” he explains.

No Tattoo Remorse

Judging by the popularity of laser tattoo removal, it’s clear that many, many people end up regretting their tattoos. Cutting down on this “tattoo remorse” might be one of the iPad’s biggest values to both artist and client. Clients naturally have some anxiety about the final result of the work; after all, a tattoo is more or less permanent. The iPad lets the client see both the aesthetic and the placement of the tattoo in the context on the affected body part before any ink flows.

Robinson said this is particularly important to people getting tattoos that cover large areas of the body, or to people who already have lots of tattoos. “Where you have a person who wants to fit a tattoo in between two tattoos that are already there, you can just take a picture of that empty space and have it fit in there exactly,” he told me. Visualizing a new tattoo on the iPad allows him to make quick sizing and positioning tweaks to make the design fit better.

Other clients come to Robinson hoping to carefully cover over an old tattoo that’s been lasered off. Even after a laser treatment, the faint outlines of the old tattoo are often still visible, and the coloration of the skin in the area is different. So the new tattoo’s lines and coloration must be perfectly placed to cover over the old tattoo.

The image of the tattoo design is superimposed over a photograph of the appropriate body part to give the client a clear idea of the result. The tattoo has been carefully placed to harmonize with an existing tattoo.

Toward a Finished Design

After Giovannetti has sat with a client, he instantly stores his consultation notes and sketches to the iPad. “Post-consultation, the digital process allows me more time to elaborate on the artwork [and] create a more complete and detailed version of the sketch that I can instantly email to my client for further approval,” he says. “This all helps to build the client’s anticipation and enthusiasm towards the project.”

Robinson usually meets with the client in person only once before they come in for the tattoo. In the meantime he works on his sketches of the tattoo on the iPad. He says he doesn’t like to send the client too many previews of the design, because it often leads to the client overthinking the idea or collecting too many opinions from other people.

For Robinson, the iPad sketching goes on up until the very last step in the design process. But he, like others, returns to the paper medium for the last steps before applying the tattoo.

“What I feel [the iPad] is used best for is getting the concept down—all your sketching, the layout of the tattoo, placement, and all that kind of stuff,” Robinson says. “Get that all dialed in, and do your final crisp line drawing on paper.”

Then, on the day of the tattoo, he reviews the final line drawing with the client. Any last-minute changes can be made on the iPad then and there.

When a stencil is needed to apply a complex design to the skin, Giovannitti traces out the lines of each layer of the design in Procreate. In the end, this creates a final, two-dimensional line drawing. But before the line drawing can be sent out to a thermal printer, it must first make a stop at his laptop, where he uses Photoshop to get the sizing of the stencil drawing just right.

“This has to be done because I have yet to find a drawing app with ruler guides to size my image to the very specific size it needs to be,” Giovannitti says. “For example, if the the face design has to be exactly 4.5 inches from forehead to chin, the only way to do it is in an app with real-time rulers that will translate to the printer.”

The thermal printout is fed into a special machine that makes the stencil drawing, which then transfers the line drawing to the body part being tattooed. Once transferred to the skin, the lines provide the map Giovannitti follows with the tattoo machines. He may also free-form draw some additional lines to the skin with a marker.

So the iPad Pro doesn’t entirely digitize the art of giving tattoos—paper is still used in some crucial parts of the process. But the device does provide an important focal point for collaboration between the artist and the client, which creates more transparency and may cut down on tattoo remorse later on.

Sketching With Apple Pencil

Robinson says it took him a little while to get used to sketching on the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil. Unlike paper (and unlike the screens of other tablets he’s tried) the iPad’s screen is a large piece of glass with no texture—it’s completely smooth. So the tip of the Pencil moves more freely over the iPad surface than a real pen moves over paper.

But as he did it more, Robinson says it began to feel more natural. “It looks like a sketch, and it feels like you’re sketching.” Apple says when the iPad Pro senses the Pencil, it scans the stylus’s signal at a rate of 240 times per second—twice as fast as it scans a finger touching the screen. This eliminates almost all the delay between the touch of the Pencil to the screen and the appearance of the line it’s drawing.

Robinson says the pressure sensitivity of the Pencil further contributes to the “natural” feeling of drawing. When the user presses down hard on the screen, the Pencil makes a hard, dark line; when he exerts very little pressure it produces a light line. Procreate allows users to control the range of light to dark as it relates to the range of pressure that can be applied.

The Pencil weighs about three quarters of an ounce. “It’s actually heavier than a lot of the pens we use, but I kind of like it,” Robinson says.

Savage Interactive, which makes Procreate, says all of the 128 brushes in its app now take advantage of the Apple Pencil’s pressure and tilt, which creates shading like the side of a pencil.

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Less Stuff

For many tattoo artists, the iPad represents the first time much of their work has been digitized.

In general, the introduction of the iPad in the tattoo process eliminates a lot of paper. “We’re not running to the copy machine so much,” Robinson said. “If we want to flip a drawing or invert it, we just tap a button and we can do it on [the iPad], instead of trying to print it out and resize it.”

Having everything stored on the iPad or in the cloud also reduces the amount of stuff tattoo artists have to carry when they travel. This is a big deal for Giovannitti, who travels from his Delaware home to Las Vegas every month to ink.

Same for Robinson, who just spent a week working in San Diego. “All I had to bring was my iPad and all my reference materials were in there—everything I needed was either on the iPad or on a Google Drive account,” he says. “Before, I would have to bring my tracing paper, sketchbooks, masking tape, all the books I would need.” Robinson said. “My backpack would just be loaded.”

A purist might say the iPad removes some of the art from tattooing. Robinson and Giovannitti would tell you there’s just as much art in the process as ever, it’s just moved to a different medium.

And the iPad Pro certainly isn’t the only option on the market for tattoo artists. Some artists opt for a (more expensive) Wacom tablet. The Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 (with pen stylus) costs $2,500. Wacom tablets run various kinds of design software, such as one of the Clip Studio products from the Japanese graphics software company Celsys.

The 12-inch iPad Pro, on the other hand, starts at $799 for a model with 32 GB of storage and Wi-Fi and ranges up to $1,299 for one with 256 GB of storage and both cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity. The Pencil stylus is $99. Procreate costs $6 at the App Store.

The iPad Pro’s (relatively) low price point might let many artists reap the rewards of digitization for the first time—without losing too much of the artistic feel traditionally associated with pen and paper.

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Nest Launches A Stylish New Outdoor Version Of Its Nest Cam

Turns out large numbers of Nest security camera users point their devices through a window toward the outside, so the company took the clue and built the Nest Cam Outdoor. The new camera is basically a Nest Cam wrapped in a stylish weatherproof container. It sells for the same $199 price as the Nest Cam Indoor, as the company now calls it. It is the company’s first product in a year, a turbulent period that saw the recent departure of its charismatic founder Tony Fadell, who was replaced by former Motorola Home executive Marwan Fawaz.

Like the Nest Cam, the outdoor version also gives a wide 130-degree view and can stream 1080p HD video. A Night Vision mode illuminates the whole scene with eight LED lights. Nest Cam Outdoor has both a microphone and a speaker, making it a sort of intercom system when paired with a smartphone running the Nest app.

With the new camera comes a new software feature called Person Alerts, which uses computer vision technology to detect people in the camera’s field of view. In the demo video, a suspicious person ventures up onto a user’s porch, looks around, and checks the front door. The owner’s voice is then heard issuing from the camera’s speaker, saying, “Hey what do you want?” causing the stranger to turn and leave in a hurry. In another scene a postman shows up in the camera’s view, looks into the lens and says, “Hi, I have a package for you.” The owner, talking through the camera’s speaker, tells the postman to leave the package in the back of the house.

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The owner was alerted to those unexpected visitors (one potentially dangerous and one not) when the Nest Cam sent an alert through the app. Person Alerts, Nest says, will become available in September, and then only to users with Nest Aware cloud video archiving subscriptions.

By the sound of things, the Person Alerts feature is just the start of Nest’s plans for computer vision. “Person Alerts are the first of a new generation of intelligent alerts from Nest that leverage Google’s expertise in machine learning and powerful algorithms to deliver deeper insights to customers about what’s happening at home,” says the company, which was acquired by Google in 2014 and is now an Alphabet company.

The Nest Cam Outdoor comes with an extra-long 25-foot power cable that can extend to a nearby outdoor power outlet. The cable can be painted to match the wall siding. The camera itself can attach to an outside metal surface (like a rain gutter) with a powerful magnetic base (included).

Nest Cam Outdoor will hit store shelves this fall in the U.S. and Canada. A two-pack will be available later for $348. The Nest Aware subscriptions cost $10 for a 10-day subscription or $30 for a 30-day subscription. Additional cameras cost extra.

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Why The Chatbot Wars Won't Be Like iOS Vs. Android

Creating a new mobile app used to begin with a simple question: iOS or Android?

And if you believe the hype about chatbots (intelligent helpers that users can summon via instant message), the decision is about to get much more complicated. Tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and Slack are all opening up bot platforms within their messaging services, letting users read the news, shop online, hail an Uber, and get customer service within a messaging window. The idea is to allow for quick interactions that don’t require installing a full-blown app.

But even as these companies build up their chatbot armies, we’re probably not headed for another bitter ecosystem war, like the one that led to the dominance of iOS and Android. Instead, we’re likely to have lots of bot-infused messaging services living together in harmony for years to come. Here are a few reasons why:

1. It’s Easy To Be Everywhere

At least for now, the best chatbots don’t try to accomplish too much, says Brendan Bilko, head of product at Dexter, a company that offers bot creation tools and also builds some bots on behalf of larger clients. Bilko believes that chatbots should focus on being good at a single task, which in turn makes them easier to port across different messaging services.

“Because they’re simple enough, we have the flexibility to go cross-platform,” he says.

It helps that compared to building an app, making a chatbot is fairly simple, Bilko says. Bot developers don’t have to worry about creating full menu systems, artwork, and animations because a lot of that overhead is replaced by a messaging window.

“When you’re building an app for iOS . . . it’s a blank canvas,” Bilko says. “With these messaging platforms, everything’s very much templatized, so the content is what’s speaking to users more than the UI is.”

While chatbot platforms will inevitably become more complex, most of the work to create them may still happen outside of any particular messaging service. That’s been the case with Mosaic, a chatbot that controls various smartphone devices through Slack, Facebook Messenger, SMS, and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.

Sumang Liu, Mosaic’s CEO and cofounder, says most of the company’s efforts go toward building those integrations and correctly interpreting natural language. So when the user saysm “I’m hot”—a statement with several potential meanings—Mosaic knows to turn down the user’s Nest thermostat.

“From our experience, the heavy-lifting work is on the back end,” Lui says. “Plugging into chatbots is just creating an interface. Interface is very important, but Facebook makes it relatively easy for developers to do that.”

2. Different Messengers Serve Different Needs

With smartphone apps, developers gravitated toward iOS and Android—and away from alternatives like Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10—because of market share. Messaging is different because there are so many large-scale platforms already, and as developers experiment, they may discover that some messaging platforms are better suited for their bots than others.

Bilko discovered this himself while working with a business client to build a set of bots for Slack, Facebook Messenger, and SMS. Going in, the client assumed that the Slack version would see the most use. In fact, usage on Facebook Messenger was seven times greater. That client is now investing entirely in building bots for Messenger.

“Initially, it’s kind of figure out what works, see what piece of pasta sticks to the wall, and then go from there,” Bilko says.

Even if the same bot is available on multiple platforms, the experience on each one may differ. With the group shopping bot Kip, for instance, the Slack version focuses on coordinating purchases with a team of employees, so they can purchase lunch together or have an office manager authorize a supply order.

But with the messaging app Kik, users are much younger, and tend not to have any purchasing power. As such, Kip’s chatbot highlights the wish-list function, which users can fill out for their parents.

“It might be the same technology, but . . . we’ll highlight different sets of features,” says Rachel Law, Kip’s cofounder and CEO.

3. Multiple Users Require Multiple Messengers

Some chatbots, like Kip, are collaborative by nature. And in those cases, requiring all users to work with a single messaging service would be a major limitation.

Beyond group shopping bots like Kip, Law points to gaming as one example. A multiplayer game, played via text, might not be as popular if it’s confined to one platform. “You’d be limiting yourself to one group of players, as opposed to having players on Facebook, having players on Line, and having players on Kik,” Law says.

The same is true, she adds, with bots that involve scheduling. Requiring everyone to use Skype, for instance, would be a poor strategy for a chatbot that’s trying to coordinate meetings with multiple people. “You need it to be cross-platform, otherwise it won’t work, because you’re limiting your user base to one group of users,” Law says.

There may even be some scenarios where a single user wants to interact with a chatbot in different apps. That’s one reason Mosaic has supported Facebook, SMS, Slack, and Alexa.

“There are a lot of differences between platforms in terms of chatbots—their form factors, their interaction, their power varies a lot,” Mosaic’s Liu says. “But from a customer’s perspective, they just want to access the most convenient entrance at their most convenient moment.”

Still, all this work creating chatbots across different messaging platforms does introduce some unique headaches. As Law points out, all of the major chatbot platforms are constantly adding new features for developers to take advantage of. And with so many platforms to deal with, making sure they’re all running properly can be a hassle.

For that issue, Kip has come up with a novel solution: Every morning, a bot runs a quick check on every platform Kip supports, asking if each respective bot is alive or dead.

“We made a bot,” Law says, “for our bots.”

related video: Facebook Wants To Win At Everything, Including Artificial Intelligence

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