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Category Archives: Software

RoboDevelopment: ViPR Visual Pattern Recognition

ViPR

By Evan Ackerman

Even though the RoboDevelopment Conference was primarily about, well, robots, there was a lot of potential crossover technology that has huge applications for consumer electronics. One of the most impressive of these that I saw was the ViPR pattern recognition technology, under development by Evolution Robotics. ViPR uses a camera (like the one you probably have in your cellphone) to look for distinctive patterns in an image. For example, a piece of text would be a distinctive pattern of pixels that the software could then translate into a meaningful letter. But the technology goes way beyond that: whenever you see something, your brain is recognizing a distinctive pattern of light and saying “hey, that’s a tree!” or “hey, I’m in my living room!” Your brain can do this even if it’s seeing only a piece of an object, or seeing a place from a different perspective. ViPR is capable of making the same sort of inferences. It works with >80% accuracy at recognizing objects or places, even when it’s dark or when it has to deal with distortion. It can identify an object when up to 90% of the object isn’t visible. Basically, this lets electronics “see” in a meaningful manner, much in the same way that we do.

Applications for the ViPR system are everywhere. The military is using it to look for guys holding RPGs, since an RPG has a distinctive visual pattern that ViPR can identify, even if the RPG is being held at an angle and partially concealed at a distance in low light. Current commercial uses (in Europe, mostly) include ViPR acting as a tour guide on your cellphone: take a picture of a landmark, and your cellphone will recognize it and provide information. What I’d personally like to see is the integration of ViPR with Google Street View to provide a highly accurate urban pseudo-GPS system. All you would do would be to take a picture of where you were, the ViPR system would query Google’s Street View database and find a matching pattern, and you’d get your location back. Easy, right? Well, they’re working on it… They just need to get some major companies (cough Google cough) actively interested.

[ Evolution Robotics ViPR ]

Smart Image Resizing Cuts The Useless Out Of Your Pics

smart image resizing By Evan Ackerman

Like it or not, most of the time when you take a picture, a significant portion of the image is (for lack of a better word) useless. Or rather, there are lots of areas of the image that aren’t conveying any important information. Obviously this excludes you artsy-picture types, but if you’re just trying to show and/or explain something (which most of the images on the Internet, excluding porn, are probably trying to do) wouldn’t it be useful if you could make images smaller by selectively removing the least important pixels? Ariel Shamir of the Efi Arazi School of Computer Science in Israel has developed some software to automatically do just that, in realtime no less. Watch and be amazed:

So it’s obviously still a work in progress, but it’s already pretty clever and seems to have a working automated mode as well as a decent user interface. What with the population of itty bitty mobile devices capable of Internet browsing exploding like a rabbit warren underneath a Viagra factory, a little piece of software that can work behind the scenes to dynamically re-size images (in the same way that HTML dynamically re-sizes) could have a huge range of applications.

[ Content-Aware Image Resizing (PDF) ] VIA [ Neatorama ]

Symantec Wants To Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse

symantec

By David Ponce

Oh, it’s a joke. But how true.

[ B3ta Boards ] VIA [ Digg ]

Safari Second-Guesses You When Setting Homepage To Google

safari google prompt

By David Ponce

Fun little piece of non-news: If you’re using Apple’s Safari, changing your homepage to any website in the world is a breeze; but if that site is Google, the browser throws this prompt at you:

“Are you sure you want to switch your home page to Google search? You can do a Google search directly from Safari’s search field without going to Google’s webpage.”

Of course, the likely reason this is happening is that Apple gets paid every time someone does a search through Safari’s search field, but it’s interesting behavior nonetheless.

It’s possible that this has been around for some time (and we hear it does the same thing with Yahoo!), but it’s the first we hear of it.

VIA [ The Raw Feed ]

Hot Or Not Composite Images

composite attractiveness

By David Ponce

It’s far removed from gadgets, but crap if it isn’t fascinating. An enterprising Flickr user by the name of Pierre Tourigny has been scouring the website Hot Or Not for pictures of women. There’s plenty of that, and then some. But what Pierre then did with the pictures is what’s so amazing. He grouped them by average attractiveness (users of the site get to rate the pictures they see), and then blended them together using a program called SquirtzMorph. The result is the image you see above.

He claims he did this as a study on attractiveness, but we just think we was having fun. Can’t blame him either. He also grouped and morphed images based on age and ethnicity, and you can see those two pictures after the jump.

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Oki Electric To Release Iris Recognition For Any Cellphone That Can Run Its Software

oki iris recognition By David Ponce

Whether it’s the result of a CNN induced institutional paranoia or the consequence of real tangible threats, most people these days are concerned with protecting their privacy. And one of the devices that holds the most personal data is a cellphone, so it stands to reason that some people would take to locking their phone with a password. Passwords however are so Mobile 1.0. All the rage these days is with biometrics, and a company called Oki Electric has announced the development of iris recognition technology that uses a cellphone’s regular camera, as opposed to the company’s previous offerings, which required an IR camera.

They plan to release their product in March 2007, and once installed on a compatible phone, should allow the users to unlock the device only when in the presence of the right set of eyes. The technology is allegedly very accurate, with error rates of 1 in 100,000. It is also able to distinguish between real eyes, and photographs. However, rather than seeking a better way to secure the data on phone, the company is looking to boost the security of phone based payment systems, which, if you ask us, is as good a reason as any.

[Press Release] VIA [Pink Tentacle]

HP’s Digital Slimming Effect

digital slimming hp

By David Ponce

Being horizontally challenged is not easy. I’d know. I had to lose 50 pounds, once. It was less fun than watching dry paint get dryer. But you know something? I’m glad I lost it; I didn’t just give up and give in to the sweet, sweet call of delicious fried chicken. And to me, there seems to be something oddly fatalistic about HP’s new “Slimming” feature found in some digital camera models; it’s something that says “Can’t lose weight? Take the digital way out!” You know you’ve lost control over a part of your life when you start finding features, in gadgets, that help you deal with it.

But anyway, it works like this.

You take a picture, and then, right from the camera, you can apply some post-processing. Among the many options, like “Vintage”, “Soft Glow” and such, you can find one that says “Slimming”. Select that, and then proceed to squash your subject. You can control the degree of distortion, presumably so you don’t end up looking like an unnatural spaghetti.

The feature is available on 7 different models, like the M628 and M527.

[HP Digital Camera Slimming] VIA [FayerWayer]

A Windows Themed House

windows house

By David Ponce

The endless possibilities for Microsoft jokes have caused a serious case of writer’s block. I believe it senseless that I should have spent the best part of a quarter hour looking for something smart to say about this. So, I’ll say nothing more than this: here you have a picture of someone, unidentified, who likes Microsoft Windows so much… he went and added a Windows theme to his house. Yes, we’re aware the picture was in this month’s PC Mag, but we didn’t read it, and we don’t know who this fellow is.

So, there you have it. A Window’s themed house.

VIA [Gadgetblog.it]

Tengo Free Promises To Turn You Into Crazy Speedtyper

tengo free logoBy David Ponce

This is an amazing piece of software for your pocket PC or Palm that promises to improve your typing speed severalfold. It uses a clever combination of predictive text input, and six large buttons, each containing a portion of the alphabet, all arranged QWERTY style. Simple as that. Simply press each button that contains the letter you want once, and type in your word. Having six large buttons means your accuracy is improved, and consequently your typing speed.

How fast can you type? Well, if you come inside, you can watch a somewhat freaky video of a Japanse Singaporean/Malaysian (my apologies) lady typing at 72wpm.

The best part? It’s free! The company also offers an enhanced version (nicer UI, more words in the dictionary), which goes between $13 and $25 depending on the device you’ll use it on.

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