субота, 05. октобар 2013.

1.26 billion Facebook profiles become a clickable monument to humanity


"Creative Technologist" Natalia Rojas has mapped the profile photos of Facebook's 1,267,191,915 (and counting) users on just one web page. "The Faces of Facebook" is organized from top left to bottom right by the date each user joined Facebook, and in total creates a glitchy, vibrant, and awe-inspiring image. By clicking the location symbol and plugging in your Facebook credentials, you can pinpoint your place in the colorful mess, as well as the place of all your Facebook friends. Rojas doesn't offer much of an artist statement about her latest project, aside from one observation reminiscent of Carl Sagan's thoughts on seeing "Pale Blue Dot," a famous image of Earth taken by the Voyager 1 probe. She writes, "There we are, all mixed up: large families, women wearing burkas, many Leo Messis, people supporting same-sex marriages or r4bia, chihuahuas, Indian Gods, tourists pushing the leaning Tower of Pisa, selfies, newborns, Ferraris," and more. She almost seems to say that despite all our differences, we can all still fit inside one space, and in aggregate, look very much one and the same.

NASA's tiny glowing plane shows the future of flight in fluorescent oil


NASA built a toy-sized model of a hybrid wing plane, coated it in fluorescent oil, and put it in an ultra-fast wind tunnel. Why? Because it's a federally funded center housing some of the world's brightest minds, and that's the kind of thing it gets to do. This image shows a 5.8 percent scale model of one of NASA's plane prototypes coated with a glow-in-the-dark liquid before being blasted with air. The patterns the liquid takes informs scientists of the plane's profiles of lift and drag, and shows how efficient a flight it's capable of. NASA has been particularly focused on that flight efficiency in recent years. They've partnered with companies such as Boeing to create new aeronautic designs that aim to make long-haul flying cheaper and more comfortable. The fact that they've produced a mesmerizing, psychedelic image in the process is just a bonus on the way to faster, easier air travel.

Apple's more valuable than Coke as tech consumes pop culture


The latest edition of an influential annual report sees technology companies further staking their claim to some of the world's most important brands. Interbrand now names Apple as the most valuable brand in the world, with Google in second place; Coca-Cola, which took the top spot in all thirteen previous reports, must settle for third. IBM and Microsoft round out the top five, and Samsung switched places with Intel to come in at eighth. Facebook is the biggest riser in 2013, jumping to 52nd place from last year's 69th. "Tech brands continue to dominate Interbrand's Best Global Brands report," the consultancy firm said in a press release, "underscoring the fundamental and invaluable role they play in consumers' lives." Apple's brand is valued at $98.3 billion The report is based on a number of factors including financial performance, customer loyalty, and the role each brand plays in a purchasing decision. Through this, Interbrand issues a valuation of each brand: Apple's is $98.3 billion, Google's $93.3 billion, and Coca-Cola's $79.2 billion. Certain major brands that might have been expected to make an appearance don't match Interbrand's criteria — the BBC doesn't issue enough financial information to analyse, for example, and brands such as those owned by Walmart and telecoms companies don't have enough global reach. "Few brands have enabled so many people to do so much so easily, which is why Apple has legions of adoring fans, as evidenced by the record-breaking launch of the iPhone 5C and 5S," says the report. "For revolutionizing the way we work, play, and communicate — and for mastering the ability to surprise and delight — Apple has set a high bar for aesthetics, simplicity, and ease of use that all other tech brands are now expected to match, and that Apple itself is expected to continually exceed." Ashley Brown, Coca-Cola's group director for digital communications and social media, addressed Apple and Google's success with magnanimity on Twitter. Congrats #Apple and #Google. Nothing lasts forever, and it's nice to be in such stellar company http://t.co/dDfDdpFI4p #1brand — Ashley Brown (@iamashbrown) September 30, 2013 Nokia falls to 57th, BlackBerry drops off completely Although technology companies dominate the top 10 with six spots, the rest of the list is more balanced; in fact, car companies including Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW account for the most places, with 14 out of 100 assigned to the "automotive" sector. Fast-moving consumer goods companies such as Gillette occupy 12 spaces, the same number as the technology industry. The lines are somewhat blurry, however — Amazon is classified solely as a retailer, for example, and IBM is considered a business services brand. And the report is far from universally positive for the technology industry; Nokia tumbled from 19th place to 57th, and BlackBerry fell off the list completely. But the biggest revelation in the list is the astonishing growth in brand recognition and value shown by both Apple and Google over recent years. Coca-Cola grew just two percent since the 2012 list, against 34 percent for Google and 28 percent for Apple. Other technology companies in the top ten had mixed fortunes: Microsoft has been relatively flat in the past decade, but Samsung displayed impressive growth of 20 percent to earn its eighth-place spot. Interbrand puts this down to the company's "innovative products" and a "massive" $4 billion spent on marketing — four times Apple's advertising outlay.

'Breaking Bad' cinematographer thanks Netflix and cheap HDTVs for show's success


Michael Slovis is Breaking Bad's cinematographer. He's the man responsible for the show's striking visual style: its filmic landscapes, its lingering timelapses, and its trademark perspective shots. And what does Slovis say allowed him to imbue Breaking Bad with its own distinct aesthetics? Cheap HDTVs. Slovis thanked the increased take-up of the technology in an interview with Forbes. "It just so happened that during the last seven years, widescreen televisions became affordable. And HD became the norm. Now people could see what we were doing and we didn't have to tell stories in the old style of closeup [then another] closeup." Perhaps more important to Breaking Bad's overall success, Slovis says, was the rise of digital video recorders and Netflix. The cinematographer argues that Breaking Bad's audience grew because people were "able to binge view and catch up." Show creator Vince Gilligan has agreed in the past, saying Netflix provided Breaking Bad with an "amazing nitrous-oxide boost of energy and general public awareness." "We didn't have to tell stories in the old style" Slovis also celebrated the show's recording format. Breaking Bad's one of the few modern shows to have been recorded on 35mm film, a hardware choice that means Sony can transfer episodes from 2K to 4K as television technology becomes more affordable: "something," Slovis notes, "you can't do with shows that are shot digitally." The full interview goes into more detail on how the cinematographer imagined, lit, and shot Walter White's descent into badness, and explains why the show's perspective camera shots are like toppings on a sundae.

Terra Motors' electric scooter is a $4,500 iPhone accessory


Part-time fugitive and antivirus software founder John McAfee has a new invention he's working on. After spending some of his time filming a drug-fueled video tutorial to uninstall the antivirus program he helped create, McAfee now believes he can outsmart the NSA. Speaking at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center on Saturday, McAfee unveiled his grand plan to create a "D-Central" gadget that communicates with smartphones, tablets, and laptops to create decentralized networks that can't be accessed by government agencies. The gadget might sound like something straight out of a Bond movie, but McAfee wants to build it and sell it for less than $100. "There will be no way [for the government] to tell who you are or where you are," McAfee says. Effectively, it works by creating small private networks that act as a dark web that's inaccessible to others. McAfee says he has been planning the technology for a few years, but work on the project has intensified "rapidly" over the past few months. It's not designed to replace the internet, instead it provides a localized dynamic network where users can communicate in private and share files. McAfee will sell D-Central even if it gets banned in the US McAfee explains the device is localized and has a range of around three blocks. Everyone in those three blocks can then communicate with each other and that will obviously change as users move in and out of a local area. McAfee says he's around six months away from a prototype device, and the current one is a round shape with no screens. "We have the design in place, we're looking for partners for development of the hardware," he explains. The whole project may never make it to retail shelves though, especially if concerns over its use result in a ban. McAfee answered questions over its criminal use by comparing D-Central to the telephone network. "Of course it will be used for nefarious purposes, just like the telephone is used for nefarious purposes." If the device gets banned in the US, McAfee says he'll simply "sell it in England, Japan, the Third World." While McAfee claims he has developed unique encryption that "the NSA won't get into it," the main use for such a gadget might be at college campuses across the US. Napster rose to fame in the 90s when it used peer-to-peer technology to make sharing MP3s quick and easy. McAfee's gadget could be used widely to share files at colleges, making it difficult for authorities to police. "I cannot imagine any college student not standing in line to buy one of these," he claims. While the NSA claims are bold, McAfee is only outlining its use at a high level right now. A clock is ticking on his D-CentrNo electric vehicle is more iconic than Tesla Motors' Model S, and none of its features are more notorious than the colossal 17-inch touchscreen that replaces many of the traditional buttons and knobs found on your regular car dashboard. The Verge's Chris Ziegler wasn't too impressed with the interface when he took the Model S for a spin, finding it overbearing and unreliable. But what if you could bring your own touchscreen to an electric vehicle, providing more useful information while keeping the standard controls intact? That's the idea being pushed by Terra Motors, a Japanese startup that says it's created the first "sophisticated" electric scooter to enter mass production. The A4000i looks more or less like any other moped, but its spartan dashboard features a conspicuously iPhone-sized slot for you to insert your phone. Once connected over Bluetooth and running Terra's app, the phone will display information such as the current battery charge and information about the trip. Although it's not ready yet, Terra is also developing its own navigation software to be used with the scooter, and plans to include the option to upload GPS data to the cloud to assist cities in congestion management. Terra is looking to beat the likes of Tesla to market Shinpei Kato, director of Terra's business development unit, tells me that there's little precedent for a "premium" scooter in the nascent electric vehicle industry, and his company is looking to beat the likes of the similarly named Tesla to market. Terra aims to ship 10,000 units by the end of 2013, and 100,000 in the next two to three years. Unlike Tesla, however, Terra is aiming the A4000i primarily at emerging markets such as Southeast Asia. The quiet scooter is also being positioned as a good choice for newspaper delivery in Japanese urban environments. At 450,000 yen (about $4,500), one of the world's most expensive iPhone accessories wouldn't necessarily seem the most obvious fit for the streets of Hanoi. But Kato says there's a growing number of people — "the top 2-3 percent" — in such countries that would be able to afford it, and the iPhone connection lends the A4000i cachet as a "high-end personal transport device." The idea is that both smartphones and scooters are status symbols, and the combination of both will be much more desirable than previous mopeds. And, while the current model's dashboard will only fit the iPhone, Terra plans to ship an adjustable console next year to accommodate Android devices. The iPhone app is limited right now, but perhaps that's for the best; even with a high-contrast black-on-white UI and a matte screen protector on the iPhone, it's very difficult to read the display in direct sunlight. For that reason, Terra has also included a simple monochrome LCD display to show readouts for more critical information such as speed, and the scooter's main controls aren't any different from those of a gas-powered equivalent. The iPhone integration, as such, is more of a curio at this point than a crucial part of the driving experience. Pick up a charged battery at 7-11 The A4000i's most useful feature may be its battery design, however. The pack is slim, reasonably lightweight, and slots easily into a bay located beneath the scooter's seat. It gives the scooter a range of around 65 kilometers (40 miles) and takes two to three hours to charge, but Kato says its real strength is the easily swappable design. While Tesla is planning expensive, complex pack-swapping technology to build out its Model S network, Terra is working with partners to let customers pick up charged batteries at regular stops. Kato says there is interest from 7-11 and Japanese convenience store giant FamilyMart, and the initiative is designed to combat the lack of charging infrastructure in Japan and Asia. And when it comes to performing on a basic level, the A4000i seems more than competent — in action, it's smooth, virtually silent, and surprisingly fast off the blocks. Its top speed of 65 kph (40 mph) won't set any records, but it accelerates quickly and appears well-suited to its target use cases and markets. But the market for a "premium" electric scooter is far from a proven one, and the larger question of where and why the iPhone fits into all of this remains unanswered. Could Tesla replace the Model S' unwieldy screen with an iPad? That's for Elon Musk to answer, but we wouldn't hold our breath. al website, and we should learn more about the technology in 174 days. Until then, keep your tin foil hat firmly in place.

John McAfee wants to sell you a $100 gadget that blocks the NSA


Part-time fugitive and antivirus software founder John McAfee has a new invention he's working on. After spending some of his time filming a drug-fueled video tutorial to uninstall the antivirus program he helped create, McAfee now believes he can outsmart the NSA. Speaking at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center on Saturday, McAfee unveiled his grand plan to create a "D-Central" gadget that communicates with smartphones, tablets, and laptops to create decentralized networks that can't be accessed by government agencies. The gadget might sound like something straight out of a Bond movie, but McAfee wants to build it and sell it for less than $100. "There will be no way [for the government] to tell who you are or where you are," McAfee says. Effectively, it works by creating small private networks that act as a dark web that's inaccessible to others. McAfee says he has been planning the technology for a few years, but work on the project has intensified "rapidly" over the past few months. It's not designed to replace the internet, instead it provides a localized dynamic network where users can communicate in private and share files. McAfee will sell D-Central even if it gets banned in the US McAfee explains the device is localized and has a range of around three blocks. Everyone in those three blocks can then communicate with each other and that will obviously change as users move in and out of a local area. McAfee says he's around six months away from a prototype device, and the current one is a round shape with no screens. "We have the design in place, we're looking for partners for development of the hardware," he explains. The whole project may never make it to retail shelves though, especially if concerns over its use result in a ban. McAfee answered questions over its criminal use by comparing D-Central to the telephone network. "Of course it will be used for nefarious purposes, just like the telephone is used for nefarious purposes." If the device gets banned in the US, McAfee says he'll simply "sell it in England, Japan, the Third World." While McAfee claims he has developed unique encryption that "the NSA won't get into it," the main use for such a gadget might be at college campuses across the US. Napster rose to fame in the 90s when it used peer-to-peer technology to make sharing MP3s quick and easy. McAfee's gadget could be used widely to share files at colleges, making it difficult for authorities to police. "I cannot imagine any college student not standing in line to buy one of these," he claims. While the NSA claims are bold, McAfee is only outlining its use at a high level right now. A clock is ticking on his D-Central website, and we should learn more about the technology in 174 days. Until then, keep your tin foil hat firmly in place.

Xbox One Kinect sensor can understand two people talking at the same time


Microsoft has revealed that the Kinect sensor it will ship with the Xbox One can detect two people talking at the same time. Speaking at the Eurogamer Expo in London, Microsoft's Phil Harrison revealed further details about the new Kinect. Coupled with the Xbox One, Kinect will now be able to hear and understand two people talking at once, even detecting whether mouths are open in a dark room. The new capabilities work alongside improvements to Kinect that allow it to track thumbs, 25 joints of up to six people, and heart rates by scanning a face. While the multiplayer gaming applications for multiple voice processing are obvious, Microsoft is also aiming its Xbox One console firmly for TV and entertainment. The new abilities to understand multiple conversations could make for an interesting new living room dynamic. At the moment families struggle for control of the remote for channel surfing, but if Microsoft's Kinect sensor gets popular then we could soon be shouting for control of the TV and the Xbox will now have to decide who wins. Just under two months to go Microsoft has slowly been revealing additional details about the Xbox One and Kinect as it prepares to launch the new console in the coming months. We got an early look at the new Xbox One dashboard and some of the upcoming games, but we're still waiting for additional demonstrations of Microsoft's TV and app work on the latest console. The company is planning to launch Xbox One in just under two months on November 22nd for $499.