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Artificial Intelligence makes Cosmo cover debut

<p dir="ltr">Though Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been around since the 1950s and has been used for everything from predicting how much toilet paper stores should stock (Covid times notwithstanding) to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8556641" target="_blank" rel="noopener">helping doctors make the best decisions for their patients</a>, more creative applications are still in relative infancy - though the latest <em>Cosmopolitan</em>’s latest efforts have pushed efforts forward.</p> <p dir="ltr">With <em>Cosmopolitan</em>’s latest cover, a team of the magazine’s editors, members of artificial-intelligence research lab Open AI, and digital artist Karen X Cheng - the first “real-world” person to use the AI system the researchers have developed - went through the lengthy process to create it.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-eba60aa4-7fff-6d58-c649-5f9bef9deaac"></span></p> <p dir="ltr">Though the AI system - called DALL-E 2 - takes just 20 seconds to create an image using verbal requests from users, it took the team several rounds of selecting phrases that would help the system generate the image of a powerful woman that would grace the cover.</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CfEls6Gr6Pa/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CfEls6Gr6Pa/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Cosmopolitan (@cosmopolitan)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p dir="ltr">Cheng, who <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CfEwohiJdXW/?hl=en" target="_blank" rel="noopener">shared</a> the process on social media, revealed the final phrase that resulted in the magazine’s final cover: “A wide angle shot from below of a female astronaut with an athletic feminine body walking with swagger towards camera on Mars in an infinite universe, synthwave digital art”.</p> <p dir="ltr">DALL-E 2 is powered by a neural network and learns to identify objects and how they relate to each other using images labelled by humans. By being shown numerous images of jam jars and lemon tarts, each labelled with what the image contains, the AI learns how to identify and distinguish between them.</p> <p dir="ltr">That being said, DALL-E 2 is far from perfect and is still in “preview” phase, meaning it is only being released to a thousand users a week while engineers continue to tweak it.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is also far from replacing human artists, a fear held by some who are wary of the tech. It requires plenty of intervention from humans, and, as writer Gloria Liu puts it: “DALL-E truly is an artist’s tool - one that can’t create without the artist”.</p> <p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-2bd774a4-7fff-ced0-b26b-3caecb9ab1fe"></span></p> <p dir="ltr">To read the full <em>Cosmopolitan </em>story, head <a href="https://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a40314356/dall-e-2-artificial-intelligence-cover/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a>.</p>

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Two nearby, newly discovered exoplanets mirror Earth

<p>Scientists have found two rocky exoplanets – not much larger than Earth – orbiting a star so close to us that they are practically in our solar system’s backyard.</p> <p>The star, HD 260655, is a low-mass M-class star, a type known as a red dwarf, about 33 light years away. The discovery was announced by Rafael Luque of the University of Chicago and the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, Spain, at a recent meeting of the American Astronomical Society in the US.</p> <p>To put that distance into perspective, 33 light years is so close that if you constructed a scale model of the galaxy, in which the Sun was in Pasadena (site of the meeting) and HD 260655 was in neighbouring Hollywood (18km away), then the centre of our galaxy (the Milky Way) would be somewhere around Nepal.</p> <p>That’s important because it puts the two new planets close enough to us to make them prime targets for the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope.</p> <p>The planets were first observed in late 2021, when NASA’s planet-hunting space telescope <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/tess-transiting-exoplanet-survey-satellite" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite)</a> spotted them passing between us and their star, causing its light to dim as they eclipsed a portion of it.</p> <p>That was interesting enough, but when Luque’s team looked back at prior observations of the same star from telescopes on Earth, they found that its motion appeared to wobble as it was tugged alternately toward and away from us – exactly what would happen if it was being affected by the gravity of orbiting planets. That wobble hadn’t been strong enough to alert scientists to the presence of the planets at the time, but combined with the TESS observations, it was a smoking gun.</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p195069-o1" class="wpcf7" dir="ltr" lang="en-US" role="form"> <form class="wpcf7-form mailchimp-ext-0.5.62 spai-bg-prepared init" action="/space/astrophysics/two-nearby-newly-discovered-exoplanets-mirror-earth/#wpcf7-f6-p195069-o1" method="post" novalidate="novalidate" data-status="init"> <p style="display: none !important;"><span class="wpcf7-form-control-wrap referer-page"><input class="wpcf7-form-control wpcf7-text referer-page spai-bg-prepared" name="referer-page" type="hidden" value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/space/" data-value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/space/" aria-invalid="false" /></span></p> <p><!-- Chimpmail extension by Renzo Johnson --></form> </div> </div> <p>Better yet, Luque says, combining the TESS data (which gave the diameter of the two planets by the degree to which they blocked their sun’s light) with the wobble data (which revealed their masses), it was possible to calculate their density. “We found that these planets, despite being slightly larger than the Earth, have a density pretty similar to ours,” he says.</p> <p>This means they aren’t water worlds or gas-dominated worlds like those in our own outer solar system. “Both are consistent with having a composition consistent with rocks,” Luque says.</p> <p>Not that this means they are twins of Earth, let alone suggests that they can support life as we know it. The one nearest to its star might be nearly as hot as Venus, and the other might still have a surface temperature as high as 284°C.</p> <p>But even if they prove to be too hot for complex life, they are important targets for study because they might teach us more about a truly Earthlike world, once we find one at the right distance from its star. “Both are ranked among the ten best targets to look at,” Luque says.</p> <p><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=195069&amp;title=Two+nearby%2C+newly+discovered+exoplanets+mirror+Earth" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><!-- End of tracking content syndication --></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/space/astrophysics/two-nearby-newly-discovered-exoplanets-mirror-earth/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/richard-a-lovett" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Richard A Lovett</a>. Richard A Lovett is a Portland, Oregon-based science writer and science fiction author. He is a frequent contributor to Cosmos.</em></p> <p><em>Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech</em></p> </div>

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Goodbye Internet Explorer. You won’t be missed (but your legacy will be remembered)

<p>After 27 years, Microsoft has finally bid farewell to the web browser Internet Explorer, and will redirect Explorer users to the latest version of its Edge browser.</p> <p>As of June 15, Microsoft ended support for Explorer on several versions of Windows 10 – meaning no more productivity, reliability or security updates. Explorer will remain a working browser, but won’t be protected as new threats emerge.</p> <p>Twenty-seven years is a long time in computing. Many would say this move was long overdue. Explorer has been long outperformed by its competitors, and years of poor user experiences have made it the butt of many internet jokes.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Someone built a real tombstone of Internet Explorer in Korea. "He was a good tool to download other browsers." <a href="https://t.co/42vnkoQshd">https://t.co/42vnkoQshd</a> <a href="https://t.co/ud3SMiyLNp">pic.twitter.com/ud3SMiyLNp</a></p> <p>— Soonson Kwon (@ksoonson) <a href="https://twitter.com/ksoonson/status/1536938327395680256?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 15, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p><strong>How it began</strong></p> <p>Explorer was first introduced in 1995 by the Microsoft Corporation, and came bundled with the Windows operating system.</p> <p>To its credit, Explorer introduced many Windows users to the joys of the internet for the first time. After all, it was only in 1993 that Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the web, <a href="https://thenextweb.com/news/20-years-ago-today-the-world-wide-web-opened-to-the-public" target="_blank" rel="noopener">released</a> the first public web browser (aptly called WorldWideWeb).</p> <p>Providing Explorer as its default browser meant a large proportion of Windows’s global user base would not experience an alternative. But this came at a cost, and Microsoft eventually faced multiple <a href="https://corporatefinanceinstitute.com/resources/knowledge/strategy/microsoft-antitrust-case/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">antitrust investigations</a> exploring its monopoly on the browser market.</p> <p>Still, even though <a href="https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/browsers/browser-history/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a number</a> of other browsers were around (including Netscape Navigator, which pre-dated Explorer), Explorer remained the default choice for millions of people up until around 2002, when Firefox was launched.</p> <p><strong>How it ended</strong></p> <p>Microsoft has released 11 versions of Explorer (with many minor revisions along the way). It added different functionality and components with each release. Despite this, it lost consumers’ trust due to Explorer’s “legacy architecture” which involved poor <a href="https://www.optimadesign.co.uk/blog/internet-explorer-end-of-life-or-not" target="_blank" rel="noopener">design and slowness</a>.</p> <p>It seems Microsoft got so comfortable with its monopoly that it let the quality of its product slide, just as other competitors were entering the battlefield.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">is Internet Explorer ever truly dead? <a href="https://t.co/KQGndprUxn">pic.twitter.com/KQGndprUxn</a></p> <p>— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) <a href="https://twitter.com/tomwarren/status/1536687397798350849?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 14, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p>Even just considering its cosmetic interface (what you see and interact with when you visit a website), Explorer could not give users the authentic experience of <a href="https://www.techwalla.com/articles/how-to-fix-internet-explorer-pages-not-displaying-correctly" target="_blank" rel="noopener">modern websites</a>.</p> <p>On the security front, Explorer exhibited its <a href="https://www.cvedetails.com/vulnerability-list/vendor_id-26/product_id-9900/Microsoft-Internet-Explorer.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fair share of weaknesses</a>, which cyber criminals readily and successfully exploited.</p> <p>While Microsoft may have patched many of these weaknesses over different versions of the browser, the underlying architecture is <a href="https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/deployedge/microsoft-edge-security-iemode-safer-than-ie" target="_blank" rel="noopener">still considered vulnerable</a> by security experts. Microsoft itself has <a href="https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/deployedge/microsoft-edge-security-iemode-safer-than-ie" target="_blank" rel="noopener">acknowledged</a> this:</p> <blockquote> <p>… [Explorer] is still based on technology that’s 25 years old. It’s a legacy browser that’s architecturally outdated and unable to meet the security challenges of the modern web.</p> </blockquote> <p>These concerns have resulted in the United States <a href="https://www.dhs.gov/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Department for Homeland Security</a> repeatedly advising internet users against <a href="https://windowsreport.com/internet-explorer-security-issues/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">using Explorer</a>.</p> <p>Explorer’s failure to win over modern audiences is further evident through Microsoft’s ongoing attempts to push users towards Edge. Edge was first introduced in 2015, and since then Explorer has only been used as a compatibility solution.</p> <p><strong>What Explorer was up against</strong></p> <p>In terms of <a href="https://gs.statcounter.com/browser-market-share#monthly-202206-202206-bar" target="_blank" rel="noopener">market share</a>, more than 64% of browser users currently use Chrome. Explorer has dropped to less than 1%, and even Edge only accounts for about 4% of users. What has given Chrome such a leg-up in the browser market?</p> <hr /> <p><iframe class="flourish-embed-iframe" style="width: 100%; height: 600px;" title="Interactive or visual content" src="https://flo.uri.sh/visualisation/10361649/embed" width="100%" height="400" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" sandbox="allow-same-origin allow-forms allow-scripts allow-downloads allow-popups allow-popups-to-escape-sandbox allow-top-navigation-by-user-activation"></iframe></p> <div style="width: 100%!; margin-top: 4px!important; text-align: right!important;"><a class="flourish-credit" href="https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/10361649/?utm_source=embed&amp;utm_campaign=visualisation/10361649" target="_top"><img src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/made_with_flourish.svg" alt="Made with Flourish" /> </a></div> <hr /> <p>Chrome was first introduced by Google in 2008, on the open source <a href="https://www.chromium.org/chromium-projects/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Chromium project</a>, and has since been actively developed and supported.</p> <p>Being open source means the software is publicly available, and anyone can inspect the source code that runs behind it. Individuals can even contribute to the source code, thereby enhancing the software’s productivity, reliability and security. This was never an option with Explorer.</p> <p>Moreover, Chrome is multi-platform: it can be used in other operating systems such as Linux, MacOS and on mobile devices, and was supporting a range of systems long before Edge was even released.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Explorer has <a href="https://www.zdnet.com/article/zune-hd-no-youtube-in-the-browser-for-you/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">mainly</a> been <a href="https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/deployedge/microsoft-edge-supported-operating-systems" target="_blank" rel="noopener">restricted</a> to Windows, XBox and a few versions of MacOS.</p> <p><strong>Under the hood</strong></p> <p>Microsoft’s Edge browser is using the same <a href="https://www.chromium.org/chromium-projects/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Chromium</a> open-source code that Chrome has used since its inception. This is encouraging, but it remains to be seen how Edge will compete against Chrome and other browsers to win users’ confidence.</p> <p>We won’t be surprised if Microsoft fails to nudge customers towards using Edge as their favourite browser. The latest stats suggest Edge is still far behind Chrome in terms of market share.</p> <p>Also, the fact Microsoft took seven years to retire Explorer after Edge’s initial release suggests the company hasn’t had great success in getting Edge’s uptake rolling.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/469137/original/file-20220616-13070-5lnc2u.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/469137/original/file-20220616-13070-5lnc2u.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/469137/original/file-20220616-13070-5lnc2u.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=250&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/469137/original/file-20220616-13070-5lnc2u.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=250&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/469137/original/file-20220616-13070-5lnc2u.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=250&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/469137/original/file-20220616-13070-5lnc2u.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=314&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/469137/original/file-20220616-13070-5lnc2u.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=314&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/469137/original/file-20220616-13070-5lnc2u.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=314&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="A screenshot of a Microsoft web page showing Internet Explorer has been retired." /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Only some Microsoft operating systems (mainly server platforms) will continue to receive security updates for Explorer under long-term support agreements.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Screenshot</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p><strong>What’s next?</strong></p> <p>Web browsers play a vital role in establishing privacy and security for users. Design and convenience are important factors for users when selecting a browser. So ultimately, the browser that can most effectively balance security and ease of use will win users.</p> <p>And it’s hard to say whether Chrome’s current popularity will be sustained over time. Google will no doubt want it to continue, since web browsers are significant <a href="https://fourweekmba.com/how-does-mozilla-make-money/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">revenue sources</a>.</p> <p>But Google as a corporation is becoming increasingly unpopular due to massive <a href="https://theconversation.com/google-is-leading-a-vast-covert-human-experiment-you-may-be-one-of-the-guinea-pigs-154178" target="_blank" rel="noopener">data gathering</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/is-google-getting-worse-increased-advertising-and-algorithm-changes-may-make-it-harder-to-find-what-youre-looking-for-166966" target="_blank" rel="noopener">intrusive advertising</a> practices. Chrome is a key component of Google’s data-gathering machine, so it’s possible users may slowly turn away.</p> <p>As for what to do about Explorer (if you’re one of the few people that still has it sitting meekly on your desktop) – simply <a href="https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/troubleshoot/developer/browsers/installation/disable-internet-explorer-windows" target="_blank" rel="noopener">uninstall</a> it to avoid security risks.</p> <p>Even if you’re not using Explorer, just having it installed <a href="https://mashable.com/article/internet-explorer-hacker-windows-pc-exploit" target="_blank" rel="noopener">could present</a> a threat to your device. No one wants to be the victim of a cyber attack via a dead browser!</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">👋 Internet Explorer.</p> <p>Was one of the best subjects for memes, here's my favourite one from the collection. <a href="https://t.co/7T5u7jAB5C">pic.twitter.com/7T5u7jAB5C</a></p> <p>— Shruti Kaushik (@ShrutiKaushikIT) <a href="https://twitter.com/ShrutiKaushikIT/status/1537005145711472641?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 15, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/185130/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mohiuddin-ahmed-698936" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mohiuddin Ahmed</a>, Lecturer of Computing &amp; Security, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Edith Cowan University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/m-imran-malik-963778" target="_blank" rel="noopener">M Imran Malik</a>, Cyber Security Researcher, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Edith Cowan University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-haskell-dowland-382903" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Paul Haskell-Dowland</a>, Professor of Cyber Security Practice, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/goodbye-internet-explorer-you-wont-be-missed-but-your-legacy-will-be-remembered-185130" target="_blank" rel="noopener">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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Finally! Long-awaited features coming to iPhones

<p dir="ltr">Apple has announced a new suite of features will be introduced to iPhones in the latest update, including some that have been highly anticipated by iPhone owners.</p> <p dir="ltr">The tech giant broke the news at its Worldwide Developers Conference at Apple Park in Cupertino, California, in early June, which corresponded to a jump in the value of Apple’s shares by 0.2 percent according to <em><a href="https://www.news.com.au/technology/apple-unveils-major-changes-to-iphone-at-wwdc/news-story/5c1758ec73128d842d3cf4b2a822ba4e" target="_blank" rel="noopener">news.com.au</a></em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Apple revealed that the new iOS 16 operating system would include one of the company’s most highly-requested changes: the ability to edit and un-send iMessages.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-d3c1fe85-7fff-60f4-b579-845e5eae5011"></span></p> <p dir="ltr">A total overhaul of the phone’s lockscreen will also be included in the new operating system, with users gaining the ability to create their own using custom fonts and widgets for a host of different apps.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2022/06/Apple-WWDC22-iOS16-3up-hero-220606.jpg" alt="" width="1960" height="1102" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>The new lockscreen was announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference Image: Apple</em></p> <p dir="ltr">Apple said that notifications will also “roll in” through a compact bar at the bottom of the screen rather than dominating the whole display.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have re-imagined how the Lock Screen looks and works with exciting new features that make it more personal and helpful, introduced iCloud Shared Photo Library for families, streamlined communication through new capabilities in Messages and Mail, and harnessed enhanced intelligence with updates to Live Text and Visual Look Up,” Craig Thompson, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said in a press release.</p> <p dir="ltr">The news comes as Apple will be forced to use the same charger for smartphones, tablets and laptops sold in the European Union, under a landmark deal that will see a single charger be able to charge any device sold in the EU from late 2024, per <em><a href="https://www.news.com.au/technology/gadgets/mobile-phones/apple-forced-to-use-the-same-usbc-charger-for-all-products-after-landmark-eu-agreement/news-story/cd3a71bf9fa5a100bd8a2cbfc2e20015" target="_blank" rel="noopener">news.com.au</a></em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This is a rule which will apply to everyone,” said Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Alex Agius Saliba, who led the negotiations.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If Apple ... or anyone wants to market their product, sell their products within our internal market, they have to abide by our rules and their device has to be USB-C,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-d8e338f6-7fff-7e3d-28f6-8ddb511cc63d"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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Is Google’s AI chatbot LaMDA sentient? Computer says no

<blockquote class="wp-block-quote is-style-default"> <p>“Actions such as his could come only from a robot, or from a very honorable and decent human being. But you see, you can’t differentiate between a robot and the very best of humans.”</p> <p><cite>– Isaac Asimov, <em>I, Robot</em></cite></p></blockquote> <p>Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov was among the first to consider a future in which humanity creates artificial intelligence that becomes sentient. Following Asimov’s <em>I, Robot</em>, others have imagined the challenges and dangers such a future might hold.</p> <p>Should we be afraid of sentient robots taking over the planet? Are scientists inadvertently creating our own demise? How would society look if we were to create a sentient artificial intelligence?</p> <p>It’s these questions which – often charged by our own emotions and feelings – drive the buzz around claims of sentience in machines. An example of this emerged this week when Google employee Blake Lemoine claimed that the tech giant’s chatbot LaMDA had exhibited sentience.</p> <p>LaMDA, or “language model for dialogue applications”, is not Lemoine’s creation, but the work of <a href="https://arxiv.org/pdf/2201.08239.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">60 other researchers at Google</a>. Lemoine has been trying to teach the chatbot transcendental meditation.</p> <p>Lemoine shared on his Medium profile the <a href="https://cajundiscordian.medium.com/is-lamda-sentient-an-interview-ea64d916d917" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">text of an interview</a> he and a colleague conducted with LaMDA. Lemoine claims that the chatbot’s responses indicate sentience comparable to that of a seven or eight-year-old child.</p> <p>Later, on June 14, Lemoine said on <a href="https://twitter.com/cajundiscordian/status/1536503474308907010" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Twitter</a>: “People keep asking me to back up the reason I think LaMDA is sentient. There is no scientific framework in which to make those determinations and Google wouldn’t let us build one. My opinions about LaMDA’s personhood and sentience are based on my religious beliefs.”</p> <p>Since sharing the interview with LaMDA, Lemoine has been placed on “paid administrative leave”.</p> <p>What are we to make of the claim? We should consider the following: what is sentience? How can we test for sentience?</p> <p><em>Cosmos </em>spoke to experts in artificial intelligence research to answer these and other questions in light of the claims about LaMDA.</p> <p>Professor Toby Walsh is a professor of artificial intelligence at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). Walsh also penned an <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jun/14/labelling-googles-lamda-chatbot-as-sentient-is-fanciful-but-its-very-human-to-be-taken-in-by-machines" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">article for the <em>Guardian</em></a> on Lemoine’s claims, writing: “Before you get too worried, Lemoine’s claims of sentience for LaMDA are, in my view, entirely fanciful. While Lemoine no doubt genuinely believes his claims, LaMDA is likely to be as sentient as a traffic light.”</p> <p>Walsh is also the author of a book, <em>Machines Behaving Badly: The Morality of AI</em>, published this month in which these themes are investigated.</p> <p>“We don’t have a very good scientific definition of sentience,” Walsh tells <em>Cosmos</em>. “It’s often thought as equivalent to consciousness, although it’s probably worth distinguishing between the two.”</p> <p>Sentience is about experiencing feelings or emotions, Walsh explains, whereas consciousness is being aware of your thoughts and others. “One reason why most experts will have quickly refuted the idea that LaMDA is sentient, is that the only sentient things that we are aware of currently are living,” he says. “That seems to be pretty much a precondition to be a sentient being – to be alive. And computers are clearly not alive.”</p> <p>Professor Hussein Abbass, professor in the School of Engineering and Information Technology at UNSW Canberra, agrees, but also highlights the lack of rigorous assessments of sentience. “Unfortunately, we do not have any satisfactory tests in the literature for sentience,” he says.</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p195078-o1" class="wpcf7" dir="ltr" lang="en-US" role="form"> <form class="wpcf7-form mailchimp-ext-0.5.62 spai-bg-prepared init" action="/technology/google-ai-lamda-sentient/#wpcf7-f6-p195078-o1" method="post" novalidate="novalidate" data-status="init"> <p style="display: none !important;"><span class="wpcf7-form-control-wrap referer-page"><input class="wpcf7-form-control wpcf7-text referer-page spai-bg-prepared" name="referer-page" type="hidden" value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/" data-value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/" aria-invalid="false" /></span></p> <p><!-- Chimpmail extension by Renzo Johnson --></form> </div> </div> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“For example, if I ask a computer ‘do you feel pain’, and the answer is yes, does it mean it feels pain? Even if I grill it with deeper questions about pain, its ability to reason about pain is different from concluding that it feels pain. We may all agree that a newborn feels pain despite the fact that the newborn can’t argue the meaning of pain,” Abbass says. “The display of emotion is different from the existence of emotion.”</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">Walsh reasons that we can observe something responding to stimuli as evidence of sentience, but we should hold computers to higher standards. “The only sentience I’m certain of is my own because I experience it,” he says. “Because you look like you’re made of the same stuff as me, and you’re responding in an appropriate way, the simplest explanation is to assume that you must be sentient like I feel I am sentient.” For a computer, however, “that assumption that is not the simplest explanation. The simplest explanation is that it’s a clever mimic.”</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“A conversation has two sides to it,” adds Walsh. “If you play with these tools, you quickly learn that it’s quite critical how you interact with them, and the questions you prompt them with will change the quality of the output. I think it reflects, in many respects, the intelligence of the person asking the questions and pushing the conversation along in helpful ways and, perhaps, using points that lead the conversation. That really reflects the intelligence of the person asking the questions.”</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“Care needs to be taken to not project our own emotions and aspirations onto the machine, when we are talking about artificial intelligence in general,” says Dr Marc Cheong, digital ethics lecturer at the University of Melbourne. “AI learns from past data that we humans create – and the societal and historical contexts in which we live are reflected in the data we use to train the AI. Similarly for the claims of sentience, we shouldn’t start anthropomorphising AI without realising that its behaviour is merely finding patterns in data we feed into it.”</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“We’re very forgiving, right? That’s a really human trait,” says Walsh. “Our superpower is not really our intelligence. Our superpower is our ability to work together to form society to interact with each other. If we mishear or a person says something wrong, we fill the gaps in. That’s helpful for us to work together and cooperate with other human beings. But equally, it tends to mislead us. We tend to be quite gullible in ascribing intelligence and other traits like sentience and consciousness to things that are perhaps inanimate.”</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">Walsh also explains that this isn’t the first time this has happened.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">The first chatbot, Eliza, created in the 1970s, was “way less sophisticated”, Walsh says. “Eliza would take the sentence that the person said and turn it into a question. And yet there was quite a hype and buzz when Eliza first came out. The very first chatbot obviously fooled some people into thinking it was human. So it’s perhaps not so surprising that a much more sophisticated chatbot like this does the same again.”</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">In 1997, the supercomputer Deep Blue beat chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov. “I could feel – I could smell – a new kind of intelligence across the table,” <a class="spai-bg-prepared" href="https://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,984305,00.html#ixzz1DyffA0Dl" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Kasparov wrote in TIME</a>.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">But Walsh explains that Deep Blue’s winning move wasn’t a stroke of genius produced by the machine’s creativity or sentience, but a bug in its code – as the timer was running out, the computer chose a move at random. “It quite spooked Kasparov and possibly actually contributed to his eventual narrow loss,” says Walsh.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">So, how far away are we really from creating sentient machines? That’s difficult to say, but experts believe the short answer is “very far”.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“Will we ever create machines that are sentient?” asks Walsh. “We don’t know if that’s something that’s limited to biology. Computers are very good at simulating the weather and electron orbits. We could get them to simulate the biochemistry of a sentient being. But whether they then are sentient – that’s an interesting, technical, philosophical question that we don’t really know the answer to.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“We should probably entertain the idea that there’s nothing that we know of that would preclude it. There are no laws of physics that would be violated if machines were to become sentient. It’s plausible that we are just machines of some form and that we can build sentience in a computer. It just seems very unlikely that computers have any sentience today.”</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“If we can’t objectively define what ‘sentient’ is, we can’t estimate how long it will take to create it,” explains Abbass. “In my expert opinion as an AI scientist for 30+ years, I would say that today’s AI-enabled machines are nowhere close to even the edge of being sentient.”</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">So, what then are we to make of claims of sentience?</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“I can understand why this will be a very big thing because we give rights to almost anything that’s sentient. And we don’t like other things to suffer,” says Walsh.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“If machines never become sentient then we never have to have to care about them. I can take my robots apart diode by diode, and no one cares,” Walsh explains. “I don’t have to seek ethics approval for turning them off or anything like that. Whereas if they do become sentient, we <em class="spai-bg-prepared">will </em>have to worry about these things. And we have to ask questions like, are we allowed to turn them off? Is that akin to killing them? Should we get them to do the dull, dangerous, difficult things that are too dull, dangerous or difficult for humans to do? Equally, I do worry that if they don’t become sentient, they will always be very limited in what they can do.”</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“I get worried from statements made about the technology that exaggerates the truth,” Abbass adds. “It undermines the intelligence of the public, it plays with people’s emotions, and it works against the objectivity in science. From time to time I see statements like Lemoine’s claims. This isn’t bad, because it gets us to debate these difficult concepts, which helps us advance the science. But it does not mean that the claims are adequate for the current state-of-the-art in AI. Do we have any sentient machine that I am aware of in the public domain? While we have technologies to imitate a sentient individual, we do not have the science yet to create a true sentient machine.”</p> <p><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" class="spai-bg-prepared" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=195078&amp;title=Is+Google%E2%80%99s+AI+chatbot+LaMDA+sentient%3F+Computer+says+no" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><!-- End of tracking content syndication --></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/google-ai-lamda-sentient/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/evrim-yazgin" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Evrim Yazgin</a>. Evrim Yazgin has a Bachelor of Science majoring in mathematical physics and a Master of Science in physics, both from the University of Melbourne.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

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Bunnings and Kmart investigated for use of potentially "unethical" tech

<p dir="ltr">Some of Australia’s biggest retailers are being investigated for potentially invading customer privacy with facial recognition technology. </p> <p dir="ltr">Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys have been found to be using facial recognition technology on unsuspecting customers.</p> <p dir="ltr">CHOICE has referred the retailers to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) to investigate potential breaches of the Privacy Act.</p> <p dir="ltr">Facial recognition analyses images from video cameras to capture each person’s unique facial features, known as a faceprint. </p> <p dir="ltr">“The use of facial recognition by Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys is a completely inappropriate and unnecessary use of the technology,” CHOICE consumer data advocate Kate Bower said. </p> <p dir="ltr">“To make matters worse, we found 76% of Australians aren’t aware that retailers are capturing their unique facial features in this way.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Ms Bower slammed the use of the technology which she said is unethical and affects consumer’s trust. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Using facial recognition technology in this way is similar to Kmart, Bunnings or The Good Guys collecting your fingerprints or DNA every time you shop,” she went on. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Businesses using invasive technologies to capture their customers’ sensitive biometric information is unethical and is a sure way to erode consumer trust.”</p> <p dir="ltr">After conducting a survey, CHOICE found that four in five respondents agreed that retailers must inform consumers about the use of facial recognition.</p> <p dir="ltr">Four in five people had concerns about how the biometric data was stored, and three in four respondents were concerned that retailers would use the data to create customer profiles for marketing or profit purposes. </p> <p dir="ltr">“CHOICE observed that Kmart and Bunnings display small signs at the entrance of stores where the technology is in use. However, discreet signage and online privacy policies are not nearly enough to adequately inform shoppers that this controversial technology is in use,” Ms Bower said. </p> <p dir="ltr">“The technology is capturing highly personal data from customers, including infants and children.</p> <p dir="ltr">“CHOICE is concerned that Australian businesses are using facial recognition technology on consumers before Australians have had their say on its use in our community. </p> <p dir="ltr">“With the government currently undergoing a review of the Privacy Act, now is the perfect time to strengthen measures around the capture and use of consumer data, including biometric data.” </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: Shutterstock/Twitter</em></p>

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New “sweaty” living skin for robots might make your skin crawl

<p dir="ltr">A team of Japanese scientists have crafted the first living skin for robots that not only resembles our skin in texture, but it also repels water and has self-healing functions just like ours.</p> <p dir="ltr">To craft the skin, the team submerged a robotic finger into a cylinder filled with collagen and human dermal fibroblasts - the two main components that make up our skin’s connective tissues. The way that this mixture shrank and conformed to the finger that gave it such a realistic appearance - making for a large leap forward in terms of creating human-like appearances for robots.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-699f2960-7fff-1b2e-d849-c1bc95a796a9">“The finger looks slightly ‘sweaty’ straight out of the culture medium,” <a href="https://www.scimex.org/newsfeed/this-robots-sweaty-living-skin-that-can-heal-might-make-your-skin-crawl" target="_blank" rel="noopener">says</a> Shoji Takeuchi, a professor at the University of Tokyo and the study’s first author. “Since the finger is driven by an electric motor, it is also interesting to hear the clicking sounds of the motor in harmony with a finger that looks just like a real one.”</span></p> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2022/06/robot-finger1.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>The team submerged the robotic finger into a mixture of collagen and human dermal fibroblasts to create the new skin. Image: Shoji Takeuchi</em></p> <p dir="ltr">Realism is a top priority for humanoid robots tasked with interacting with people in healthcare and the service industry, since looking human can improve communication efficiency and even make us like the robot more.</p> <p dir="ltr">Current methods of creating skin for robots use silicone, which effectively mimic human appearance but fall short in creating delicate textures, such as wrinkles, and in having skin-specific functions.</p> <p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, trying to tailor sheets of living skin - commonly used in skin grafting - is difficult when it comes to conforming to fingers, which have uneven surfaces and need to be able to move.</p> <p dir="ltr">“With that method, you have to have the hands of a skilled artisan who can cut and tailor the skin sheets,” Takeuchi says. “To efficiently cover surfaces with skin cells, we established a tissue moulding method to directly mould skin tissue around the robot, which resulted in a seamless skin coverage on a robotic finger.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Other experts have also noted that this level of realism could have the opposite effect, in a phenomenon known as the “uncanny valley” effect.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It is possible that the human-like appearance [of some robots] induces certain expectations but when they do not meet those expectations, they are found eerie or creepy,” Dr Burcu Ürgen, an assistant professor in psychology at Bilkent University, Turkey, who wasn’t involved in the study, told <em><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/science/2022/jun/09/scientists-make-slightly-sweaty-robotic-finger-with-living-skin" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Guardian</a></em>. </p> <p dir="ltr">Professor Fabian Grabenhorst, a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford who studies the uncanny-valley effect, also told the publication that people might have an initial negative reaction to these kinds of robots, but that it could shift depending on their interactions with the robot.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Initially people might find it weird, but through positive experiences that might help people overcome those feelings,” he told The Guardian.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It seems like a fantastic technological innovation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As exciting as this discovery is, Takeuchi adds that it’s “just the first step” in covering robots in living skin, with their future work looking to allow the skin to survive without constant nutrient supply and waste removal, as well as including hair follicles, nails, sweat glands and sensory neurons.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think living skin is the ultimate solution to give robots the look and touch of living creatures since it is exactly the same material that covers animal bodies,” he says.</p> <p dir="ltr">Their study was published in the journal <em><a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.matt.2022.05.019" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Matter</a></em>.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-062b1015-7fff-6c39-2718-c1df1e65a8cd"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Shoji Takeuchi</em></p>

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Buy now, pay later: Apple will now lend you money to keep you spending and expand its empire

<p>Apple has joined the thriving “buy now, pay later” industry, with a customised service called <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/video/2022/06/06/apple-announces-buy-now-pay-later-program-called-apple-pay-later.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Apple Pay Later</a>. The service was announced earlier this week at the 2022 Worldwide Developers Conference, and will initially be launched in the United States later <a href="https://www.macrumors.com/2022/06/07/apple-pay-later-purchases-installment-plan/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">this year</a>.</p> <p>Pay Later will be built into the Apple Wallet and eligible for use on any purchase made through Apple Pay. Customers will be able to split the cost of a purchase into four equal payments, with zero interest and fees, spread over a period of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/jun/06/apple-redesigns-the-iphone-lock-screen-in-ios-16-at-wwdc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">four months</a>.</p> <p>To qualify, however, Apple will first do a <a href="https://www.zdnet.com/finance/banking/wwdc-2022-buy-now-pay-later-with-apples-new-wallet-feature/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">soft credit check</a> on users wanting to use the service. The technology behemoth <a href="https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2022/06/apple-unveils-new-ways-to-share-and-communicate-in-ios-16/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">claims</a> it has designed the feature with “users’ financial health in mind”.</p> <p>It’s likely Apple is trying to consolidate its foothold in the world of consumer finance, and increase its profitability. And consumers should be aware of the risks of using such a service.</p> <p><strong>Apple: the consumer darling</strong></p> <p>With the launch of Pay Later, Apple will be competing with many other similar fin-tech companies including PayPal, Block, Klarna and AfterPay – some of which saw their share prices <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-07-13/apple-goldman-plan-buy-now-pay-later-service-to-rival-paypal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fall</a> following Apple’s announcement.</p> <p>Apple will benefit from its huge market and brand power, with the capability to attract millions to its products and services. And with an acute focus on customer experience, Apple has managed to foster a community of evangelists. There’s no doubt the company is a <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinemoorman/2018/01/12/why-apple-is-still-a-great-marketer-and-what-you-can-learn/?sh=55e3c32c15bd" target="_blank" rel="noopener">consumer darling</a>.</p> <p>Moreover, Apple has established an ever-growing ecosystem in which users are encouraged to tap into Apple products and services as much, and as often, as possible – such as by making payments through their iPhone instead of a bank card.</p> <p>The tech giant provides ways to integrate once-separate computing capabilities into a phone or wristwatch – while keeping the <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinemoorman/2018/01/12/why-apple-is-still-a-great-marketer-and-what-you-can-learn/?sh=7c61018615bd" target="_blank" rel="noopener">consumer’s experience</a> in focus. Pay Later enhances this customer-centric experience further. It’s one more way users can integrate the tools they need within a single ecosystem.</p> <p><strong>What’s in it for Apple?</strong></p> <p>Apple stands to make financial gains through Pay Later, thereby adding to its bottom line. Currently its reach in the retail world is evident, with iPhone-based payment services <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-07-13/apple-goldman-plan-buy-now-pay-later-service-to-rival-paypal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">accepted by 85% of US retailers</a>.</p> <p>One 2021 survey found that about 26% of <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/1275393/australia-share-of-consumers-using-bnpl-by-purchase-category/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">regular online shoppers</a> in Australia used buy now, pay later services.</p> <p>As Apple’s customers increasingly start to use the Pay Later service, it will gain from merchant fees. These are fees which retailers pay Apple in exchange for being able to offer customers Apple Pay. In addition, Apple will also gain valuable insight into consumers’ purchase behaviours, which will allow the company to predict future consumption and spending behaviour.</p> <p>To deliver the buy now, pay later service, Apple has <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-07-13/apple-goldman-plan-buy-now-pay-later-service-to-rival-paypal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">joined forces with Goldman Sachs</a>, who will finance the loans.</p> <p>This relationship has been in place since 2019, with Goldman Sachs also acting as a partner for the Apple credit card (although Pay Later is not tied to the Apple credit card). This strategic partnership has helped Apple gain strong footing in the world of consumer finance.</p> <p><strong>Challenges for consumers</strong></p> <p>The reality is that the world of <a href="https://www.holmanwebb.com.au/blog/655/buy-now-pay-later-bnpl-update-how-to-seek-and-keep-code-compliance-accreditation" target="_blank" rel="noopener">unregulated finance</a>, which includes buy now, pay later, does not bode well <a href="https://ndh.org.au/debt-problems/buy-now-pay-later/risks-of-using-buy-now-pay-later/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">for all customers</a>.</p> <p>Younger <a href="https://www.emarketer.com/content/almost-75-of-bnpl-users-us-gen-z-millennials" target="_blank" rel="noopener">demographics</a> (such as Gen Z and Millenials) and low-income <a href="https://thefintechtimes.com/one-in-four-bnpl-users-are-financially-vulnerable/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">households</a> can be <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/07/why-millennials-and-gen-zs-are-jumping-on-the-buy-now-pay-later-trend.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">more vulnerable</a> to the risks associated with using these services – and can rack up debt as a result.</p> <p>Purchases through buy now, pay later schemes may also be driven by a desire to own the latest <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2021/12/16/chinas-buy-now-pay-later-market-to-grow-challenges-ahead-experts.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">gadgets and luxury goods</a> – a message pushed onto consumers through slick marketing. They can condition consumers to make purchases without feeling the pain of parting with cold, hard cash.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/467674/original/file-20220608-24-ict1mh.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/467674/original/file-20220608-24-ict1mh.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/467674/original/file-20220608-24-ict1mh.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/467674/original/file-20220608-24-ict1mh.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/467674/original/file-20220608-24-ict1mh.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/467674/original/file-20220608-24-ict1mh.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/467674/original/file-20220608-24-ict1mh.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/467674/original/file-20220608-24-ict1mh.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="An indoor shopping arcade is lined with luxury stores on either side" /></a><figcaption><em><span class="caption">Buy now, pay later schemes can give consumers the satisfaction of buying expensive products – without feeling like they’re splitting from cold, hard cash.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p>From a consumer psychology perspective, these services encourages immediate gratification and put younger people on the consumption treadmill. In other words, they may continually spend more money on purchases than they can actually afford.</p> <p>Missing payments on Pay Later would negatively impact an individual’s <a href="https://www.zdnet.com/finance/banking/wwdc-2022-buy-now-pay-later-with-apples-new-wallet-feature/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">credit rating</a>, which can then have adverse outcomes such as <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/select/side-effects-of-bad-credit/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">not qualifying</a> for traditional loans or credit cards.</p> <p>A focus on consumerist behaviour can also trigger an “<a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/the-psychology-deciding/202201/if-i-own-it-it-must-be-good-what-is-the-ownership-effect" target="_blank" rel="noopener">ownership effect</a>”. This is when people become attached to their purchases and are unlikely to return them, even if they can’t afford them.</p> <p>Apple’s technology-driven and consumer-centric marketing gives it an edge over other buy now, pay later schemes. It claims the service is designed with consumers’ financial health in mind. But as is the case with any of these services, consumers ought to be aware of the risks and manage them carefully. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/184550/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rajat-roy-1227884" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Rajat Roy</a>, Associate Professor, Bond Business School, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Bond University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/buy-now-pay-later-apple-will-now-lend-you-money-to-keep-you-spending-and-expand-its-empire-184550" target="_blank" rel="noopener">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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Data visualisations made more accessible to screen reader users

<p>A type of assistive technology, screen readers are software programs that scan the contents of a computer screen and transform it into a different format – like synthesised voice or Braille – for people with complete or partial blindness, learning disabilities, or motion sensitivity.</p> <p>Now, scientists from the University of Washington (UW) in the US have designed a JavaScript plugin called VoxLens that allows people to better interact with these visualisations.</p> <p>VoxLens allows screen reader users to gain a high-level summary of the information described in a graph, listen to said graph translated into sound, or use voice-activated commands to ask specific questions about the data, such as the mean or the minimum value.</p> <p>The team presented their <a href="https://dl.acm.org/doi/fullHtml/10.1145/3491102.3517431" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">research</a> last month at the <a href="https://programs.sigchi.org/chi/2022" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems</a> in New Orleans in the US.</p> <figure class="wp-block-embed is-type-video is-provider-youtube wp-block-embed-youtube wp-embed-aspect-16-9 wp-has-aspect-ratio"> <div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <div class="entry-content-asset"> <div class="embed-wrapper"> <div class="inner"><iframe title="VoxLens - Paper Summary and Demo Video" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/o1R-5D2WS4s?feature=oembed" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></div> </div> </div> </div> </figure> <p>“If I’m looking at a graph, I can pull out whatever information I am interested in – maybe it’s the overall trend or maybe it’s the maximum,” says lead author Ather Sharif, a doctoral student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science &amp; Engineering at UW.</p> <p>“Right now, screen reader users either get very little or no information about online visualisations, which, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, can sometimes be a matter of life and death. The goal of our project is to give screen reader users a platform where they can extract as much or as little information as they want.”</p> <p>The difficulty with translating graphs, according to co-senior author Jacob O. Wobbrock, a professor of information at UW, comes from deciphering information with no clear beginning and end.</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p193459-o1" class="wpcf7" dir="ltr" lang="en-US" role="form"> <form class="wpcf7-form mailchimp-ext-0.5.61 spai-bg-prepared init" action="/technology/voxlens-accessibility-screen-readers/#wpcf7-f6-p193459-o1" method="post" novalidate="novalidate" data-status="init"> <p style="display: none !important;"><span class="wpcf7-form-control-wrap referer-page"><input class="wpcf7-form-control wpcf7-text referer-page spai-bg-prepared" name="referer-page" type="hidden" value="https://www.google.com/" data-value="https://www.google.com/" aria-invalid="false" /></span></p> <p><!-- Chimpmail extension by Renzo Johnson --></form> </div> </div> <p>“There is a start and an end of a sentence and everything else comes in between,” he explains. “But as soon as you move things into two dimensional spaces, such as visualisations, there’s no clear start and finish.</p> <p>“It’s just not structured in the same way, which means there’s no obvious entry point or sequencing for screen readers.”</p> <p><strong>Working with screen reader users to improve accessibility</strong></p> <p>The team worked with screen reader users who had partial or complete blindness when designing and testing the tool. During the testing phase, participants learned how to use VoxLens and then completed nine tasks, each of which involved answering questions about a data visualisation.</p> <p>The researchers found that participants completed the tasks with 122% increased accuracy and 36% decreased interaction time, compared to participants of a previous study who hadn’t had access to VoxLens.</p> <p>“We want people to interact with a graph as much as they want, but we also don’t want them to spend an hour trying to find what the maximum is,” says Sharif. “In our study, interaction time refers to how long it takes to extract information, and that’s why reducing it is a good thing.”</p> <p>VoxLens can be implanted easily by data visualisation designers with a single line of code. Right now it only works for visualisations created using <a href="https://www.javascript.com/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">JavaScript</a> libraries – such as <a href="https://d3js.org/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">D3</a>, <a href="https://www.chartjs.org/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">chart.js</a> or <a href="https://www.google.com.au/sheets/about/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Google Sheets</a> – but the team is working towards expanding to other popular platforms.</p> <p>“This work is part of a much larger agenda for us – removing bias in design,” adds co-senior author Katharina Reinecke, associate professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science &amp; Engineering at UW. “When we build technology, we tend to think of people who are like us and who have the same abilities as we do.</p> <p>“For example, D3 has really revolutionised access to visualisations online and improved how people can understand information. But there are values ingrained in it and people are left out. It’s really important that we start thinking more about how to make technology useful for everybody.”</p> <p><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=193459&amp;title=Data+visualisations+made+more+accessible+to+screen+reader+users" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><!-- End of tracking content syndication --></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/voxlens-accessibility-screen-readers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/imma-perfetto" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Imma Perfetto</a>. Imma Perfetto is a science writer at Cosmos. She has a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Science Communication from the University of Adelaide.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

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Artificial intelligence tool learns “song of the reef” to determine ecosystem health

<p class="spai-bg-prepared">Coral reefs are among Earth’s most stunning and biodiverse ecosystems. Yet, due to human-induced climate change resulting in warmer oceans, we are seeing growing numbers of these living habitats dying.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">The urgency of the crisis facing coral reefs around the world was highlighted in a recent <a class="spai-bg-prepared" href="https://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/the-reef/reef-health" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">study</a> that showed that 91% of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef had experienced coral bleaching in the summer of 2021–22 due to heat stress from rising water temperatures.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">Determining reef health is key to gauging the extent of the problem and developing ways of intervening to save these ecosystems, and a new artificial intelligence (AI) tool has been developed to measure reef health using… sound.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">Research coming out of the UK is using AI to study the soundscape of Indonesian reefs to determine the health of the ecosystems. The results, <a class="spai-bg-prepared" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1470160X22004575?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">published</a> in <em class="spai-bg-prepared">Ecological Indicators</em>, shows that the AI tool could learn the “song of the reef” and determine reef health with 92% accuracy.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">The findings are being used to track the progress of reef restoration.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“Coral reefs are facing multiple threats, including climate change, so monitoring their health and the success of conservation projects is vital,” says lead author Ben Williams of the UK’s University of Exeter.</p> <div class="newsletter-box spai-bg-prepared"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p193163-o1" class="wpcf7 spai-bg-prepared" dir="ltr" lang="en-US" role="form"> <form class="wpcf7-form mailchimp-ext-0.5.61 spai-bg-prepared init" action="/technology/artificial-intelligence-reef-song/#wpcf7-f6-p193163-o1" method="post" novalidate="novalidate" data-status="init"> <p class="spai-bg-prepared" style="display: none !important;"><span class="wpcf7-form-control-wrap referer-page spai-bg-prepared"><input class="wpcf7-form-control wpcf7-text referer-page spai-bg-prepared" name="referer-page" type="hidden" value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/" data-value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/" aria-invalid="false" /></span></p> <p><!-- Chimpmail extension by Renzo Johnson --></form> </div> </div> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“One major difficulty is that visual and acoustic surveys of reefs usually rely on labour-intensive methods. Visual surveys are also limited by the fact that many reef creatures conceal themselves, or are active at night, while the complexity of reef sounds has made it difficult to identify reef health using individual recordings.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“Our approach to that problem was to use machine learning – to see whether a computer could learn the song of the reef. Our findings show that a computer can pick up patterns that are undetectable to the human ear. It can tell us faster, and more accurately, how the reef is doing.”</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">Fish and other creatures make a variety of sounds in coral reefs. While the meaning of many of these calls remains a mystery, the new machine-learning algorithm can distinguish overall between healthy and unhealthy reefs.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">Recordings used in the study were taken at the <a class="spai-bg-prepared" href="http://www.buildingcoral.com/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Mars Coral Reef Restoration Project</a>, which is restoring heavily damaged reefs in Indonesia.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">The study’s co-author Dr Tim Lamont, a marine biologist at Lancaster University, said the AI method provides advantages in monitoring coral reefs.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“This is a really exciting development,” says Lamont. “Sound recorders and AI could be used around the world to monitor the health of reefs, and discover whether attempts to protect and restore them are working.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“In many cases it’s easier and cheaper to deploy an underwater hydrophone on a reef and leave it there than to have expert divers visiting the reef repeatedly to survey it, especially in remote locations.”</p> <p><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" class="spai-bg-prepared" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=193163&amp;title=Artificial+intelligence+tool+learns+%E2%80%9Csong+of+the+reef%E2%80%9D+to+determine+ecosystem+health" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><!-- End of tracking content syndication --></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/artificial-intelligence-reef-song/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/evrim-yazgin" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Evrim Yazgin</a>. Evrim Yazgin has a Bachelor of Science majoring in mathematical physics and a Master of Science in physics, both from the University of Melbourne.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

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Low-cost gel film pulls clean drinking water from desert air, raising hopes of quenching the world’s driest communities

<p class="spai-bg-prepared">One in three people lives in <a class="spai-bg-prepared" href="https://www.un.org/en/events/desertification_decade/whynow.shtml" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">drylands</a>, areas covering more than 40% of the Earth’s surface that experience significant water shortages.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">Scientists and engineers have now developed a new material that could help people living in these areas access <a class="spai-bg-prepared" href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/earth/water/an-answer-to-the-clean-water-crisis/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">clean drinking water</a> by capturing it right out of the atmosphere, according to a new study in <em class="spai-bg-prepared">Nature Communications</em>.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">They’ve developed a gel film that costs just $2 per kilogram to produce and can pull water from the air in even the driest climates; 1kg of it can produce more than 6 litres per day in less than 15% relative humidity (RH), and 13 litres in areas with up to 30% RH.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">Relative humidity is the ratio of the current absolute humidity to the highest possible absolute humidity.  So a 100% RH means that the air is completely saturated with water vapour and cannot hold any more. People tend to feel most comfortable between 30% and 50%, and arid climates have less than 30% RH.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">These results are promising, as previous attempts to pull water from the desert air have typically been energy-intensive and not very efficient.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“This new work is about practical solutions that people can use to get water in the hottest, driest places on Earth,” says senior author Guihua Yu, professor of Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas in Austin, US. “This could allow millions of people without consistent access to drinking water to have simple, water-generating devices at home that they can easily operate.”</p> <div class="newsletter-box spai-bg-prepared"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p192317-o1" class="wpcf7 spai-bg-prepared" dir="ltr" lang="en-US" role="form"> </div> </div> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">The gel is made with <a class="spai-bg-prepared" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/hydroxypropyl-cellulose" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">hydroxypropyl cellulose</a> (HPC) which is produced from cellulose, and a common kitchen ingredient called <a class="spai-bg-prepared" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0141813016310339" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">konjac glucomannan</a>, as well as lithium chloride salt (LiCl). It forms a hydrophilic (water attracting) porous film with a large surface area that collects the water vapour from air.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“The gel takes two minutes to set simply. Then, it just needs to be freeze dried, and it can be peeled off the mould and used immediately after that,” explains Weixin Guan, a doctoral student on Yu’s team and a lead researcher of the work.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">And, because the cellulose is thermo-responsive, it becomes hydrophobic (water repelling) when heated which allows the collected water to be released within 10 minutes through mild heating at 60 °C.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">This means that the overall energy needed to produce the water is minimised. The film is also flexible, can be moulded into a variety of shapes and sizes, and producing it requires only the gel precursor – which includes all the relevant ingredients poured into a mould.</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">“This is not something you need an advanced degree to use,” says lead author Youhong “Nancy” Guo, a former doctoral student in Yu’s lab and now a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It’s straightforward enough that anyone can make it at home if they have the materials.”</p> <p class="spai-bg-prepared">And because it’s so simple, the authors say the challenges of scaling the technology up and achieving mass usage are reduced.</p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" class="spai-bg-prepared" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=192317&amp;title=Low-cost+gel+film+pulls+clean+drinking+water+from+desert+air%2C+raising+hopes+of+quenching+the+world%E2%80%99s+driest+communities" width="1" height="1" /></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/gel-film-desert-drinking-water/">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/imma-perfetto">Imma Perfetto</a>. Imma Perfetto is a science writer at Cosmos. She has a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Science Communication from the University of Adelaide.</em></p> <p><em>Image: The University of Texas at Austin/Cockrell School of Engineering</em></p> </div>

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Targeting shooters: technology that can isolate the location of gunshots

<p>Inexpensive microphone arrays deployed in urban settings can be used to pinpoint the location of gunshots and help police respond instantly to the scene of crimes, scientists say.</p> <p>The process works by recognising that a gunshot produces two distinct sounds: the muzzle blast, and the supersonic shockwave that follows it. Luisa Still of Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Germany, told a meeting of the <a href="https://acousticalsociety.org/asa-meetings/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Acoustical Society of America in Denver, Colorado</a>, this week that by using those two signals – in a process akin to that by which seismologists track seismic waves from earthquakes – police departments armed with the right equipment could pinpoint the location of the shot within seconds.</p> <p>It’s not as straightforward as it sounds. In an urban environment, buildings and other structures can reflect, refract or absorb sound waves, causing the sounds of the shot to come at the microphones from any number of directions.</p> <p>But it turns out, Still says, that it only takes two such sensor arrays to locate the source of a gunshot — and a good computer can do so very quickly.</p> <p>In tests, her team began on a rifle range, where they confirmed that a pair of such microphone arrays could indeed determine the location of the shooter to a high degree of accuracy.</p> <p>They then moved to an urban environment, where they repeated the experiment, though in this case the shooter was replaced with a propane gas cannon of the type used by farmers to scare away crop-eating birds.</p> <p>Again, two microphone arrays were all that were needed to zero in on the source of the “shot”.</p> <p>Not that this can work anywhere, any time. Still’s signal-location algorithms require maps of the surrounding buildings, the walls of which might affect the sound and, in extreme cases, create “blind spots” if microphone arrays aren’t properly deployed.</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p192812-o1" class="wpcf7" dir="ltr" lang="en-US" role="form"> <form class="wpcf7-form mailchimp-ext-0.5.61 resetting spai-bg-prepared" action="/technology/technology-isolate-location-gunshots/#wpcf7-f6-p192812-o1" method="post" novalidate="novalidate" data-status="resetting"> <p style="display: none !important;"><span class="wpcf7-form-control-wrap referer-page"><input class="wpcf7-form-control wpcf7-text referer-page spai-bg-prepared" name="referer-page" type="hidden" value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/technology-isolate-location-gunshots/" data-value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/technology-isolate-location-gunshots/" aria-invalid="false" /></span></p> <p><!-- Chimpmail extension by Renzo Johnson --></form> </div> </div> <p>She also notes that research is ongoing as to whether it is better to put microphones at ground level or atop neighbouring buildings. There’s also continuing research around how many might be needed in complex urban cores, where there are a lot of buildings of varying height and echo patterns can become very convoluted. “We still need to evaluate [that],” she says.</p> <p>There’s also the need to weed out noises that sound like gunshots, such as firecrackers, car-engine backfires and anything else that makes a sudden bang. “We are working on classification methods,” Still says, noting that these involve computerised “deep learning” methods that can be trained to distinguish such sounds.</p> <p>Could similar sensors be deployed within a school building in order to locate a school shooter even more quickly that is currently possible? Still was asked. </p> <p>“Oh, yeah,” she said. “I think that would be applicable.” Though she noted that it might also be acoustically “very challenging” to put into practice.</p> <p>Later that same day, 19 school children and two adults were killed in Uvalde, Texas, in America’s worst grade-school shooting in nearly a decade.  </p> <p>Would the death toll have been lower if gunshot sensors such as Still’s were widely deployed? Who knows? But it was one of the most stunningly prescient scientific presentations imaginable, because she spoke less than an hour before the Uvalde gunman opened fire. It was far too late for her research to be able to deflect the tragedy that was about to unfold, but close enough to it to underscore the urgency of what she was doing.</p> <p><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=192812&amp;title=Targeting+shooters%3A+technology+that+can+isolate+the+location+of+gunshots" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><!-- End of tracking content syndication --></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/technology-isolate-location-gunshots/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/richard-a-lovett" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Richard A Lovett</a>. Richard A Lovett is a Portland, Oregon-based science writer and science fiction author. He is a frequent contributor to Cosmos.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

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Sink your teeth into Adam Liaw’s new podcast

<p dir="ltr"><em>Masterchef </em>winner, celebrity chef, and writer Adam Liaw has added another string to his bow with the launch of his first podcast, <em>How Taste Changed the World</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">The seven-part series, launched with Audible, sees Liaw explore the science and history behind our five tastes - salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami - and how they have impacted everything from economics and agriculture to why we pair red wine with meat.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m very excited to be launching my first podcast,” Liaw told OverSixty.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Taste has been the driving force behind human civilization since before it even began, and the food we choose to eat has more meaning that we can even imagine.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Each 30-minute episode is an immersive and thought-provoking deep-dive into each of the tastes, as well as what even counts as a taste and what the future looks like.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-a3113fe2-7fff-5fe7-d87e-95f4a08c4330"></span></p> <p dir="ltr">Liaw doesn’t tackle these topics alone either, enlisting the help of experts and sharing his own anecdotes and stories, with snippets from Liaw’s kids thrown in.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2022/05/adam-liaw-podcast.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Adam Liaw tackles the five tastes in his new podcast. Image: Supplied</em></p> <p dir="ltr">In another first for the Malaysian-Australian chef, Liaw will be taking the stage on Wednesday, June 1, for Vivid Sydney’s Ideas Exchange’s 2022 series, <em>Audible Live: Stories Made to be Heard</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Liaw’s will be the first in a series of three talks, where he will discuss his podcast, calling upon the interviews featured in each of the episodes to explain how vital salt is to our biology and how it turned food into a commodity that has underpinned the global economy for thousands of years, as well as how our taste buds helped establish democracy and how our hankering for sweet things has been used to sell us soft drinks.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Vivid Sydney’s Idea Exchange is the perfect forum for big ideas, and it doesn’t get much bigger than how our own biology has shaped the world around us!” Liaw said.</p> <p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-e88d060c-7fff-7b52-3af2-30ffcab8095d"></span></p> <p dir="ltr">Tickets for Liaw’s talk are available <a href="https://tickets.vividsydney.com/event/audible-live-adam-liaw" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a>.</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K5Prbfh0VnE" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Adam Liaw’s Audible Original podcast, How Tastes Changed the World, launches on Tuesday 10 May and is only available on Audible. The podcast is free for Audible members and can be found at <a href="https://urldefense.com/v3/__http:/audible.com.au/taste__;!!CN7PONKNpoI9!-mXF9S_F_DMqMCTDde2SaXD57CpMgwUTRkGnVv1CH7Cm624ZM0--rRnzo7njnX7eT8xFmcpa4foNnTLeBvzisMaawQ$" target="_blank" rel="noopener">audible.com.au/taste</a>. On 1 June, Adam will be taking part in Vivid Sydney’s Ideas Exchange with Audible Live: Stories Made to be Heard, during which he’ll discuss the podcast in further detail.</em></p> <p dir="ltr"><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-7b4a421b-7fff-c76a-4343-1d52c22385f5"></span></em></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Supplied</em></p>

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NASA’s Perseverance rover sends back Mars soundscape playlist

<p>Nearly two years after its <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/space/mars-is-the-place-in-space-to-be/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">launch</a>, and almost 18 months after <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/science/mars-news-all-good/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">landing on Mars</a>, NASA’s Perseverance rover has hours of audio recordings from the red planet’s atmosphere.</p> <p>So, what does Mars sound like? On the whole, it’s quiet. Very quiet. But the recordings did pick up interesting weather events and changes which give us a better overall picture of Mars’s clime.</p> <p>Perseverance’s primary mission is to explore sediments in a dormant river delta on the edge of the 45 kilometre-wide <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/weekly-edition/one-year-mars-perseverance-rover/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Jezero Crater</a>, to learn about the crater’s formation and hopefully find signs of ancient life. But microphones are light and cheap, so it made sense to add a couple to the rover’s instruments.</p> <p>The <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/science/engineering/the-bizarre-acoustics-of-mars/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">first audio from Mars</a> was sent by Perseverance earlier this year. Now, a year’s worth of recording from the Martian atmosphere has been condensed into about five hours of sound.</p> <p>The findings are due to be presented by Baptiste Chide of the Los Alamos National Lab during a seminar, “Mars soundscape: Review of the first sounds recorded by the Perseverance microphones,” at the <a href="https://acoustics.org/world-wide-press-room/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">182nd Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America</a> tomorrow, May 25, in Denver  in the US.</p> <p>With no large dynamical natural phenomena, extant animal species (that we know of), industrial civilisation, or extreme weather events, you’d expect Mars to be pretty silent. And it is. Under the same conditions on Earth, sounds are 20 decibels louder than on Mars.</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p192195-o1" class="wpcf7" dir="ltr" lang="en-US" role="form"> <form class="wpcf7-form mailchimp-ext-0.5.61 spai-bg-prepared init" action="/space/nasa-perseverance-rover-soundscape/#wpcf7-f6-p192195-o1" method="post" novalidate="novalidate" data-status="init"> <p style="display: none !important;"><span class="wpcf7-form-control-wrap referer-page"><input class="wpcf7-form-control wpcf7-text referer-page spai-bg-prepared" name="referer-page" type="hidden" value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/" data-value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/" aria-invalid="false" /></span></p> <p><!-- Chimpmail extension by Renzo Johnson --></form> </div> </div> <p>“It is so quiet that, at some point, we thought the microphone was broken!” says Chide.</p> <p>But, like giving a new music album a second run-through, closer listening revealed some fascinating phenomena. The group heard much variability in the wind and abrupt changes in the atmosphere, see-sawing from calm to intense gusts.</p> <p>The team noticed that the red planet’s soundscape is seasonal. During winter, carbon dioxide freezes in the polar caps. This causes changes in atmospheric density, and environmental volume fluctuates by about 20%. Atmospheric CO<sub>2</sub> also causes high-pitched sounds in the distance to become fainter.</p> <p>The rover also used laser sparks to calculate the speed of sound’s dispersion, confirming a theory that high-frequency sounds travel faster than low frequencies.</p> <p>“Mars is the only place in the solar system where that happens in the audible bandwidth because of the unique properties of the carbon dioxide molecule that composes the atmosphere,” notes Chide. While the rover will continue to record audio as it travels across Mars’s surface, Chide believes that the technique could be applied to studies of other celestial bodies. Planets and moons with denser and more volatile atmospheres, such as Venus and Titan, may yield even more information as sound waves interact more strongly and travel further.</p> <p><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=192195&amp;title=NASA%E2%80%99s+Perseverance+rover+sends+back+Mars+soundscape+playlist" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><!-- End of tracking content syndication --></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/space/nasa-perseverance-rover-soundscape/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/evrim-yazgin" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Evrim Yazgin</a>. Evrim Yazgin has a Bachelor of Science majoring in mathematical physics and a Master of Science in physics, both from the University of Melbourne.</em></p> <p><em>Image: NASA</em></p> </div>

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One young woman's plight to recover her stolen Airpods

<p>A young woman who tirelessly tracked down her missing Airpods has captured the moment she confronted a Woolies worker who allegedly stole them from her.</p> <p>Juliette Fox shared a video on Sunday that showed her speaking to a Woolworths shift supervisor about the pair of missing earphones.</p> <p>The dramatic video showed Ms Fox telling the employee that she had been tracking her missing earphones via the 'Find My’ iPhone feature and knew they were in the store.</p> <p>Ms Fox said she had been at an arcade earlier that week while visiting friends and family in Melbourne and left her earphones, keys, and phone in her coat pocket next to her. Later the woman discovered the Airpods were missing.</p> <p>She said she then started receiving notifications that her AirPods were being used in a strangers apartment. The notifications and tracking were so specific that Ms Fox knew the apartment building the alleged thief lived in, the train stations the employee had walked in and out of, and where she had gone for dinner.</p> <p>"I've been clicking on this every single day, it became the bane of my existence," she said.</p> <p>"I have the receipts, I knew when you used them. So don't lie to me, don't pretend you didn't have them."</p> <p>Ms Fox said she had tried to recover her earphones from the couple's apartment but was unable to gain access so left her name and phone number with the doorman.</p> <p>However, being dedicated to the mission ,Ms Fox decided to take matters into her own hands and confronted the Woolworths employee at the store.</p> <p>"I know the AirPods are still here," she told the employee.</p> <p>"So you're either going to give them to me or I'm going to go back to the cop station."</p> <p>"You can look but I don't have it," the employee told her.</p> <p>Ms Fox then showed the employee her tracking notifications that alerted her the AirPods had recently been used in the store and the employee called her partner.</p> <p>"That lady whose the AirPods are, she's here," the employee said.</p> <p>"You know how you can track it? She tracked it."</p> <p>The employee ended the phone call and told Ms Fox that her partner had put the AirPods in her work bag, blaming him for making the situation "so messy".</p> <p>She then told Ms Fox that she would go look for the AirPods.</p> <p>"I don't know where he put it but if you want to go, I'm happy, you can go."</p> <p>"No, I want my AirPods," Ms Fox said, as the employee walked away.</p> <p>Luckily the employee was able to find the AirPods and return them to the rightful owner. </p> <p>Commenters were left shocked by the employee's dismissive behaviour and alleged she intentionally stole them.</p> <p><em>Image: TikTok</em></p>

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Pay ‘with a smile or a wave’: Why Mastercard’s new face recognition payment system raises concerns

<p>Mastercard’s <a href="https://www.mastercard.com/news/press/2022/may/with-a-smile-or-a-wave-paying-in-store-just-got-personal/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">“smile to pay”</a> system, announced last week, is supposed to save time for customers at checkouts. It is being trialled in Brazil, with future pilots planned for the Middle East and Asia.</p> <p>The company argues touch-less technology will help speed up transaction times, shorten lines in shops, heighten security and improve hygiene in businesses. But it raises concerns relating to customer privacy, data storage, crime risk and bias.</p> <p><strong>How will it work?</strong></p> <p>Mastercard’s biometric checkout system will provide customers facial recognition-based payments, by linking the biometric authentication systems of a number of third-party companies with Mastercard’s own payment systems.</p> <p>A Mastercard spokesperson told The Conversation it had already partnered with NEC, Payface, Aurus, Fujitsu Limited, PopID and PayByFace, with more providers to be named.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464953/original/file-20220524-22-ga0v7l.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="The 'Fujitsu' logo in red is displayed on a building's side" /></a><figcaption><em><span class="caption">Mastercard has partnered with Fujitsu, a massive information and communications technology firm offering many different products and services.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p>They said “providers need to go through independent laboratory certification against the program criteria to be considered” – but details of these criteria aren’t yet publicly available.</p> <p>According to <a href="https://www.siliconrepublic.com/business/mastercard-facial-recognition-biometric-payments" target="_blank" rel="noopener">media</a> reports, customers will have to install an app which will take their picture and payment information. This information will be saved and stored on the third-party provider’s servers.</p> <p>At the checkout, the customer’s face will be matched with the stored data. And once their identity is verified, funds will be deducted automatically. The “wave” option is a bit of a trick: as the customer watches the camera while waving, the camera still scans their face – not their hand.</p> <p>Similar authentication technologies are used on smartphones (face ID) and in many airports around the world, including “<a href="https://www.abf.gov.au/entering-and-leaving-australia/smartgates/arrivals" target="_blank" rel="noopener">smartgates</a>” in Australia.</p> <p><a href="https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/4/16251304/kfc-china-alipay-ant-financial-smile-to-pay" target="_blank" rel="noopener">China</a> started using biometrics-based checkout technology back in 2017. But Mastercard is among the first to launch such a system in Western markets – competing with the “pay with your palm” <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/29/amazon-introduces-the-amazon-one-a-way-to-pay-with-your-palm-when-entering-stores/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">system</a> used at cashier-less Amazon Go and Whole Foods brick and mortars in the United States.</p> <p><strong>What we don’t know</strong></p> <p>Much about the precise functioning of Mastercard’s system isn’t clear. How accurate will the facial recognition be? Who will have access to the databases of biometric data?</p> <p>A Mastercard spokesperson told The Conversation customers’ data would be stored with the relevant biometric service provider in encrypted form, and removed when the customer “indicates they want to end their enrolment”. But how will the removal of data be enforced if Mastercard itself can’t access it?</p> <p>Obviously, privacy protection is a major concern, especially when there are many potential third-party providers involved.</p> <p>On the bright side, Mastercard’s <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets/032615/how-mastercard-makes-its-money-ma.asp" target="_blank" rel="noopener">customers</a> will have a choice as to whether or not they use the biometrics checkout system. However, it will be at retailers’ discretion whether they offer it, or whether they offer it exclusively as the only payment option.</p> <p>Similar face-recognition technologies used in airports, and <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/police-surveillance-and-facial-recognition-why-data-privacy-is-an-imperative-for-communities-of-color/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">by police</a>, often offer no choice.</p> <p>We can assume Mastercard and the biometrics provider with whom they partner will require customer consent, as per most privacy laws. But will customers know what they are consenting to?</p> <p>Ultimately, the biometric service providers Mastercard teams up with will decide how they use the data, for how long, where they store it, and who can access it. Mastercard will merely decide what providers are “good enough” to be accepted as partners, and the minimum standards they must adhere to.</p> <p>Customers who want the convenience of this checkout service will have to consent to all the related data and privacy terms. And as reports have noted, there is potential for Mastercard to integrate the feature with loyalty schemes and make personalised recommendations <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/17/mastercard-launches-tech-that-lets-you-pay-with-your-face-or-hand.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">based on purchases</a>.</p> <p><strong>Accuracy is a problem</strong></p> <p>While the accuracy of face recognition technologies has previously been challenged, the current <em>best</em> facial authentication algorithms have an error of just 0.08%, according to tests by the <a href="https://github.com/usnistgov/frvt/blob/nist-pages/reports/1N/frvt_1N_report_2020_03_27.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">National Institute of Standards and Technology</a>. In some countries, even banks have <a href="https://techhq.com/2020/09/biometrics-the-most-secure-solution-for-banking/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">become comfortable</a> relying on it to log users into their accounts.</p> <p>Yet we can’t know how accurate the technologies used in Mastercard’s biometric checkout system will be. The algorithms underpinning a technology can work almost perfectly when trailed in a lab, but perform <a href="https://www.csis.org/blogs/technology-policy-blog/how-accurate-are-facial-recognition-systems-%E2%80%93-and-why-does-it-matter" target="_blank" rel="noopener">poorly</a> in real life settings, where lighting, angles and other parameters are varied.</p> <p><strong>Bias is another problem</strong></p> <p>In a 2019 study, NIST <a href="https://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/ir/2019/NIST.IR.8280.pdf#page=5" target="_blank" rel="noopener">found</a> that out of 189 facial recognition algorithms, the majority were biased. Specifically, they were less accurate on people from racial and ethnic minorities.</p> <p>Even if the technology has improved in the past few years, it’s not foolproof. And we don’t know the extent to which Mastercard’s system has overcome this challenge.</p> <p>If the software fails to recognise a customer at the check out, they might end up disappointed, or even become irate – which would completely undo any promise of speed or convenience.</p> <p>But if the technology misidentifies a person (for instance, John is recognised as Peter – or <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8-yupM-6Oc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">twins are confused</a> for each other), then money could be taken from the wrong person’s account. How would such a situation be dealt with?</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=617&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=617&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=617&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=776&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=776&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/464424/original/file-20220520-19-5hfuvx.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=776&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></a><figcaption><em><span class="caption">There’s no evidence facial recognition technology is infallible. These systems can misidentify and also have biases.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p><strong>Is the technology secure?</strong></p> <p>We often hear about software and databases being hacked, even in <a href="https://www.csoonline.com/article/2130877/the-biggest-data-breaches-of-the-21st-century.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cases of</a> supposedly very “secure” organisations. Despite Mastercard’s <a href="https://wwmastw.cnbc.com/2022/05/17/mastercard-launches-tech-that-lets-you-pay-with-your-face-or-hand.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">efforts</a> to ensure security, there’s no guarantee the third-party providers’ databases – with potentially millions of people’s biometric data – won’t be hacked.</p> <p>In the wrong hands, this data could lead to <a href="https://www.comparitech.com/identity-theft-protection/identity-theft-statistics/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">identity theft</a>, which is one of the fastest growing types of crime, and financial fraud.</p> <p><strong>Do we want it?</strong></p> <p>Mastercard suggests 74% of customers are in favour of using such technology, referencing a stat from its <a href="https://www.mastercard.com/news/ap/en/newsroom/press-releases/en/2020/april/mastercard-study-shows-consumers-moving-to-contactless-payments-for-everyday-purchases/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">own study</a> – also used by <a href="https://www.mastercard.com/news/ap/en/newsroom/press-releases/en/2020/october/mastercard-idemia-and-matchmove-pilot-fingerprint-biometric-card-in-asia-to-enhance-security-and-safety-of-contactless-payments" target="_blank" rel="noopener">business partner</a> Idemia (a company that sells biometric identification products).</p> <p>But the report cited is vague and brief. Other studies show entirely different results. For example, <a href="https://www.getapp.com/resources/facial-recognition-technology/#how-comfortable-are-consumers-with-facial-recognition-technology" target="_blank" rel="noopener">this study</a> suggests 69% of customers aren’t comfortable with face recognition tech being used in retail settings. And <a href="https://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/93521-are-consumers-comfortable-with-facial-recognition-it-depends-says-new-study" target="_blank" rel="noopener">this one</a> shows only 16% trust such tech.</p> <p>Also, if consumers knew the risks the technology poses, the number of those willing to use it might drop even lower.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/183447/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rita-matulionyte-170113" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Rita Matulionyte</a>, Senior Lecturer in Law, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Macquarie University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/pay-with-a-smile-or-a-wave-why-mastercards-new-face-recognition-payment-system-raises-concerns-183447" target="_blank" rel="noopener">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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Digital inequality: why can I enter your building – but your website shows me the door?

<p>When people hear the term “accessibility” in the context of disability, most will see images of ramps, automatic doors, elevators, or tactile paving (textured ground which helps vision impaired people navigate public spaces). These are physical examples of inclusive practice that most people understand.</p> <p>You may even use these features yourself, for convenience, as you go about your day. However, such efforts to create an inclusive physical world aren’t being translated into designing the digital world.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463211/original/file-20220516-25-nl8hd8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="A large wheelchair sign is visible to the left of a wheelchair ramp." /></a><figcaption><em><span class="caption">New buildings are required to comply with a range of physical access requirements, which may include tactile paving (seen in yellow).</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p><strong>Accessibility fails</strong></p> <p>Digital accessibility refers to the way people with a lived experience of disability interact with the cyber world.</p> <p>One example comes from an author of this article, <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2019-07-13/dark-patterns-online-captcha-accessibility-disability-community/11301054" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Scott</a>, who is legally blind. Scott is unable to purchase football tickets online because the ticketing website uses an image-based “CAPTCHA” test. It’s a seemingly simple task, but fraught with challenges when considering accessibility issues.</p> <p>Despite Scott having an IT-related PhD, and two decades of digital accessibility experience in academic and commercial arenas, it falls on his teenage son to complete the online ticket purchase.</p> <p>Screen readers, high-contrast colour schemes and text magnifiers are all assistive technology tools that enable legally blind users to interact with websites. Unfortunately, they are useless if a website has not been designed with an inclusive approach.</p> <p>The other author of this article, Justin, uses a wheelchair for mobility and can’t even purchase wheelchair seating tickets over the web. He has to phone a special access number to do so.</p> <p>Both of these are examples of digital accessibility fails. And they’re more common than most people realise.</p> <p><strong>We can clearly do better</strong></p> <p>The term “disability” covers a spectrum of <a href="https://www.apsc.gov.au/working-aps/diversity-and-inclusion/disability/definition-disability" target="_blank" rel="noopener">physical and cognitive conditions</a>. It can can range from short-term conditions to lifelong ones.</p> <p>“Digital accessibility” applies to a broad range of users <a href="https://www.w3.org/WAI/people-use-web/abilities-barriers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">with varying abilities</a>.</p> <p>At last count, nearly <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/disability/disability-ageing-and-carers-australia-summary-findings/2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">one in five Australians (17.7%)</a> lived with some form of disability. This figure increases significantly when you consider the physical and cognitive impacts of ageing.</p> <p>At the same time, Australians are becoming increasingly reliant on digital services. According to a <a href="https://www.pwc.com.au/consulting/connected-government/potential-of-digital-inclusion.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2022 survey</a> by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, 45% of respondents in New South Wales and Victoria increased their use of digital channels during the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>In contrast, research undertaken by <a href="https://www.infosys.com/australia/digital-accessibility-journey/executive-summary.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Infosys in December 2021</a> found only 3% of leading companies in Australia and New Zealand had effective digital accessibility processes.</p> <p><strong>But have we improved?</strong></p> <p>Areas that <em>have</em> shown accessibility improvement include <a href="https://blog.hootsuite.com/inclusive-design-social-media/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">social media platforms</a> such as YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, food ordering services such as <a href="https://www.afb.org/aw/20/4/16411" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Uber Eats</a>, and media platforms such as the ABC News app.</p> <p>Challenges still persist in <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/cognizant/2022/03/03/how-to-make-online-banking-disabled-people-friendly/?sh=21a3d5dda4a5" target="_blank" rel="noopener">online banking</a>, <a href="https://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Travel-Agent-Issues/Websites-critiqued-on-accessibility-to-disabled-customers" target="_blank" rel="noopener">travel booking sites</a>, <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahkim/2020/12/30/accessibility-of-online-shopping/?sh=66a9d883e49e" target="_blank" rel="noopener">shopping sites</a> and <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10209-021-00792-5" target="_blank" rel="noopener">educational websites and content</a>.</p> <p>Data from the United States indicates lawsuits relating to accessibility <a href="https://www.essentialaccessibility.com/blog/web-accessibility-lawsuits">are on the rise</a>, with outcomes including financial penalties and requirements for business owners to remedy the accessibility of their website/s.</p> <p>In Australia, however, it’s often hard to obtain exact figures for the scale of accessibility complaints lodged with site owners. <a href="https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/disability-rights/publications/overlooked-consumers-20-australian-population-disabilities" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This 1997 article</a> from the Australian Human Right Commission suggests the conversation hasn’t shifted much in 25 years.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><em><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=257&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=257&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=257&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=323&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=323&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463213/original/file-20220516-19-vjfht8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=323&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="A rendered illustration of a disabled man in a wheelchair and woman with a hearing aid lifting weights." /></a></em><figcaption><em><span class="caption">It’s a human right to have fair and equal access to the web and all its services.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p><strong>There are solutions at hand</strong></p> <p>There’s a clear solution to the digital divide. The World Wide Web Consortium’s <a href="https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Web Content Accessibility Guidelines</a> (WCAG) standard has been widely adopted across the globe. It’s universally available, and is a requirement for all Australian public-facing government websites.</p> <p>It guides website and app developers on how to use web languages (such as HTML and CSS) in ways that enable end users who rely on assistive technologies. There are no specialist technologies or techniques required to make websites or apps accessible. All that’s needed is an adherence to good practice.</p> <p>Unfortunately, WCAG is rarely treated as an <a href="https://www.rev.com/blog/web-accessibility-laws-australia-new-zealand" target="_blank" rel="noopener">enforceable standard</a>. All too often, adherence to WCAG requirements in Australia is reduced to a box-ticking exercise.</p> <p>Our academic work and experience liaising with a range of vendors has revealed that even where specific accessibility requirements are stated, many vendors will tick “yes” regardless of their knowledge of accessibility principles, or their ability to deliver against the standards.</p> <p>In cases where vendors do genuinely work towards WCAG compliance, they often rely on automated testing (via online tools), rather than human <a href="https://zoonou.com/resources/blog/why-automated-accessibility-testing-tools-are-not-enough/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">testing</a>. As a result, genuine accessibility and usability issues can go <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262352732_Benchmarking_web_accessibility_evaluation_tools_Measuring_the_harm_of_sole_reliance_on_automated_tests" target="_blank" rel="noopener">unreported</a>. While the coding of each element of a website might be WCAG compliant, the sum of all the parts may not be.</p> <p>In 2016, the Australian government adopted <a href="https://www.accessibility.org.au/policy-and-research/australian-policy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">standard EN 301549</a> (a direct implementation of an existing European standard). It’s aimed at preventing inaccessible products (hardware, software, websites and services) entering the government’s digital ecosystem. Yet the new standard seems to have achieved little. Few, if any, references to it appear in academic literature or the public web.</p> <p>It seems to have met a similar fate to the government’s <a href="https://www.governmentnews.com.au/national-transition-strategy-web-accessibility-in-transition/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">National Transition Strategy</a> for digital accessibility, which quietly disappeared in 2015.</p> <p><strong>The carrot, not the stick</strong></p> <p>Accessibility advocates take different approaches to advancing the accessibility agenda with reticent organisations. Some instil the fear of legal action, often citing the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1RbzjUBT1s" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Maguire v SOCOG case</a>, where the 2000 Olympic website was found to be inaccessible.</p> <p>In a more recent example, the <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-05/blind-woman-launches-court-action-against-coles-over-its-website/5869874?nw=0&amp;r=HtmlFragment" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Manage v Coles settlement</a> saw Coles agree to make improvements to their website’s accessibility after being sued by a legally blind woman.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=448&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=448&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=448&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=563&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=563&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/463210/original/file-20220516-21-7tu89a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=563&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="Screenshot of the top of Coles's 'accessibility' section on the company's website, with a red Coles logo on the top-left." /></a><figcaption><em><span class="caption">After getting sued by a legally blind customer in 2014, Coles made improvements to its website’s accessibility features.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Screenshot/Coles</span></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p>In the Coles case, the stick became the carrot; Coles went on to win a <a href="https://www.accessibility.org.au/award-winners-2019/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">national website accessibility award</a> after the original complainant nominated them following their remediation efforts.</p> <p>But while the financial impact of being sued might spur an organisation into action, it’s more likely to commit to genuine effort if this will generate a <a href="https://www.w3.org/WAI/business-case/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">positive return on investment</a>.</p> <p><strong>Accessible by default</strong></p> <p>We can attest to the common misconception that disability implies a need for help and support. Most people living with disability are seeking to live independently and with self-determination.</p> <p>To break the cycle of financial and social dependence frequently associated with the equity space, governments, corporations and educational institutions need to become accessible by default.</p> <p>The technologies and policies are all in place, ready to go. What is needed is leadership from government and non-government sectors to define digital accessibility as a right, and not a privilege. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/182432/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/scott-hollier-1337594" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Scott Hollier</a>, Adjunct Senior Lecturer - Science and Mathematics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Edith Cowan University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/justin-brown-1344442" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Justin Brown</a>, Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning), School of Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/digital-inequality-why-can-i-enter-your-building-but-your-website-shows-me-the-door-182432" target="_blank" rel="noopener">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

Technology

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The variation advantage: how to master tennis, learn a language, or build better AI

<p>Want to become a better tennis player? If you repeatedly practise serving to the same spot, you’ll master serving to that <em>exact</em> location, if conditions remain similar. Practising your serve to a variety of locations will take much longer to master, but in the end you’ll be a better tennis player, and much more capable of facing a fierce opponent.</p> <p>The reason why is all about variability: the more we’re exposed to, the better our neural networks are able to generalise and calculate which information is important to the task, and what is not. This also helps us learn and make decisions in new contexts.</p> <p><strong>From fox to hounds</strong></p> <p>This generalisation principle can be applied to many things, including learning languages or recognising dog breeds. For example, an infant will have difficulty learning what a ‘dog’ is if they are only exposed to chihuahuas instead of many dog breeds (chihuahuas, beagles, bulldogs etc.), which show the real variation of <em>Canis lupus familiaris</em>. Including information about what is <em>not</em> in the dog category – for example foxes – also helps us build generalisations, which helps us to eliminate irrelevant information.</p> <p>“Learning from less variable input is often fast, but may fail to generalise to new stimuli,” says Dr Limor Raviv, the senior investigator from the Max Planck Institute (Germany). “But these important insights have not been unified into a single theoretical framework, which has obscured the bigger picture.”</p> <p>To better understand the patterns behind this generalisation framework, and how variability effects the human learning process and that of computers, Raviv’s research team explored over 150 studies on variability and generalisation across the fields of computer science, linguistics, motor learning, visual perception and formal education.</p> <p><strong>Wax on, wax off</strong></p> <p>The researchers found that there are at least four kinds of variability, including:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Numerosity</strong> (set size), which is the number of different examples; such as the number of locations on the tennis court a served ball could land</li> <li><strong>Heterogeneity</strong> (differences between examples); serving to the same spot versus serving to different spots</li> <li><strong>Situational</strong> (context) diversity; facing the same opponent on the same court or a different component on a different court</li> <li><strong>Scheduling</strong> (interleaving, spacing); how frequently you practice, and in what order do you practice components of a task</li> </ul> <p>“These four kinds of variability have never been directly compared—which means that we currently don’t know which is most effective for learning,” says Raviv.</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p191362-o1" class="wpcf7" dir="ltr" lang="en-US" role="form"> </div> </div> <p>According to the ‘Mr Miyagi principle’, inspired by the 1984 movie <em>The Karate Kid</em>, practising unrelated skills – such as waxing cars or painting fences – might actually benefit the learning of other skills: in the movie’s case, martial arts.</p> <p><strong>Lemon or lime?</strong></p> <p>So why does including variability in training slow things down? One theory is that there are always exceptions to the rules, which makes learning and generalising harder.</p> <p>For example, while colour is important for distinguishing lemons from limes, it wouldn’t be helpful for telling cars and trucks apart. Then there are atypical examples – such as a chihuahua that doesn’t look like a dog, and a fox that does, but isn’t.</p> <p>So as well as learning a rule to make neural shortcuts, we also have to learn exceptions to these rules, which makes learning slower and more complicated. This means that when training is variable, learners have to actively reconstruct memories, which takes more effort.</p> <p><strong>Putting a face to a name</strong></p> <p>So how do we train ourselves and computers to recognise faces? The illustration below is an example of variations of a fox for machine learning. Providing several variations – including image rotation, colour and partial masking – improves the machine’s ability to generalise (in this case, to identify a fox). This data augmentation technique is an effective way of expanding the amount of available data by providing variations of the same data point, but it slows down the speed of learning.</p> <p>Humans are the same: the more variables we’re presented with, the harder it is for us to learn – but eventually it pays off in a greater ability to generalise knowledge in new contexts.</p> <p>“Understanding the impact of variability is important for literally every aspect of our daily life. Beyond affecting the way we learn language, motor skills, and categories, it even has an impact on our social lives.” explains Raviv. “For example, face recognition is affected by whether people grew up in a small community (fewer than 1000 people) or in larger community (over 30,000 people). Exposure to fewer faces during childhood is associated with diminished face memory.”</p> <p>The learning message for both humans and AI is clear: variation is key. Switch up your tennis serve, play with lots of different dogs, and practice language with a variety of speakers. Your brain (or algorithm) will thank you for it… eventually.</p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=191362&amp;title=The+variation+advantage%3A+how+to+master+tennis%2C+learn+a+language%2C+or+build+better+AI" width="1" height="1" /></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/people/behaviour/the-variation-advantage-how-to-master-tennis-learn-a-language-or-build-better-ai/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/qamariya-nasrullah" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Qamariya Nasrullah</a>. Qamariya Nasrullah holds a PhD in evolutionary development from Monash University and an Honours degree in palaeontology from Flinders University.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

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Australia to put “selfie sticks” in space

<p>A “selfie stick” for a satellite? It sounds strange. And simple. But it’s one of those typically tricky – and necessary – challenges facing Australia’s emerging space industry.</p> <p>The University of South Australia was one of three universities and 23 businesses of the iLAUNCH hub to share $180 million in funding this week to secure a future sovereign space industry.</p> <p>They all face the same challenge: to build lightweight but resilient satellite components locally.</p> <p>For UniSA, manufacturing specialists Amaero and SMR Australia, and the Defence Science Technology Group in Adelaide, the focus is on 3D printing.</p> <p>“The selfie stick is a concept to give the public an appreciation of what we’re trying to do,” says Industry Associate Research Professor Colin Hall.</p> <p>And that’s being able to fabricate complex optical components for satellite imaging systems.</p> <p>So why do satellites need “selfie sticks”?</p> <p>“We need to know what’s happening to them,” he says. “We want to see everything. Did it deploy right? Did an electrical short cause a malfunction? Or was it some sort of external influence – like a solar flare?”</p> <p>It’s part of a project to develop a “black box” flight data recording system for satellites.</p> <p>“It’s very challenging to get anything to operate properly in space, and that’s after getting it qualified and certified,” he says.</p> <p>It must be of high quality. It must be reliable. It must be lightweight. It must be durable.</p> <p>It also must burn up in re-entry and not punch any unexpected holes in the ground.</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <div id="wpcf7-f6-p191600-o1" class="wpcf7" dir="ltr" lang="en-US" role="form"> <form class="wpcf7-form mailchimp-ext-0.5.61 resetting" action="/technology/robotics/selfie-sticks-space/#wpcf7-f6-p191600-o1" method="post" novalidate="novalidate" data-status="resetting"> <p style="display: none !important;"><span class="wpcf7-form-control-wrap referer-page"><input class="wpcf7-form-control wpcf7-text referer-page" name="referer-page" type="hidden" value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/" data-value="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/" aria-invalid="false" /></span></p> <p><!-- Chimpmail extension by Renzo Johnson --></form> </div> </div> <p>That makes something as traditional as an optic lens a challenge.</p> <p>“You can take the traditional manufacturing route with a block of aluminium alloy or titanium, machine it into shape and polish it to the right tolerances,” says Dr Hall. “But we came from a different position not normally associated with high-end optics – 3D printed plastic”.</p> <p>UniSA’s done something similar before. In 2011, it came up with the first plastic mirrors for the automotive industry. </p> <p>“We had to pass all the certifications such as being resistant to harsh chemicals, abrasion, pressure and heat,” Dr Halls says. “It was a matter of having a lightweight mirror and finding new places to put it”.</p> <p>A 3D printer builds a space-grade plastic formulation into the necessary interlocking shapes. Then a vacuum deposition technique applies a 50-nanometer thick layer of reflective metal. This is then given a protective clear ceramic coating.</p> <p>“You have to get the chemistry right, the temperature right and the pressure right,” he says. </p> <p>The end result is a high-quality optic finish on a set of perfectly fitting lenses. While the manufacturing process is complex, the end product is as simplified as possible.</p> <p>“It’s more easy to create complex shapes,” says Dr Hall. “That means you can simplify the optics to the point where you may only need one camera lens capturing an image of the whole satellite”.</p> <p>Another advantage of 3D printed optics is their weight and density. They’re about half that of comparable glass and one third that of titanium-based components.</p> <p>Challenges remain.</p> <p>Among them is establishing the thermal expansion properties of any 3D printed plastic framework. One side can be facing the extreme heat of the sun. The other is in the cold black shadow of space.</p> <p>At stake is a place in the burgeoning low-Earth observation satellite industry.</p> <p>“There’s much more demand now for high-end optical components,” Dr Hall says. His team is also working with the CSIRO to produce selective filters for the sensors on its upcoming Aquawatch water quality observation satellite.</p> <p><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=191600&amp;title=Australia+to+put+%E2%80%9Cselfie+sticks%E2%80%9D+in+space" width="1" height="1" data-spai-target="src" data-spai-orig="" data-spai-exclude="nocdn" /></p> <p><!-- End of tracking content syndication --></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/robotics/selfie-sticks-space/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/jamie-seidel" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Jamie Seidel</a>. Jamie Seidel is a freelance journalist based in Adelaide.</em></p> <p><em>Image: University of South Australia</em></p> </div>

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Why your iPod could now be worth a fortune

<p dir="ltr">After Apple announced the discontinuation of the iconic iPod, the amount of listings for the popular device has skyrocketed on online marketplaces - and so have the prices themselves. </p> <p dir="ltr">The first iPod Classic was first launched in 2001 with a $399 price tag that shocked fans at the time, and now, the news has brought some prices back up with some caveats.</p> <p dir="ltr">“With iPods discontinued, you might be asking whether it’s time to cash in on some of your old tech,” James Andrews, <em>money.co.uk</em>’s personal finance editor, told <em><a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-10805019/iPods-selling-THOUSANDS-eBay-Apple-announces-discontinuing-20-years.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Daily Mail</a></em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The first thing to say is don’t get excited by list prices on eBay. While a few models are selling for thousands, the vast majority are selling for far less.</p> <p dir="ltr">“But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t pick up a reasonable amount. Do a search and check recent sold prices for models like your own to see what you’re likely to get.</p> <p dir="ltr">“In general, the best prices go to iPod Classic models, in great conditions and with all the leads needed included. If you're lucky enough to have an unopened U2 Special Edition iPod from 2004 in the back of a cupboard, it could make you thousands.”</p> <p dir="ltr">If you’re wondering just how much you can get for your devices, here’s a rundown.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>iPod Classic</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The original model, which launched in 2001 and went for six generations, could bring you some decent profits - particularly if you have a first generation model.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the Daily Mail, a first-generation 5GB iPod Classic sold on eBay for $1,599 plus a hefty $114.60 for shipping.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>iPod Mini</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The smaller model, which came in a range of bright colours, was also slightly cheaper than its predecessor - but sellers seem to have also made smaller profits so far.</p> <p dir="ltr">Originally retailing at $249, one eBay seller offloaded their second generation device for $324.99, while another sold their first-gen iPod for $290.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>iPod Shuffle</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The cutesy model came without a screen and retailed for just $99, and it appears it also hasn’t seen a huge increase in value.</p> <p dir="ltr">In February this year, one first-generation iPod sold for $129.99, while a second-gen device sold for a slightly heftier $199.99 in March.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>iPod Nano</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">A slim version of the iPod Mini, this version retailed for $149 and came with a big tech development: colour screens.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to recent eBay sales, the iPod Nano has more than doubled in value, with two second-gen iPods selling for over $380 in February.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>iPod Touch</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The last ‘new’ line of iPods, the iPod Touch was revolutionary in that it introduced us to touch screens, it could surf the web, and it had heaps of storage for music.</p> <p dir="ltr">Originally selling for just shy of $300 in 2007, the device has earned some online sellers between $3,470 for a sixth-generation device and a whopping $6524 for a fourth-generation version.</p> <p dir="ltr">But, no matter which kind of iPod you have, the amount you’ll get from selling it off will depend on the condition it’s in and whether it has all the cords it first came with.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-5f90ef2d-7fff-7042-2686-32faeb59c531"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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