Roland’s Sunday Smart Trends #206
March 16th, 2008

Britain makes camera that sees under clothes

A British company has developed a camera that can detect weapons, drugs or explosives hidden under people’s clothes from up to 25 meters away in what could be a breakthrough for the security industry. The T5000 camera, created by a company called ThruVision, uses what it calls “passive imaging technology” to identify objects by the natural electromagnetic rays — known as Terahertz or T-rays — that they emit.
Source: Reuters, March 9, 2008

Bringing Second Life to life

Today’s video games and online virtual worlds give users the freedom to create characters in the digital domain that look and seem more human than ever before. But despite having your hair, your height, and your hazel eyes, your avatar is still little more than just a pretty face. [...] At a recent conference on artificial intelligence, the researchers unveiled the ‘embodiment’ of their success to date: ‘Eddie,’ a 4-year-old child in Second Life who can reason about his own beliefs to draw conclusions in a manner that matches human children his age.
Source: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute news release, March 10, 2008

Web Mashups Made Easy

A new research project from Intel Research, in Berkeley, CA, is trying to take some of the mystery out of crafting a mashup. Called Mash Maker, the project aims to let people use their ordinary Web browsers to combine information from different sites. If, for example, you are looking at apartments on Craigslist, you can easily add information about nearby restaurants from Yelp, a recommendation site, essentially augmenting the data on the Craigslist page. With another few clicks of a button, you can put the apartments and Yelp listings on a Google map, which will also appear within the Craigslist page. The next time you visit the Craigslist page, you can reopen the mashup, and it will automatically use new data from the site.
Source: Kate Greene, Technology Review, March 12, 2008

Would you deposit to ‘biobank’?

Hoping to link illnesses to genetics and lifestyle, the federal government is exploring the possibility of recruiting a half-million Americans to contribute their DNA and health information to an ambitious national “biobank.” Some scientists consider the project a long shot, largely because billions of dollars are needed to fund it at a time when Congress is busy spending money on other things. And before any such study is launched, they say, Americans need protection from genetic discrimination.
Source: Lisa M. Krieger, Mercury News, March 11, 2008

Heart device found vulnerable to hacker attacks

To the long list of objects vulnerable to attack by computer hackers, add the human heart. The threat seems largely theoretical. But a team of computer security researchers plans to report Wednesday that it had been able to gain wireless access to a combination heart defibrillator and pacemaker. They were able to reprogram it to shut down and to deliver jolts of electricity that would potentially be fatal — if the device had been in a person. In this case, the researchers were hacking into a device in a laboratory.
Source: Barnaby J. Feder, The New York Times, March 11, 2008

Searching as a Team

Social software is proliferating online, but many of the most common Internet tools, such as search engines, are still used in isolation. “These tools are designed for a single person, working alone by him or herself, but that’s not always the way that we work,” says Meredith Morris, a researcher in the Adaptive Systems and Interaction group at Microsoft Research. People planning travel with their spouses, she says, or students working on research projects with classmates all too often find themselves repeating work others have done or fail to find sites that others have identified. Morris is designing a tool that could begin to help with this problem.
Source: Erica Naone, Technology Review, March 13, 2008

Public Wi-Fi: Be Very Paranoid

You have an hour before your flight, so you log in to the Wi-Fi network at the airport. You look up some stock prices, check your e-mail, pay a couple of bills online, and surf a few Web sites. Has it occurred to you that curious or hostile eyes could be peering into your computer and your network? It pays to be paranoid. The wireless service offered in airports, coffee shops, hotels, and other hotspots is almost always unencrypted. That means anyone else on the network who is equipped with readily available software can read your transmissions with little effort. And when there is protection, it’s likely to be a form of encryption called Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) that’s easily broken.
Source: Stephen H. Wildstrom, BusinessWeek Magazine, March 12, 2008

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