Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Can these glasses read your mind? A look at the Wild West of brain gadgets.

The headset I was wearing was supposed to be reading my brain.

Seated across from its inventor, I slid on the sleek wireless device, called Narbis Neurofeedback Glasses. A five-pronged sensor sat on my head, dark lenses shaded my eyes, and two arms hooked behind my ears. As I read a book, the lenses darkened and cleared, allegedly in sync with the drift of my attention.

Devon Greco, the 29-year-old founder of Narbis, wanted to make a brain-training device to help users focus. And unlike most biofeedback tools, his wireless glasses can be used far from a computer screen. Narbis recently raised \$42,997 for its Neurofeedback Glasses in a Kickstarter campaign, and plans to sell the devices at \$295 apiece. The glasses are being targeted at athletes and clinicians who treat ADHD, among others.

But do they really work?

Brain gadgets are becoming ever more popular, as techniques for stimulating or recording from the brain migrate from labs to the garages of do-it-yourself inventors like Greco. Neurofeedback tools like Narbis are one popular trend; "brain zappers" that use transcranial direct cortical stimulation, or tDCS, are another.

The much-hyped tDCS is a cautionary tale. The technique is supposed to ease everything from depression to hyperactivi ty to back pain by electrically stimulating the brain. But amidst hope and enthusiasm, many scientists and entrepreneurs have confused "claims with reality," as Dr. Vincent Walsh cautioned his colleagues in the journal Brain Stimulation. "We constantly sex up our findings for the press, and the result is an understandably overoptimistic public, because we — no one else — have misled them."

Despite a 2008 Harvard study suggesting that tDCS lessens pain, more recent research paints a different picture. In a recent analysis for Cochrane, a World Health Organization-affiliated NGO, Neil O'Connell and colleagues showed that the evidence that tDCS reduces back pain is overwhelmingly weak.

Jared Horvath, a doctoral candidate at the University of Melbourne, used tDCS to study ADHD at Harvard for two years, without success, before deciding to investigate the tool itself. In a large meta-analysis of the brain zappers, he showed that few of the reported effects survive replication by multiple groups. The few that do are small effects that shrink over time, suggesting that the early positive results were misleading outliers.

As a 2012 paper pointed out, the sensationalization of biomedical devices often starts not with entrepreneurs, but with scientists, who spin reports of new discoveries.

"The scientist and the innovative entrepreneur have similar motivations," says O'Connell, a lecturer in physiotherapy at Brunel University in England. "They all want to discover something. Whether your vested interest is academic or entrepreneurial, there is an emphasis on discovery, but not on confirmation, not on rigorous replication."

Narbis' neurofeedback technology is based on work by Devon Greco's father, the late Domenic Greco. Domenic developed a patented brain-feedback device based on a NASA prototype that he used in psychotherapy with ADHD patients. A review of such neuro-feedback technology published last year in the journal Biological Psychology confirmed that the technique may work to reduce inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness, but noted the small sample size and lack of placebo in many studies.

The review also addressed the "theta-beta ratio" on which Narbis' software is based, the measure of attention-related brainwaves developed by pioneering neurofeedback scientist Dr. Joel Lubar. According to research, this variable only affects 20 to 30 percent of ADHD children. So how the gadgets work remains unclear.

Narbis' marketing material, like that of many brain devices, makes claims both broad and specific. "By doing just two short training sessions a week, you can improve the overall performance of the brain," the website says. The company's promotional video adds, "Narbis can help you focus, sleep well, manage stress, and think clearly."

These claims are, of course, "falsifiable," as scientists say: testable hypotheses. But no such studies on the Narbis glasses have yet been done. The assertions are based on prior studies done by outside labs with similar setups, but not on the device the company is selling. The claims are, for now, more wishful marketing-speak than fact.

And while the FDA has approved commercial neurofeedback devices as safe (as long as they are not marketed to treat diseases), they don't have to meet any standard of effectiveness.

None of this means the device doesn't work, just that there is no way yet for consumers to know.

The problem, according to Brunel's O'Connell, starts with the bias toward positive results in science, along with hyperbolic terminology like "neuro-enhancement" and "brain boosting." New discoveries are published far more often than failures to reproduce previous results. These negative results, just as informative as successes, rarely see the light of day. Companies like Narbis have even less motivation to publish negative results.

"The things less incentivized are perhaps most important," O'Connell says. "When we [scientists] don't pay sufficient attention to the uncomfortable questions — low sample size, highly selected sample, loose exploratory statistics — then it isn't just the media who are responsible for hype."

"Of course, the idea of neurofeedback is incredibly intuitive and exciting, so it's no surprise that everyone wants to capitalize on it," says Todd Braver, an expert on cognitive control and a professor of psychology, neuroscience, and radiology at Washington University in St. Louis. "But we should be very wary of placebo effects — probably the most effective neurofeedback device there is: our belief system."

But that doesn't mean we should discourage companies like Narbis.

"I'm very happy for people to keep taking a crack at neurofeedback," says Braver. "That's what science is about anyway. What seem like crazy hare-brained ideas might actually work. But the main tenet of science is also: Show me the evidence. And we know what the history is with these 'neuroscience-inspired' products, software, gadgets: lots of claims and overblown arguments for support without really any direct evidence."

 
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 » see original post http://theweek.com/articles/555637/glasses-read-mind-look-wild-west-brain-gadgets

A glimpse at what's in our very near future. This is so cool - and such cool terms used together...

A glimpse at what's in our very near future. This is so cool - and such cool terms used together in describing it: "femtosecond", "3d", "hologram", "laser", "plasma" and "voxel".
Love the fact you get tactile feedback, too. Game changer?

 » see original post https://plus.google.com/+MarkHightonRidley/posts/i9NuyZTfaCr

Saving fuel with software

Energy efficiency isn't just a good idea from an environmental perspective; it makes business sense as well. But once companies commit to large hardware—say an aircraft or heavy machinery—there's often not a lot that can be done to improve the equipment's use of fuel. The primary option is to use the hardware as efficiently as possible.

That's gotten a lot easier over the last several years, primarily because of developments in electronics. Aircraft and trains now come equipped with GPS receivers that provide precise positional information, and these vehicles have processors sufficient to run sophisticated software if necessary. That software can then be used to control certain aspects of their operations to provide a more efficient trip.

We recently talked to Lucas Malta, who leads a team that helps develop transportation software for GE. He described two projects the group is working on, both focused on this exact problem—improving the use of fuel by large equipment.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

 
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 » see original post http://feeds.arstechnica.com/~r/arstechnica/science/~3/TTjahiK-bTI/

Malan Breton Men's Spring 2016

malan breton mens ss16

ny mens fashion week 2016

It was all about a beachy lifestyle. Taiwan's most famous fashion designer Malan Breton created his spring 2016 collection for men around a blissful way of life. The main focus was on the fabrics. His menswear offerings mainly had a color palette of navy and white with a some bronze thrown in.

Natural fabrics of silk, cotton and bamboo for its heat-friendly properties were the heart of the collection. The batik technique was heavily featured as well as updated patterns of his native culture. Another tribute to his home country was the prominent use of traditional Hakka blue shirt in this presentation.

This season also marks the debut of Malan Breton Homme, the designer's brand of luxury accessories. There are cufflinks, eyewear and even skateboards on offer. He used brushed metals and enamels accented with Swarovski crystalss.

photos by Mariana Leung
Together with his press manager Bonnie Bien, they duo screened their collaborative documentary following Malan Breton's A Journey to Taiwan. It had first debuted and won awards at the New York International Film Festival. It is a beautifully shot film showing all of the colors, textures and inspiration Breton gets from his culture and gives back.

Some creatives and their press team have a great relationship. For a press manager to work with the designer to produce such a personal story on film is a truly special one. I love that my first show for NY Men's Fashion Week presented such a great start. Enjoy the beauty of Malan Breton Men's Spring 2016.
 
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Say It With Light: Using LEDs to Move Data Faster

It’s like using fiber optics to communicate – only without the fiber. Imagine connecting to the Internet through

The post Say It With Light: Using LEDs to Move Data Faster has been published on Technology Org.

 
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Fashionware's Wearable Tech Fashion Show 2015

wearable tech fashion show

So what is your view of wearable tech? Is it stylish? Runway worthy? The big convention of tech CE Week rolls out the newest gadgets to the techie consumer. Their marquee event is the Fashionware fashion show to showcase the glam side of gadgets.

This show demonstrates that wearable tech is more than your FitBit. You can make a bright impression, with dresses by Angela Dale. The holographic, rainbow LEDs on the silver dress (top) and the space-age dresses worn by the musicians of the band Sidney York were choreographed with the tunes of the catwalk.  The cute Stella Audio clutch handbag the model up top is carrying is also embedded with Bluetooth speakers so you can produce your own soundtrack so you can turn any spot into your personal nightclub.

fashionware show

The strapless cocktail dress and heels on the top right corner were both 3D printed to the model's measurements. Other hacks were the use of technology like the MeU display that can be applied to garments and programmed via smartphone to display and design (picture the flirting or cursing possiblities...).

Designer Valerie LaMontagne created an elegant shift dress and ruffled scarf that looked at home in any posh setting but used "smart" fabrics.. What you don't see is that the dress is embedded with motion sensors that react to the wearer's movements. The scarf contains hard and soft circuits. The model's necklace is a fashion forward locket by Kiroco. Instead of traditional photos, it acts as a digital safe to hold your precious moments.

Chris March, the flamboyant Project Runway alumni, and entrepreneur (I love his collaborations with Target) hosted the event. The runway presentation was short, but CE Week's Fashionware runway should provide enough inspiration for tech-savvy designers to think about their next collection.




 
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Archaeologists Unearth Trove of 2,000 Mysterious Gold Spirals in Denmark

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Bronze Age gold spirals found in Boeslund, 900-700 BC. Credit: Morten Petersen / Zealand Museum.

A team of archaeologists working in Boeslunde, Denmark recently stumbled onto an intriguing mystery: nearly 2,000 tightly-wound golden spirals dating back to the Bronze Age. The discovery of gold in Boeslunde isn’t uncommon, as numerous gold objects have been unearthed in the region over the last few years. But the purpose of these coils has stumped archaeologists who refer to the find as the “golden enigma.”

The spirals are made from extremely pure gold that was hammered flat to just 0.1 millimeter thick. Some pieces measure up to 1.18 inches long and all together weigh between 200 to 300 grams (7-10 ounces). Their exact purpose is anyone’s guess, but Flemming Kaul, a curator with the National Museum of Denmark, believes the coils are most likely related to prehistoric Bronze Age people who were known to offer gold to higher powers as part of sun rituals.

“The sun was one of the most sacred symbols in the Bronze Age and gold had a special magic,” Kaul writes. “Maybe the priest-king wore a gold ring on his wrist, and gold spirals on his cloak and his hat, where they during ritual sun ceremonies shone like the sun.” It’s also suggested the gold was simply buried as part of an elaborate sacrifice.

Whatever the use or meaning behind the pieces, it’s an extraordinary and priceless find. The local museum in
Skaelskor already held a temporary viewing before the spirals find a permanent home. You can read more over on the History Blog. (via Neatorama, Gizmodo)

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Gold spirals surrounded by flakes of birch pitch. Credit: Flemming Kaul / National Museum of Denmark.

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Gold spiral in situ. Credit: Flemming Kaul / National Museum of Denmark.

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Credot:Morten Petersen / Museum Vestsjælland.

 
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Tough tail of a seahorse may provide robotic solutions

One of the ocean’s oddest little creatures, the seahorse, is providing inspiration for robotics researchers as they learn

The post Tough tail of a seahorse may provide robotic solutions has been published on Technology Org.

 
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