Tag Archives: tech

Things to Remember when looking for A New Smartphone

We are in the very beginning stages of the holiday season and that means one thing: shopping.

Apple, with their announcement of the new iPhone 8 and X on September 12th, marked the unofficial start of the season.  Along with the news came price cuts to the iPhone 6 and 7. You might be on the lookout for a new phone, and here’s what to remember when buying a phone or getting a contract for a phone.

The Apple Company Logo
The Apple Company Logo

Memory Size:  Phones can get very costly, fast.  For example, getting the iPhone 8 with 256GB will cost you $850 and don’t even get started on the 8 Plus and X costs.  So getting the 64GB iPhone would be the smart move here and it would also save you hundreds of dollars. Besides, do you even use over 36GB? That’s more than enough for me.

This year’s model or last year’s: Now, if you want to save a buck or two, going to an iPhone 7 or 7Plus would be the best option.  The price for a 7 with 32GB has gone from $649 to $549. A whole Ben Franklin saved just by getting a older model, and by the way, it’s the same thing as the iPhone 8 which comes out next week.

Camera Quality: This one is really obvious. I mean really…do I have to write it?  Ok, I will. These are the most outrageous prices that most will ever see for a phone, a damn phone. However, the iPhone X has all the gadgets, bells, and whistles ever needed for any photographer. A 3D camera with a sapphire cover with a six element lens. This thing has so many gadgets that this article would be small compared to all of the iPhone X’s specs.  However, pre-orders don’t start until October 27th and the phone itself won’t be available until November 3rd. Don’t even get started on pricing; prices start at $999 before taxes and storage choices.  So, whichever phone you choose, remember, nothing is cheap.

iPhone SE: Good things can come in small packages

Image from apple.com
Apple’s latest iPhone model. Image from apple.com

On Thursday, March 31, Apple released the iPhone SE, the latest model of the smartphone that has been around since the first generation was released on June 29, 2007. iPhone SE may look like an updated iPhone 5s with the specs of an iPhone 6s, but the small phone still has a lot going for it. However, if you don’t want to switch from a large screen, you probably don’t want to switch to a four-inch phone, and are better off waiting until the estimated release date of the iPhone 7 in September 2016.

Here are the looks and the technical specifications of the new iPhone SE model, laid out in an easy-to-read format so you can see if the latest model is just what the doctor ordered. 


Design Features

Size

If you don’t want to switch from a 5s to a larger, more impractical sized, phone, the iPhone SE has the same four-inch screen that’s easy to use — you can type easily with one hand, and reach all four corners of the screen of your phone.

Color

The iPhone SE is available in four colors: silver, gold, space gray and rose gold.

The colors of the iPhone SE. Image from apple.com

Other Design Features

The new iPhone SE has a stainless steel Apple logo inset, instead of an Apple logo stamped-on the back of the phone.

The chamfered edges of the iPhone 5s have been redesigned as “refined” and are now more matte than before.

The iPhone SE features a somewhat thicker design, and doesn’t have a bump where the camera is placed.

Tech Specs

Display

The iPhone SE features a 4-inch LED-backlit Retina display with a 1136‑by‑640‑pixel resolution at 326 ppi. The contrast ratio is 800:1, the same as the iPhone 5s. However, if you’re switching from an iPhone 6s (or 6s Plus), they feature 1400:1 and 1300:1 contrast ratios, which is a big difference to take in.

Chip

The iPhone SE features an A9 chip with 64‑bit architecture, with an embedded M9 motion coprocessor. This means that the latest model has the same great performance as the iPhone 6s. The M9 motion coprocessor collects, processes, and stores sensor data, which improves functionality further.

iSight Camera

The iPhone SE iSight camera is rated at 12-megapixels with1.22µ pixels and an ƒ/2.2 aperture.

Video Recording

The new iPhone SE can shoot and edit 4k (3840 by 2160) video at 30fps. It shoots slow-motion video at 240fps (720p) and 120fps (1080p) and 1080p HD video at 30fps or 60fps, and 720p HD video recording at 30fps.

FaceTime HD Camera

The FaceTime HD Camera on the iPhone SE takes 1.2-megapixel photos, 720p HD video recording with an ƒ/2.4 aperture.

Retina Flash allows your iPhone SE screen to flash three times brighter than it normally does on models prior to the iPhone 6s. The features measures current lighting conditions, and a True Tone flash matches ambient light.

Touch ID

The iPhone SE features the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which is built into the Home button. It’s not as fast as the iPhone 6s’, however, but it’s not noticeable unless you hold either of these phones in each hand.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay allows you to use your device to pay with your iPhone SE using Touch ID in stores and within apps.

Power and Battery

The iPhone SE gets up to 14 hours of talk time on 3G, up to 13 hours on Wi-Fi and LTE of internet use, up to 13 hours of video playback, up to 50 hours of audio playback, and has a standby time of up to 10 days.

Sensors

The iPhone SE doesn’t feature 3D touch, because it’s using the same display technology as the iPhone 5s. But if you haven’t had a iPhone 6s, and even if you do, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.


The iPhone SE has an entry-level price for the 16 GB model of $399, and compared to the iPhone 6 prices from $549 and the iPhone 6s prices from $649 and up, you get enough bang for your buck without breaking the bank.

Snapchat’s new update

Snapchat released a new update, called Chat 2.0 on Tuesday March 29, unveiling 6 new features to add new practical services to the app.

This update, for me at least, wasn’t easily recognizable, except for one key feature — an auto-lay function for Stories. The auto-play function allows users to view each story back-to-back. Personally, and for some of my friends, this feature didn’t go over too well. I like to click on each video one-by-one, to view the stories I want to see, in the order I want to see them. The look of the feature isn’t preferable either, you can barely tell who the story is by because of the small header in the upper left hand corner.

However, after searching through the rest of the updates, I can faithfully say that this update has a lot more going for it. First of all, Snapchat lets people send video and audio messages, and even make voice calls — watch out Skype.

Snapchat’s new voice call feature. Graphic from http://money.cnn.com/

In addition, you can also set up a video call with multiple friends on Snapchat. They can either put on their own audio or video, or simply watch the lifestream and message to the group. Anything you film in the video call, however, can’t be saved or downloaded to your phone.

On top of the new Stories and chat features, Snapchat also revealed brand new stickers, which you can use when sending messages or chatting across the app.

 

 

Snapchat has been pressed to stay in the social media and network competition because less and less people have been spending time on the app. Getting people to use the app and keeping their attention can be hard to do, but I believe, if they keep releasing useful services through updates on their app, Snapchat can continue to grow.

However, Snapchat has a huge competitor coming close in the race. On the same day as Snapchat’s new update, Tuesday March 29, Instagram made an announcement stating that the time limit of videos uploaded to Instagram was raised from 15 seconds, to 60 seconds. Time will see if this is announcement will become an advantage for the platform.

Additionally, every single one of Snapchat’s features exist on other platforms including Facebook, Google Hangouts, Skype and WhatsApp. However, having all of these services inside one app could prove to be an advantage for keeping people on Snapchat.

A look into a tarantula’s sex life

Tarantulas, according to a 2013 review in the journal Arachnology, are the largest and longest living spiders in the world. Nelson Ferretti, a tarantula expert with the the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina and lead author of the review says there are nearly a thousand species alive today, and most mate in the spring and summer; although some species are known to mate only in the winter.

According to the study co-author Fernando Pérez-Miles, an entomologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, after male spiders are born and travel into the adult stage of their lives, they insert their two pedipalps or the small appendages near the front of their head with sperm. Although the insertion of the sperm is time and energy consuming, males can usually mate with multiple females with just one insertion..

During the mating season, “charged” males, or males who have gone through the insertion process, will leave the nest, so to speak, in order to find approachable females.  The male tarantulas will focus on the female’s pheromones, or chemical scents, though “it’s unclear if only receptive females produce male-attracting pheromones.” When a male discovers a “connection” or a female that has the appropriate pheromones, the male and female with mate.

Tarantula_Pair5
“Depending on the species, males may engage in a range of different moves, the most widespread being papal drumming and body vibrations.”

According to Ferretti, “depending on the species, males may engage in a range of different moves, the most widespread being papal drumming and body vibrations.”
If the female enjoys the feeling, she will respond by tapping her front legs, letting him know that she wants him, and to direct him toward her burrow. However, in other species, the female will move towards the male instead, leaving her burrow behind. When the time has come, the pair will come face-to-face, showing and elevating their bodies and front legs to each other.

In other species, the tradition is different. The male will initiate spasmodic beats on the female with his second pair of legs, which is thought to put the female at ease and relax her fangs. In most species, the males have specialized spurs that can clasp onto the female’s fangs which elevate them into the correct immobilizing positions and to prevent bites.

Once the pair are ready, the male will place his charged pedipalps into the female’s genital opening, one to five time. When he is finished, he will leave to find other mates, that is, if he’s “lucky enough to avoid getting eaten, which is common,” Ferretti says. However, this only occurs if the male attempts to mate with a female without courting her first, that is, entering her burrow too soon or doesn’t leave fast enough after mating. Although, luckily enough for the males, mating leaves the female immobile for a small amount of time, allowing the male to get away if necessary.

Microsoft’s Tay “chatbot” was trolled into becoming the “Hitler-loving sex robot”

Microsoft was forced to shut down the chatbot named Tay, after it tweeted several sexist and racist remarks.

According to the software giant, Microsoft endeavored to connect with millennials 18 to 24 years old, and they planned to do this task through Tay. She was an AI designed to talk like a teenage girl.

According to a Microsoft post, “The more you chat with Tay, the smarter she gets, so the experience can be more personalized for you”.

Microsoft’s concept and idealization for Tay was that the chatbot would produce entertaining and funny reactions and responses based on tweets and other messages it was sent through applications like Kik and GroupMe.

Despite the good-intentions, internet trolls started to connect and bombard Tay on Wednesday March 23 almost exactly when it was launched. Tay started to utilize a percentage of the bigot, racist, and sexist remarks in its own Twitter conversations.

Graphic from the Telegraph and Twitter.
Tay’s responses were learned by conversations she had with people online. Graphic from the Telegraph and Twitter.

 

The bot’s tweets were so offensive and drew such an uproar that one newspaper named Tay the “Hitler-loving sex robot.”

Microsoft’s chat robot Tay was taken offline less than 24 hours after its launch since it was tweeting such sexist and racist language. But not before the AI robot tweeted approximately 96,000 times, which seems like a lot of tweets for an average teen girl or millennial.

 

 

In a released statement by Microsoft, they said ”Unfortunately, within the first 24 hours of coming online, we became aware of a coordinated effort by some users to abuse Tay’s commenting skills to have Tay respond in inappropriate ways”.

Microsoft, who designed the AI with a specific end goal of enhancing the customer service on their voice recognition software, apologized directly after the incident in a blog entry made by Peter Lee, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft Research.

Lee wrote, “We are deeply sorry for the unintended offensive and hurtful tweets from Tay, which do not represent who we are or what we stand for, nor how we designed Tay”.

Microsoft said that it’s modifying Tay, however was not able to say if or when the bot may return. Lee said that they will only bring her back when they are confident that they can make better prepare to limit technical exploits.

Instagram took one more step in becoming Facebook

On March 15, Instagram released a statement telling its subscribers that they will be updating their newsfeed, making it non-chronological, similar to the way Facebook is set up. The way they organize the posts will depend on a variety of factors including the number of post engagements, and other social signals.

Instagram will also take into consideration the posts that you have previously liked in an attempt to find the correct images that are relevant and will interest the subscriber the most.

Instagram is evolving into Facebook. Graphic from Instagram Takipci Satin Al
Instagram is evolving into Facebook. Graphic from Instagram Takipci Satin Al

Since Instagram’s initial launch in 2010, their success has skyrocketed. They started out as, simply, an app used for teens to share the photos and socialize with each other. At the time, Facebook bought Instagram for 1 billion dollars, which in hindsight, was an incredible deal because Instagram is estimated to make 1.86 billion dollars in revenue just this year, thanks to its users constant social networking usage.

Although Instagram is attempting to update its aesthetic for the benefit of the user, there have been thousands of complaints. The users even created a petition on Change.org begging Instagram to leave the newsfeed alone. Most people complained because they didn’t want Instagram to look like Facebook, as well as the fact that Facebook is well-known for discriminating business pages’ content and their inability for users to reach posts. Instagram, on the other hand, is notorious for their chronological order and an unlimited reach of posts.

There is an argument, however, that the chronological newsfeeds are only effective when businesses post on Instagram every half hour and when their followers have very limited number of people that they follow. According to Optical Cortex data “based on 20,000+ Instagram users, average number of people they follow is 822.” This suggests that chronological order doesn’t matter anyway because the brands said users follow probably weren’t the first things they saw.

The change in newsfeed might be beneficial. If you post amazing pictures, your followers will see it even if it was posted hours ago.

“Instagram user survey indicated that 60% of Instagrammers learn about products and services on the network and 75% take action after being inspired by an Instagram post.” So all you have to do is be clever, be active, and post away!

Machines can cut down domestic violence

In a metropolitan area, arraignment decisions made with the help of machine-learning, decreased new domestic violence occurrences by 50 percent, which led to a cut of more than 1,000 post-arraignment arrests yearly, according to new discoveries made by the University of Pennsylvania.

In the U.S., the average pre-trial process progresses from arrest to preliminary arraignment to a mandatory court appearance.

Throughout the preliminary arraignment, a magistrate or judge decides whether or not to release the offender, depending on the chance that the individual will return to court or commit new violations.

Machines will be able to help us out. Don't be afraid. Photo from coursera.com
Machines will be able to help us out. Don’t be afraid. Photo from coursera.com

Susan B. Sorenson, a professor of social policy in Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice and Richard Berk, a criminology and statistics professor in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences and Wharton School, discovered that utilizing machine-learning forecasts at the preliminary arraignment can significantly decrease future domestic violence arrests.

To see how machine-learning could assist in cases of domestic violence, Sorenson and Berk acquired data from over 28,000 domestic violence arrangements between January 2007 and October 2011. Additionally, they observed a two-year follow-up period after release, which ended in October 2013.

Computers can “learn” from certain training data which sort of people are prone to re-offend. For this research, the 35 beginning inputs involved age, gender, prior warrants and sentences, as well as residential location. This data assists the computer in understanding proper relationships for projected risk, which offers additional data to a court official deciding whether to release or detain a suspect.

The quantity of inaccurate predictions can be somewhat high, and a few individuals object on a basic level to utilizing information collected and machines for these situations. To these objections, the researchers simply retort that machine-learning is just a tool.

Some criminal justice settings already utilize machine-learning as a procedure, although various types of choices calls for distinctive datasets from which the machine must learn. Nevertheless, the underlying statistical techniques, nevertheless, continue as before.

Sorenson and Berk both contend that the new system of cutting down domestic violence can make current practices better and more improved.

The study was published in the March issue of The Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.

‘Resting bitch face’ is real

The marvel you may know as “resting bitch face” actually exists, as indicated by scientists. Even better, there’s a study available that could clarify why resting bitch face (or RBF) is a real occurrence.

Some consider Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of England, to be the original RBF. Graphic from memecrunch.com
Some consider Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of England, to be the original RBF. Graphic from memecrunch.com

In research conducted in October 2015, scientists Jason Rogers and Abbe Macbeth from Noldus Information Technology, a company that creates programming for observational and behavioral research, utilized the company’s FaceReader software to analyze the faces of public figures with RBF, including Queen Elizabeth II, Anna Kendrick, Kanye West and Kristen Stewart.

Here’s how the software works: Scientists pick an image of an individual in which they aren’t smiling and run it through the FaceReader software. The software then registers the face and gives a rate of underlying feelings it’s picking up.

On a normal face-reading, the program will record a face at 97% neutral. The other 3% is an underlying emotion, Macbeth elucidated. That 3% is made of expressions that show traces of sadness, happiness or anger, for example.

Famous people with neutral faces are individuals like Jennifer Aniston and Blake Lively, Macbeth said. Although their faces are registered as neutral, onlookers will see Aniston and Lively’s faces as happy.

Cultural contrasts and gender bias may play a role in individuals’ impression of RBF. Eastern European people, for example are seen as non-expressive, while most people who are seen as having RBF are women, Macbeth stated.

But RBF is an existing occurrence, according to David B. Givens, director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies in Spokane, Washington. He calls the condition blank face and said in studies, subjects judge a neutral, expressionless face to be “unfriendly.”

With regards to whether software can detect the emotions behind RBF, Anthony S. Youn, a board certified plastic surgeon in Detroit, said he doesn’t know if what Noldus‘ software is seeing are genuine expressions.

Macbeth and Rogers, both behavioral neuroscientists, want to expand their research to find out why some people have it and what RBF means in terms of a person’s psychology. Most importantly, they also want to figure out why individuals react and behave so negatively to a face with RBF.

New “Reactions” to Facebook

Some of us spend countless hours on Facebook while simply scrolling through our timelines. We stop to read posts, shared witty articles, and even leave a “like” or comment on statuses.

The future of Facebook is nigh folks, and it’s looking more enchanting than ever.

Facebook's new Reactions. Graphic from adweek.com
Facebook’s new Reactions. Graphic from adweek.com

Facebook will soon be releasing a new way to connect with friends’ posts and statuses, called Reactions. Soon users will be able to be “angry” and “sad”, or shout “yay” or “wow” — you’ll even be able to finally “love” a comment, photo or video posted on the social media giant.

The social media site is hoping these additional Reactions will boost the amount of time spent on Facebook, and more people will share their thoughts more at regular intervals during the day.

Facebook began testing the wide range of new expressions last October in Chile, the Philippines, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Japan and Colombia.

Facebook will soon roll out a wider range of reactions to posted items than “like.”

Soon its users will be able to be “angry” and “sad,” or shout “yay” or “wow” — or simply “love” a comment, photo or video posted on the social media site.

On Wednesday January 31, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, our lord and creator, said ”We want people to be able to share all of the things that are meaningful to them, not just the things that are happy and that people are going to like when they see it”. He added that the release of the new expressions will come “pretty soon.”

Additionally on Wednesday, Facebook released its earnings report. The company reported that during the last three months of 2015, Facebook brought in $5.8 billion — a growth of 52%. Making $1.6 billion in profit — an increase of 123% from 2014.

Facebook is now making more money off it’s users than ever before. There are now 1.59 billion people who use the site each month. Facebook makes more than $13 per user, a 50% increase from the $9 they made per person in 2014.

Other changes made to the site, like live video and collages, more tailored notifications, the ability to hide your exs and a more powerful search tool, keep people on the site for longer, and allows Facebook to learn more about its users — using advertising to target people much more effectively.

Facebook may be making more money off of us, but they are giving much more back to us in return. The new Reactions added to the site will generate so much more money, and may mean a huge increase in Facebook’s earnings report of 2016.

Barbie’s new realistic body types

Barbie has been placing an impossible idealistic body shape for young girls since the late 1950s.

If Barbie was a woman in real-life, she’d have to walk on all fours, her head would be two inches bigger than the average American woman’s while her neck would be twice as long and six inches more slender. With these estimations she’d be completely unable to lift her head.

Additionally, her 16-inch waist would be four inches smaller than her head, leaving space for only half a liver and a couple inches of digestive system.

Barbie’s figure compared to an average-sized woman. Image from Huffington Post.

With 3.5 inch wrists and 6-inch ankles she would be unable to do any heavy lifting, making it even impossible for her to walk on her two legs.

Have no fear, future parents of young girls, because now, in addition to the original Barbie, the doll will come in tall, petite and curvy assortments. Youngsters will now have the ability  to play with dolls that they can strive to look like, without developing eating disorders and body dysmorphia.

The look of the Curvy Barbie. Image from Mattel.

According to Mattel, Barbie will now come in four body types and seven skin tones, with 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles. 33 dolls will roll out in stages, spokeswoman Michelle Chidoni said.

The look of the Petite Barbie. Image from Mattel.

Tania Missad, consumer insights director for the doll line, said “We have to let girls know it doesn’t matter what shape you come in, that anything is possible,” in a video on Mattel’s Barbie website.

The look of the Tall Barbie. Image from Mattel.

The new Barbie dolls come following years of disapproval aimed at Mattel over the doll’s impractical proportions and worry that Barbie reinforced a single, practically impossible standard of the “ideal body” for girls to try to meet.

A 2006 British study found that “girls exposed to Barbie reported lower body esteem and greater desire for a thinner body shape” than girls who were given dolls with larger body types or not given dolls at all.

Thursday’s announcement was met with approval on social media.

For the time being, only a few of the dolls are available for sale and only through Mattel’s online store. Chidori said that the dolls will hit stores on March 1. The full line will come out in stages consistently throughout 2016.

Technology that monitors stress level

In the realm of innovative wearable technology, monitoring fitness and movement is commonly the primary objective. Wearable tech created to tally steps, monitor workouts, and hit more reps has well and genuinely become the standard but be that as it may, in the course of the past twelve months, there’s been an enormous increase in gadgets built in order to keep our minds in check, just as much as our bodies. Recently, a product has been manufactured that strives to assist individuals in managing their anxiety and stress amid their everyday lives.

New wearable technology monitors stress-level, not fitness. Image from CBS Boston.
New wearable technology monitors stress-level, not fitness.
Image from CBS Boston.

The consumers simply clip Spire to their jeans or bra and the device monitors the patterns of your breathing to figure out whether they’re relaxed, centered, or strained. If the breathing speeds up to an excessive amount, the device will buzz and a message will be sent to your iPhone telling you to take a deep breath. “That simplicity of the feedback is what makes it so applicable and what makes it so actionable in daily life,” clarified Spire co-founder Neema Moraveji. “You can take a deep breath without stopping what you’re doing, without distracting from what you’re doing.”

While technology may add to current stress and anxiety levels, Moraveji says there’s no sensible escape. “The question became: ‘how could technology change and improve our state of mind?’” Notices are delivered, as necessary, so consumers can monitor and contrast their activity levels and perspective everyday.

As a doctor, Liz Scheufele perceives how essential the right sort of breathing can be, “the exercise of deep breathing, to bring you out of that tense state, I think that’s highly valuable.”

“I think it’s great”, Peter Kazanjy expressed, who is a loyal Spire user. He says it has made him more aware of his breathing and everyday stress and anxiety degrees. “You kind of notice things like maybe I’m hunched over and I’m not doing as deep breathing through my diaphragm as a I should be.”

Spire may assist in directing your breathing and you’ll have the capacity to be more in control. In any case, it costs about $150 and it is not considered a medical device.

What consumers and speculators truly want to know, is whether wearable technology intended to monitor stress actually helps or hinders with regards to better and a more full comprehension of the physical side effects symptoms of anxiety and stress.

Roses conducting electricity

A team of Swedish analysts have created flexible electronic circuits — produced using pliable organic materials — inside a rose. Their material makes them conceivably compatible with tissues and has impelled research endeavors to utilize them to diagnose and treat diseases.

Their idea was to utilize the plant’s own structural engineering and biology to assist them in assembling devices on the inside. They aimed to assemble polymer-based “wires” on the inside of a plant’s xylem. They expected that on the off-chance that they could break down conducting polymer building blocks in water, maybe plants could pull them up the channels and connect them into wires.

Swedish researchers have created a circuit inside the stems and leaves of rose cuttings. Graphic from Linkoping University.
Swedish researchers have created a circuit inside the stems and leaves of rose cuttings.
Graphic from Linkoping University.

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After Magnus Berggren, a materials scientist and electrical engineer at Linköping University, Norrköping, in Sweden, and his associates tried more than a dozen different polymer electronic building blocks — all unsuccessful — they tried an organic electronic building block called PEDOT-S:H. Each of these building blocks comprises of a short, repeating chain of a conductive organic molecule with short arms coming off each section of the chain.

Each of the arms has a sulfur-containing group bonded to a hydrogen atom. Berggren’s group found that when they set them in the water, the rose stems promptly pulled the short polymer chains up the xylem channels. The intact plants pulled the organics up through the roots also, much more gradually, however, Berggren says.

Once inside, the chemistry in those channels pulled the hydrogen atoms off the short arms, a change that provoked the sulfur groups on neighboring chains to link together. The team then added electronic probes to opposite ends of these strings, and found that they were wires, directing electricity all down the line.

When that worked, Berggren’s group included other electronic patches on the surface of their rose stems to make transistors that could switch the current in a wire on and off. As they report in Science Advances, they went ahead to utilize an arrangement of different techniques to show they could get leaves to take up organic electronics, creating an array of pixels.

This isn’t the first time researchers have infused plants with electrical materials, but the first time they’ve utilized the plants’ own vascular framework to form a circuit. This innovation could give a method of controlling plant biology for experimental exploration, to collect energy — or as another option to genetic engineering.

In the long run, the development may permit individuals to collect energy from trees and shrubs, not by chopping them down and utilizing them for fuel, but by connecting them directly into their photosynthesis hardware. It also may be possible to harness plants’ photosynthesis capacities to create electricity directly, allowing us to procure the sun’s energy without destroying the plants.

Google’s self-driving car gets pulled over

In Mountain View, California on Thursday, a police officer made a traffic stop to pull over one of Google’s self-driving automobiles, however, he wrote no ticket.

A Google self-driving car goes on a test drive near the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif, May 14, 2014. Image from Voice of America News.
A Google self-driving car goes on a test drive near the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif, May 14, 2014.
Image from Voice of America News.

An officer pulled over a Google self-driving vehicle that was being tested on neighborhood streets Thursday.

“As the officer approached the slow moving car he realized it was a Google Autonomous Vehicle,” a police department post said.

The car was going 24 mph in a 35 mph zone, as indicated by the Mountain View Police Department — with traffic clearly backed up behind it. The car wasn’t speeding, but it was driving too slowly.

He stopped the car and reached its administrators to let them know it was obstructing traffic activity, but no citation was given. He asked the passenger how the car was picking speeds along roadways.

The Google project responded in a blog entry, stating it’s never gotten a ticket and pled guilty to driving slowly — adding, “Driving too slowly? Bet humans don’t get pulled over for that too often.”

The officer verified that the car had not infringed upon the law, and no ticket was issued in light of the fact that the car had committed no violation.

“After 1.2 million miles of autonomous driving (that’s the human equivalent of 90 years of driving experience), we’re proud to say we’ve never been ticketed!” the project posted.

Nevertheless, the incident raises questions about whether the cars are excessively wary.

An accident report filed by the California Department of Motor Vehicles described the Google car as “over-cautious”.

“We’ve capped the speed of our prototype vehicles at 25 mph for safety reasons,” the post responded. “We want them to feel friendly and approachable, rather than zooming scarily through neighborhood streets.”

In September, Google announced that it was working to make its cars drive “more humanistically” following complaints that they had been too polite.

Google’s self-driving cars are programmed to comply with the laws of the road, but this can bring about issues when the vehicles are sharing the road with drivers who do not.

Google researchers have stated that getting autonomous cars to function well in the world of human drivers is one of their created difficulties and challenges.

‘Freemium’ and DLC is killing gaming

Remember the days when you’d buy a game and you’d get a 100 per cent completed package? Now, it’s the norm to expect a half-finished game that’ll get fixed later on with downloadable content, or DLC.

In the beginning, DLC was a welcome change to gaming. It meant you could get more from your already complete game in increments. It gave you a reason to keep coming back to your already great game. But now it seems that games are intentionally giving you less content so that they can charge  more to get the full experience.

Clash of Clans. Graphic from Neo Seeker
Clash of Clans. Graphic from Neo Seeker

The problem  got worse with a system called microtransactions. This system of DLC has always been a common element of mobile gaming. It’s when you play a game that has an artificial currency, such as lives in Candy Crush or gems in Clash of Clans. You can get them yourself over long periods of time, or you can pay and get them instantly. This currency can be spent in the game to speed up your upgrades and reduce the time it takes for you to be able to play again. It goes without saying that many of the highest-level players are the ones who spent money.

This is the problem gamers have with “freemium,” or pay-to-win games. They’re used to games where the best players rise to the top and  casual gamers have to work to earn their place of respect. With microtransactions, it‘s just the opposite. Skill becomes  irrelevant, and the richest players win every time –which is fine for mobile gaming , where the most casual gamers will be.

That all changes when microtransactions are introduced into console gaming. EA was shameless in their experimentation with this form of bleeding their fans dry. We paid $60 for Dead Space 3, and were surprised with a cool material crafting system you could use to create and modify weapons. We were even more surprised to see that you don’t have to grind through hours of killing enemies to get these materials; you only had to pay $0.99 apiece for the new guns. You can then easily breeze through the game on your first run without much worry. It was a slap in the face to fans of the franchise, for selling out to the casual gaming crowd.

But that’s the way things are now. Games are released unfinished, and all it takes is an apology and an update to make things right. Mass Effect 3 was criticized for having the worst ending of all time, leaving fans to make extensive videos rationalizing why anyone would ever make an ending this bad– but developers fixed it with a downloadable update. You can also pay along the way to open up missions and unlock characters that would dramatically change the course of the game. Or you could not, and only get some of the experience.

Evolve is undoubtedly the most recent culprit and one of the biggest offenders of charging for complete content. At launch, you’re given a selection of three monsters and twelve hunters, which you had to unlock by playing in a certain style and by all-around being good at the game. Either that, or buy the shortcut. On day one, you could see people playing as the most overpowered monster, because they spent the extra money to win before anyone else could earn it.

Many games nowadays have a ‘season pass’ option, where you pay a one-time fee and it pays for all of the content for that year. Evolve has this as well, for $20. But there’s still a total of $74.49 worth of skins and other content that isn’t covered by this season pass. That’s more than double the original price of the game — just in added content that doesn’t even change the game.

This is just one step in a slippery slope, where games will give you less, and charge you for more, despite not even changing the base price of the product. We’ve seen this with Destiny, Titanfall, and Assassin’s Creed: Unity, and it’s become the norm for nearly every game that has come out this year. It’ll only get worse, because this business model has worked for mobile gaming–so these video game publishers want to push it onto the rest of us.

This is the end of the article. Sure, it’s abrupt and doesn’t seem like a sensible stopping point, but if you want the rest of the article, it’ll be made available in two months for a small fee of $14.99. Enjoy your incomplete content.