MIT’s mind-reading AlterEgo headset can hear what you’re thinking

April 6, 2018 by  
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Have you ever wished you could simply think a command and your computer would respond? That’s the future envisioned by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers who created AlterEgo, a wearable system that allows you to converse with a computer without using your voice or movement. According to a video on the project from MIT Media Lab, the ultimate goal of AlterEgo is “to combine humans and computers.” A computing system and wearable device comprise AlterEgo, a futuristic project led by graduate student Arnav Kapur of the Fluid Interfaces group at MIT . Electrodes, a machine learning system, and bone-conduction headphones help get the job done: the electrodes “pick up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalizations — saying words ‘in your head’ — but are undetectable to the human eye,” according to a MIT News statement. A machine learning system, trained to correspond certain signals with words, receives the signals. The bone-conduction headphones “transmit vibrations through the bones of the face to the inner ear.” Related: Elon Musk’s latest company aims to make us cyborgs within the next four years The video on AlterEgo shows Kapur experimenting with the device, asking for the time or adding up prices in a grocery store without ever saying a word out loud. While the commands he gives are simple, typically involving a single word or number, the video feels like a scene right out of science fiction. MIT professor Pattie Maes, who is Kapur’s thesis advisor, said in MIT’s statement, “We basically can’t live without our cell phones , our digital devices. But at the moment, the use of those devices is very disruptive. If I want to look something up that’s relevant to a conversation I’m having, I have to find my phone and type in the passcode and open an app and type in some search keyword, and the whole thing requires that I completely shift attention from my environment and the people that I’m with to the phone itself.” Part of the goal for a project like AlterEgo is to allow users to stay in the moment. In a usability study with the prototype wearable interface, the system’s average transcription accuracy was around 92 percent, according to MIT News. Kapur, along with Maes and undergraduate student Shreyas Kapur, wrote a paper on AlterEgo and presented it at the Association for Computing Machinery ‘s ACM Intelligent User Interface conference , which took place last month in Tokyo, Japan. + MIT News Image via Lorrie Lejeune/MIT

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MIT’s mind-reading AlterEgo headset can hear what you’re thinking

Solar-powered house in Ontario redefines sustainable living in the wilderness

April 6, 2018 by  
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This remote cottage , nestled deep in a thick forest 160 miles from Toronto, Canada, allows for sustainable living deep within its wooded surroundings. It occupies a quiet lakeside site and functions as a weekend retreat for the architect’s family. The project was conceived by architect Kelly Doran and designed by his non-profit, MASS Design Group , which is known for innovative, sustainable projects like the Butaro Hospital in Rwanda . The 2,500-square-foot home has a simple layout, with the porch, kitchen, dining room and living area linearly connected from west to east. There is a wood-burning stove at the center of the structure. Each of the three bedrooms offers views of Lake Havelock and access to the deck that runs the length of the house. Related: Modern solar-powered Ontario home is insulated with straw bales Built-in bookcases and cabinets offer plenty of storage space , while clerestory windows facilitate cross-ventilation . Beautiful furniture pieces and fixtures, like the Hiroshima woodseat armchairs by Naoto Fukasawa for Mjolk , and pendants by Jasper Morrison and Peter Bowles provide a more contemporary feel. A garage is housed in the wing that is perpendicular to the main body of the house. A nearby solar array powers the tightly insulated house, which also has a septic tank and leach field for wastewater processing. The house is in a remote location, with only a private logging road as an access route. Surrounded by wilderness, with just three other neighbors, this home is focused on serenity. + MASS Design Group Via Dwell Photos by Marcus Oleniuk

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Solar-powered house in Ontario redefines sustainable living in the wilderness

Iceland is replanting its forests 1,000 years after vikings razed them

April 6, 2018 by  
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Iceland has become a popular tourist destination due in no small part to its breathtaking views and unique geological features, but it is also one of the worst examples of deforestation on the planet. When settlers first arrived in Iceland in the ninth century, up to 40 percent of the land area was covered with forests. The Vikings cleared these trees for fuel and to make space for grazing. Erosion from overgrazing and disruption from volcanic events left Iceland nearly without woods. Now, in collaboration with forest farmers and local forestry societies, the Icelandic Forest Service is working to regrow what was lost centuries ago and bring forests back in Iceland. Icelandic Forest Service director Þröstur Eysteinsson understands the true magnitude of what the organization he leads is trying to accomplish. “Iceland is certainly among the worst examples in the world of deforestation . It doesn’t take very many people or very many sheep to deforest a whole country over a thousand years,” said Þröstur . “To see the forest growing, to see that we’re actually doing some good is a very rewarding thing.” Þröstur is motivated by a driving desire to build ecological resilience . “My mission is to support growing more forests and better forests, to make land more productive and more able to tolerate the pressures that we put on it.” Related: Iceland makes it illegal to pay women less than men in world first The only native forest-building tree, the downy birch, has struggled to establish itself in new forests. With assistance from the Euforgen program, the Iceland Forest Service is introducing locally-tailored, non-native tree species, most of which are from Alaska , into Iceland woodlands. These newly mixed forests are “growing better than anybody ever thought,” according to Þröstur. The ultimate goal is to improve Iceland’s forest cover from the current two percent to twelve percent by 2100, with help from carefully curated non-native trees . Via Treehugger Images via Deposit Photos and  Icelandic Forest Service

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Iceland is replanting its forests 1,000 years after vikings razed them

This revolutionary sustainable community in Atlanta is still thriving 15 years after its founding

April 6, 2018 by  
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Almost 15 years since the sustainable community of Serenbe built its first home, the modern-day green utopia is still thriving. Located just southwest of Atlanta,  Serenbe is an experimental green community designed by architect Dr. Phill Tabb, who lives on site in a net-zero home . The progressive neighborhood, hidden amid 1,000 acres of natural forest landscape, was created with four main pillars in mind: arts, agriculture, health, and education. In 2001, architect Dr. Phill Tabb designed the masterplan for Serenbe Community – a sustainable neighborhood set in a natural landscape, but with connections to the typical urban amenities. One of the core pillars of the community’s plan was land preservation. Accordingly, the homes were built into strategic locations throughout the hilly landscape that would minimize the impact on the surrounding environment and give residents easy access to nature. Related: EarthCraft-certified Organic Life House teaches Atlanta agrihood residents about healthy living Nearly all of the homes at Serenbe abut a natural area, and manicured lawns are not allowed. All landscaping is natural and edible. The homes themselves are heated and cooled with ground-sourced heat pumps. Most use grey water systems , and a community-based vegetated wetland treats all the wastewater. The neighborhood is an active, vibrant area, arranged according to what Tabb calls the “hamlet constellation theory.” Tabb explained, “I love the hamlet constellation theory, which is something that I developed with the creation of Serenbe…. I found that we could proliferate [sustainable designs] into a constellation. Serenbe is a constellation of individual hamlets that come together to form the larger concept of Serenbe. It is a way of reaching out. Now my pilgrimage has led me to suggesting that constellations like Serenbe be married to the emergence of new high tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, etc.” Today, over 600 residents live in the hamlets, which are connected to the surrounding restaurants and shopping areas via walking trails. Each hamlet reflects a different pillar of the community. For example, Selborne Hamlet is geared towards the visual, performing and culinary arts. Grange Hamlet sits adjacent to Serenbe Farms, a 15-acre organic farm . The third neighborhood, Mado Hamlet, integrates health and wellness functions with community, including a destination spa, recuperative hotel, fitness center and additional centers. The hamlets were developed one at a time, each one more sustainable than the last. The Grange Hamlet saw the construction of the community’s first off-grid homes , which have become more and more prevalent as the development continues to grow. Residents of Serenbe enjoy a wide range of amenities, including restaurants, retail shops, and co-working spaces, all of which work around the community’s eco-friendly core values. In fact, the development is home to  the Blue Eyed Daisy , the country’s smallest Silver LEED-certified building. For the past year, Dr. Tabb has lived within the community he designed. His net-zero Watercolor Cottage, built in accordance with EarthCraft building standards, is surrounded by a wooded lot on three sides. A large glazed wall opens up to an outdoor fruit and vegetable garden integrated into the home’s layout. The two-story structure has a passive solar heating system, as well as geothermal heating and cooling systems. A rooftop PV solar array provides the home’s electricity needs, and works in conjunction with a Tesla Powerwall system. + Serenbe Community Images via Dr. Phill Tabb and Serenbe

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This revolutionary sustainable community in Atlanta is still thriving 15 years after its founding

Amazon opens new grocery store sans checkout lines

January 23, 2018 by  
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You’ll never wait in checkout lines at Amazon’s new grocery store, Amazon Go . Shoppers enter the store via an app , grab the food they need, and then simply walk out. The first Amazon Go just opened for business in Seattle . Amazon is opening up their first Amazon Go, an 1,800-square-foot physical grocery store. People scan an app on their smartphones to enter, pick up whatever food they want to buy, and leave without the hassle of waiting in line. Once through the doors, users don’t need the app to shop – Amazon said in a video they drew on “ computer vision, deep learning algorithms, and sensor fusion, much like you’d find in self-driving cars” to make the concept a reality. The Next Web said cameras on store shelves track what customers grab. Related: You can now buy tiny shipping container homes on Amazon What can you purchase inside an Amazon Go? Similar to a regular old grocery store of the past, customers can pick up staples like milk and bread, alcohol, and ready-to-eat snacks, breakfast, lunch, or dinners to start. The company will also offer Amazon Meal Kits, which include ingredients to cook a meal for two people in around half an hour. #AmazonGo opens on Monday, January 22 in Seattle. Get the app to enter the store. See you soon! https://t.co/jt7quQ4rke pic.twitter.com/shIyrifZyk — Amazon.com (@amazon) January 21, 2018 The New York Times said there are no baskets or shopping carts – customers place the items they want in a bag they walk out with. And while there aren’t cashiers, an Amazon Go store still requires staff – to stock shelves, help shoppers with any technical issues, help them find items, and check identification in the beer and wine section. Amazon unveiled plans for Amazon Go back in late 2016 – but had to delay the launch because of some technical difficulties, according to The Next Web. But it appears they’re ready to go with this first location, which is at 2131 7th Avenue, and is open Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 9 PM. The app works for Android or iOS. Amazon has not yet said whether they’ll open more Amazon Go stores, or utilize the technology in other ways — like selling it to other retailers. + Amazon Go Via The Next Web and The New York Times Images via Amazon Twitter and Amazon

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Amazon opens new grocery store sans checkout lines

Foster + Partners unveils LEED Gold-targeted PGA TOUR HQ in Florida

January 23, 2018 by  
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Foster + Partners has unveiled designs for the new PGA TOUR headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The sleek, light-filled building will be equipped with sustainable biophilic design features that will help the project obtain its targeted LEED Gold certification. Surrounded by greenery, the building will be placed within a large freshwater lake in a nod to the iconic ‘Island Green’ 17th hole at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course. Located to the south of the Clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass, the 187,000-square-foot PGA TOUR headquarters will serve as the new Global Home for the professional golf platform. The new headquarters will also consolidate all the offices —currently spread out across multiple buildings—under one roof. The new building will stress a sense of openness, transparency, and flexibility for a greater collaborative environment. “Inspired by the lush greenery of TPC Sawgrass and the beautiful Floridian light, the new PGA TOUR headquarters is designed as an extension of its surrounding landscape,” said Nigel Dancey, Head of Studio, Foster + Partners. “As the Global Home of the PGA TOUR, it brings the organization under one roof for the first time, and signifies the progressive spirit of the TOUR.” Twenty-foot-wide bridges connect the two building bays and allow for informal meetings, while flexible workspaces cater to the increasingly mobile workforce. Related: Foster + Partners’ Apple Park Visitor Center opens to the public Natural light and air pours into the headquarters through glazed facades and five large skylights. Axial landscape views are welcomed into the building, and employees will have access to a 1.3-kilometer running track in the middle of the woods. Rooftop solar panels will power a portion of the building’s energy needs, while deep roof overhangs mitigate solar heat gain. + Foster + Partners Images via Foster + Partners

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Our solar system is now tied with Kepler-90 for number of planets circling a star

December 21, 2017 by  
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Eight planets circle our sun (sorry, Pluto ), but our solar system is no longer unique in that number. NASA recently announced the discovery of an eighth planet circling the star Kepler-90, tying our solar system with that one for most number of planets around one star. Machine learning from Google helped researchers discover Kepler-90i, a rocky, hot planet that orbits Kepler-90 every 14.4 days. Scientists drew on data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope to make the exciting discovery: there’s a star system out there with the same number of planets as our own. Kepler-90 is around 2,545 light-years away from Earth, and has eight planets circling it. There probably isn’t life – at least as we know it – on Kepler-90i; the planet’s surface is around 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Related: Kepler data reveals 20 potential habitable worlds “The Kepler-90 star system is like a mini version of our solar system. You have small planets inside and big planets outside, but everything is scrunched in much closer,” said Andrew Vanderburg, astronomer and NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin , in a statement. The space telescope measures the dip in brightness of stars when planets orbit in front, according to a YouTube video from NASA’s Ames Research Center. So Vanderburg and software engineer Christopher Shallue of Google Brain trained computers to spot signals of small planets to uncover the presence of Kepler-90i. The two also found a sixth planet in the Kepler-80 system: Kepler-80g, which is Earth-sized. They aim to apply their neural network to the over 150,000 stars in Kepler’s full set. The Astronomical Journal accepted their research for publication. Jessie Dotson, Kepler project scientist at the Ames Research Center, said, “New ways of looking at the data – such as this early-stage research to apply machine learning algorithms – promises to continue to yield significant advances in our understanding of planetary systems around other stars . I’m sure there are more firsts in the data waiting for people to find them.” Via NASA Images via NASA/Wendy Stenzel and NASA’s Ames Research Center on YouTube

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Our solar system is now tied with Kepler-90 for number of planets circling a star

Artist turns golden leaves of Sacramento Gingko tree into inspiring works of art

December 21, 2017 by  
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Gingko trees are renowned for their majestic beauty, but come autumn and a certain artist at Sacramento State University is busy raking those beautiful golden leaves into intricate designs. Joanna Hedrick , a counselor at the university and self-proclaimed “falling ginkgo artist,” spends hours creating her nature-based artwork , turning her design work into an annual campus tradition. Hornet Hive #exploresacstate #fallengforsacstate #sacstate #csus #ginkgo #ginkgobiloba #fallenginkgoart Una publicación compartida de Joanna Hedrick (@joanna_hedrick) el Nov 24, 2017 at 4:58 PST Joanna, who has a background in art and landscape design, began her artistic work years ago in an attempt to create a nice backdrop for family photos. What began as a simple clean up process, however, has turned into an annual tradition, beloved by all on campus. Her leaf art has become quite famous around town, but especially for those students who need a bit of distraction during finals. Related: Artist recycles leaf waste into biodegradable Beleaf chair Sunday Sunburst Labyrinth photo by @golconda1 #fallenginkgoart #sacstateginkgoart #labyrinth #ginkotree #ginkgobiloba #ginkgo #sunburst #fallingforsacstate #csus #sacstate #sacramento #rakingleaves #ginkgoleaves Una publicación compartida de Joanna Hedrick (@joanna_hedrick) el Dic 10, 2017 at 12:41 PST Hendrick uses a rake to comb the leaves into a variety of detailed shapes , from spiraling circles and honeycombs, to a complex golden labyrinth. She estimates that each design takes her about two to three hours, and is usually able to makes about six unique displays during the fall season. Having become something of a local legend, Hendrick is proud of her nature-based artwork . She told Sactown Mag , “[My art] is about taking something that’s already beautiful and making something unique—something you don’t just pass by.” + Joanna Hendrick Instagram Via Boooooom Photography by Joanna Hendrick Instagram

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Artist turns golden leaves of Sacramento Gingko tree into inspiring works of art

AMD and chip-makers’ efforts to create energy-efficient CPUs

August 9, 2016 by  
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Amid growing awareness of the huge energy appetite of computer processing and particularly high end graphics, computer chip-maker AMD releases a more energy efficient chip — and a study to prove it.

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The benefit of more electronics recycling? Try $10 billion

October 20, 2015 by  
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Tech manufacturers are pretty efficient when it comes to reusing natural capital, but they could do far more.

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The benefit of more electronics recycling? Try $10 billion

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