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Asgardia: First Outer Space Nation

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The logo for the world's first outer space nation, Asgardia.

The concept of a space nation is not all too bizarre to us. It’s a concept whose materialisation has carefully been taken into consideration which resulted in the establishment of international space laws and treaties to provide the nations a framework within which they could work.

Igor Ashurbeyli, he chairman of UNESCO’s Science of Space Committee, took it upon himself to provide inquisitive minds with a platform facilitating unrestricted research with absolute transparency. Being the founder of the Aerospace International Research Centre in Vienna, he decided to provide this platform in the form of a satellite based nation going by the name Asgardia. The establishment of Asgardia was fuelled by the want to cover three important aspects with reference to the use of space.

Philosophical Aspect

Asgardia will function as a no man’s land serving the entire humanity and looking beyond the discrimination on the basis of state, religion or nation. To sum up the philosophical principle governing Asgardia, in Asgardia, one is either an Earthling or an Asgardian. No other base for differentiation will exist and the protection of interests of both, the Asgardians and the Earthlings, will be the aim.

Legal Aspect

In the present world scenario the effective enforcement of international law seems to have gotten caught up in the web of personal interests and the incompetency of the present legal system to support such a utopian state. In order to break free from the shackles of the laws governing the land based countries, Asgardia’s core legal principle of Asgardia not interfering in earthly affairs and vice versa establishes a clear boundary between politics on earth and Asgardia’s political situation.

Asgardian citizenship has been made available to all people on Earth regardless of their Earthly jurisdiction but the first Asgardians are most likely to be people who work in the fields of space research and exploration.

In simpler terms, Asgardia wants to serve as a catalyst in the creation of a new legal platform in which International Space Law and Geopolitics is replaced with universal Space Law and Astropolitics.

Scientific Aspect

The drive behind the undertaking of this project was undoubtedly the provision of an unfiltered access to knowledge about space, safety from cosmic threats and ensuring the peaceful use of space. Asgardia is an initiative to further the principle of knowledge being free in a non-militarized scientific base.

The essence of Asgardia is Peace in Space and the prevention of Earth’s conflicts being transferred into Space.

This brainchild of an eccentric scientist with about 5,73,889 citizens aims to be an independent nation recognized by the UN. It entails all the requirements for it recognized as a State except for land and thus one can expect the acceptance of its proposal. The launch of a low orbit satellite in 2017 will be the first step towards materialization of this intriguing concept for a nation. With a forum intact now, one can witness Asguardians actively communicating with one another.

However, one really cannot forget about the existing international space laws, essential ethical boundaries the problem of dual citizenship which shall arise after the official recognition of Asgardia as a nation. Only time can tell whether Asgardia will be the catalyst for a change or a change itself.

Discontinuation Of Whatsapp For BlackBerry Postponed

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This image shows a soon to be rare sight of Whatsapp open on a Blackberry. (Photo Illustration by Adam Gerry)
       A soon to be rare sight of Whatsapp running on BlackBerry. (Photo Illustration by Adam Gerry)

Oh, don’t we all remember when early in this year Whatsapp decided to end its support for platforms on the verge of being outdated, namely, iPhone 3GS, Windows Phone 7 devices, and phones running Android 2.1 or Android 2.2 and surprisingly BlackBerry OS 10 services too. In addition to the Facebook-owned company, Facebook itself also decided to end its services for BlackBerry platforms by the end of 2016 which led to the trending of the hashtag #IloveBB10Apps to gather the support of BlackBerry’s user base in BlackBerry’s attempt to change the company’s mind.

They might not have succeeded entirely, but they were able to secure extended support till next year. Well, it’s good news for the ones who are lovers of the BlackBerry. They won’t have to compromise social life for security, battery life and business handiness.  However, this period of extended convenience is pretty short-lived because from 30th of June of 2017 Whatsapp will withdraw its support for once and for all.

Will Whatsapp benefit from this decision?

BlackBerry is favoured for its usability and its security. According to a survey, BlackBerry has the best cell phone security systems, but the problem comes into play when it comes to supporting various mobile phone applications. As the OS is so hard up, it doesn’t support many of the recent modern applications. Also, BlackBerry has a very long battery life which comes in handy if you are a traveller or an MNC representative. Compared user reviews say that their BB battery life lasted for nearly 36 hours whereas the Apple lasts approximately 15. What makes them truly stand out is their ability to easily sync with any music management software including iTunes, unlike Android handsets. BlackBerry also has one of the most favoured inbuilt features that most of the cellulars don’t support, that is, screen sharing.

Facebook had announced that WhatsApp will discontinue its services in BlackBerry and Symbion OS devices after December 2016 due to their “non-popularity in the market” and also because these devices “don’t have the capabilities we need to expand WhatApp’s features in the future” but what they seem to blatantly ignore that BlackBerry has an indispensable user base constituted of the lovers of physical keys. Thus, one really can’t be too sure about this decision of Whatsapp working in its favour.

However, since the discontinuation of Whatsapp services is inevitable, Blackberry is actively working on providing alternatives to its users with unwavering dedication.

DeepMind’s AI Beats A Pro At Lip Reading

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Google’s DeepMind self-learning AI program has acquired another medal to keep in its hall of fame by showing its mastery even when it comes to lip reading.

Lip reading, or the ability to understand speech by the visual cues provided, is a challenging task for even the best in the field, let alone a novice. A recent collaboration between Google’s DeepMind division and the University of Oxford resulted in the creation of the most accurate lip reading software as of now known as “Watch, Listen, Attend and Spell”. As stated in their published research paper, their primary goal was “to recognize phrases and sentences being spoken by a talking face, with or without the audio. Unlike previous works that have focused on identifying a limited number of words or phrases, we tackle lip reading as an open-world problem – unconstrained natural language sentences, and in the wild videos.”

The software was made to annotate over  5000 hours of video footage from six television shows aired on the BBC.

To make a comparison in the performance of the model to that of a human, a professional lip reader with over a decade of experience was called in to decipher the footage. Even with ten times the video duration, the lip reader was only able to achieve 12.4% accuracy. The program beat its human counterpart by almost four times, with 46.8% accuracy.

A lip-reading program called LipNet created earlier, which achieved 93.4 percent accuracy in tests, attained a far better result than DeepMind’s. However, LipNet had been tested on footage that was specially-recorded and was aided by volunteers speaking formulaic sentences whereas DeepMind’s software was given a more daunting task of annotating unscripted conversations from British television.

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The most significant change which will come with an AI learning how to lip-read will be in the working of speech recognition. Even though mouthing words to your phone’s camera in public isn’t particularly ideal, it certainly is better than countering background noise by screaming at your phone.

Though the future of the program has been made clear, the possibility of it being used for surveillance and security may be red flags waving in our direction. However, the software is a leap forward in the field of artificial intelligence and an insight to the monumental changes that are yet to follow. Scientists believe it might be useful by helping hearing-impaired individuals to understand conversations, annotating or re-dubbing old silent films and improving speech recognition as a whole.

Elon Musk says Basic Income is The Future

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“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Teach a robot to fish, does the whole world eat or starve?”

This question raised by a user on Reddit seems to bring to light the job displacement crisis that we have looming over our heads as automation creeps into our workforce faster than ever. “Elon Musk thinks that we are living in a matrix. Elon Musk thinks life is actually a simulation.” The latest addition to Elon Musk ’s hall of fame of unconventional thoughts is the answer to this question.

“There’s a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,” said Musk. In a recent interview with CNBC, Tesla, and SpaceX founder, Elon Musk decided to finally shed some light on the issue of humans being rendered jobless because of machines quipped with artificial intelligence. His solution to this problem involves the facilitation of a universal basic income for all, presumably sponsored by the government. Basic income sounds like a good policy. With more and more people entering the state of living a life of chronic economic insecurity, the appeal for it will only grow stronger.

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However, the concept of basic wage doesn’t seem to be applicable in the present scenario of the world. Developed countries like America are struggling to provide free healthcare and college education without drowning in debt, what are the chances of a basic income being guaranteed to all anytime in the near future?

The Future of Basic Income

Most left-leaning economists like James Tobin and John Kenneth Galbraith seem to be in favour of a basic income for all. The interest in the introduction of a universal basic income has spread like an avalanche. What’s surprising is that governments are interested in trying out this radical proposal which challenges the social notions surrounding the work-income relationship which had been set in stone for years to soften the blow as automation replaces human jobs.

The only way we’ll know whether this radical welfare reform will actually work is by dipping our toes in the water. We will soon witness an experiment which pays people for being human without any conditions attached in Finland whose results will play an important role in the determination of the implementation of the basic income system. Ontario’s budget documents also contain unspecified plans for the Canadian Government to provide its citizens with a basic wage. What we can conclude is that the suggestion made by the

What we can conclude is that the suggestion made by the high profile innovator will act as the first step in adapting to groundbreaking technological advancements which can potentially shake the foundation of our society. The fact that remains unchanged is that the implementation of this policy will be one of the most intrepid experiments in modern history.

The Light Phone: Your Phone Away From Phone

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The Light Phone aims to serve as portal to the past with modern technology by providing a seamless extension of our phone in the form of a credit card sized phone.

Mobile technology has interwoven itself into our lives in such an intricate manner that one can say for sure that almost carries a smartphone that costs more than any other of their personal possession and vehemently refuses to fit into their pockets. The world underwent a paradigm shift with the groundbreaking advancements made in the field of mobile technology. Our phone seems to contain everything we can access in the form of little boxes that never fail to cause a ding in the middle of a conversation.

Mobile phone overuse syndrome is now a problem plaguing people in various parts of the world. The want to always stay updated has reached the extent that it compels people to use their phone in physically inappropriate situations such while driving an automobile.

What is it really?

Imagine a phone that can fit into your wallet and can carry as you go out for a run without worrying about dropping it and breaking it. (Little tip: This doesn’t mean you throw it on a concrete floor to check its resilience.) Imagine a phone that you can take along with you as you go out without worrying about a ding coming in the middle of whatever it is that you’re doing.

Light Phone is here to bridge the gap between that imagination and reality. Its main purpose is to encourage people to “go light’ while being available to their loved ones. It allows one to disconnect and give oneself a chance to truly spend time with their loved ones without any distraction.

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The stripped off features of the Light Phone conform with the ethos of going light.

It is a stand alone 2G GSM that works independent of one’s current mobile plan but the software of the Light Phone app allows one to use their original phone number. The Light Phone comes with a SIM card and a Light Micro USB Cable. By using the “Go Light” app one can begin routing calls to their Light Phone even if their phone is switched off. The app even allows one to set limits on whose call can go through call forwarding.

Light Phone Family claims to start rolling out batches of phones to fulfil orders by the first week of December while the Night Colourway Light Phone will hopefully be available by the second week of January. Good news is that it is already open to international pre-orders at the price of a hundred dollar. However, for now, SIM’s won’t be provided outside the US for now.

It’s a simple phone which allows one to only make or receive calls. We can state innumerable reasons for why phones are great but I suppose their high sales rate speak for themselves. Nevertheless, the Light Phone seems to be an effort to go back to our roots where we spend less time living our life through a screen.

Hello Moto: A Marketing Strategy Governed By Nostalgia

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Oh, don’t we all remember the Hello Moto ringtone which echoed in our ears all too frequently when the Google-owned Motorola basked in all its glory?

It seems as though the parent company of the present Moto has decided to preserve its heritage now. The first television advertisement of Moto since 2011 can truly be considered the smartest marketing move made in recent history. By bringing back the ‘Hello Moto’ campaign Lenovo has played nostalgia card right. New devices being launched under the Moto name will run a brand new boot animation with the traditional ‘Hello Moto’ signature phrase at the beginning only to be followed by a series of colourful images and of course, the Lenovo logo at the end.

It doesn’t end here. With the signature phrase, they’ve even brought back the batwing logo which looks as good as ever.

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The Latest Commercial

Coming to first television commercial of Moto since 2011, they seem to have taken a dig at the slow advancements taking place in the sphere of mobile phones in a not so subtle manner to further their ‘Different is better’ campaign.

This new colourful work from Ogilvy and Mather reviews the fact that no change of unprecedented dimensions has taken place with regards to mobile phone in a playful manner. “During a time where our competitors have only been introducing incremental changes to the mobile industry, the Moto Z family and Moto Mods are the first real change the industry has seen in years,” Jan Huckfeldt, Motorola’s CMO, said in a statement.

Having left no room for subtlety, Moto has tried to grasp the attention of people and shed light on the true meaning of mobile innovation thus letting them know that they have other options. With multinational phone making companies struggling to make a mark with their recent launches, maybe this is this the right time for Moto to sweep into the competition with the Moto Z.

Crack Discovered In Earth’s Magnetic Field

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earth's magnetic field

The vast magnetic field encompassing our planet serves as the first layer of defence against the harmful solar winds and cosmic rays. However, the auroras lighting up the polar skies with thousands of watts of power are proof for it not being entirely impenetrable. Earth’s magnetic field has played an integral role in facilitating radio communication, supporting life forms and influencing weather patterns that the slightest of changes in its configuration will have a significant effect on life on earth.

What’s worrying is the fact that the magnetosphere has been proved to not as secure as once it was thought to be by the GRAPES-3 muon telescope at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Ooty. A massive burst of galactic cosmic rays of about 20GeV which lasted for about two hours was recorded on 22nd June, 2015. A stream of charged particles emanating from the Sun’s corona moving at a speed of about 2.5 million kilometres per hour bombarded the earth’s surface resulting in the compression of the geomagnetic field of the earth from 11 times its radius to 4 times its radius. It triggered a supermassive geomagnetic storm which resulted in a supercharged aurora borealis and a radio signal blackout in the high latitude countries giving us one an idea about the transient weakening of the earth’s magnetic field.

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Recently, a study was published in the Physical Review Letters revealing the extent of the effect of this high intensity event. The data collected by the telescope was extensively analysed and interpreted with the help of external simulations to give out the verdict that the earth’s magnetic field was temporarily cracked letting low energy galactic cosmic rays to enter our atmosphere.

Scientists at the Cosmic Ray Laboratory came to the conclusion that the storm was powerful enough to trigger the reconfiguration of the geomagnetic field.

The GRAPES-3 muon telescope, the largest and the most sensitive cosmic ray monitor operating on earth, is playing a significant in the detection and analysis of such superstorms to give us a better understanding about how they can cripple modern technological infrastructure on earth.

In the past two centuries, the earth’s magnetic field has significantly weakened, allowing such events to occur which is considered to be a telltale sign of an overdue flip in Earth’s polarity. With the foundation of the technology on earth being incapacitated, one really cannot expect what the future holds for us.

Xiaomi Mi Air Mask Launched in China

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[dropcap]G[/dropcap]one are the days when we could say rather cheesy dialogues such as, “love is in the air” while breathing in relatively clean, fresh air. Now, the only that we seem to care about being in the air are harmful pollutants: SPM, Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide and dust.When it comes to catering the needs of people at large Xiaomi has a tendency to grab the spotlight and it has done so, yet again, by launching the Cloth Pear Fresh Mi Air Mask.

Cloth Pear Fresh Air Mask comes with a built in filter which promises to filter up to 99% of impurities giving you a safer breath. The mask is made of high-fibre textile and the inner housing is made of high-quality polyester making the mask as light as nearly 50.5 grams. What makes this device truly special is the air filter present at the right side of the mask which consists of a thin fan and a N95 filter. The speed of the fan can be controlled by the wearer. The N95 comprising of four composite layers of nanoparticles is present below the fan. After prolonged use, one can replace the carbon filters.

How is it better?

All in all, it is more cost effective. Let’s take India for an example. One normal face mask costs nearly 20 rupees there and this device is expected to be launched at 900 INR in the country. This means that one can buy somewhere around 45 air protection masks by the same money but the average effective period of a common face mask is 5-6 hours. That means if one has a 9-to-5 job and is spending over an hour in commutation then ideally he has to use at least two masks per day whereas the Mi Mask lasts up to 6 hours on an average. The Mi Air Mask is powered by a Lithium-ion battery which can be recharged over a micro USB connection and lasts 6 hours on an average on a single charge.

Therefore taking into consideration the reusability of the Mi Mask, it is clearly more economically feasible than other products of its kind available right now. Au Contraire to popular belief, there is a difference between air purification and air filtration. Thereby, another differentiating factor of the Mi Air Mask is its ability to purify air along with filtering it.

 

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For the ones who care more about how they look, the Mi Air Mask comes in space gray giving it a class of its own. Therefore, it allows one to breath cleaner air in an aesthetically pleasing way.

The 9/10 user ratings speak for themselves and for the tech.

Suffice it to say, with a threefold increase being seen in the sales of air protection masks especially in India, right now would be a pretty good time for Xiaomi to launch the Mi Air Mask in India.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Coming In January 2017

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Xiaomi redmi note 4

Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi has booked the tables for January 2017 with the scheduled launch of their new phone, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4. The Note 4 has come out with a real new technology, their 2.1 GHz deca-core processor, which provides a higher clock speed and hence, a faster user-tech interface than its precedents, the Note 3 ,which came with a hexacore processor and the Note 3G which came with octa. They’ve also changed the chipset from Qualcomm Snapdragon 650, in Note 3, to the MediTek Helio X20, in the Note 4.The device offers two RAM variants being 2GB and 3GB for a slightly higher price.

The camera, however, has lagged behind because of the 13 and 5 front-back duo, which is a degradation from the 16 and 5, which came with the Note 3. The screen size, being 5.5”, is the same as its younger fellow, the Note 3 which is quite a disappointment. The operating system being the Android 6.0 Marshmallow is an upgrade (and also a distraction from the camera) from the Note 3 which came with 5.1.1 Lollipop. This phone offers usability of the 2G, 3G and also the latest, 4G band of communication. The battery, although not a huge upgrade, is 4100 mAH in comparison with the 4050 mAH in the Note 3. This one comes with a fingerprint scanner, too, allowing faster unlocking and higher security.

It also comes with a 4K display offering an incredible display quality.The device is being challenged by the LeEco 1s which has almost same the same specs. The 1s has outshone the Note 3 in terms of launch RAM being 3GB which is only available with the higher version of the latter. But nonetheless, the Note has the processor power. This phone comes in 3 colour variants being Silver, Gold and Gray. The second drawback of this phone is its inability to accommodate 2 sims with a memory card. It has two slots, one of them being a ‘twin’, which means that it can accommodate either a sim or a micro SD card. Ignoring the camera and the twin slot, the phone really seems to be standing out and is highly recommended.

DuoSkin: A Skin-friendly User Interface

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Duoskin

These tattoos may be temporary but the impact they’ve had on the future of wearable technology surely is not.

MIT Media Lab in collaboration with Microsoft Research has successfully fused traditional skin art practices with digital orientation in the form of their new project, DuoSkin. DuoSkin is a fabrication process producing a new generation of wearable technology which basically serves as a customizable second skin and allows the users to use it as an interface in various ways.

The temporary tattoos used in DuoSkin are made out of imitation gold leaf, used for its easy availability, cheap price and basic conductivity. It is then combined with temporary tattoo printing paper and vinyl cutter to form an electric circuit which responds to our touch.

According to a PhD student at the MIT Media Lab Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, DuoSkin is an idea finding its origin in the metallic temporary tattoos which swept various social media platforms especially during Coachella. This might as well serve as the prime example for aesthetics combining with functionality to give rise to a project which has groundbreaking potential.

 

Duoskin
A graphic design software is all that is required to customize your own temporary                                          tattoo capable of performing a function of your choice.

 

What purpose does it serve?

DuoSkin can serve as an interface in the following three ways: an input interface, an output interface and a communication interface. As an input interface, it is capable of converting one’s skin into a trackpad or slider for the connected device. As an output interface, it uses the ink-like qualities of thermochromic pigments allowing the tattoo to change its colour with changes in one’s body temperature. Finally, as a communication interface, it allows data to be stored and read by NFC (near-field communication) enabled devices.

What does the future hold for DuoSkin?

For now, DuoSkin is a project still being worked on with other prototypes in the making but it is highly suggestive of the intimate relationship humans will have with machines in not so far away future. What’s truly surprising is that its main appeal is not in its cost efficiency but rather in it aesthetic value providing people with an alternative for the cumbersome wearable tech available right now. The end goal of this project is making it so easily available to the consumer market that one can go to a tattoo parlour to get entirely customized tattoos ranging from design to functions.


DuoSkin is a dazzling example of advancements being made in the digital realm to make technology more easily accessible and more user friendly in an attempt to bring the future closer to us than ever.