Archive for 'Research News'

The Brain, Just Before the Bungee Jump

Friday, March 1st, 2019

What happens inside a bungee jumper‘s brain just before the bungee jumper steps into the abyss? The answer is complicated, but one gross aspect is on exhibit in this new study:

To jump or not to jump – The Bereitschaftspotential required to jump into 192-meter abyss,” Marius Nann, L.G. Cohen, L. Deecke, and Surjo R. Soekadar, Scientific Reports, vol. 9, no. 1, 2019. (Thanks to Tony Tweedale for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Charité – University Medicine Berlin, Germany, University Hospital of Tübingen, Germany. the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), USA, and the Medical University Vienna, Austria, report:

“Self-initiated voluntary acts, such as pressing a button, are preceded by a surface-negative electrical brain potential, the Bereitschaftspotential (BP), that can be recorded over the human scalp using electroencephalography (EEG)…. Up to now, the BP required to initiate voluntary acts has only been recorded under well-controlled laboratory conditions, and it was unknown whether possible life-threatening decision making, e.g. required to jump into a 192-meter abyss, would impact this form of brain activity. Here we document for the first time pre-movement brain activity preceding 192-meter bungee jumping.”

The action, and action potentials, happened at the Europa Bridge in Innsbruck, Austria.

Smart Arse: Posture Classification with Textile Sensors in Trousers

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

“We talk ‘through’ our clothes, if we want [sic] or not.”

– say a research team from Queen Mary University of London, who have recently created ‘Smart Arse’ – a pair of ‘sensing trousers’ (that’s ‘sensing pants’ US) – which can reveal details of the ‘conversational engagement’ of the wearers.

“People continually adjust their posture and re-arrange their hands and legs when seated. For example: hands resting on laps; elbows on thighs; a forward leaning posture; hands that are tucked between thighs; hands on knees and many other variations. Our basic question is, what can these different postural states tell us about conversational engagement and potentially even about more complex, affective states?”

In Smart Arse, an electronic textile pressure matrix around the thighs and buttocks is linked to a machine-learning model which is able to distinguish between 19 posture types, shown promising results, they say, towards an objective to make garments “socially aware”.

See: Smart Arse: Posture Classification with Textile Sensors in Trousers  in ICMI ’18 Proceedings of the 20th ACM International Conference on Multimodal Interaction, Pages 116-124

Automatic Speech Balloon Detection and Segmentation for Comic Books

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

You might find that reading comic books is complex and confusing, if you are a machine. If both of those ifs afflict you, you might seek relief by reading this new study:

Deep CNN-based Speech Balloon Detection and Segmentation for Comic Books,” David Dubray, Jochen Laubrock, arXiv:1902.08137v1, 2019. (Thanks to Mason Porter for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at the University of Potsdam, Germany, explain:

“We develop a method for the automated detection and segmentation of speech balloons in comic books, including their carrier and tails. Our method is based on a deep convolutional neural network that was trained on annotated pages of the Graphic Narrative Corpus…. Qualitative results suggest that wiggly tails, curved corners, and even illusory contours do not pose a major problem. Furthermore, the model has learned to distinguish speech balloons from captions.”

Here’s further detail from the study:

An E-Couch – new directions in smart home control

Monday, February 25th, 2019

“Controlling devices in a smart home often requires users to start and use an app on their phone. This can be cumbersome (especially with increasing sizes of device ensembles) and puts demands on a user’s attention or engagement they might not be willing or able to fulfill.”

– prompting a research team from the University of Hannover, Germany, to develop and test a smart-couch concept – called the “CapCouch”. The idea is to relieve consumers from having to interact with an app, by electronically sensing how they’re sitting on their sofa.

“We used our couch and device ensemble to prototype a smart living room scenario. In this scenario, the system has been trained by observing how a user usually behaves when on his couch. Now, when he comes home and sits down on the couch, the lamp next to the couch switches on and the display shows a welcome message. The user scoots back, sitting more comfortably, and starts checking his phone. The couch detects this posture change and the system starts to play some music. Once done with his phone, he leans back on the couch, assuming a relaxed position to watch some TV. This is also picked up by the couch, which triggers the system to suspend music playback and switch the screen to display of broadcast TV (this is shown in Figure 2). As time passes, the user grows tired and decides to lay down on the couch. This triggers the lights to switch off and the TV to stop running. Instead, a fireplace scene is displayed to further facilitate a relaxing atmosphere.”

The team do point out though, that :

“An open question with systems such as the CapCouch is how to make sure implicit behavior is not annoying for users.”

See: CapCouch: Home Control With a Posture-Sensing Couch, from: Adjunct Proceedings of the 2015 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing and Proceedings of the 2015 ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers.

Coming Soon : ‘E-Trousers’ (that’s ‘E-Pants’, US)

Maggots, and the aftermath of your meals

Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

“Can maggots devour all our food waste?” and convert the food bits we wasted into something again useful to us humans? Ig Nobel Prize winner David Hu and colleagues—led by master maggot-mystery solver Olga Shishkov— explore that question, in their lab, and in this Science Friday video:

Brian Soash writes about the question, for Science Friday, in a special report called “Hungry, Hungry Hermetia.” Hermetia illucens is the name of the fly that’s involved, hungrily, in these convert-the-food-waste experiments. Hermetia illucens gets called other names, one of which is “black soldier fly.”

Last weekend, Olga Shiskov explained and demonstrated her work, assisted on stage by several rabidly donut-eating audience members, in the Improbable Research session at the AAAS Annual Meeting, in Washington, DC.

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