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Microsoft patents mind control for your technologies

(TECH NEWS) New patent lets Microsoft give users mind control powers to operate apps with just their brains, no movement required.

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Microsoft’s new patent gives users the ability to control apps with their minds. This month, Microsoft was granted a patent for a device that decodes electroencephalogram (EEG) readings to launch and operate compatible apps.

EEGs are typically used to diagnose epilepsy and other brain disorders by applying small electrodes sensors to the scalp and detecting electrical activity in the brain. Your brain cells use electrical impulses to communicate, and these show up as way lines on the EEG recording.

Using sensor-equipped headbands, Microsoft’s device could ideally interpret neurological data to have users open and use apps with thoughts instead of gestures.

Just like when an EEG is done, the device would read neurological signals through sensors. However, in this case, users could “train” the device to recognize which signals should apply to intended app behavior.

Algorithms would learn the brain behavior and use neuron fluctuation to draw or move objects at the user’s will based on detected patterns.

Some operative gestures include intention to swipe, finger pinch, mouse clicks, and button pushes.

According to the patent, “Neurological user intention data corresponding to a physical gesture is generated when a user thinks about and/or focuses on a movement, in the same way an amputee might think about moving an amputated limb.”

Once the user thinks or focuses on a movement, the data is communicated to the computer system that runs the app.

Theoretically, any kind of app could be used. The patent mentions video games, AR and VR simulators, 3D modeling software, web browsers, and even word processors. Apps controlling mechanical tools and machinery like robotic arms could also be used with Microsoft’s new patent technology.

So basically, some day you could control your Word documents with your mind, including copy pasting with or without formatting.

Understanding intention based on neurological data is the focus of many brain-machine computing studies and research initiatives. Scientists and researchers can investigate the connection between intention and “free will” actions, like moving your arm.

Studying if these actions originate at a neurological level will shed light on how people predict or modify their own decisions.

Sure, there’s horrifying implications about mind control apps. If we can train machines to essentially read our minds, what’s stopping a Minority Report-like future? Regulations, hopefully.

But this patent also opens up the possibility for less dystopic things, like controlling prosthetic limbs and giving differently abled individuals the ability to control apps and devices even if they are not able to physically move.

So let’s cross our fingers we don’t end up in the evil scientist implication timeline of this patent, and look forward to a future where we can type documents without lifting a finger.

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Tech News

Bose launches headphone-less headphones for your face

(TECHNOLOGY) Bose is using augmented reality in a fascinating new way (even if we’re poking fun at it).

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Just in time for the holidays, Bose releases Frames, their new breakthrough sunglasses that combine the protection and style of premium sunglasses, the functionality and performance of wireless headphones, and the world’s first audio augmented reality platform.

At $199 per pair, they’re the perfect gift for the person who has everything and who will eventually lose them in a lake, leave them in a fitting room, or crush them in a car seat.

Frames have the ability to stream music and information, take and make calls, and access virtual assistants. Bose promises that your playlists, entertainment, and conversations will stay private, although how your conversations will remain private is unclear. Expect confusion from every stranger within earshot.

Bose is calling Frames a revolutionary wearable, but aren’t these just headphones for your face? Very cool headphones for your face?

Bose is pushing the AR functionality hard.

Although they can’t change what you see, they know what you’re seeing using a 9-axis head motion sensor and the GPS from your iOS or Android. Once they know what you see, the AR automatically tunes you into audio commentary for that place, opening users to endless possibilities for travel, learning, entertainment, and gaming.

They claim Frames are hands-free and clear-eyed, but even if that’s the case, do we really need more people walking around under the influence of distraction? As if it weren’t enough to have people’s eyes glued to their phones, now we can have people in matching sunglasses wandering around talking to themselves. Now who looks bonkers?

Frames are available for preorder now and are expected to ship in January 2019. Look for Bose to release updates to their AR at SXSW in March.

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Tech News

What’s TikTok, why’s it so huge, and why is Facebook scared of it?

(TECH) TikTok has taken the internet by storm – you’ve probably seen the videos floating around, so here’s the context your business needs to know.

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Jimmy Fallon recently challenged his viewers to his version of a #sharpiechallenge. That’s where you toss a sharpie into the air, catch it, take the cap off and draw a mustache on yourself with it. He requested that viewers use TikTok to record it and upload it.

As of this writing, the hashtag boasts 8.2 million views in TikTok alone – if it wasn’t big before it gained Fallon as a fan, it is now.

What Is TikTok?

The TikTok app is the brainchild of Bytedance, a Chinese company that once owned Muscal.ly, and it launched in September 2016 as Douyin (it’s Chinese moniker). When it launched internationally, a year later, they branded the social media app TikTok. When Musical.ly shut down, users had to switch.

The app lets users view, create and share 15-second videos (kind of like Vine, RIP). It’s estimated that there are over 500 million users worldwide. The app has been highly ranked in the charts for number of downloads over the past few months, with a spike when Fallon had his first challenge, #tumbleweedchallenge. (For the record, Fallon and The Tonight Show do not have a business relationship with Bytedance.)

Users can lip-sync, do duets, record a reactions video and has some excellent tech in the app for video editing. Users can comment on videos and create video memes. It’s pretty fascinating. And wildly appealing to the masses.

One of the best things about TikTok is that the app doesn’t have advertising or monetization capabilities, even though it has a broad audience. With an estimated 500 million users, it’s just a matter of time.

Facebook launches a TikTok-clone.

Facebook doesn’t want to be late to the game. In classic follower fashion, they have launched their own short-video app, Lasso.

I played with both apps, and Lasso just doesn’t have comparable content.

What Facebook does have is its user base. By integrating with Facebook itself, Lasso may outdo TikTok eventually, but it will need to increase its capabilities.

Why should your business take notice?

Small businesses should be aware of these apps. Online videos are driving social media engagement. Content is king, and you’ve been reading here for years that video is a powerful component of any social media strategy.

TikTok and Lasso give you video-making and video-sharing tools that could increase your online presence.

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How to use voice to call upon Google Assistant on iOS

(TECH) Even Apple users believe Siri to be inferior to Google Assistant, so knowing how to summon the All Powerful Google via voice is helpful for iOS users.

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Are you one of the many iPhone users who prefer using Google Assistant over Siri, but have been frustrated by the inability to summon Google Assistant on your phone using only your voice? Good news: Your frustrations can now be dismissed. As of November 21, iPhone users no longer have to use their fingers to open up the Google Assistant app first in order to use it.

Thanks to the latest update to Google Assistant for iOS, iPhone users can now ask Siri to bring up Google Assistant for them. While this may sound complicated, the process is actually pretty simple. All users have to say is “Hey, Siri, OK Google,” or “Hey, Siri, Hey Google,” and voila! Google Assistant opens up and is ready to perform its regular duties. (Once you say, “OK Google” or “Hey Google” one more time, of course.)

To get to this point, users will first need to download the latest version of Google Assistant for iOS. They might see a prompt to “Add Google Assistant to Siri,” after which they should tap “Add to Siri” and add the Google Assistant summoning phrase of their choice, usually “OK Google” or “Hey Google.” Google Assistant can be added to Siri through Siri’s settings as well.

But the conveniences that come with this update go even further. According to The Verge, users can now set up Siri shortcuts for some of their most frequently used Google Assistant phrases. For example, if a user has set up morning, bedtime or leaving home routines on their Google Home, they can trigger those routines inside of Siri now. This can include anything from adjusting lights and thermostats to announcing weather and calendar updates to setting wakeup alarms.

This might not be the perfect way to solve the iOS/iPhone Google Assistant problem. Some are referring to this update as more of a workaround or a stopgap than an actual feature. But it’s still a decent quick fix and a welcome step toward breaking down the barriers Apple has been known to build around its products and adds more options for everyone.

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