'Open Humans' Network Launched to Share DNA and Other Data

People eager to share personal information beyond what’s on their Facebook profile have another outlet: an online platform launching on Tuesday will let them give scientists information about their genomes, gut bacteria and other biological data.The “Open Humans Network” aims to make more health-related data available for scientists to mine for discoveries and also help volunteers make that data more accessible to more researchers. Rather than volunteering for only a single study, participants would let any legitimate researcher use their data, even though that poses potential threats to privacy.

“It’s like open-sourcing your body,” said project director Jason Bobe.

Open Humans is launching when scientists are increasingly concerned that valuable genetic and other data are being kept under wraps. Academic researchers do not want to give competitors access for fear they will be scooped on new discoveries, and gene-testing companies keep data private so they can profit from it, said geneticist George Church of Harvard University.

“Data hoarders range from two-person labs to large companies,” he said.

Open Humans seeks to counter that.

At www.openhumans.org, people can sign up for one or more of (so far) three ongoing studies.

American Gut investigates links between gut bacteria and disease. GoViral identifies what viruses are circulating in different areas of the United States during flu season. The Personal Genome Project, led by Harvard’s Church, has collected full genome sequences on about 500 of its 4,100 volunteers in an effort to study associations between DNA variants and health.

By joining a study, people agree that their data can be shared with researchers on other projects, with their names attached so scientists can contact them for follow-up, something not possible with “de-identified” biological data.

“You become a richer resource if your data are shared among as many scientists as possible,” Bobe said. “Maybe someone will find an association between your gut microbiome and your susceptibility to the flu. Any participating researcher will be able to log in and look through the genomic and other data” of Open Humans volunteers.

Participants will have to pass a test demonstrating they understand the potential risks of sharing their genetic profile and health history, including that it might be hacked, something that could expose them to discrimination in life insurance or long-term care coverage.

Xiaomi Mi TV 2's New 40-Inch Full-HD Variant Launched

Xiaomi on Tuesday launched a new 40-inch variant in its Android-based Mi TV 2 lineup in China at CNY 1,999 (approximately Rs. 20,000). The first sale of the television is scheduled for March 31 on Xiaomi’s China website.The new Mi TV 2 model from Xiaomi features a 40-inch Sharp SDP X-GEN full-HD panel with a ‘Radiant’ LED backlight module, a 14.4mm bezel, and 5000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.

Similar to the previous Mi TV 2 model, the new 40-inch Xiaomi Mi TV 2 runs MIUI OS based on Android 4.4 KitKat. Xiaomi says it is upgradeable to Android 5.0 Lollipop, but did not provide a time-frame for the update. It packs a 1.45GHz quad-core MStar 6A908 Cortex-A9 CPU coupled with Mali-450 MP4 GPU and 1.5GB of DDR3 RAM. The onboard storage for apps on the television is 8GB.

Xiaomi says that the new Mi TV 2 features support for H.265, H.264, MPEG4, and REAL video decoding, apart from 10-bit hardware decoding. The supported video formats include rm, flv, mov, avi, mkv, ts, and mp4. Notably, the last Mi TV 2 model featured a 49-inch 4K UHD display.

Last year in December, Xiaomi made a move in the Internet of Things (IoT) sphere with the launch of Internet-connected Mi Air Purifier. Priced at CNY 899 (approximately Rs. 8,900), the Mi Air Purifier can connect to the user’s smartphone and alert them if the filter has reached end-of-life and needs to be replaced. Xiaomi says that the air purifier can produce up to 406 cubic metres (14,000 cubic feet) of clean air per hour and sends pollution readings to connected smartphones.

Meanwhile, the company is reportedly also planning a water purifier on the same lines. The company is said to have shown a prototype of the new water purifier at an investor meet earlier this year.

Next-Generation Batteries Could Be Made With Silk

Frustrated at your smartphone battery dying again? Wait till “green” silk comes to your rescue. Chinese researchers have developed a new “green” way to boost the performance of lithium-ion batteries with a material derived from silk.According to Chuanbao Cao from Beijing Institute of Technology, carbon is a key component in commercial Li-ion energy storage devices including batteries and supercapacitors.

Most commonly, graphite fills that role but it has a limited energy capacity. Cao’s team wanted to see if they could develop a material using a sustainable source.

The researchers found a way to process natural silk to create carbon-based nanosheets that could potentially be used in energy storage devices.

Their material stores five times more lithium than graphite can – a capacity that is critical to improving battery performance.

It also worked for over 10,000 cycles with only a nine percent loss in stability.

“We successfully incorporated their material in prototype batteries and supercapacitors in a one-step method that could easily be scaled up,” Cao noted.

The paper appeared in the journal ACS Nano.

Micromax Launches Its First 4K TVs

After foraying into the TV business in 2012, Micromax has now launched its first 4K TVs in India. The range includes two televisions, the smaller being 42-inches and the larger being 49-inches. Both TVs will be exclusively available via Flipkart starting Thursday at astonishingly low prices of Rs. 39,990 (42-inch) and Rs. 49,990 (49-inch).The TVs feature 4K (Ultra High Definition) display panels with a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels. They are also smart TVs, and run Android 4.4 KitKat with Google Play, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and other apps preloaded. Navigation is through a Smart Somato-Sensory remote control, which acts as an air mouse to make navigation around the user interface easier.

The TVs also sport 2.2GB of internal storage (expandable by up to 32GB) along with 1GB of RAM and a dual-core CPU. Other features include DLNA compatibility, screen mirroring, preloaded games and plenty of connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, USB and HDMI.

The new 4K range from Micromax significantly undercuts the competition on pricing, and this is expected to be a major USP for Micromax. Buyers have been used to paying far more for 4K TVs and this kind of aggressive pricing is expected to force other TV manufacturers to reduce their prices, or offer better features. Unfortunately, a lack of proper 4K content in India still makes 4K TVs somewhat of a luxury, but Micromax can now hope to eliminate that mindset with their aggressive pricing strategy.

Uber Halts Operations in Anchorage

Uber said it was halting operations in Anchorage on Friday until Alaska’s largest city can work out details enabling the ride-share company’s drivers to accept paying fares, as an Oregon city sued the firm over safety requirements.Uber drivers had been providing free rides since last fall after a Superior Court judge ruled that accepting payments would violate the city’s taxi ordinance, the Alaska Dispatch News reported.

An Uber Anchorage operations manager said the company halted operations because the city’s efforts to draft rules for Uber drivers, such as insurance and background check requirements, have not come quick enough, despite months of negotiations.

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan said Uber’s decision “should not be attributed to inaction by the municipality as the process has been continuous and a path forward has been established by the Assembly.”

Sullivan added that the Assembly members and city officials will meet with Uber on March 18 to try to work out an agreement.

Uber has been fighting with cities across the country, contending it is not a taxi service and should not be required to adhere to existing taxicab regulations.

The Oregon city of Eugene sued Uber in Lane County Circuit Court on Thursday, asking the court to stop Uber from operating until it meets what the city calls “minimum safety requirements,” said Laura Hammond, Eugene’s communication and policy analyst.

The city and Uber have wrangled over which regulations the ride-sharing service should follow since it launched there in September. The city has also fined Uber $146,000, which Uber is appealing.

At issue in Eugene are city regulations that include background checks conducted by local police, proof of insurance, and proof of a mechanical inspection that shows they can verify safety features, Hammond said.

Uber contends it already conducts its own third-party background checks and provides commercial auto insurance coverage.

Uber suspended operations in Portland in December, agreeing to give that city until April to come up with revised ride-sharing regulations. But Uber officials complain that Eugene has been more rigid, and that a city decision to add Uber to its for-hire code sets its services up for failure.

“While jurisdictions across the country, including neighbors like Vancouver and Portland, work to craft regulations that ensure public safety and embrace ridesharing, Eugene city leaders decided to hide behind bureaucratic red tape,” said Brooke Steger, Uber General Manager for the Pacific Northwest.

iSafe Women's Safety App Launched by UST Global


UST Global – the biggest employer of IT professionals in Kerala – Friday launched its mobile-based app for women’s safety, ahead of the International Women’s Day on March 8.

The app was unveiled by Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala in Thiruvananthapuram in the presence of high ranking police officers.

To start with, the app – iSafe – has been rolled out for Thiruvananthapuram City Police and would soon be made available in other cities.

The app is currently available for Android phones and will soon be available on other platforms.

Through the app, women will be able to send instant alerts to police control room by using panic button or just by the long press of volume rocker (down) key of their mobile phones.

The police control room receives the alert along with information of the location, the subscriber ID and the IMEI number of the mobile.

Police then immediately dispatches help via police CRV (Control Room Vehicle) that is nearest to the distress location.

Once iSafe sends an alert to the control room, its position can be tracked until the situation is resolved.

The position is visible to police at the control room and also on tablets that police force carries.

Alexander Varghese, UST Global’s country head, said innovation and technology can go a long way in bringing sustainable transformations to communities.

Headquartered in California, UST Global is a leading provider of end-to-end IT services and solutions for Global 1,000 companies.

Ikea's newest furniture can charge your phone wirelessly

ikea charging furniture

Ikea is literally supercharging its furniture. The Swedish purveyor of do-it-yourself home decor says it’s debuting a new line of desks, lamps, and tables that will be able to wirelessly charge your phone or tablet.

The furniture will use the Qi wireless charging standard, which is one of the main competitors in the wireless charging landscape. The Power Matters Alliance (PMA) is another key player, which has its technology in stores like Starbucks and McDonald’s. There’s also the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), which is expected to merge with the PWA later this year, hopefully paring down the fragmentation to two options.

ikea qi table

The furniture is to debut in the U.S. and U.K. in April, then expand worldwide. Ikea says the pieces start at around 40 Euros, or about $45. Ikea also plans to sell a kit that will allow you to add a wireless charging spot to existing furniture.

Why this matters: Ikea doesn’t want to be left out with the move towards the smart and connected home. You may want to be cautious about jumping in given the uncertainty over which wireless standard will win out—you don’t want to have an set of tables and lamps that are the furniture equivalent of HD DVD.

Uber buys deCarta to improve mapping and arrival estimates

Uber is acquiring deCarta, a mapping and location company that could help Uber to develop new types of services and also ensure its drivers show up on time.

DeCarta, headquartered in San Jose, California, holds a variety of data pertaining to mapping, local search and turn-by-turn navigation. Location services in cars from GM and Ford have been powered by deCarta’s technology, as well as devices from Samsung and Blackberry.

Now, Uber is buying the company for an undisclosed sum. It will allow Uber to improve services like UberPool and also give its users more accurate estimated times of arrival.

UberPool lets several people share the same ride, with multiple pick up and drop off points, so it involves more complex routing data than a regular Uber ride. But regular rides could benefit too, if deCarta’s technology can help Uber drivers know exactly where they’re supposed to pick you up.

Uber is acquiring the company for its engineers as well as its technology. About 30 of deCarta’s 40 employees will be joining Uber when the deal closes later this week.

Uber, which launched its service in 2010, has made a small number of acquisitions over the years but didn’t disclose them.

DeCarta could also help Uber with more futuristic efforts, like developing its own self-driving car technology.

Uber’s app currently gets its mapping from a number of sources including Google, Apple and Uber itself. Acquiring deCarta could signal a desire to lessen its dependency on some of those sources. Google, however, is a major investor in Uber, having put at least US$258 million into the company.

military laser weapon burned a hole through a truck a mile away

athena laser

A successful test of Lockheed Martin’s ATHENA military laser punched a hole through a running Ford F-150 pickup truck at more than a mile away, proving that military grade lasers are anything but science fiction.

In fact, ATHENA’s power is orders of magnitude higher than what the Terminator requested in the movie of the same name: instead of a phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range, ATHENA directs 30 kilowatts of energy downrange.

ATHENA is based on the Area Defense Anti-Munitions (ADAM) laser weapon system developed by Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, Calif., which has been proven to be effective against small airborne and sea-based targets, according to the company. It incorporates the 30-kilowatt Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN) fiber laser. Lockheed Martin said that the system combines multiple fiber lasers into a single, unified beam using a technique called spectral beam combining that’s much more powerful than the individual laser modules themselves.

“Fiber-optic lasers are revolutionizing directed energy systems,” said Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin’s chief technology officer, in a statement. “We are investing in every component of the system – from the optics and beam control to the laser itself – to drive size, weight and power efficiencies. This test represents the next step to providing lightweight and rugged laser weapon systems for military aircraft, helicopters, ships and trucks.”

The poor truck in question was apparently parked, motor and drive train running, to similar something akin to a real-world scenario. Lockheed said that the laser burned through the engine manifold in just seconds, from more than a mile away.

Based upon the photo of the truck that Lockheed Martin released, the pickup was undoubtedly not moving, and the laser must have been computer-guided to enable such as tight, compact hole. But whatever the scenario, it’s hard to argue with the result.

Google Glass Has Range of Applications in Plastic Surgery


The world’s first plastic surgery procedure performed using Google Glass has shown promising use of the eye-wearable device in plastic surgery.

Google Glass has a wide range of possible applications in plastic surgery – with the potential to enhance surgical training, medical documentation and patient safety, researchers report.

“Google Glass is an exciting technology, attracting global interest from multiple industries, professions and individuals,” said surgeon Lorne K Rosenfield from the Stanford University.

Rosenfield performed the first plastic surgery procedure with Glass – an eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) performed in combination with a facelift procedure.

This experience illustrated some challenges for future refinement, including the limited resolution of the video camera, technical difficulties in streaming and the need for the surgeon to keep the head in a fixed position.

In subsequent procedures, Rosenfield fashioned a head-mounted extra-wide LED light to improve clarity for video viewers as well as for the surgeon.

The ability to demonstrate surgical procedures, live or recorded, has obvious applications for training in plastic surgery and other disciplines.

According to Rosenfield, the recordings also have unique value for self-evaluation by the surgeon.

In the future, Google Glass technology can enable surgeons to receive remote consultations and even “virtual assistance” during actual procedures.

Introduced on a limited basis in 2013, Glass is a hands-free, computerised eyewear that can present information to the wearer and enable recording and sharing of video.

Glass may also be useful in providing rapid access to medical documentation – for example, doctors could call up and view necessary medical records, imaging studies, or checklists.

This might even reduce the spread of infection from handling pens and paper, computers and other sources.

Although Glass is not currently available to the public, the technology is still being developed in several markets, including healthcare.

The article by Rosenfield and co-author Christopher R Davis, MD, appeared in thejournal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

[source : gadgets.ndtv.com]