Humans are being asked to help robots recognise the multitude of objects found in the average home.
Swedish researchers are asking people to use their Xbox's Kinect sensor as a scanner to grab detailed 3D images of the stuff in their homes.
The Kinect@home project requires mass participation to accumulate many examples of common household objects.
The scans will build into a library of objects robots can consult as they navigate around homes.
Co-ordinator Alper Aydemir said: "Factory floors can be custom built and the tools the robots will use can be known precisely in minute detail. This is not the case with everyday living spaces and objects."
While humans have no trouble recognising objects such as a tea mug even if it is a different colour, shape and size to those they have seen before, robots struggle to complete such a mundane task.
"One of the best ways for robots to accomplish all these tasks is to make them learn how to recognise a sofa, a chair, or a refrigerator by feeding them lots of data," Mr Aydemir told the BBC.
Rather than building up the database of objects by themselves, the team from the Center for Autonomous Systems at Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology have turned for help to the many people who have bought a Kinect game sensor for their Xbox console.
The Kinect sensor uses a combination of an infra-red sensor, camera and customised computer chip to spot and interpret the movements of gamers, letting them play without a traditional hand-held controller...
Morgan Marquis-Boire works as a Google engineer and Bill Marczak is earning a Ph.D. in computer science. But this summer, the two men have been moonlighting as detectives, chasing an elusive surveillance tool from Bahrain across five continents.
What they found was the widespread use of sophisticated, off-the-shelf computer espionage software by governments with questionable records on human rights. While the software is supposedly sold for use only in criminal investigations, the two came across evidence that it was being used to target political dissidents.
The software proved to be the stuff of a spy film: it can grab images of computer screens, record Skype chats, turn on cameras and microphones and log keystrokes. The two men said they discovered mobile versions of the spyware customized for all major mobile phones.
But what made the software especially sophisticated was how well it avoided detection. Its creators specifically engineered it to elude antivirus software made by Kaspersky Lab, Symantec, F-Secure and others.
The software has been identified as FinSpy, one of the more elusive spyware tools sold in the growing market of off-the-shelf computer surveillance technologies that give governments a sophisticated plug-in monitoring operation. Research now links it to servers in more than a dozen countries, including Turkmenistan, Brunei and Bahrain, although no government acknowledges using the software for surveillance purposes.
The market for such technologies has grown to $5 billion a year from “nothing 10 years ago,” said Jerry Lucas, president of TeleStrategies, the company behind ISS World, an annual surveillance show where law enforcement agents view the latest computer spyware.
FinSpy is made by the Gamma Group, a British company that says it sells monitoring software to governments solely for criminal investigations.
“This is dual-use equipment,” said Eva Galperin, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet civil liberties group. “If you sell it to a country that obeys the rule of law, they may use it for law enforcement. If you sell it to a country where the rule of law is not so strong, it will be used to monitor journalists and dissidents...”
This month, the British newspaper The Guardian ran an interactive map of American drone strikes, pinpointing the locations in Pakistan where missiles from the unmanned aerial vehicles struck suspected terrorists. The map, which was based on data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in Britain, was available through The Guardian’s app for the iPhone, as well as its Web site.
A graduate student at New York University, Josh Begley, recently took the same data on drone strikes from the same source that The Guardian used and put it into an iPhone app of his own creation that featured an interactive map. While The Guardian’s map was part of a much broader newspaper app featuring all manner of stories, the app by Mr. Begley, called Drone+, was dedicated exclusively to the drone strikes.
On Monday evening, Apple rejected Mr. Begley’s software from its App Store because, the company said, it ran afoul of Apple standards on objectionable content within apps.
How does that compute?
Along with new campaign decisions being made at Republican and Democratic national conventions, the newest technology in civilian surveillance and police weaponry are also debuted every four years. In 2008 in Minneapolis, hundreds of protesters and bystanders were arrested and charged with Felony-Riot. People near the convention described sitting at a park and then being surrounded by police, zip tied and taken to jail for up to three days.
The DNC in 2008 was held in Denver, CO where hundreds of arrests ensued for anyone who looked ‘suspicious’ standing near the convention. The city of Denver planned for so many arrests that a warehouse was converted into a massive prison for protesters. The warehouse was called ‘GITMO on the Platte’ and deemed as a ‘concentration camp’ reminiscent of the Japanese internment camps that were located in Southern Colorado during World War II. Denver spent $25 million for security and the purchasing of equipment for the 2008 DNC. The ACLU sued Denver following a mass arrest at a street march near Fifteenth St. and Court in 2008. The ACLU stated, “They [Denver Police] must have individualized facts showing that each separate person they arrest was violating the law. Police violate the Constitution when they simply arrest everyone who happens to be in the area.”
Officials in Tampa are preparing for mass arrests; Orient Road Jail has been vacated to ensure that the 1,700 beds can be utilized if needed. It has been reported that an Occupy Tampa protester was arrested on August 27, 2012, for refusing to remove his mask at the request of the police. Occupy Tampa has also reported that homeless people are being arrested near the convention by ‘secret service.’
Tampa received a $50 million federal grant just for security. Tampa bought high-tech security cameras, body armor, and an armored tank. During the RNC, Tampa will have boat patrols armed with fully automatic .308 caliber rifles. Trapwire surveillance systems have also been installed throughout Tampa and according to RT:
"TrapWire is a detailed surveillance system that “can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw[s] patterns, and do[es] threat assessments of areas that may be under observation from terrorists.” Anything suspect gets input into the system to be “analyzed and compared with data entered from other areas within a network for the purpose of identifying patterns of behavior that are indicative of pre-attack planning.”
Security-conscious authorities will be using a variety of devices and technology to monitor the skies, streets and waterways around Tampa during next week’s Republican National Convention. Cameras, helicopters and law enforcement officers all will be employed to help look for suspicious activity and possible threats.
Add to that mix one more technology: drones.
This will mark the first time unmanned aerial vehicles will patrol the skies over a national convention, according to an engineer with a Naples company that builds and will operate the drones. The vehicle, called an Aether Aero, is an eight-bladed vertical takeoff platform that will provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to government agencies, according to Curt Winter, an engineer with United Drones.
The battery-powered, 4 1/2-foot-wide Aether Aero, which resembles a small helicopter, can fly up to 4,000 feet high and can operate up to four hours, Winter said. It is equipped with a 109x optical zoom camera, can lift up to 50 pounds and is so light it can be picked up with two fingers, according to Chris Knott, United Drones’ director of corporate development.
In addition to the unmanned aerial vehicles, United Drones will operate several unmanned ground vehicles, called Wraiths, at the convention. The Wraiths can travel up to 65 mph “and climb just about anything,” said Winter.
The Wraiths, also built by United Drones, have the capability of carrying surveillance cameras and even lethal and non-lethal weapons.
“They are fully autonomous backup units,” Winter said of the Wraiths. “They are designed to follow certain agencies out into the field and, if they get into trouble, be activated by a command center and provide instant backup...”
Unmanned drones, similar to those used in Afghanistan, could be used by police to free up officers for other duties, it was reported.
The airborne cameras, known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) may be used over cities or big events like Glastonbury, according to a National Police Air Service director.
Superintendent Richard Watson suggested they could have been deployed during the Olympic Games but have not yet proved to be cost-effective for widespread use.
Some forces have tried the remote-controlled system, which has been dubbed "spy in the sky". A £13,000 drone was launched successfully but was later lost in the River Mersey.
In a presentation to the defence industry, reported by the Times, Supt Watson said: "I think we missed an opportunity with the Olympics. But there is an opportunity to do things differently. Until we start to ask the questions, we will always think the same way.
“I see unmanned systems as part of the future. There is an aircraft over London all the time — every day, giving images back. Why does it need to be a very expensive helicopter..?
The speedy onward march of biometric technology continues. After recently announcing plans for a nationwide iris-scan database, the FBI has revealed it will soon hand out free facial-recognition software to law enforcement agencies across the United States.
The software, which was piloted in February in Michigan, is expected to be rolled out within weeks. It will give police analysts access to a so-called “Universal Face Workstation” that can be used to compare a database of almost 13 million images. The UFW will permit police to submit and enhance image files so they can be cross-referenced with others on the database for matches.
Instituting the technology nationally is the latest stage in the FBI’s $1 billion Next-Generation Identification program, which will also establish a system for searching a database of scars, marks, and tattoos. The FBI’s Jerome Pender, who was recently named executive assistant director of the Information and Technology Branch, says in a statement that Hawaii, Maryland, South Carolina, Ohio, New Mexico, Kansas, Arizona, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Missouri have already expressed interest in trying out the UFW. Pender says that “full operational capability” for facial recognition is scheduled for the summer of 2014.
The FBI has been keen to emphasize that the 12.8 million images stored on the database will only include “criminal mug shot photos” taken during the booking process. Last week, in a bid to quell privacy concerns, the bureau said in a podcast that it will not “store photographs obtained from other sources such as social media.”
But it’s unlikely that assurance will satisfy civil liberties enthusiasts. In a blog post earlier this month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said it was concerned that the “FBI wants to be able to search and identify people in photos of crowds and in pictures posted on social media sites—even if the people in those photos haven’t been arrested for or even suspected of a crime.” This sentiment was echoed in July by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., during a hearing at the Senate judiciary committee’s subcommittee on privacy, technology, and the law. Franken said that he feared the FBI’s technology “could be abused to not only identify protesters at political events and rallies, but to target them for selective jailing and prosecution, stifling their First Amendment rights...”
DNA is one of the most dense and stable media for storing information known. In theory, DNA can encode two bits per nucleotide. That's 455 exabytes – roughly the capacity of 100 billion DVDs – per gram of single-stranded DNA, making it five or six orders denser than currently available digital media, such as flash memory. Information stored in DNA can also be read thousands of years after it was first laid down.
Until now, however, the difficulty and cost involved in reading and writing long sequences of DNA has made large-scale data storage impractical. Church and his team got round this by developing a strategy that eliminates the need for long sequences. Instead, they encoded data in distinct blocks and stored these in shorter separate stretches.
The strategy is exactly analogous to data storage on a hard drive, says co-author Sriram Kosuri, where data is divided up into discrete blocks called sectors.
Because the DNA is synthesised as the data is encoded, the approach doesn't allow for rewritable data storage. A write-only DNA molecule is still suitable for long-term archival storage, though. "I don't want to say [rewriting is] impossible," says Kosuri, "but we haven't yet looked at that."
But the result does show that DNA synthesis and sequencing technologies have finally progressed to the stage where integrating DNA sequence information into a storage medium is a real possibility, says Dan Gibson at the J. Craig Venter Institute in La Jolla, California, who was part of Venter's team in 2010. "Cost, speed and instrument size currently make this impractical for general use, but the field is moving fast, and the technology will soon be cheaper, faster and smaller," he says.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Ann Arbor today to launch the world’s largest field test of the ability of cars to talk to one another and their surroundings to prevent accidents.
“Cars talking to cars is the future of motor safety,” said LaHood at an event to kick off a year-long safety trial to monitor about 3,000 cars, buses and freight trucks driving in a section of Ann Arbor.
The vehicles will have wireless devices and there will also be wi-fi embedded in intersections and traffic signs.
Last year 32,310 people died in the U.S. due to traffic accidents. LaHood said this is the next frontier of vehicle safety and could prevent or reduce the severity of up to 80% of crashes.
The idea is to use visual and audio warnings of events that could cause a collision such as a car is approaching too fast on the other side of a curve or if someone a few cars ahead is braking suddenly.
Today’s cars have sensors and lasers to detect potential danger but they are limited to what they can see. A wifi message provides a full view.
A third of car fatalities are intersection collisions, said Michael Shulman, technical leader of vehicle communications for Ford,
“The field of view you need is just too great for sensors and radars that are already in production,” Shulman said.
This is a $25 million project being overseen by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation.
UMTRI has 3,500 volunteers so far and only needs 2,865, said director Peter Sweatman.
LaHood said once data is collected, he will decide on the next moves in an area that the potential for safety to take a quantum leap.
“Who would have ever thought a vehicle could talk to another vehicle,” he said...
Advanced technology now provides government agents and police officers with the ability to track our every move. The surveillance state is our new society. It is here, and it is spying on you, your family and your friends every day. Worse yet, those in control are using life's little conveniences, namely cell phones, to do much of the spying. And worst of all, the corporations who produce these little conveniences are happy to hand your personal information over to the police so long as their profit margins increase. To put it simply, the corporate-surveillance state is in full effect, and there is nowhere to hide.
Using the data transferred from, received by, and stored in your cell phone, police are now able to track your every move. Your texts, web browsing, and geographic location are all up for grabs. Using "stingray" devices, often housed in mobile surveillance vans, federal agents track the cell phones of unsuspecting people. By triangulating the source of a cell phone signal, agents are able to track down the whereabouts of the person holding it. These surveillance sweeps target all cell phone signals, not just those of criminal suspects. Examples of extralegal police surveillance in the years since 9/11 are numerous, from the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program to the NYPD's spy network that targeted Muslims in the New York area.
Unfortunately, the now widespread tactic of spying on people via their cell phones resides in a legal grey area, which has allowed police agencies to take drastic steps to record the daily activity of all Americans. Whereas cell phone tracking once fell only in the purview of federal agents, local police departments, big and small, are beginning to engage in cell phone tracking with little to no oversight. Small police agencies are shelling out upwards of $244,000 to get the technology necessary to track cell phones. And as you might expect, most police departments have attempted to keep knowledge of their cell phone tracking programs secret, fearing (as they should) a public backlash.
Federal courts are divided on the issue, some saying that a warrant is necessary before executing a cell phone search. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently ruled that tracking the location of a cell phone without a warrant is legal and, thus, not a violation of the Fourth Amendment. This lack of concern for the Fourth Amendment -- which requires reasonable suspicion that you're up to something illegal before the police conduct surveillance on you -- is widely shared among the federal and state courts. In fact, courts issue tens of thousands of cell tracking orders a year, allowing police agencies to accurately pinpoint people's locations within meters. Unless they're charged with a crime, most people remain unaware that their cell data has been tracked...
One Twitter user wrote cheerfully “I'm at home sweet home <3.” Another tweeted “last day at home.” Yet another proclaimed "home at last!!"
Such mundane social media updates might appear in anyone's Twitter feed. But these updates, along with dozens of others, showed up Thursday morning on a new website that also displayed a possible photo of the users' houses.
The site, WeKnowYourHouse.com, which launched Sunday, aggregates tweets by users who write about being home and sifts through those posts to find ones that also include users' location data. With those two pieces of information, which are publicly available, the site uses Google Streetview to post an image of what may be the person's home. It does the same thing for users of Foursquare and Instagram.
The tech site Gizmodo called the site “creepy as hell.”
But the site's creators, who declined to be identified, describe the site as a “social networking privacy experiment" aimed at raising awareness about how posting about being at home can pose real privacy and security risks.
Twitter users can prevent their location data from being posted by unchecking a box under "Settings > Accounts."
"In a connected society like today, people share way too much about themselves, which has never been a good thing," the site's creators said in an e-mail.
"The site was created to show its really dumb to check in at home, or say you're at home with locations enabled," they added. "People need to understand this, whether they like it or not, and a site of this nature attracts attention and gets results."
Though they consider their site to be a public service, the site's creators admit they initially went too far. When it first launched, they left users' full Twitter handles and street addresses visible. After re-launching on Thursday, the site now partially censors that information, and only displays information from the past hour before deleting it to protect the users privacy, according to its creators...
Moss Bluff Elementary School in Lake Charles, La., wanted to speed up the cafeteria line and reduce errors in lunch accounting. So the school bought a Fujitsu PalmSecure biometric ID system, which has a scanner that reads the unique patterns of blood vessels in a human palm, enabling a positive ID, much like a fingerprint would.
When school officials sent out a letter announcing the program, some parents freaked out.
The parents had concerns centering around the belief that all forms of biometric ID constitute what the Christian Bible calls "the mark of the beast."
Here's what it says in Revelation 13:15-18: "And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, OR the name of the beast, or the number of his name ... and his number is six hundred threescore and six."
I was surprised to learn while researching this column that opposition to any sort of biometric ID systems for payment might be widespread among some Christian groups.
A Christian blogger named Elwood Sanders summed up the biblical case for rejection of biometric ID like this: "Let me state my position clear: NO BIOMETRIC ID CARD! PERIOD! Every evangelical Christian needs to say NO to this kind of thing."
The case of Moss Bluff Elementary highlights our current reality with biometric ID technology: It's becoming so mainstream that schools are using it in their cafeterias. But some people are rejecting it based on religious grounds.
So will pervasive biometric ID be adopted? Or rejected? The answer is less clear than you might think.
Opposition to biometric ID is pretty widespread, and most of that opposition is based not on prophecy, but on concerns about privacy.
A Senate hearing last month revealed the U.S. government's own concerns about the use of facial-recognition technology, both by government law enforcement agencies and private companies like Facebook.
Europe is broadly resisting Facebook's facial recognition initiative, especially Germany.
A professor from Spain's Universidad Autonoma de Madrid told the Black Hat conference recently that researchers there have come up with a way to hack iris recognition systems that fools the systems into identifying one person as another, raising fears that the main benefit of biometrics -- certainty -- may not be as reliable as promised.
There are many privacy organizations and advocates with serious reservations about the use of biometric identification technology of any kind.
Moreover, many people associate fingerprinting with criminality, and they just don't like the idea of it...
New documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act provide further details on a DHS plan to use an multiples surveillance technologies to search people in public spaces. Previous EPIC FOIA work produced records about a similar DHS program, which the government agency subsequently claimed it had cancelled. However, the new documents obtained by EPIC show that the DHS was still pursuing mobile crowd surveillance as recently as 2011. The technologies include "intelligent video," backscatter x-ray, Millimeter Wave Radar, and Terahertz Wave, and could be deployed at subway platforms, sidewalks, sports arenas, and shopping malls.
In a 2-1 ruling, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled (PDF) that law enforcement has the right to obtain location data from a cellphone in order to track a suspect without a warrant. The case involves a man named Melvin Skinner, a newly convicted drug trafficker, who was part of a cross-country, large-scale drug operation organized by another man, James Michael West.
Skinner had appealed his many convictions: conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, conspiracy to commit money laundering, aiding and abetting the attempt to distribute in excess of 100 kilograms of marijuana. His attorneys argued that the government’s use of his GPS location information from his phone, which led to his arrest, constituted a warrantless search in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
"There is no Fourth Amendment violation because Skinner did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the data given off by his voluntarily procured pay-as-you-go cell phone," wrote Judge John Rogers, in the majority opinion. "If a tool used to transport contraband gives off a signal that can be tracked for location, certainly the police can track the signal..."
The Department of Defense has awarded a lucrative contract to an engineering and robotics design company to develop and build humanoid robots that can act intelligently without supervision.
Boston Dynamics Inc. has been contracted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the agency responsible for the development of new technologies for use by the military, in a deal worth $10.9 million.
The DoD announced Tuesday that “The robotic platforms will be humanoid, consisting of two legs, a torso, two arms with hands, a sensor head and on board computing.”
DARPA’s website says that the robots will help “conduct humanitarian, disaster relief and related operations.”
“The plan identifies requirements to extend aid to victims of natural or man-made disasters and conduct evacuation operations.” reads the brief, first released in April as part of DARPA’s ‘Robotics Challenge’.
The robots will operate with “supervised autonomy”, according to DARPA, and will be able to act intelligently by themselves, making their own decisions if and when direct supervision is not possible.
The Pentagon also envisions that the robots will be able to use basic and diverse “tools”...
Germany launched another privacy investigation against Facebook today, after attempts to get the social network to alter its facial recognition technology failed.
According to The New York Times, Germany believes Facebook is wrongfully collecting an archive of identifiable photos without the permission of the people in those photos. Facebook’s photo recognition tool comes in handy when users upload photos and are tagging their friends. Facebook will look at the photos and suggest tags based on what it knows about that friend’s face. It’s not 100 percent accurate, but it does speed up the tagging process. At this point, you are automatically opted into the feature, but you can opt-out.
Data protection commissioner Johannes Caspar spoke with the Times, saying he and Facebook had been in contact. He demands the social network delete any photos it has collected in Germany. If it wants to collect more images, he requests that Facebook switch its system from “opt out” of facial recognition to asking for permission before collecting the data.
“We believe that the photo tag suggest feature on Facebook is fully compliant with EU data protection laws,” Facebook said in a statement. “During our contentious dialogue with our supervisory authority in Europe, the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, we agreed to develop a best practice solution to notify people on Facebook about photo tag suggest.”
Facebook is working with the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner to create a way to properly alert users to Facebook’s features and gaining their approval...
Today's unmanned robotic planes only seem advanced. A decade after the CIA and the Air Force tucked a Hellfire missile under the wing of a Predator drone, much hasn't actually changed: pilots in air-conditioned boxes remotely control much of the armed drone fleet; the robo-planes are easy for an enemy to spot; the weapons they fire weigh about the same; as much as they love the skies, they take refuge on dry land; and they're built around traditional airframes like planes and helicopters. Yawn.
All this is starting to change. Drones are moving out to sea -- above it and below it. They're growing increasingly autonomous, no longer reliant on a pilot with a joystick staring at video feeds from their cameras. They're getting stealthier; the payloads they carry are changing; and they're going global. They're pushing humans out of the gondolas of blimps. And the laboratories of the drones of the future aren't only owned by American defense contractors, they're in Israel and China and elsewhere, too.
Of course, there are other advancements as well: new model drones fly longer and wield better cameras. But those are routine improvements, like your smartphone rolling out upgrades to its operating system. Here's a look at the more ambitious ways drones are getting re-imagined...
New federal standards for "black boxes" that record information leading up to auto accidents will will take effect Sept. 1, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ruled on Tuesday.
The decision means the new standards for the devices will not be delayed by one year, as automakers had requested.
The federal standards will apply only to cars that are voluntarily outfitted with event data recorders (EDRs), also known as black boxes. But while the government does not yet require all cars to have black boxes installed, NHTSA is still thought to be considering a federal mandate as a next step, possibly this year.
NHTSA standards for black boxes were proposed in 2006, but have been delayed since then. In 2009, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers suggested a delay to Sept. 1, 2013, arguing that this would give auto companies more time to work with original equipment manufacturers to ensure the standard can be met.
Steve Mann, the "father of wearable computing," has been physically assaulted while visiting a McDonalds in Paris, France.
The Canadian university professor was at the restaurant with his family when three different McDonalds employees took exception to his "Digital Eye Glass" device and attempted to forcibly remove it from his head. Mann was then physically removed from the store by the employees, along with having his support documentation destroyed.
This may be the first ever recorded assault of a person instigated by the prominent display of a Google Glass-like wearable computer.
The incident is particularly troubling, not only because Mann's device is very similar to Google Glass, but because the assault could be a harbinger of things to come as the technology becomes increasingly prominent. Assaults such as this one may become more frequent should people (and corporations) respond poorly to the use of such devices. Details of the assault were made available by Mann on his blog.
He, along with his wife and children, were touring the Champs Elysees area when the incident took place. After sitting down to grab a bite to eat, Mann was questioned by a McDonalds employee about the Eye Glass. Since Mann had spent the day going to museums and landmarks, he had brought a letter from his doctor along with other support documentation explaining the device.
He has worn computer vision of some kind for the past 34 years as part of his research in the field of wearable computing. Mann then describes what happened next:
After reviewing the documentation, the purported McDonalds employee accepted me (and my family) as a customer, and left us to place our order. In what follows, I will refer to this person as "Possible Witness 1".
We ordered two Ranch Wraps, one burger, and one mango McFlurry, from a cashier who I will refer to as "Possible Witness 2". My daughter handled the cash to pay Possible Witness 2, as my daughter wanted to practice her French. Possible Witness 2 complimented my daughter on her fluency in French.
Next my family and I seated ourselves in the restaurant right by the entrance, so we could watch people walking along Avenue Champs Elysees while we ate our meal.
Subsequently another person within McDonalds physically assaulted me, while I was in McDonand's, eating my McDonald's Ranch Wrap that I had just purchased at this McDonald's. He angrily grabbed my eyeglass, and tried to pull it off my head. The eyeglass is permanently attached and does not come off my skull without special tools.
I tried to calm him down and I showed him the letter from my doctor and the documentation I had brought with me. He (who I will refer to as Perpetrator 1) then brought me to two other persons. He was standing in the middle, right in front of me, and there was another person to my left seated at a table (who I will refer to as Perpetrator 2), and a third person to my right. The third person (who I will refer to as Perpetrator 3) was holding a broom and dustpan, and wearing a shirt with a McDonald's logo on it. The person in the center (Perpetrator 1) handed the materials I had given him to the person to my left (Perpetrator 2), while the three of them reviewed my doctor's letter and the documentation.
After all three of them reviewed this material, and deliberated on it for some time, Perpetrator 2 angrily crumpled and ripped up the letter from my doctor. My other documentation was also destroyed by Perpetrator 1.
I noticed that Perpetrator 1 was wearing a name tag clipped to his belt. When I looked down at it, he quickly covered it up with his hand, and pulled it off and turned it around so that it was facing inwards, so that only the blank white backside of it was then facing outwards.
Perpetrator 1 pushed me out the door, onto the street...
“Surveillance is paramount. We are living in times where the security scenario across the world is such that we cannot do without it [surveillance]. And visual electronic surveillance or surveillance through closed-circuit television cameras has been found to be the most effective, be it combating crime or managing traffic,” says former IPS officer and writer Maxwell Pereira.
And though CCTV cameras have today reached our bed rooms, it was only in late 1980s that the Delhi Police first installed five cameras over major buildings in the Capital to monitor traffic in and around Connaught Place. “Those five cameras were our showpiece to the world. Three cameras were installed each at the New Delhi Municipal Council building, the Life Insurance Corporation building and The Statesman building. Later, we installed a camera to capture traffic violations on Gyarah Murti Marg and seven dummies. In the late 1990s, we encouraged market associations of Karol Bagh, Lajpat Nagar, Greater Kailash and other major markets to install CCTV cameras at marketplaces and maintain them at their own expenses as the government would not give money,” recalls Mr. Pereira, adding that London had 20,000 CCTV cameras then and their traffic police had amassed a whopping 92 million dollars in a year through traffic violation prosecutions alone with the help of these cameras.
With the passage of time the need for CCTV cameras dawned upon the Indian authorities as well, especially in the wake of a series of terror attacks in the Capital over the past two decades, and several major markets, locations and border check posts are now under visual surveillance and more are to be covered soon, but former Delhi Police Commissioner B. K. Gupta punched holes in the Government’s efforts and claims on visual surveillance in the Capital at a seminar recently saying that Delhi did not have proper and effective CCTV facility to check terrorism and other crimes even after the Commonwealth Games and progress in this direction was being made on a piece-meal basis.
“I totally agree with it. What we have in the name of visual surveillance is inadequate and ineffective. Our approach to the whole concept is amateurish and primitive. There has to be a continuity of surveillance; an umbrella cover. It has to be a total culture. We have installed cameras, but do not know what to look at and how to look at. Our monitoring is not as intense and perfect as it should be. What I experienced in cities like London is that they have a very systematic method of recording each and every violation. We are good at introduction, but there is no disciple of follow-up. The maintenance of cameras is poor and no one here knows how to preserve the recorded tapes,” says Mr. Pereira...
Now, a new app is being developed that can check in people on Facebook and send them the best deals and offers using facial recognition cameras, a report has said. The new app called Facedeals will be installed at various shops’ and bars’ front doors to scan people''s faces as they enter.
In order to use this feature the customers must authenticate the app on Facebook when they walk into any store, which has installed Facedeal facial recognition camera.
Once the facial recognition is complete the users receive notifications on their smart phones regarding the deals being offered on their favorite brands, which they have liked on Facebook...
Congress might need to pass legislation to limit the way government agencies and private companies use facial recognition technology to identify people, a U.S. senator said recently.
The growing use of facial recognition tools raises serious privacy concerns, said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's privacy subcommittee.
During a subcommittee hearing last month, Franken called on the FBI and Facebook to change the way they use facial recognition technology. "I believe that we have a fundamental right to control our private information," he said.
No existing U.S. laws limit the use of facial recognition tools in the public or private sectors, said people who testified before the subcommittee. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have huge databases of biometric identifiers, and they're adding facial data to them. Meanwhile, Facebook users are uploading 300 million photos to the social networking site every day, said Jennifer Lynch, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Many Americans don't even realize that they're already in a facial recognition database," she said.
The FBI is testing facial recognition tools in criminal cases, said Jerome Pender, a deputy assistant director in the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division. It uses a mugshot database that doesn't contain photos of people who have never been arrested, he said.
Others who testified said the technology is a useful tool that helps police arrest the correct people more quickly...
Engineers at Boeing Co. and Johns Hopkins University have devised technology that enables drones to function like a swarm of insects that can communicate and carry out tasks together in mid-flight.
Two small ScanEagle drones, made by Boeing subsidiary Insitu Inc., autonomously conducted searches and communicated information to one another, Boeing said.
The team conducted flight tests in Oregon for several days in June and demonstrated that an operator on the ground, using only a laptop and a military radio, can coordinate the drone “swarm” to carry out a mission.
"This swarm technology may one day enable warfighters in battle to request and receive [drones] much sooner than they can from ground control stations today," Gabriel Santander, Boeing’s program director of advanced autonomous networks, said in a statement. "Swarm network technology has the potential to offer more missions at less risk and lower operating costs..."
In a first for Asia, Hong Kong police said Thursday they will trial the use of video cameras attached to their uniforms to film exchanges with the public, despite concerns from human rights groups.
The southern Chinese city's police force said officers would start to wear the small cameras by the end of the year.
Similar devices have been deployed by police in the United Kingdom and United States, while police in the Australian state of Victoria are proceeding with a trial this month.
"We will try out the body camera scheme by end of this year," a Hong Kong police spokeswoman told AFP.
She played down criticism from human rights activists that the use of body cameras was a step toward the creation of a police state in the former British colony, which reverted to mainland rule in 1997.
"We are not targeting anyone at any public rallies but of course it could be a useful device for the police to deal with those who disturb public law and order at these rallies," she said.
The devices would be used by trained and clearly identified police officers, in order to enhance evidence gathering and public security, officials said.
But Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said filming random interactions with the public could breach Hong Kongers' "constitutional right to privacy" and threaten the city's cherished freedoms.
He said there were no laws regulating the use of such cameras, fuelling fears that they would help security forces keep an eye on political activists opposed to mainland rule.
"It will create a climate of fear and turn the city into a police state with Big Brother watching us all the time," Law told AFP...
Police in Gardena now have a vast network of cameras helping them keep an eye out for crime.
About 50 park and street surveillance cameras are now keeping an unblinking eye out for crime. A total of 130 surveillance cameras are now situated throughout the 5.9-square-mile city, with 20 more in the works, according to the Torrance Daily Breeze.
All the images collected the by the cameras are fed into a camera monitoring at the Gardena Police Station, where officers watch select buildings, intersections and parks around the clock.
The surveillance seems to be working so far – officers say there’s been a reduction in park vandalism and the cameras even solved a shooting case.
“The camera placement next to the skate parks really had a deterring effect on kids vandalizing and having problems at skate parks,” Gardena Police Chief Ed Medrano said. “That kind of concept is moving out into the community, where we’re going to have cameras throughout our major thoroughfares being watched and to be monitored so that …our employees see suspicious activity, they can call proactively our officers in to check it out.”
The department began installing cameras last year in jail cells and on municipal buildings and eventually expanded to cover the rest of the city...
The NYPD is starting to look like a flashy, forensic crime TV show thanks to a new super computer system unveiled Wednesday near Wall St.
The Domain Awareness System designed by the NYPD and Microsoft Corp. uses data from a network of cameras, radiation detectors, license plate readers and crime reports, officials said.
“We’re not your mom and pop police department anymore,” Mayor Bloomberg crowed. “We are in the next century. We are leading the pack.”
The system, which cost somewhere between $30 and $40 million to develop, could also help pay for itself with the city expecting to earn 30% of the profits on Microsoft sales to other city’s and countries, Bloomberg said.
The joint venture began when the NYPD approached Microsoft about the effort, officials said.
Cops were involved with the programmers throughout the process, earning the city its cut of the proceeds.
Officials declined to predict how much the city’s share of the system could be worth.
“For years, we’ve been stovepiped as far as databases are concerned,” NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. “Now, everything that we have about an incident, an event, an individual comes together on that workbench, so it’s one-stop shopping for investigators...”
Imagine this: Every time you wanted to focus on something in your peripheral vision, you had to turn your whole head and torso instead of just moving your eyes. It would be a pain in the ass, yet it’s what robots that use cameras have had to do up until now. Researchers at Georgia Tech say they’ve changed that with a muscle-like device that allows cameras to mimic the human eye’s independent movement.
While the work is still in the lab, lead researcher Joshua Schultz said if any of the potential partners who have approached his adviser Dr. Jun Ueda were to commit, the technology could be on the market in about a year. The implications are vast, including safer and more effective MRI-guided surgery, robotic rehabilitation for eye damage and more advanced military and surveillance applications.
By using electric pulses to move muscle-like components, Schultz and Ueda have found a way around the slow, loud and inefficient servo motors being used in most robotic cameras. Like the human body, this system only uses the amount of energy it needs in order to get the job done. These piezoelectric cellular actuators allow for much more flexibility and open the doors to many exciting advances in optics.
“The fine degree of control of the camera is impressive on its own, but the potentially greater impact is the demonstration of this muscle-like actuator as a general driving force,” says Devin Neal, an MIT researcher who is one of the few other engineers working in the field. ”Such applications may be directly related to the eye such as shutter control like an eyelid, or optical zoom...”
Facebook has become such a pervasive force in modern society that increasing numbers of employers, and even some psychologists, believe people who aren't on social networking sites are 'suspicious.'
The German magazine Der Taggspiegel went so far as to point out that accused theater shooter James Holmes and Norwegian mass murder Anders Behring Breivik have common ground in their lack of Facebook profiles.
On a more tangible level, Forbes.com reports that human resources departments across the country are becoming more wary of young job candidates who don't use the site.
The common concern among bosses is that a lack of Facebook could mean the applicant's account could be so full of red flags that it had to be deleted.
Slate.com tech reporter Farhad Manjoo wrote in an advice column that young people shouldn't date anyone who isn't on Facebook.
'If you’re of a certain age and you meet someone who you are about to go to bed with, and that person doesn’t have a Facebook page, you may be getting a false name. It could be some kind of red flag,' he says.
Manjoo points out that these judgements don't apply to older people who were already productive adults before social media became widespread.
The tech news site Slashdot summed up Der Taggspiegel's story about social networking as 'not having a Facebook account could be the first sign that you are a mass murderer...'
Curious how many Democrats live on your block? Just download the Obama campaign's new mobile app.
The app, released last week, includes a Google map for canvassers that recognizes your current location and marks nearby Democratic households with small blue flags.
For each targeted address, the app displays the first name, age and gender of the voter or voters who live there: "Lori C., 58 F, Democrat."
All this is public information, which campaigns have long given to volunteers. But you no longer have to schedule a visit to a field office and wait for a staffer to hand you a clipboard and a printed-out list of addresses.
With the Obama app, getting a glimpse of your neighbor's political affiliation can take seconds.
While The New York Times dubbed the app "the science-fiction dream of political operatives," some of the voters who appear in the app are less enthusiastic about it.
"I do think it's something useful for them, but it's also creepy," said Lori Carena, 58, a long-time Brooklyn resident, when she was shown the app. "My neighbors across the street can know that I'm a Democrat. I'm not sure I like that..."
"For the first time ever, we can now go in as an industry and observe individual driving behavior," says Richard Hutchinson, a general manager with Progressive Insurance.
"Historically, the industry has priced based on modeling, which is more arbitrary than an individualized quote based on one's actual activity," Hutchinson says.
But today, Progressive can put a device in your car that determines how well you drive — tracking if a driver frequently slams on the breaks, for example.
With that data, the company can then determine how much that driver should pay for insurance. Other companies are now following suit.
These kinds of advances are the cutting edge of the business, and companies are even moving from devices that track not just how you drive, but also tell you when you're doing something reckless or dangerous.
Dave Ferrick of Agero, a company that makes these types of in-car devices, says all technologies have trade-offs.
"The analogy I give is when we were all kids," Ferrick says. "If your mother said to you, 'You're going to go out right now [and] I'm going to put this thing in your hand, which [means] at any second I can call you, and you have to pick up the phone,' I would say, 'I don't want it.' "
Just like the cellphone took away some freedoms, Ferrick says, drivers will lose some freedom as technology advances...
A North Dakota court has approved using drones to help arrest American citizens on US soil as domestic drone human rights abuses escalate.
“The whole thing is full of constitutional violations,” lawyer Bruce Quick told US News.
Quick is representing Rodney Brossart, who was arrested by using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to inspect his property.
Using a taser against Brossart was “torturous” and likened it to “water-boarding,” he said.
“UAVs have primarily been used to conduct strikes against purported militants in countries like Pakistan, but their use at home has been on the rise as of late,” reports Russia Today. District Judge Joel Medd denied a request to dismiss charges against Brossart, after law enforcement resorted to using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), according to court documents obtained by US News.
Judge Medd wrote that “there was no improper use of an unmanned aerial vehicle” and that the UAV “appears to have had no bearing on these charges being contested...”
Employees of Kochi Corporation will now be forced to think twice before they shirk work and stay away from office.
With the introduction of biometric attendance system from Wednesday, officers and staff will have to report for duty on time. The corporation had decided to introduce the system following public complaints regarding the absence of staff in the local body offices across the city.
According to mayor Tony Chammany, the corporation has come up with the new system after it noticed that many employees were absent even though they were marked present as per office records. City residents were unable to complete their transactions with the local body in a stipulated timeframe due to the absence of staff.
"With the introduction of biometric system, the staff will have to punch in and punch out at regular timings. As we have incorporated the impression of index fingers in this system, the employee will have to record his attendance in person," he said. Hinting at the civic body's earlier attempt to electronically record attendance, the mayor said that the corporation had lost faith in the system of swiping cards.
"That system failed because employees, who were not on duty, ensured that their cards were swiped by someone else. Moreover, there was stiff resistance from various unions," said Chammany.
The system has been put in place by Keltron by spending Rs 15.4 lakh. A unique number has been provided with the ID card. Field officers, including corporation secretary, will have to punch in and punch out each time they enter and leave the office. The system will also function as a movement register. The ID number is mapped to the finger print and as the e-governance system comes into force these data will be linked to employee's profile...
Thousands of British Columbians could be tracked by police without their knowledge as part of an expanded mass surveillance system being considered by the RCMP.
The Mounties said they will decide within the next two or three months whether to dramatically expand their automated licence-plate recognition system.
Cameras mounted on 43 police vehicles throughout the province record 3,000 licence plates an hour, but only keep the information on drivers the computer flags as having outstanding warrants, dangerous criminal histories, expired insurance or other serious infractions.
The “non-hit” data on clean drivers is deleted by RCMP computer servers each day, say the Mounties.
However, the RCMP is considering keeping that data, which would essentially compile a list of times and locations of thousands of B.C. drivers who have done nothing other than pass in front of an automated police camera.
Investigators across B.C. could use that list as a tracking tool...
Not everyone tells the truth when they talk to a sheriff's deputy.
Some people even pretend to be someone they're not, to avoid an arrest warrant or dodge a traffic ticket.
Now, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office has technology that will enable deputies to run quick checks to determine at least whether a person has ever been brought to the county jail.
Starting Monday, a deputy will be able to take a digital picture of someone and have a computer program compare it with a database of inmates' photos, to determine whether there's a match.
"We're a huge database because everybody coming through the agency ... their photo is in the system," said Sheriff Kevin Joyce.
The facial recognition software will enable the sheriff's office to easily use that vast database of images, and could hold promise for other police agencies.
"If we get a bank photo of somebody and we scan it and it's a good enough quality picture, it's going to give us leads of who it might be, and it's at least a starting point," Joyce said.
The county purchased the system for $35,000 from Dynamic Imaging Systems of Mount Laurel, N.J.
The computer maps the image of a person's face and converts it to a numerical composite, using factors like the size of the eyes, their distance from each other and their proximity to the nose.
The system ignores qualities that are prone to change, like facial hair, glasses and hair color, as well as race and gender...
Microsoft's online message, phone and video chat service Skype has denied making changes to its system "in order to provide law officers greater access" to its members' conversations.
It follows reports suggesting infrastructure upgrades had made it easier to hand on users' chat data.
Skype has now posted a blog saying the changes were made solely to improve user experience and reliability.
But it added it would pass on messages to law enforcement when "appropriate"...