Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Looking up to find the way is so 2014. Instead, a team of researchers suggests, small electrodes on your thighs could be used to direct you as wander the city streets—a technique that they refer to as “human cruise control.”
The idea is simple. The researchers place electrodes on the sartorius muscles—the ones that run across your thighs—which are fired by a commercial muscle stimulation system controlled via Bluetooth. Using an app, its possible to send an electrical pulse into the muscle to encourage the wearer to turn in one direction or other. The researches tested the technique by following participants around a park, zapping their legs to make them turn left or right remotely. The research is to be presented at the CHI 2015 human-computer interaction conference which is taking place in Seoul next week.
And... it works. While the pulses are small—not enough to jolt your leg if you were sat still, according the researchers—all participants turned accurately and consistently when their thighs were stimulated. Some participants turned more distinctly than others when stimulated, but all did turn. The researchers now plan to roll the technology into an app that can accurately guide people around a preplanned route—rather than following them—as well as tweaking the system so it can provide a similar effect to those with different responses to the same stimulation.
The idea of strapping electrons to your legs of a morning may seem off-putting, but the researchers have a bold suggestion to that reluctance: they suggest integrating the technology into underwear. Just how much do you want personal walking cruise control? [Technology Review]
Image by Skip under Creative Commons license
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First, Twin Peaks popped back up on Showtime. Then Fox reopened the X-Files, NBC put Coach back in the game, and Netflix was in talks to refurbish Full House.
The ‘90s are back on TV, and Internet entertainment writers aren’t impressed. Over at Time, Dan D’Addario declared that “TV just keeps getting more boring.” Esquire’s Stephan Marche wrote that even reboots of great shows are a bad idea. Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson, citing the Full House reboot, writes that “this is ‘90s nostalgia gone horribly wrong.”
I say, keep the ‘90s reboots coming! They’ve always been a part of the industry, they can still spin new stories, and because of technology, they’re not robbing you of your original shows, either. Here’s what I mean.
Hollywood has never been about originality
A lot of the reboot outrage takes the “kids these days” position that reboots are a recent phenomenon. But are they?
The term is relatively new, but the process of adapting already existing-material is a trademark of Hollywood. Hollywood has never been that original, and that’s a good thing. For a post on my personal blog, I decided to take a look at the two “best” years ever for movies – 1939 and 1946. Thirty-nine is considered a high-mark because of all the movies from that year still talked about today as all-time greats (like Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind). Forty-six is the year that more Americans went to the movies than at any other time in our nation’s history. My conclusion: Even back then, Hollywood would much rather adapt pre-existing material than produce something completely original. (See the above examples of Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind.)
The only difference between now and then is that Hollywood now has more than books and plays to draw from. It only makes sense that as the libraries of films and TV shows in studio vaults grow, so will the desire to re-exploit them.
Room for everyone
People who decry TV’s “lack of originality” are viewing the entertainment industry through a dated prism. When the X-Files, Twin Peaks, and, yes, Full House, all first aired, TV was dominated by just four networks, and each network’s programming slate was limited by the number of hours in the evening. That’s simply no longer the case.
The number of outlets for quality, scripted entertainment has exploded. Programming is no longer dictated by scheduling blocks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m. TV production is no longer a zero-sum game. If Netflix does pick up new Full House, that doesn’t mean the end of The Orange is the New Black. And if a new Full House succeeds in bringing in new subscribers for Netflix, that’s good for all of Netflix’s shows.
Set it and forget it
One of the reasons TV reboots are attractive to networks and studios is because most of the development is already done. You don’t need to stick them in the oven for an hour to cook. You can just stick them in the microwave to reheat. TV reboots are, well, the TV dinners of Hollywood. (Kids, if you don’t know what a TV dinner is, ask your parents.)
So we’re not missing a season of an original show because we’re getting a season of a reboot instead. TV reboots don’t supplant so-called “original” fare at a one-to-one ratio. If they were as much work, you wouldn’t see as many of them making news. As infomercial king Ron Popeil used to say about his kitchen products: “Set it and forget it!”
Not the same Bat-Channel
Episodes of the campy ‘60s Batman TV series would end with a cliffhanger and a voiceover instructing viewers to “tune in tomorrow at the same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.” That’s a promise few shows can keep these days can keep these days.
Of all the TV reboots mentioned thus far, only one (The X-Files) is airing on the show’s original home. Twin Peaks is moving from ABC to Showtime, Coach from ABC to NBC, and Full House from ABC to Netflix.
But this show swap is a good thing. Because there are so many outlets now, there is greater competition than ever for content. The TV reboots might get a lot of attention, but that’s only because more people have heard of Full House than all the original material currently in development. The headlines are hardly indicative of what’s really going on.
Yesterday’s teens are today’s powerbrokers
It’s no coincidence that Michael Keaton’s Batman came two decades after Adam West’s, or that The Brady Bunch Movie came two decades after that series’ original run. Twenty years is as long as it takes for a teen to be a thirty-something – i.e. for a kid to become a development executive at a studio or network.
Children of the ‘90s are now taking the reins of production companies. Even if they aren’t in charge, they have the ears of those who are. We’re talking about Twin Peaks and Full House today, but in ten years we’ll be talking about reboots of Monk and Lost. This has nothing to do with creativity (or lack thereof) and everything to do with passion. Whenever you see a 20-year-old piece of material get the reboot treatment, you better believe that there’s a thirty-something with a real love for the material who pushed to make it happen. And I think that’s great.
Original fare isn’t that original
I’ll take a successful reboot of a TV show from my youth any day over a “new” show that is just a thinly-veiled clone of something else. (I’ll let you figure out which TV shows currently airing fall into the latter boat.) In fact, reboots are breeding grounds for some of the most creative – and original – work coming out of Hollywood right now. Just because the source material is familiar, that doesn’t mean the expression of it has to be. Good stories might start with a good premise, but great stories exist in the details – details that can change every time a story gets retold.
Back to Batman (because everything is always about Batman). Is Fox’s Gotham merely a reboot of the ‘60s Batman TV series? Heck no. Same source material, same location, a lot of the same characters, but no one would ever connect the two (except me, right here).
That’s what I love most about TV reboots. Yes, people cheered the return of X-Files because it’s a chance for Chris Carter to (hopefully) give those characters some closure. But even when shows get new talent behind the camera (which is apparently the case with the new Twin Peaks), that’s a chance for new writers and directors to put their spin on the same source material. If the new take succeeds, that’s great. If it doesn’t, it still serves to highlight what was special about the original.
If I have to take a couple Full Houses for every Battlestar Galactica that comes along, that’s a very small price to pay. Especially since you can never have enough Stamos in your life.
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China-based Ninebot plans to use self-balancing technology to produce new transport systems as Xiaomi continues expanding beyond smartphones
American self-balancing transport firm Segway has been bought by a Chinese robotics startup backed by Xiaomi.
Beijing-headquartered Ninebot, maker of similar personal transport devices, will maintain Segway as a subsidiary, but will integrate its technology into future products focused on internet-connected electric vehicles with advanced human-machine interfaces.
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‘Modern aircraft are increasingly connected to the internet’ which could potentially lead to hackers seizing control of a plane mid-flight, warns GAO
Hackers on commercial flights could now bring down the plane they are on by using the on board wi-fi, a US government watchdog has warned.
The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) does not suggest it would be easy to do but it points out that as airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration attempt to modernise planes and flight tracking with internet-based technology, attackers have a new vulnerability they could exploit.
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To hear some tell it, the world will soon be abuzz with small drones that inspect bridges, monitor pipelines, survey crops and help assess damage for insurance claims.
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Shaved heads have come in and out of fashion over the past few decades, but some people don’t have the option of allowing their locks to grow. Thankfully, for those who do suffer from hair loss, or alopecia, help may be at hand. Somewhat counter-intuitively an effective treatment for baldness may come from plucking a certain number of hairs – in a specific formation – from the scalp.
Hair follicles – the skin organ responsible for hair growth – contain stem cells that constantly divide, they are the driving force behind new hair growth. A healthy hair follicle produces about six inches of hair every year, but if the follicle stem cells malfunction and stop dividing, hair growth ceases and conditions such alopecia are observed.
Androgenic alopecia – or male pattern baldness – is the most common form of hair loss and will effect around two-thirds of men and one-third of women during their lifetime.
Our recent study, published in Cell, and completed on a mouse model, is unique because it not only studies the regeneration of a single hair follicle, but focuses on the regrowth of several follicles that had previously been effected by alopecia.
We demonstrated that plucking a few properly arranged hairs can trigger regeneration of hair follicles stem cells in up to five times more neighbouring, un-plucked surrounding hairs.
It is not surprising that follicle stem cell injury – caused by plucking – can cause a regeneration response. But, generally the stimulation of one stem cell through injury is only thought to cause regeneration in that stem cell alone. Triggering the regeneration of a whole head of hair in this way would be highly inefficient. But can the regeneration response of several stem cells be triggered by stimulating only a few key cells or signals?
Decision making in stem cell populations
Recently, we accidentally discovered that regeneration could occur through a collective decision-making process. By plucking the correct number of hairs with a proper arrangement, up to five times more neighbouring, unplucked resting hairs were activated to regrow. But if the number of plucked hairs was below a threshold, no hairs regenerated.
This type of regeneration is an all-or-nothing process which is dependent on the signals produced by a fraction of hairs being plucked, and is an example of the process known as “quorum sensing”.
Quorum sensing can be thought of as a decision-making process which is dependant on certain criteria being met within a population. Signalling molecules are released by each stimulated component of the population, the more components that are stimulated the more signal molecules are released. As the elements in the system are able sense the number of signal molecules released by the population as a whole, they can also sense the degree of stimulation. When a certain threshold of stimulation is reached, a collective response from the components in the system will follow.
The process of quorum sensing has been used to describe bacteria cell-to-cell communication, where the expression of certain genes is coordinated between many bacteria in response to environmental factors such as an increase in the presence of bacterial toxins. Quorum sensing has also been used successfully to explain the behaviour of social insects such as ants and honey bees for their collective decision-making.
Cast and count
But in reality, how does the population of hair follicles “cast and count its vote” in quorum sensing? First, there is a stimulus – such as hair plucking, which stimulates follicle stem cells – to some, but not all, hair follicles. Second, the plucked hair sends out a signal to surrounding cells. Third, the group of cells gauges the intensity of signal from its surroundings. Finally, a local decision is made within the population in an all-or-nothing fashion: if enough hairs have been plucked, mass hair regrowth will occur, but if not, there will be no response at all.
In the most simple cases of quorum sensing, the signal molecule spreads by diffusion from the secreting cell. But it was found that the signals being released by plucked hair follicles were travelling further than could be achieved by simple diffusion, suggesting that a something more complicated was involved.
Molecular and genetic analysis revealed that the signals were transmitted through a two-step immune response, triggered by the plucking of the hair follicle. First injured hair follicle stem cells will release a small signal molecule, this recruits a specific cell type involved in the immune response called a macrophage. This then secretes a signal molecule involved in the immune response called a cytokine, which acts directly on surrounding hair follicle cells by stimulating various cellular regeneration signal pathways.
Repair and regeneration
This work shows that a quorum-sensing system can sense cell injury and use immune response to quantify how much damage has occurred. The stem cell population then disregards the stimulus if the minimum number of hairs has not been plucked, or responds to it with a full-scale regenerative response in many hair follicles when a threshold is reached.
This finding also is important in the field of regeneration medicine as a whole. We believe that the quorum-sensing behaviour principle is likely to be present in the regeneration of tissue and organs beyond the skin. Using such efficient regenerative strategies opens a new window in treating hair loss as well as many other degenerative disorders.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Cheng-Ming Chuong is Professor of Tissue Development and Regeneration at University of Southern California. Image by Maxim Kalmykov/Shutterstock .
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