Bunny doodles might soon be recognized by search engines

Posted by admin on Sep 22, 2012 in geekery, news, technology

Apps such as DrawSomething are turning everyday people into miniature Picasso’s,  but for every well defined line drawing you’ll get some confusing blobs that bear as much resemblance to a sailboat as they do a Rorschach inkblot test. It would be pretty handy if you could somehow take those random shapes and identify what they were actually meant to represent, and this could have more ramifications than just allowing you to cheat your way to a high score.

Computer researchers from Brown University and the Technical University of Berlin have created a computer application that can recognize simple sketches of objects almost as well as humans, with a 56 percent success rate (humans have a 73% rate). This isn’t a first for computers- they can already recognize detailed sketches, such as those used in crime scene mockups, but this is new ground in terms of very simple drawings- such as those of the bunnies shown above. Here you have very few identifiers to go on, and the programme is still able to recognize key traits such as ear shape and whiskers to call the sketches a ‘bunny’. If this evolves, sketch based search applications might be more prevalent and could enable people with limited literacy to find information quickly, as well as aid children using search tools who can’t vocalize what they are looking for.

Some examples of what the sketch based search program recognizes.. and doesn’t.

Read more…

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The Five Technology Lies you’re guilty of

Posted by admin on Jul 16, 2012 in lists, opinion, technology

Technology has brought us many things; the inability to ever get honestly lost anymore, dinner parties where mobiles get their own place setting and an encyclopedia of knowledge at our fingertips  (thus forbidding us the option of successfully cheating at Scrabble). With all these amazing additions to out lives comes one major downside- the inability to ever be fully turned off- this wired world means we are always connected, and this can be a little bit draining, as no one likes worried phonecalls if you haven’t updated Facebook for two days. It’s hard for people to lie low whilst living in the world 2.0, so in order to cope with the unwanted infringement of private lives a few technology lies have evolved which are hard to disprove but easy to use. Shake your head at that and deny you’re anything less than honest in your dealing with folks? Right, how about when your Mum calls or you’re required to be a plus one for the birthday of someone you hate? I don’t think the following will come as any surprise to you, but it might make you feel better to realize that other people equally embrace escapism from the world by doing the exact same things. Try not to fret too much at these tips as inevitably they’ll all be redundant in 5 years when tech evolves. Here are the five most common technology lies told- as chosen by me (and possibly used on you all at various times).

‘I never got your email’ a.k.a Your email went into my Junk folder

Occasionally really important emails DO go into the spam filter, but in all likelihood MOST of them don’t, so if I haven’t replied to you it’s because I don’t want to. I’d never say that though, so when I get one of those awful pesky follow up ‘did you get my email’ emails, the little white spam filter lie slips easily out and keeps everyone happy. This can be foiled with the sneaky ‘alert when opened’ software many Outlook users enable, but that just means the emailer will be judging you, rather than calling you on your bullshit.

You also have to think what their motivation is- if they know you have opened their email and not replied, surely they should take the hint? On a personal level this would be rude, but in business where a high volume of emails get sent everyday, this generally means that their email was irrelevant or not priority at the moment. Follow ups  just serve to demoralize each side, and can only foster feelings of resentment. If it’s a friend you’re lying too, well, I’m not that interested in their baby photos either- that’s what Facebook is for, so go put that gooey first step/first smile/first poop pics up there so I can ignore them at my leisure and not fill up my inbox with them. Read more…

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The App that made me love the iPad: AVPlayer HD

Posted by admin on Jul 4, 2012 in technology

For years I’ve been in two minds about the iPad. Yes, it’s beautiful to look at, fun to browse on, and the swish, flicking sensation is akin to that of my iPhone- which is very beloved. The main problem I have had with the iPad though is the size and the daily usability factor from a journalist perspective. I know people who are happy typing up full articles on it, but I like the tactile feel of a real keyboard, and adding an accessory to the iPad just feels like cheating. I love the apps, but they don’t really offer me that much more than my iPhone (excepting Flipboard) so I’ve wondered why on earth people don’t just go and get a Galaxy Tab. Withe the recent news about Microsoft’s new offering- a tablet with keyboard BUILT INTO the cover, the iPad seems more and more superfluous and restrictive.. and then I discovered this app.

One of the things I like to do on tablets is watch video, and as I object to paying for TWO data plans (my phone is all I need thank you) my iPad is WiFi only, so I can’t stream videos out and about. I could BUY all my movies from the App store, but I like being able to pay my rent (seriously, those prices) so up till recently I’ve had to put videos and TV shows on the iPad by the arduous process of converting them into iPad readable files.


I was previously using the Aleesoft Free iPad Video converter, and though I don’t like to speak badly of something that’s free, it’s not exactly an ideal situation. Rendering a movie iPad readable can take hours – and add a few more if your movie is HD. It does get the job done, but it’s so slow and painstaking that you wonder why you even bothered to begin with (oh yeah, the money factor).

Last weekend I discovered the AVPlayerHD App app by EPlayWorks and it has completely transformed my iPad experience. For the small cost of £1.99 I can now drag and drop ANY movie or show into the related folder on the iPad and it will play them straightaway. No converting, no rendering, just happily playing AVI, MPEG files and more. You can transfer them manually over USB or WiFi (a little slow this way) and it’s amazing. If playing the files wasn’t enough, it also lets you do things like picture in picture (pointless but some people like it) and it can even handle subtitled files such as SMI and SRT. Read more…

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The High-Tech High Street of Today: The future of shopping is here

Posted by admin on Jun 21, 2012 in style, technology

Virtual shopping where you can try on clothes remotely? Check. Groceries ordered through adverts on the subway? Check.  A scanner that maps 300,000 points on the body so you get a perfect pair of jeans? Check. An online clothes scanning system that lets you have Cher’s Clueless fashion computer? Check.The majority of things we dreamed about- and those that never even occurred to us- have now made their way to the high street of today, and they’re easy to use and incredibly helpful to everyday life. I’d like to take a look at a few of the technologies that are revolutionizing shopping in the 21st century, and sharing how accessible they are to everyday people.

A lot of new shopping technology is about what people are doing BEHIND THE SCENES, and it’s good to be aware of how your high tech high street experience is created.

Tesco  Shopping via QR Codes on the Subway

Grocery shopping is a necessary evil and something we have less and less physical time for- which is why online groceries are now so popular. I do find that I miss physically browsing the items though, and Tesco has an innovative way for you to do this. In 2010 they teamed up with a design agency to offer grocery shopping on the subways in Korea. Sorry, VIRTUAL grocery shopping. Customers would choose items displayed along the walls,  scan the related QR codes and this would link to Tesco Online and bag up the products- to be delivered the same day! Remember, Korea has amazing reception/WiFi signal on the subway, so this was easy for people to fit into their lives and a nice way for users to really connect with their grocery store. Read more…

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Seven Strange Ways Technology is integrated in South Korea

Posted by admin on May 27, 2012 in lists, technology, travel

Considering so many electronic companies (Samsung and LG I’m talking about you) are based out of South Korea I was expecting that Seoul (the capital city) would be some kind of sci-fi like cityscape, with towering buildings, holograms and jetpacks available for all (OK, maybe not the jetpacks). Instead I found a city- a country, really- full of eccentricities and contradictions with higgledy piggledy street vendors lying side by side flashing billboards and skyscrapers; and ancient pagodas resting in their shadow!

South Korea does seem technologically advanced when compared to London and the USA, but the technological advances are subtle rather than in your face teleporting chutes and holographic manifestations (Yes, a little Futurama inspired here).

I’m going to share some of the ways South Korea impressed me techwise- and how it was more about a combination of all the little things than anything big that made it stand out as advanced.

Fingerprint scanning lockers at all stations

When you arrive in a big city the last thing you want to do is lug your luggage around- especially if you’re only staying for a night. South Korea offered banks of lockers at all the train stations I visited (from the capital Seoul to the cities of Daegu and Busan) where you could store your luggage for 24 hours for the approximate price of 80p. What took these lockers up a tech step was the fact that once you’d inserted your money you didn’t get a key or a code for the locker- you had to place your FINGER on their scanning device and it then ‘locked’ the locker. Read more…

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Laser Eye Surgery- What you need to know

Posted by admin on Mar 29, 2012 in beauty, opinion, technology

I have wanted to have laser eye surgery for the last 20 years. I first started wearing glasses when I was 8 years old, and have hated them ever since. I progressed onto contact lenses as soon as my Mum gave me permission, but though they’re great I do have some issues. They’re costly, my eyes get dry and I can’t wear them 24/7 or swim with them. I dabbled with day/night lenses (you take them out once a month) but didn’t agree with them, and thought longingly about laser eye surgery.

I had my first consultation four years ago (you should wait till you are in your twenties and your eyes have stabilized) and was told that I wasn’t suitable.  I have a high prescription (-7.5 Dioptres) but this alone wasn’t the main factor, as I also have thin corneas, and combined this simply wasn’t a safe option. I sadly gave up on my dream, but recently I decided to go for a new opinion- techniques have progressed and I might be candidate now. I wanted to be prepared so I researched all the types of laser eye surgery that are now on offer, and though I would share this with you. There’s a lot of information out there and some of it can be quite confusing, so I’ll try and decode the laser eye surgery process in this piece.

There are currently THREE types of laser eye surgery performed in the UK, as well as contact less implantation (called ICL)  for those who aren’t suitable for any of these options.


PRK stands for photorefractive keratectomy. This used to be the most common laser technique till newer ones were introduced, and this generally is the one offered by those clinics when you see those ‘£200 per eye’ deals. It involves the DR removing some of the cells on the epithelium (this covers the surface of the cornea. It’s very thin and is quick to heal when the cornea is injured).  It involves no cutting of the cornea, but creating a ‘scratch’ along the surface, which is then treated with the excimer laser to help reshape the eye. The fact that you don’t need to create a flap means the eye will heal more cleanly, but the recovery time will be around a week, so you should prepare for a week off normal activities. Complications include infection, scarring, over correction and devloping astigmatism. Issues with light such as sensitivity and halos can be a concern. Corneal haze is the most common, where you’d experience some objects with a light haze around them. Post surgery bandage contact lenses are placed in the eye, which are taken out around 4 days later. Vision is blurry while they are in but tends to improve quickly when they are out. PRK is not performed at many places nowadays as most clinics offer LASIK and LASEK instead. Read more…

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The iPad 3 queue and why I just don’t get it

Posted by admin on Mar 15, 2012 in opinion, technology

Today I passed a number of people waiting outside the Apple store on London’s Regent Street. These people were following the great British tradition of standing patiently in line, but these guys had brought props. Folding chairs, blankets, water bottles- they were there for the long haul. The queue was so that they could be the first to purchases the iPad 3 which officially goes on sale on March 16th in the UK.

The bizarre thing about this for me is that I seriously can’t understand what they hope to gain by this. The iPad 3 is available for pre order online and starts shipping in the UK tomorrow. I don’t know how much stock local Apple stores are going to get, but even if they sell out completely on day one, they’ll be replenished within three weeks. If you’re super keen to get an iPad 3 it’s a fair bet to say that you already own an iPad- or an iPad 2. In which case, queuing in line merely means you have wasted a silly amount of hours to upgrade to something that looks and feels pretty much the same as your current model, but with a slightly better camera and a sharper screen (a.k.a retina display).

There are some things that I understand queuing for- for instance, people who wait all night to get the latest Gears of War. Though I’m personally not a fan, I understand that if you love the game you’re super excited to play the latest release so you may queue all night so you can get a copy and THEN RUN HONE AND PLAY IT. Sure, you could wait a week extra, but if you really really love the game it’s understandable you want to play it the very instant you can. Maybe even go online and do some co-op with friends who are equal fans and have queued with you.

If the final Robert Jordan (ghostwritten by Brandon Sanderson)  book was suddenly released and I knew there would be only 100 copies in the country I’d run out and go wait in line – but if I knew that a week later I could get the book without ten hours in the cold, well, I’d probably hang on. Queues for high street designer collaborations like H&M Versace and Target Missoni are equally understandable- the stores purposefully only stock a limited amount to boost desirability, covetability and eBay racketeers sales. If you really love those designers and can’t afford the full price, queuing for some hours seems like an OK trade-off for some great gear.

What does an iPad 3 owner get for their hours of waiting? Apple doesn’t reward them with free cases or a new iPhone; they simply get an iPad that runs exactly like their old one but with a better display. Once they’ve run home and charged it they will use it EXACTLY as they used their last iPad- which is surfing, Facebook, Twitter, and ASOS- nothing has changed for them. If you’ve pre ordered it, you’ll have to wait around 2-3 weeks (current estimate) but will life really be that terrible if you’re not playing Angry Birds in HD? Read more…

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