Archive for November, 2011

Google to map indoor locations at airports and malls

Posted November 30, 2011 By David Kolle

Google‘s next conquest in digital mapping will cover the world’s shopping malls and airports.

Google mapping

An upgrade of Google’s mobile mapping service released Tuesday includes directions within stores, malls, airports and transit centers in the U.S. and Japan.

The initial index only covers a small fraction of the great indoors, but Google is hoping that will change as more owners and operators of shopping and transportation hubs submit their indoor floor plans so they can be mapped.

For now, Google’s indoor maps can only be viewed on smartphones and tablet computers that run on the company’s Android software. That’s still a potentially huge audience because more than 550,000 Android-powered devices are activated each day and the mobile maps will work on versions of Android released as far back as 2009.

The free indoor mapping tool represents Google’s latest attempt to deepen people’s attachment to their Android phones so the company has more opportunities to sell ads pitching products and services to people on the go.

Helping people navigate their way around malls and stores also complements Google’s effort to turn the Android phones into digital wallets that replace cash and conventional credit cards.

Google wouldn’t say why the feature would work only on Android devices. The company also wouldn’t say whether it eventually plans to offer the indoor maps on other products, such as Apple Inc.’s popular iPhone and iPad, or whether the feature will eventually be available on desktop and laptop computers, too.

The company’s online maps already provide detailed driving, walking and even biking directions on city streets and highways throughout the world. In some instances, Google has supplemented its digital maps with photographs of the charted area – a feature that has triggered privacy complaints and, in some countries, regulatory crackdowns.

The indoor maps are designed to reduce the disorientation that frequently occurs in sprawling stores and other large complexes.

If the floor plan is included in Google’s index, the software pinpoints a user’s location with a blue dot. The user can then figure out where the nearest bathroom is in a mall or find an airport’s gate for a departing flight. The software is programmed to automatically change to a different floor in a building when the user does.

“It’s like we have taken the map that you see on a kiosk at a store or mall and put it on your phone,” said Steve Lee, a product management director for Google.

The tracking technology plots a user’s location based on cell towers, GPS and publicly broadcast Wi-Fi signals. That’s similar to what Google already does to identify where users are when they’re viewing street maps. Google’s engineers refined the system for the indoor maps so users can be shadowed with even more precision.

The indoor directions include two retailers known for their labyrinth stores – Home Depot and Ikea. Macy’s and Bloomingdales also have shared the floor plans of a few of their biggest stores.

The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, which is the size of seven Yankee Stadiums, is already in Google’s database, as are smaller malls in Illinois, Virginia and southern California. There are also directions for 18 U.S. airports, including those in Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

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Kinect 2 will be able to read lips

Posted November 30, 2011 By David Kolle

Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect

The next next-generation Kinect device will be able to read your lips and follow your commands.

Microsoft’s Kinect 2 will track the pitch and volume of player voices and facial characteristics to measure different emotional states.

The current Kinect is limited in the amount of information it could send to the Xbox 360 through USB, the website says.

However, Kinect 2 will be built directly into the new Xbox and be able to feed more information, faster.

Kinect 2 will be bundled with future Xbox consoles, a development source is reported to have told the website.

Last week it was reported that Microsoft is planning to launch two versions of the next Xbox in 2013.

 One will be a basic version of the Xbox and primarily feature the Kinect 2.

The other will target hard-core gamers and feature a hard disk and will be able to play current Xbox games.

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Beta Pictoris
A New Zealand man has been hailed as the first amateur photographer to capture an image of another solar system, after he photographed the star Beta Pictoris using a 10-inch (25cm) telescope at his home in Auckland.

Rolf Olsen, who moved to New Zealand in 2003 from Denmark, put the photograph on his website, sparking congratulations and amazement from members of the scientific community around the world.

“I realised it was a special thing but I didn’t realise it would generate such a stir,” Mr Olsen, who lives in Titirangi west of central Auckland.

Astronomer and astro-photographer John Field, from Wellington’s Carter Observatory, said Olsen’s picture was “absolutely amazing” and that improved technology now allowed amateur photographers to capture images that previously would not have been possible.

On Discovery Magazine‘s astronomy blog, Phil Plait – who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope for a decade – described the photograph as “astonishing”.

“I think it’s a milestone in ‘amateur’ astronomy, and it goes to show you that sometimes, the sky is not the limit,” he wrote.

The photo shows the protoplanetary disk surrounding the star. The disk represents a developing solar system, and the material inside the disk could develop into planets and asteroids.

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The latest Facebook scam, dubbed the cleverest yet, gets users to provide their passwords and financial details by accusing them of violating the site’s policy and threatens to delete their account.

facebook

Experts said the recent assault designed to steal users’ Facebook details is among the most sophisticated yet because it mimics the security procedures that sites use to defend against internet trolls and other bad behaviour online.

The scam comes in an email accusing the user of insulting or annoying another Facebook user and saying their account will be deleted in 24 hours.

The email requires Facebook login details and, for “authentication” purposes, parts of a person’s credit card details.

The email links to a fake account disabled page that asks for personal details, including credit card information.

The access to login details helps the scam travel farther and faster by sending it to new users from trusted friends.

“The emails are entirely bogus,” internet security experts Sophos said.

“They are not coming from Facebook. Social media venues would not request financial information, nor would they request login details.

“With the credit card information, fraudsters can conduct identity theft and other malicious financial activity.”

Website Hoax-Slayer discovered the scam and warned against emails with the phrase: “LAST WARNING: Your account is considered to violated the policies that are considered annoying or insulting to Facebook users.”

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