Also, researchers find that putting 3D glasses on praying mantises does more than just make them look super-fly.
By Jason Imms on May 2, 2014 at 12:48 pm
Welcome to the Friday Tech Roundup after our brief hiatus! Contained herein is your weekly dose of some of the best tech news from across the Internet, rounded up for your edification and entertainment. Read on for all the details of 2014′s lack of 20nm process GPUs, Microsoft Research’s motion sensing keyboard prototype, and the brain-stimulating Halo.
Foundry delays spell the end of 20nm process dreams for 2014
After last week’s announcement that Nvidia will be continuing to produce GPUs based on the existing 28nm process for the rest of 2014 thanks to foundry delays, AMD senior vice president Lisa Su has confirmed that the same will also be true for her company. In response to a question raised by Wells Fargo during the AMD Q1 investors call, Su said “I think what I said earlier sort of what we’re doing in terms of technology strategy, we are 28 this year, we have 20-nanometer in design, and then FinFET thereafter. So that’s the overall product portfolio.” It seems that the delays stem from the common foundry shared by both companies, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.
The gesture sensing keyboard in development by Microsoft Research
Microsoft Research is working on a prototype for a gesture-sensing keyboard, designed to reduce the need for users to move their hands from keyboard to mouse. The keyboard uses a 16×4 array of infrared proximity sensors that can track the movements of hands on the keyboard, and within a limited “hover window” above it. These sensors, paired with a combination of algorithms that work together to translate the low-res sensor data, allow the system to take input commands ranging from simple to complex hand motions performed by the user. The concept is interesting, and the video below shows that in a controlled environment, the prototype is capable of providing a significant increase in input options. But, as with all indirect input devices, the device needs to be capable of correctly interpreting the intention of the user 100% of the time in order to be anything more than an expensive hassle.
Skype group video calling is now free for (nearly) everyone
According to the official blog, Skype group video calling is now free for all users on the Windows, Mac, and Xbox One platforms. Previously, group video calling was kept behind the Skype Premium paywall of $8.99 per month, or $4.99 for an individual day pass. While the feature is currently restricted to the above three platforms, Skype general manager Phillip Snalune confirmed in the blog post that the restriction is temporary, “in the future, we’ll be enabling group video calling for all our users across more platforms – at no cost.”
Halo Neuroscience wants to zap your brain into efficiency
Halo Neuroscience cofounders Amol Sarva, Daniel Chao, and Brett Wingeler have produced a device dubbed the Halo which, when mounted on the skull, is purported to be capable of “increasing intelligence and creativity by directly stimulating the brain.” In an interview with The Verge, Sarva said “we wanted to try and create something that didn’t require invasive surgery to use and had benefits for the average person,” a position supported by recent studies at Oxford which have shown that transcranial electric stimulation is capable of improving maths skills without the use of an implant. Should you find yourself in a position to join the clinical trials expected to start during 2014, it may be prudent to wait given Sarva’s personal experience with an early prototype. After a DIY hacker contributing to the project placed electrodes too far forward on Sarva’s skull, directly next to his eyes. “I turned it on and there was this bright flash and then I was basically blind,” he said, the test had directly stimulated his optic nerve. “Luckily it cleared up after a few minutes,” he went on. “We’re much better informed now about which parts of the brain we need to stimulate.”
Researchers glue 3D glasses onto praying mantises in the name of… science?
Researchers at Newcastle University in the UK are working on a project that aims to test the 3D vision capabilities of praying mantises. Why, you ask? Well, it’s unclear. Aside from the fact that unlike most other invertebrate species, praying mantises have stereoscopic vision similar to that of a human, the ultimate aims of the study aren’t obvious. At this stage, the researchers are using a series of tests to confirm whether or not a mantis can be tricked into striking at a simulated target on a 3D monitor. The target would appear to the mantis to be closer than it actually is, thanks to the fact that teeny-tiny 3D glasses have been attached to the mantis using beeswax. Try to guess at the intentions of the researchers yourself after watching the video below.