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Automated emotion recognition

October 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Humanised’ computers that know what you’re thinking

by Peter Dinham Friday, 23 October 2009

Researchers at the University of Surrey in the UK have created an automatic system to spot non-verbal social signals in natural conversation, allowing computers to better understand meaning in speech, and ultimately enabling more intuitive computer interfaces. The findings of research by the University of Surrey team were presented at the recent IEEE International Workshop on Human-Computer Interaction in Kyoto, Japan, following initiation of a study into lip reading which identified the need to provide more than the literal words for useful understanding. The research is being carried out within the Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing at the university. The leader of the research team, Tim Sheerman-Chase, said with the technology social cues such as agreement, understanding, thinking and questioning are detected in continuous video. The two other members of the research team are Dr Eng-Jon Ong and Dr Richard Bowden. According to Sheerman-Chase, humans unconsciously use body gestures, emotions and gaze direction to understand the meaning of spoken language. The automatic recognition of communication signals provides a valuable tool for computer interfaces and the study of social situations. In trials, Sheerman-Chase said human conversation was recorded with minimum intervention of the experimenter, and interesting clips from these conversations were rated by21 annotators in a web browser. “This provided clear examples of ‘thinking’ and ‘not thinking’, along with positive and negative examples of the other non-verbal signals. A computer learned which parts of the face could be used to identify each social signal in video. Commenting further on the research, Tim Sheerman-Chase said “this is a new direction in emotion recognition. Most previous work focused on actors or artificial social situations. The ability for computers to understand meaning in natural conversation is key to being able to use our innate communication skills to use computers. “Although the accuracy of the system is far from perfect, it is comparable to human performance for some types of social signals. The complexity of everyday conversations makes even humans disagree on what is happening.” According to Sheerman-Chase, recognition of communication signals can be applied to a range of applications including making computer game characters interact in more natural fashion, determining user experiences in real or virtual environments and safety critical applications. He said future work will involve studying other social situations and cultural differences.

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Categories: News Stories

Google Wave

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment

The genius brothers behind Google Wave

By John D. Sutter, CNN

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

.         Two brothers from Denmark invented Google Wave, a product that
aims to kill e-mail

.         Jens and Lars Rasmussen made it big when they sold the idea for
Google Maps

.         The brothers are trying to prove risk and innovation can be
engineered like software

.         They nervously await the day Google Wave will be released to the
public

(CNN) — Lars and Jens Rasmussen were broke and jobless — with only $16
between them — when they made it big in the Web world by selling their idea
for Google Maps.

Years later, after finding cushy employment at Google Inc., the Rasmussen
brothers flew in May from Sydney, Australia, to California where they would
debut their sophomore product, a Web application called Google Wave, which
they say, quite audaciously, will kill e-mail and forever change online
communication.

But their lives didn’t depend on its success — not like before.

Strange as it may seem, that worried them.

With Google Wave, the Danish brothers are trying to recreate the kind of
near-ruin stress they experienced when they came up with the product that
made them wildly successful.

In doing so, they’re trying to prove that innovation, a somewhat magical and
ethereal happening, can be engineered just like software.

But, as they prepared to take the stage to unveil Google Wave at a Web
developers’ conference in San Francisco, their faith in that hypothesis
started to slip.

Was Wave too ambitious? Would the glitches come back? Was it too soon?

Were they under enough pressure?

And, worst of all: Would they become one-hit wonders?

A case of nerves

The night before Wave’s big debut at the Google I/O conference in San
Francisco, Lars Rasmussen laid in bed from 2:30 to 5 a.m.

It wasn’t restful sleep.

His wife, Yarima, caught him practicing his pitch for Wave during the
fretful slumber. He waved his hands in the air as if he were pointing at a
projection screen. She knew he hadn’t been sleeping in months as he prepared
Wave for this presentation.

The next morning at the conference, Lars stood offstage, trying to calm his
nerves by listening to Eminem on an iPod while a co-worker gave him a
glowing introduction.

“The engineering leadership behind what you’re about to see is the work of
two brothers and an amazing engineering team with them,” said Vic Gundotra,
a Google vice president of engineering. He spoke in a coolly excited tone,
like that of a school guidance counselor.

“Those two brothers are Lars and Jens Rasmussen. You might remember those
names because those were the same amazing people that did another magical
app, called maps … Google Maps.”

The stage at the conference had a game-show feel to it: A big logo — all
vertical stripes, just like “The Price is Right” — served as a backdrop to
two Jeopardy-looking podiums in the center of the stage.

Lars looked like he’d just gotten off a shift at the Gap. A microphone
headset was stuck to his ear and he wore jeans and an untucked blue T-shirt
with the Google Wave logo on it.

He fidgeted with a water bottle, opened his laptop and nervously began the
biggest pitch of his life.

‘Let’s start a Wave’

Lars has always been the pitchman.

Jens is the quiet older brother: the eccentric, the idea guy.

When he’s onto a big idea, Jens almost never writes it down. Words confine
good thoughts and kill them, he says. He mulled over his idea for Google
Maps for years before putting it into a written proposal.

But with Wave, he didn’t have that luxury.

When the brothers joined Google together after selling Jens’ idea for Google
Maps, they already knew he had to come up with something new — something
bigger.

So Jens set to work. He shuttered himself in his Copenhagen, Denmark,
apartment, tuned his television to MTV, watched some music videos and let
his thoughts drift.

By the end of a weekend, he had come up with Google Wave, his idea for an
e-mail killer.

He sent the idea to Lars in an e-mail.

“I remember being immediately sold,” Lars said. “He’ll claim it took a
couple of days, but that’s entirely untrue.”

In theory, the idea for Wave is simple. It’s e-mail updated for the Internet
age, Jens says.

E-mail as we know it is based on the snail-mail format: you send a message;
your friend receives it. Wave makes mail collaborative and instant. When you
type a message to a friend, he or she sees what you’re typing as you type
it. You can jump in and start drafting a reply before the initial message is
complete. Wave also lets users collaborate on editable documents, called
Wikis, share photos, update blogs, set appointments and chat in big groups.
You can add conference calls to a Wave. A translation function called Rosy
will translate chat messages between languages as you write.

Watch a conversation about how Google Wave works
<http://cnn.site.printthis.clickability.com/pt/cpt?action=cpt&title=The+geni
us+brothers+behind+Google+Wave+-+CNN.com&expire=&urlID=413515487&fb=Y&url=ht

tp%3A%2F%2Fwww.cnn.com%2F2009%

2FTECH%2F10%2F27%2Frasmussen.brothers.google.w
ave%2Findex.html&partnerID=211911#expand2>

Jens hopes the product’s name will replace “e-mail” in English vernacular.
So, after Wave’s public release later this year, you might say to a friend,
“Let’s start a Wave” instead of “I’ll send you an e-mail.”

Wave is free and runs through the Internet, meaning that, like Gmail, you
don’t have to download a program to use it. This also makes Wave highly
ambitious from a technical perspective. Lars and Jens are almost performing
magic tricks with Internet browsers. Asking a developer to create a stellar
piece of software that runs through the Web is somewhat like asking a
composer to write a symphony on a smartphone.

The Rasmussens admit their product is confusing to explain and is trying to
make a massive leap forward into uncharted technological territory.

For these reasons, Jens, the idea guy, considered proceeding more slowly
with Wave’s release. Maybe he and Lars should wait another year, or put off
some of its more complicated features, he suggested.

But Lars is the risk-taker. And Jens folded to his vision.

The e-mail killer

On stage at the conference in San Francisco, Lars started his spiel.

“When we started this project more than two years ago, we asked ourselves
the question: What would e-mail look like if it was invented today?

“And obviously there are about a million ways you can try to answer that
question. What you’re going to see today, Google Wave, is our attempt.”

Lars struggled to explain Google Wave to the audience.

He pulled out all kinds of comparisons to try to get the message across:
Wave is like mobile texting, it’s like a Wiki, it’s like instant messaging,
it’s like a blog. It’s like e-mail — well, kind of. It’s something new, he
said.

At first, it was difficult to tell if the audience was buying it. Some demos
of Wave’s features rolled by with scant reaction from the crowd.

“Don’t be shy, you guys,” Lars said. “If you like something, don’t be shy in
letting us know. We can handle any amount of applause.”

Soon things started to pick up.

When Lars typed a Wave message to Wave’s group product manager, Stephanie
Hannon, it showed up on both screens of their computer monitors
simultaneously, character by character. When they both started typing at the
same time, the streams of moving text looked like furious ants crawling
around on the screen.

The audience cheered in excitement.

Twelve minutes into the presentation, Jens made his entrance, if you could
call it an entrance. He looked about as comfortable as a spokesman for a
hemorrhoid cream.

His job was to demonstrate the way that Wave will play back the history of a
message if someone enters a conversation late.

The audience loved it. It seemed like they were going to be sold on these
new ideas.

But it was still early.

“So, now that I’m caught up on this Wave, I’m just going to add my reply,”
Jens said.

” ‘Me … too,’ ” Jens said, speaking the words he was typing into a
message.

“Oh!” he said, surprised.

The program had crashed.

Recipe for risk

When the dotcom bubble burst in the early 2000s, the Rasmussen brothers were
laid off within weeks of each other, both from a company called Digital
Fountain.

There were virtually no jobs to look for in technology. So the brothers
cashed in one of their pensions, sapped bank accounts and put their lives on
the line to chase a kooky idea Jens had about map-making on the Internet.

Without the risk and the pressure, they wouldn’t have been able to do it,
the brothers said.

“I do believe that you can achieve more if you’re willing to take risks,”
Lars said in a recent phone interview. “There’s almost a total correlation
between the amount of risk you’re willing to take and then the amount of
stuff you then potentially can get done.”

The Rasmussen brothers have done their best to recreate the high-stakes
situation that produced Google Maps.

They wanted to make a stress incubator, to start a fire under their team
that would propel its creativity to new heights.

This was their formula:

. Google Wave would operate as a start-up company within the corporate giant
of Google.

. The 60-person Wave team would be based in Sydney, Australia, far away from
Google’s corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Watch a CNN exclusive video from the Wave team in Sydney
<http://cnn.site.printthis.clickability.com/pt/cpt?action=cpt&title=The+geni
us+brothers+behind+Google+Wave+-+CNN.com&expire=&urlID=413515487&fb=Y&url=ht

tp%3A%2F%2Fwww.cnn.com%2F2009%2FTECH%2F10%2F27%2Frasmussen.brothers.google.w
ave%2Findex.html&partnerID=211911#expand1>

. Google employees who wanted to work on Wave would have to take a risk to
join the brothers, a diluted version of what the Rasmussens faced when they
started Google Maps. The team took cuts to their bonus pay, with the hopes
of a big payout if Wave were to succeed.

. And their project would be secret. The rest of Google’s project files,
codes and other documents are accessible to anyone in the company. Not
Wave’s.

The Rasmussens felt good about their recipe for success through risk-taking.
But it also made them more nervous.

Along the way, they found another form of motivation: the fear of failure.

Just a dress rehearsal

“Did you notice how quickly it reloads?” Jens said with a laugh, trying to
recover from the crash in the middle of his presentation.

Throughout the rest of the Rasmussen brothers’ pitch for Wave, Jens and Lars
pulled out a number of pre-planned jokes to deflect attention from the
shortcomings and crashes of their fledgling product.

Lars started dancing and humming elevator music to make up for one lull in
the demo, much to the horror of Yarima, his Cuban wife, who says Lars is an
adroit Latin dancer.

“Inside my Wave I’m going to write ‘check this out’ and then I’m going to
copy the link in there, and then … I’m going to dance a little while the
system spectacularly fails,” Lars said, trailing off as Wave crashed again.

The brothers continued in this awkward way for what seemed like an eternity.

But when the presentation ended, the audience had loved it.

Behind the Scenes blog: The reporter on writing from afar
<http://behindthescenes.blogs.cnn.com/2009/10/27/tech-tools-for-writing-a-pr
ofile/
>

When Lars demonstrated Wave’s ability to translate between languages, in
real-time, as a person types, the audience cheered so loudly and for so long
that it felt like they were calling for an encore at a music festival. At
the conclusion of the show, Jens remembers the developers giving them a
standing ovation, shaking their laptops above their heads.

Lars and Jens were elated.

But the May demo was only a dress rehearsal, one held in front of a friendly
audience that understands Wave’s technical ambitions.

The real show will come when Wave is released to the public, when Google’s
army of users decides if it wants to take this leap beyond e-mail with the
Rasmussen brothers.

Or if they’re up for that risk.

Categories: News Stories

Robot perception and fusion

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Robotic perception, on purpose

Popeye demonstrates perception on purpose. © POP

European researchers developed technology that enables a robot to combine data from both sound and vision to create combined, purposeful perception. In the process, they have taken the field to a new level.

Currently, computer vision is good at recognising objects in images and videos and has been successfully employed in several specialised industrial applications, such as quality control during microchip fabrication.

But robotic perception is much weaker in less defined situations, like understanding and responding to human behaviour and even conversations. Yet, it is precisely this sort of interaction which promises the most compelling applications for future humanoid technology, where people-like robots can act as guides, or mix with people, or use perception to infer appropriate actions.

More importantly, these broad robotic applications will deliver insights into other disciplines, like cognition and neuroscience.

A truly perceptive robot, capable of acting independently and appropriately in complex situations remains a distant goal, but European researchers brought it much closer with their Perception-on-Purpose (POP) project.

Original, by design

“The originality of our project was our attempt to integrate two different sensory modalities, namely sound and vision,” explains Radu Horaud, POP’s coordinator.

“This was very difficult to do, because you are integrating two completely different physical phenomena,” he adds.

Vision works from the reflection of light waves from an object, and it allows the observer to infer certain properties, like size, shape, density and texture. But with sound you are interested in locating the direction of the source, and trying to identify the type of sound it is.

Tricky issue

On its own, sound is difficult to pinpoint, because it needs to be located in a 3D space. Then there is the problem of background noise, such as an open window letting in sounds from next door.

But it turned out that integrating two different senses helped the researchers in their bid to locate and tune into relevant sounds.

“It is not that easy to decide what is foreground and what is background using sound alone, but by combining the two modalities – sound and vision – it becomes much easier,” reveals Horaud.

“If you are able to locate ten sound sources in ten different directions, but if in one of these directions you see a face, then you can much more easily concentrate on that sound and throw out the other ones.”

Integrated technology

This was one approach that the team took and, with the algorithms they developed, their robot, called Popeye, was able to identify the speaker with a fair degree of reliability.

“There is more work to be done on that aspect of the work, it is not completely robust yet,” warns Horaud.

Still, it was a very strong result, and what makes it even more impressive is that the team managed to integrate all the technology into a neat and compact robotic platform.

“Most often, sound research is conducted in specialised labs, with arrays of microphones and a very controlled acoustic environment. But we integrated our two microphones and two cameras onto the head of our Popeye. The idea is to have an agent-centred cognitive system,” Horaud stresses.

Powerful technology

The Popeye packs a lot of powerful technology into a small space and offers purposeful robotic perception. This is important because Horaud argues persuasively that, in evolutionary terms, multi-sensory perception and cognition are linked.

By perceiving a hand-held object with their two eyes, for example, monkeys – and the first hominids after them – developed stereo vision and hence were able to learn many properties of an object from combined tactile and visual data. Over time, they developed new skills, including building tools, from this information.

Horaud feels, too, that some modern uses of artificial intelligence (AI), like chess applications, are limited because they do not learn from their environment. They are programmed with abstract data – say, chess moves – and they process that.

“They cannot infer predicates from natural images; they cannot draw abstract information from physical observations,” he stresses.

For now, POP has achieved many of its aims and developed very promising approaches. Commercial applications for this type of technology are not out of the question, and the researchers also hope to continue their work in a further project.

That project would look at extending some of POP’s results into a functioning humanoid robot. In the meantime, POP’s work means that the purposefully perceptive robot has become a not-so-distant future technology.

The POP project received funding from the Sixth Framework Programme for research.

Media note: This feature can be republished without charge provided ICT Results is acknowledged as the source at the top or the bottom of the story. You must request permission before you use any of the photographs on the site. If you do republish, we would be grateful if you could link back to the ICT Results site (http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults). Let us know if you republish so as to help us provide you with a better service. If you want further contact information on any of the projects cited in this story please contact us.

Categories: News Stories

Plasticity of self

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment
Redefining self, phantom self
People with phantom limbs learn physically impossible body tricks
Web edition : Monday, October 26th, 2009
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Phantoms take many forms — headless horseman, ghost ships, murdered fathers — and they can even reach out and grab the living: many people who have had an arm or leg amputated feel the limb is still present. The phantom pain that often accompanies these limbs has been successfully treated by using visual feedback from mirrors to trick the brain. Now similar instances of mind over non-matter have been achieved without external help — amputees have learned to mentally manipulate their phantom limbs into anatomically impossible configurations through thinking alone, scientists report October 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“It is very surprising that anybody — amputees or not — can learn impossible movements just by thinking about it,” comments neuroscientist Henrik Ehrsson of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

Treatment of people with phantom limb pain usually requires starting a new conversation between the brain and the environment, typically accomplished through visual feedback, Ehrsson says.

The work suggests that people with a distorted body image — such as those with anorexia — may be able to alter their self-image by imagining a change to the body, says Lorimer Moseley of the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute in Randwick, Australia. And those getting neural reconstructive surgery may be able to practice using their new body parts by simply imagining their use, says Moseley, who coauthored the work with colleague Peter Brugger of the University Hospital Zurich.

Seven people who had an arm that had been amputated above the elbow were encouraged to learn a particular arm movement that defies biomechanics — turning a hand that’s bent 90 degrees at the wrist the last quarter of a full turn that the hand won’t do. The study participants practiced by imagining that they were moving the phantom limb for five minutes per hour every day until they had achieved the impossible movement or had given up (this took one to four weeks depending on the individual). Four of the participants were successful in feeling the sensation of the impossible movement, the researchers report.

“This shows that body image is constructed in a dynamic manner — it can be changed,” says V.S. Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego. Previous work by Ramachandran and others has shown that the sensation of a perpetually clenched and painful wrist that often accompanies a phantom limb can be relaxed with a mirror-based therapy: the patient clenches and then unclenches the remaining hand while looking at a boxed mirror that makes it appear both arms are intact. By visualizing both hands unclenching, the patient feels a release in the phantom limb.

To corroborate that the individuals had really learned the new movement (after all, the scientists couldn’t see the phantom limbs) the researchers had them perform a task known as left-right hand judgement before and after their training. The ability to twist the phantom wrist in a new way allowed the participants to react to this task faster than they could before they had learned the impossible move.

Each of the participants who achieved the impossible move also described developing a new wrist joint that allowed the impossible movement. And three of the four reported that moves that were previously possible for the phantom limb were now difficult with their new wrist.

Even though the new movements suggest that “I think, therefore I can” is the operating principle in phantom limbs, the fact that some movements became harder with the new wrist suggests that Newtonian physics still govern perceived motion, says Moseley. “We have an inbuilt sense of what’s physically impossible and what is not,” he says.

Even so, “Body image turns out to be extraordinarily plastic,” says Ramachandran. “We think of ourselves as stable people with a stable body image — but we can inhabit a body that cannot exist in the physical world.”

Categories: News Stories

Knowledge and eHow

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Knowledge is the power behind popular eHow website

 Want to know how to carve a pumpkin, clean a keyboard or juggle? Richard Rosenblatt's eHow has the answers.
Enlarge image Enlarge By Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY
Want to know how to carve a pumpkin, clean a keyboard or juggle? Richard Rosenblatt’s eHow has the answers.

ABOUT RICHARD ROSENBLATT
Age: 40
Current position: CEO and co-founder, Demand Media.
Demand’s portfolio: Websites eHow, Livestrong, GolfLink, Cracked, Trails (adventure travel) and Mania (sci-fi), along with Pluck, a provider of social-media tools for other companies’ websites.
Outside activities: Investor in three Southern California nightclubs, Air Conditioned. Also teaches courses at UCLA with former Sony Pictures CEO Peter Guber.
Family: Married to college sweetheart, Lisa, who also runs a website, modernmom.com. They have three children, ages 1 through 11.
Hometown: Woodland Hills, Calif.
College: UCLA for undergraduate, USC Law School.

// //

By Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Demand Media CEO Richard Rosenblatt is the answer man.

His eHow.com, a unit of privately held Demand, attracts some 50 million users worldwide each month who are looking for quick solutions to questions ranging from how to make a great margarita to how to format a computer hard drive.

EHow is also the answer to Demand Media’s core question as a company: How can you run multiple websites that are chock-full of content, without paying a fortune for it?

The answer: Get writers and editors to work for little money upfront — but share generously in the ad revenue.

EHow is just one of several Demand Media websites, all populated with a mix of low-cost user-generated and professionally produced content, and social-media tools to spread the love.

“I have long believed that social media is for more than just teens and dating,” says Rosenblatt, 40. Prior to Demand, Rosenblatt served as CEO of MySpace‘s former parent company, Intermix, before MySpace got red-hot. Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp. bought Intermix in 2005 for $580 million.

Demand is the 15th-most-visited online media property, attracting 52 million visitors in September. That is bigger than cnn.com, twitter.com and weather.com.

Additionally, Demand is the largest supplier of videos to YouTube, where its videos have been seen collectively over 1 billion times.

Besides eHow, Demand owns Livestrong, Cracked and GolfLink, devoted to health, comedy and golfing, as well as Pluck, which provides social-media tools for a variety of websites (including USATODAY.com).

But it’s eHow that brings in the bulk of the traffic — and revenue.

Rosenblatt credits his under-the-radar success to being a different kind of publisher. Instead of trying to guess what you want to read, he can look at searches, website clicks and links to decipher exactly what you’re interested in.

“We only make content we know there’s a need for,” he says.

Demand is profitable, with expected revenue of $200 million in 2009. Rosenblatt is exploring a potential initial public offering in 2010. He believes his privately held Demand is now worth at least $1 billion — and could get to $10 billion once more sites are added to the mix.

“EHow is just an example of how the business model works,” says Gaurav Bhandari, managing director of Goldman Sachs, a Demand Media investor. The combination of low-cost content and a large audience that wants to read it is a strong one, he believes. “Multiply that with several other properties, and it becomes really powerful.”

The road to Demand

Rosenblatt grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs of the San Fernando Valley, the son of a nuclear physicist dad and a homemaker mom, expecting to be a lawyer.

He practiced law for six months after graduating from USC, but he found it boring. Instead, he formed an ad firm with his wife, Lisa, which later became iMall. Rosenblatt sold the firm to Excite At Home in 1994.

He followed that with a successful venture firm that sold its big win — GreatDomains.com — to VeriSign for $100 million.

The next business didn’t go as well. He took over as interim CEO of struggling health and medical site drkoop.com, named after former surgeon general C. Everett Koop. He wasn’t able to keep it alive; the firm went bankrupt and shut down.

The failure still stings today.

“Just understanding you could fail is a huge lesson,” he says. “You look at everything different.”

He followed drkoop.com with a stint as CEO of eUniverse.com, later known as Intermix, a troubled firm that was best known for games and e-mail. It had been delisted from Nasdaq and was losing $4 million a quarter.

He joined the firm in January 2004 and began beefing up one property, a little-known social network called MySpace. The good news: Traffic rose steadily.

The bad news: Then-New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer began investigating claims that eUniverse was bundling spyware and adware with its games and screen savers. Rosenblatt decided to settle in June 2005, paying fines of $7.5 million — eUniverse’s entire cash holdings.

That same month, however, he made the $580 million sale to News Corp., pocketing $23 million for his efforts.

What you know

After MySpace, Rosenblatt decided to jump back into social media.

“I believed there was something new coming, where everybody would want to get involved in their media,” he says. “Whether it was just making a comment or producing content.”

EHow, his first acquisition for Demand, follows the basic principle of social media, says Nick Thomas, an analyst at Forrester Research. “You ask people what they’re interested in, and give it to them,” he says. “Do that, and you’ll get a successful product.”

Rosenblatt calls it “what you know, not what you show.”

Initially, anyone could submit a contribution to eHow. All you had to do to post was register, type in your PayPal account and Social Security number, write your piece and wait for your share of ad revenue.

(Rosenblatt himself has 12 posts on the site, including how to make a great margarita, prepare a grilled cheese sandwich and start a hot nightclub.)

As the site grew, Rosenblatt realized he needed the posts to have more authority. He started a new division, Demand Media, to produce content. Now some 80% of the posts on eHow are produced by Demand, and have “more credibility,” he says.

Anyone can still post an article on eHow, and see it on the site within seconds. But Rosenblatt says his team patrols the site, and about 25% of unsolicited posts are pulled down for a variety of reasons.

Demand pays writers a flat fee: Most make either $15 per assignment, or nothing upfront, in exchange for a share of ad revenue.

USA TODAY spoke with several eHow writers, all chosen randomly without Demand’s involvement, and they spoke of revenue share for articles ranging from $200 to $2,000.

Felicia Williams, a freelance writer from Upstate New York, says she’s written 300 articles for the site, bringing in $3,000 for her efforts.

“Where else can you go, sit in your jammies, write about what you know and get paid for it?” she says.

Unlike traditional writing, there are tricks to figuring out how to pen something that lots of people will want to read online. Freelancers test their ideas first by typing phrases into search engines — and seeing what comes up.

“If I have a thought, first I’ll brainstorm for keywords, and target those keywords as I write my article,” says Heather Schulte, a freelancer whose day job is in IT for the state of Kansas.

For instance, Schulte wrote recently about credit reports, and began by finding that search terms such as “update credit” and “correcting credit” were used most often. So she used those terms in her piece, knowing it would help it get found in Google searches.

Rosenblatt also pays copy editors, video producers and editors to create content for eHow and the rest of his network.

All told, he says he’s paid out $17 million in fees to content creators — including a chunk to himself, $143, for the “Hot Club” piece.

The driven CEO manages a workforce of 530 in Los Angeles, New York City and Austin. He is at his desk by 8 a.m. most mornings, finishing at 7 p.m., with at least three nights reserved for business meetings. At home, he has three children, ages 1 through 11. He puts in a few hours of work every morning, beginning at 4 a.m., and then takes them to school.

He sleeps in on weekends — until 5:30 a.m.

“The energy he has — I think he was born on another planet,” says friend Peter Guber, the former CEO of Sony Pictures, a UCLA cinema professor.

At home, Rosenblatt’s energy is so high that even when he finally goes to sleep he’s such a light snoozer that his wife, Lisa, can ask him a question in the middle of the night. “He can answer completely,” she says. “He’s always thinking. His brain never stops.”

His motivation for working so hard is simple, says Lisa, who has her own website, modernmom.com. “He’s not done. None of it is financial. He just has a lot of ideas and wants to see them through. It makes him really happy.’

Categories: News Stories

Chimps grieving

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Chimps mourn death of fellow primate in display of grief

By Michael Hanlon of The Daily Mail

The Daily Telegraph

October 29, 2009 10:12am

Chimpanzees

Chimps line up to watch as Dorothy, who died of heart failure, is wheeled away. Picture: Monica Szczupider

  • Extraordinary scene shows chimps grieving
  • Higher emotions in chimps dismissed
  • New proof shows this is now likely

UNITED in what appears to be deep and profound grief, more than a dozen chimpanzees stand in silence as the body of one of their own is wheeled past.

This extraordinary scene took place at the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Centre in Cameroon, west Africa, when a chimp named Dorothy, who was in her late 40s, died of heart failure.

Her death seemed to have left her fellow chimpanzees stricken by sorrow.

As they wrapped their arms around each other in a gesture of solidarity, Dorothy’s keeper gently settled her into the wheelbarrow which carried her to her final resting place – but not before a final affectionate stroke of her forehead.

Villagers serve as “care-givers” to the chimps, all orphans whose mothers were killed in the illegal bushmeat trade.

Until recently, describing scenes such as this in terms of human emotions such as “grief” would have been dismissed by scientists as naive anthropomorphising.

John of Sydney

But a growing body of evidence has suggested that “higher” emotions – such as grieving for a loved one and even a deep understanding of what death is – may not just be the preserve of our species.

Chimpanzees – as revealed in November’s National Geographic magazine – and closely related bonobos maintain hugely complex social networks, largely held together by sex and grooming. They have often been observed apparently grieving for lost family and tribe members by entering a period of quiet mourning, showing subdued emotions and behaviour.

And such complex emotions are not the preserve of primates or even mammals.

University of Colorado ethologist Dr Marc Bekoff this month reported evidence that magpies not only appeared to grieve but they carry out something akin to a funeral ritual.

In one instance, four magpies took it in turns to approach another’s corpse. Two flew off and returned with a piece of grass, which they laid down by the corpse. The birds thenstood vigil.

But the most famous non-human death rituals are those of elephants which will often spend days guarding a dead body, gently prodding the remains with their trunks and giving the impression of being lost in grief.

Categories: News Stories

New fingerprint technology

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Fingerprint Technology Beats World’s Toughest Tests…Including 100s of Builders’ Thumbs

[c]Warwick Warp BioLog equipment in use on a Coventry building site- Simon Catchpole, Steel ErectorTechnology developed by the University of Warwick that can identify partial, distorted, scratched, smudged, or otherwise warped fingerprints in just a few seconds has just scored top marks in the world’s two toughest technical fingerprint tests. The technology is also being rapidly taken up by the UK building trade who are delighted to have fingerprint technology which can cope with the often worn and ravaged builders’ thumbprints.

Many other fingerprint techniques have tried to identify a few key features on a finger print and laboriously match them against a database of templates. The University of Warwick researchers consider the entire detailed pattern of each print and transform the topological pattern into a standard co-ordinate system. This allows the researchers to “unwarp” any finger print that has been distorted by smudging, uneven pressure, or other distortion and create a clear digital representation of the fingerprint that can then be mapped on to an “image space” of all other finger prints held on a database. Instead of laboriously comparing a print against each entry in a database any new print scanned by the system is unwarped and over laid onto a virtual “image space” that includes all the fingerprints available to the database. It does not matter whether it’s a thousand or a million fingerprints in the database the result comes back in seconds.

This technology has been taken forward by a University of Warwick Spin out company “Warwick Warp” and has now been snapped up by Data Collection Strategies DCS specialist Access control installer for the construction industry who have just deployed it for security and staff management on 6 building sites.

Rodney Holland, Managing Director of Data Collection Strategies said: “This is the first time I have seen a biometrics system that works reliably with the type of poor quality fingerprints we see routinely in the construction industry. We have already installed Warwick Warp’s BioLog system at six major sites and our customers love it because it is fast, accurate and eliminates the “buddy punching” problems of  older card based access systems.”

The technology has impressed more than just the construction industry. In the past week the technology has been examined by two of the world’s  most respected technical fingerprint benchmarking tests. Tests by the National Physical Laboratory ranked Warwick Warp’s fingerprint Technology best overall for accuracy. A test of 36 finger print technologies by the US’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) ranked Warwick 3rd overall”

Tony Mansfield, Principal Research Scientist and Biometric Expert at the National Physical Laboratory said, “Improving accuracy on low quality images is important for many biometric applications, and I am delighted to see that the innovative approach of a British company scored so highly in the benchmark test.”

Robert Senior (Site Engineer), Phil Bardsley (Section manager) and Rodney Holland (Managing Director of the equipment's Installation Company - DCS) and Dr Li Wang on far right - builders showing abraded fingerprints, and BioLog equipment in use on a Coventry building siteDr Li Wang, Chief Technology Officer at Warwick Warp said:

“This is a great result for Warwick Warp as NIST’s test results are used by government and law enforcement agencies when procuring fingerprint technology. Being ranked in the top three for our performance on good fingerprint data really puts us on the map with significant potential partners. Next we hope to demonstrate to these same organisations that if you were to benchmark the same companies with partial or distorted prints our technology would simply eclipse anything else currently available.”

This unwarping is so effective that it also allows comparison of the position of individual sweat pores on finger print. This has not previously been possible as the hundreds of pores on an individual finger are so densely packed that the slightest distortion prevented analysts from using them to differentiate finger prints.

 

Download
Broadcast quality footage: For broadcast quality footage please contact t.abbott@warwick.ac.uk / 07920 531160

Note for Editors: The Technology was developed in Warwick Warp Ltd founded by three University of Warwick researchers in the University’s Department of Computer Science: Professor Roland Wilson, Dr Abhir Bhalerao, and Dr Li Wang.

For further information please contact:

Dr Li Wang, University of Warwick and CTO Warwick Warp Limited
+44 (0)24  76696869 Mobile/Cell +44 (0)77890 73199
li.wang@warwickwarp.com Company website: http://www.warwickwarp.com/

or Peter Dunn, Head of Communications, University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0)24 76 523708 or +44(0)7767 655860 email: p.j.dunn@warwick.ac.uk

PR123 PJD 26th October 2009

More pictures –  click on any pictures on this page to be taken to high resolution versions

Warwick Warp BioLog equipment in use on a Coventry building site - Simon Catchpole, Steel ErectorWarwick Warp BioLog equipment in use on a Coventry building site - Simon Catchpole, Steel ErectorWarwick Warp BioLog equipment in use on a Coventry building siteRobert Senior (Site Engineer), Phil Bardsley (Section manager) and Rodney Holland (Managing Director of the equipment's Installation Company - DCS) Builders showing  abraded finger pints which Warwick Warp BioLog equipment copes with - in use on a Coventry building site

Warwick Warp BioLog equipment in use on a Coventry building site

Categories: News Stories