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Indian-origin Scientist develops Software that turns Smartphones into an Eye-Tracking device

A discovery that can help in psychological experiments and marketing research

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Representational Image- Eye. Image source: galaxys8info.com

New York: Researchers led by an Indian-origin scientist have developed a software that can turn any smartphone into an eye-tracking device, a discovery that can help in psychological experiments and marketing research.

In addition to making existing applications of eye-tracking technology more accessible, the system could enable new computer interfaces or help detect signs of incipient neurological disease or mental illness.

Since few people have the external devices, there’s no big incentive to develop applications for them.

“Since there are no applications, there’s no incentive for people to buy the devices. We thought we should break this circle and try to make an eye tracker that works on a single mobile device, using just your front-facing camera,” explained Aditya Khosla, graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

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Khosla and his colleagues from MIT and University of Georgia built their eye tracker using machine learning, a technique in which computers learn to perform tasks by looking for patterns in large sets of training examples.

Currently, Khosla says, their training set includes examples of gaze patterns from 1,500 mobile-device users.

Previously, the largest data sets used to train experimental eye-tracking systems had topped out at about 50 users.

To assemble data sets, “most other groups tend to call people into the lab,” Khosla says.

“It’s really hard to scale that up. Calling 50 people in itself is already a fairly tedious process. But we realised we could do this through crowdsourcing,” he added.

In the paper, the researchers report an initial round of experiments, using training data drawn from 800 mobile-device users.

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On that basis, they were able to get the system’s margin of error down to 1.5 centimetres, a twofold improvement over previous experimental systems.

The researchers recruited application users through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing site and paid them a small fee for each successfully executed tap. The data set contains, on average, 1,600 images for each user.

The team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the University of Georgia described their new system in a paper set to presented at the “Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition” conference in Las Vegas on June 28. (IANS)

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    This can help many doctors. If developed more, the eye tracking software should be able to sensor the eye defects also like Myopia, Hypermetropia, etc so that it becomes easier for the doctors and big machines would be avoided.

  • AJ Krish

    Technology has advanced so far to reduce human effort. This new software has wide range of applications and can also help detect signs of incipient neurological disease or mental illness. I believe that this research can revolutionize the medical world.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    This can help many doctors. If developed more, the eye tracking software should be able to sensor the eye defects also like Myopia, Hypermetropia, etc so that it becomes easier for the doctors and big machines would be avoided.

  • AJ Krish

    Technology has advanced so far to reduce human effort. This new software has wide range of applications and can also help detect signs of incipient neurological disease or mental illness. I believe that this research can revolutionize the medical world.

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Bakelite: The Revolutionary Invention of Leo Baekeland

Today marks the 108th anniversary of the day when bakelite was first patented.

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leo baekeland
Leo Hendrik Baekeland (1863- 1944)

Bakelite! Ah, the pioneering invention that defined the modern plastic industry. The plastic which had once been the primary substance of manufactured everyday items which now line up the boastful shelves of antiquity collectors: chokers, lockets, fine jewelleries and watches, furniture and radios…

This is in remembrance of the pioneer of modern plastic- bakelite- and of the man behind this revolutionary invention.

In what would probably have been his late forties, Leo Hendrik Baekeland had a goal in his mind: to find a replacement for shellac. Made from the shells of Asian female lac beatles, shellac had its uses as a colourant, food glaze and wood finish. Chemists had already identified natural resins like shellac as polymers and had started experiments to form synthetic polymers. Encouraged by these advances, Baekeland began his own experiments by first combining phenol and formaldehyde to create a soluble shellac. He called it “Novolak”. Unfortunately, this first phenol- formaldehyde combination fluttered away without a trace, never finding popularity. However, it did leave Baekeland with valuable experience.

It was the second attempt that set the boulder rolling! This time Baekeland chose precision. Initiating a controlled reaction between phenol and formaldehyde, the Belgian chemist found himself witnessing the birth of the plastic he had so long waited for.

About a hundred- and eight years ago on this very day, Leo Hendrik Baekeland patented the first thermosetting plastic- bakelite!

invention of bakelite
The Bakelizer was a steam pressure vessel used to produce commercial quantities of Bakelite since 1909. Photo from Chemical Heritage Foundation in wikimedia commons.

The Belgian’s invention was an instant success. Bakelite took the plastic industries of the world by storm, finding its use in more than a thousand of items and accessories. From jewellery and fashion equipments including the choker, bakelite earrings and lockets to kitchenware like bakelite handles, knobs and utensils, the revolutionary new plastic went on to find crucial uses in the radio and automobile industries, which during that age were undergoing rapid growth.

Picture of a bakelite radio at the Bakelite Museum, Somerset, UK. Photo from wikimedia commons

However, the fame that bakelite had earned was not destined to last long. With the synthesis of new plastic formulas after the end of the Second World War, the demand for bakelite began to diminish. New plastics like ABS and Lexan began surfacing across the industrial world to overthrow the reign of Leo Baekeland’s groundbreaking invention.

A little over a hundred years on though, bakelite still shines on! Besides being a collector’s item in the modern world, it still exists in brotherhood with the likes of aluminium and steel to fill catalogues and portals that sell quality kitchenware to the masses. Clearly, it never left. It was an invention which had been wrought out by Baekeland; a pioneer which was here to stay.

 

– Twitter Handle: @QuillnQuire

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Oldest recorded solar eclipse occurred 3,200 years ago

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Solar eclipse

Cambridge University researchers have pinpointed the date of what could be the oldest solar eclipse yet recorded. The event, which occurred on October 30, 1207 BC, is mentioned in the Bible, and could help historians to date Egyptian pharaohs.

“Solar eclipses are often used as a fixed point to date events in the ancient world,” said Professor Colin Humphreys from University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy.

Using a combination of the biblical text and an ancient Egyptian text, the researchers were able to refine the dates of the Egyptian pharaohs, in particular, the dates of the reign of Ramesses the Great, according to the study published in the journal Astronomy & Geophysics.

The biblical text in question comes from the Old Testament book of Joshua and has puzzled biblical scholars for centuries.

It records that after Joshua led the people of Israel into Canaan, a region of the ancient Near East that covered modern-day Israel and Palestine – he prayed: “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon. And the Sun stood still, and the Moon stopped until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.”

“If these words are describing a real observation, then a major astronomical event was taking place – the question for us to figure out is what the text actually means,” Humphreys said.

“Modern English translations, which follow the King James translation of 1611, usually interpret this text to mean that the Sun and Moon stopped moving,” Humphreys said.

“But going back to the original Hebrew text, we determined that an alternative meaning could be that the Sun and Moon just stopped doing what they normally do: they stopped shining. In this context, the Hebrew words could be referring to a solar eclipse, when the Moon passes between the earth and the Sun, and the Sun appears to stop shining,” Humphreys said.

This interpretation is supported by the fact that the Hebrew word translated ‘stand still’ has the same root as a Babylonian word used in ancient astronomical texts to describe eclipses, he added.

Independent evidence that the Israelites were in Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC can be found in the Merneptah Stele, an Egyptian text dating from the reign of the Pharaoh Merneptah, son of the well-known Ramesses the Great, the study said.

The large granite block, held in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, says that it was carved in the fifth year of Merneptah’s reign and mentions a campaign in Canaan in which he defeated the people of Israel.

Earlier historians had used these two texts to try to date the possible eclipse, but were not successful as they were only looking at total eclipses, in which the disc of the Sun appears to be completely covered by the moon as the moon passes directly between the earth and the sun.

What the earlier historians failed to consider was that it was instead an annular eclipse, in which the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun, but is too far away to cover the disc completely, the researchers said.

In the ancient world, the same word was used for both total and annular eclipses.

The researchers developed a new eclipse code, which takes into account variations in the Earth’s rotation over time.

From their calculations, they determined that the only annular eclipse visible from Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC was on 30 October 1207 BC, in the afternoon.

If their arguments are accepted, it would not only be the oldest solar eclipse yet recorded, it would also enable researchers to date the reigns of Ramesses the Great and his son Merneptah to within a year.

Using these new calculations, the researchers determined that Ramesses the Great reigned from 1276-1210 BC, with a precision of plus or minus one year.(IANS)

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Why do Our Eyes Water when We Yawn?

Did you know there are three different types of tears that our eyes shed?

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why do our eyes water when we yawn
Teary-eyed after a yawn? We will tell you why! Pixabay

“Why do our eyes water when we yawn?” According to popular opinion, it is because you are tired and you miss your bed, which is why you begin to tear up. Don’t believe us? Well, you shouldn’t.

As much as that rationale seems right (on an emotional level), there is complete science behind the question ‘why do our eyes water when we yawn?’.
To understand this phenomenon, you will first need to understand tear-anatomy. Did you know there are three types of tears that your eyes shed?
1. Emotional Tears: Released upon experiencing intense emotions
2. Reflexive Tears: They serve to remove irritants and contaminants from the eyes like dust, dirt, etc.
3. Basal Tears: They are produced naturally throughout the day to lubricate the eyes.
 
But our question was :

Why do our eyes water when we yawn?

It is these basal tears that are responsible for the tears when you yawn.
Two components of the face are primarily responsible for our eyes to water when we yawn,
• Facial muscles
• Lacrimal glands
Lacrimal glands are glands that are placed beneath our upper eyelids just below the eyebrow bone.
They produce watery component to our eyes’ own natural tears throughout the day to keep the surface of our eyes coated and moisturized. Thus, our eyes remain moist throughout the day because of the functioning of lacrimal glands (This is also the reason why our eyes look glossy)
There are 43 muscles in the face itself that work together to help us emote. When we yawn, the facial muscles around our eyes begin to tighten.  This exerts pressure on the lacrimal glands and squeezes them a little.
In response, the lacrimal glands may release a little quantity of water which had been stored to release later.
Basal tears typically flow diagonally across the eyes and collect in a structure on the opposite corner of the eye called punctum.
But when we yawn, this water has no passage to get absorbed, and hence it falls out of the eyes, which is why it appears as if we are shedding tears.
Now if you shed a tear or two while yawning, don’t feel like it’s a ‘miss you’ call from your bed; it’s just a natural reaction to feeling tired.
And if the next time somebody asks you, ”why do our eyes water when we yawn?”, don’t shy away from sharing the knowledge!