Big Tech &
Pixel 4 gets automatic robocall screening, improved location accuracy, and more (3 minute read)
Google has released a feature drop for Pixel devices, a more substantial update that contains helpful and fun features on top of the normal monthly updates to improve performance and security. Pixel 4's Call Screen feature is now able to detect robocalls and automatically hang up. Duo's camera has been updated so that it auto-frames faces (including automatically adjusting zoom if another person joins in-frame), and a new portrait filter is able to blur the background during calls. Users can also use a version of the new portrait filter in Google Photos. Google Maps has improved accuracy, and the new Google Assistant will be released in the UK, Canada, Ireland, Singapore, and Australia. The new assistant is able to work offline and processes speech at almost zero latency. All new Pixel phones will receive an update to memory management that will allow them to run multiple apps more efficiently at the same time.
The Oculus Quest is getting controller-free hand tracking this week (2 minute read)
Native hand tracking will be rolling out to the Oculus Quest starting this week. It will be available as an experimental feature in software version v12. There won't be much support for hand tracking at launch, with only the Library, Store, Browser, and TV apps supported for now. A developer toolset for hand tracking will be released to app makers next week. Oculus developed hand tracking using new techniques in deep learning and model-based tracking and it can perform more precise and realistic tracking of individual movements compared to using Touch controllers. The feature opens the door for the next wave of games and apps that will be able to support hand and fine-tuned finger gestures, as well as provide Oculus a running start against competing VR platforms that still rely on controllers.
Man who had transplant finds out months later his DNA has changed to that of donor 5,000 miles away (6 minute read)
Chris Long, who worked in IT at the Washoe County Sheriff's Department, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes. Before going in for a bone marrow transplant that would save his life, a forensic scientist colleague at the department encouraged Long to make an archive of his DNA from different parts of his body in order to study the effects of the transplant. Within three months of the transplant, the DNA in Long's blood had changed. After four years, swabs of his lips and cheeks, as well as samples of his semen, contained the DNA of his donor. These findings could be significant for forensic scientists as DNA is often used to link perpetrators and crimes. There have been cases where DNA was incorrectly matched due to bone marrow transplants. It is unclear whether DNA from bone marrow transplants can be transferred to the next generation.
Here's the Pentagon's Terrifying Plan for Cyborg Supersoldiers (6 minute read)
A report from the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center detailed what the field of cybernetics might look like in 2050. The report aimed to determine the potential of machines that are physically integrated within the human body to augment and enhance the performance of humans. Poor public perception may be a barrier to the mass adoption of cybernetics. The four probable areas of enhancement are super vision, augmented hearing, enhanced muscle, and two-way data transfer between the brain and a brain interface device. Legal and ethical frameworks may need to be altered to account for cybernetics. The full impact of cybernetic technology is still being determined, and it is likely that most moral, ethical, and legal considerations will be made after the technology becomes common.
Programming, Design & Data Science
DB (GitHub Repo)
DB is able to save, restore, and archive database snapshots from the command line. It can connect to different database servers and can load a database dump from one environment into another environment. DB is an easy way to perform backups to prevent data from being lost during migrations.
Real Dev (Website)
Real Dev provides real-world projects so that developers can practice and develop their CS skills. Projects involve real technical problems like building HTTP server endpoints, writing scripts, or building webpage frontends. Completed projects can be submitted at any time and will be assessed instantly. A leaderboard for high scores is available.
Scientists Are Contemplating a 1,000-Year Space Mission to Save Humanity (15 minute read)
Climate change threatens to make our planet unlivable by the end of the century. Other factors can also eventually make Earth uninhabitable, so planning for a potential escape from the planet is a necessary response to the potential threats. Mars is the most obvious destination, with many space missions already focusing on the planet. Other possible planets exist, but they are light-years away. A journey to one of these planets would take several generations to complete. The problems involved with such a journey are broad, involving fields such as biology, sociology, engineering, physics, and more. Life during the journey will be extremely limited for those on board, so there may be ethical concerns with such a project. The research into inter-generational space travel may reveal ways that we can improve or prolong life on our own planet.