Intel’s slick little card isn’t for swiping at the ATM. It isn’t even for using at the library. In the correct setting, it can pretty much power an ATM or run a library… because it’s a computer in a card! Intel’s Compute Card launched this month and it is literally the future. Built with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capability, a host of processors (including the 7th Gen Intel Core vPro), and a 4GB DDR3 RAM, this card is a machine capable of turning any gadget into a smart-gadget. Or you can even literally use it as the world’s smallest portable PC!
Aside from giving your electronic appliances and peripherals a whole lot of data processing power and internet connectivity, it was also designed to be easily upgrade-able. Just by pulling out the old card and putting in a new card, Intel promises a future where electronic devices will never grow obsolete and will only need to be replaced when they’re broken. Until then, all you have to do is literally shuffle cards… well, Intel Compute Cards!
Ah, the Lightsaber. The thing we’d all totally be carrying around if it weren’t for pesky physics getting in the way.
Augmented and virtual reality are just about the only ways to bring lightsabers to life – and Lenovo is trying to do just that. They’ve built a new augmented reality headset called the Mirage, and lightsaber battling is one of the first things they’ve built to show it off. It’ll all be packaged up in a kit they’re calling Jedi Challenges, which’ll hit the shelves in November.
And it’s… pretty dang cool.
Lightsaber battles are something of a holy grail in video games; we all have such grand ideas of what they could be that getting anywhere near that intangible point of being “right” is tough. But Lenovo brings a new concept to the table here, and it works well.
As the player, you start by slipping your phone into the Mirage headset, popping it on, and grabbing the lightsaber controller – a surprisingly well-built replica of the one handed from Anakin to Luke, and as of Force Awakens, to Rey.
Tap a button on the lightsaber, and bam – a beam, visible only through the headset’s lens, extends right out of the hilt you’re holding. It all looks… right. The beam follows the hilt around as you swing it with minimal latency; it really felt like I was holding a lightsaber. I’ve played a good number of pure virtual reality lightsaber demos/games — but there’s something different and kind of amazing about seeing a lightsaber in your actual hand, without that layer of virtual abstraction.
Kylo Ren appears in the room front of you and starts swinging. Just before his hit connects, your “force sensitivity” kicks in and presents itself as a line floating in the air, indicating where he’s going to strike. You quickly orient your lightsaber to match this line, blocking his incoming attack. With each block, the incoming flurries get faster, the game more challenging. Block enough incoming attacks, and it’s your turn to swing.
I’m told that, in time, you’ll pick up new abilities – like, say, force pushing your enemy through the air.
I only got to spend about 10 minutes slashing away at Kylo, but I walked away impressed and wanting more. It’s one of the better augmented reality experiences I’ve had. I had a few people watching me and was a bit worried I was accidentally going to clonk someone in the head — but besides that, I was totally immersed.
Lightsaber battling is one of three games built into Jedi Challenges, along with Holochess (the boardgame otherwise known as Dejarik, as played onboard the Millennium Falcon in A New Hope) and a new troop-control strategy game. Alas, neither of those were quite ready for me to check out yet.
Jedi Challenges will be sold as a $200 kit starting in November, coming with the Mirage headset, a beacon you place on the ground to tell the headset where the floor is, and the lightsaber controller. That might be a bit steep for a headset that currently focuses on one game — but you do get that slick Lightsaber, and in theory this is a platform that Lenovo will continue to build on over time.
As a young child, every morning at sunrise I would wake up to tap dance on the patio outside my mom’s bedroom door, much to my poor mom’s chagrin. These sunrise salutations became an enduring family story, as did my habit of getting up with the sun.Imagine my surprise, then, when a DNA test recently suggested that I am, in fact, a night owl.
This personal insight came to me via SlumberType, a new DNA analysis “app” that looks at 10 different genetic variants associated with sleep in order to model your genetic chronotype, or, as the company puts it, “where you fall along a spectrum of ‘morningness’ to ‘eveningness.’” SlumberType is one of more than a dozen new DNA products in the new DNA “app store” recently launched by the consumer genetic testing startup Helix. The apps, which rely on DNA sequencing results the user purchases from Helix, range in purpose from the simply entertaining to those intended to helping people sleep, eat and exercise better. But as you might imagine, the secret to a good night’s sleep is a little more complicated than DNA alone.
The idea behind SlumberType, Ron Andrews, the CEO of its parent company, Exploragen, told me, is to help people get a better night’s sleep by understanding what genetics might say about their natural tendencies. The company’s scientists combed through dozens of studies on sleep, and chose genetic variants most strongly associated with sleep to build a formula for modeling people’s individual chronotypes. Andrews said his test helped him realize that he’s a “bee,” (a morning person) and adjust his sleep patterns accordingly. My own results had suggested I am at the far end of the spectrum, my peak activity hours falling in the wee hours of the night. I am typing these words, by the way, at 5:00 a.m., after falling asleep at my laptop working at the oh-so-late hour of 9:00 p.m.
In the past decade, DNA sequencing has gotten really, really cheap, paving the way for an onslaught of direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies that purport tooffer the answers to everything from what wine you might like to the type of exercise optimized for your body.
Typically consumer DNA tests require that you spit in a tube, send your saliva into a lab, and a few weeks later get back a one-time report. Helix, though, has a different vision. For an initial fee of $80, the company sequences what’s known as the exome, the 20,000 or so most important genes of the human genome. It’s a far more extensive test than the genotyping companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com perform. Customers can then pick and choose what pieces of information they might like from their genome, purchasing third-party DNA apps from the Helix store. These apps include those labeled “entertainment,” like Insitome’s ancestry app designed to determine what percentage of your DNA is from Neanderthals. It includes health apps from partners like the Mayo Clinic to help inform people what genetic diseases they may carry. And it includes app advising people on lifestyle choices like exercise and nutrition, the category of testing that has received the most criticism from scientists. The idea is that customers will return to the DNA app store again and again throughout their lives.
I’ve previously reported on the pseudoscientific nature of many lifestyle DNA tests. The premise easily inspires skepticism—a simple spit test that tells you how to best live your life? Many tests rely on either incomplete science, or an incomplete understanding of how much your genetics relate to who you are.
But I was still curious—could I glean something useful from these tests, something I’d never considered?I tested out a handful of DNA wellness apps from Helix’s app store, as well as from Orig3n, another consumer genetic testing company that offers lifestyle DNA tests. On the whole, I found myself besieged by so much (often conflicting) information that it was hard to make any sense of what it really meant.I was sold on the promises of “unlocking a whole new level of information,” for a “truly personalized” approach to my health, but what I unlocked instead was a data-driven headache.
One gene in Orig3n’s Bliss test confirmedthat I am indeed a morning person, reassuring me that SlumberType had been wrong. Other tests contradicted facts I know to be true, such as the test that told me I have naturally high levels of B12; earlier this year, I started taking vitamin B supplements after a blood test at my doctor’s office revealed my levels of vitamin B were extremely low. Individual tests also seemed to sometimes contradict themselves, as did the test that informed me I was both not at risk for obesity (hooray!) and prone to obesity (damn) based on different genes.
One geneticvariant suggested I may have lower levels of the bad kind of cholesterol. Another indicated “higher cholesterol levels than the recommended levels.” One test said I metabolized caffeine and alcohol normally. Another said I was fast to metabolize caffeine and slow to metabolize alcohol. While there seemed to be no agreement on whether I can taste bitterness in food, my taste buds assure me that I can.
In 2008, an European Journal of Human Geneticsarticlesuggested that direct-to-consumer genetic tests are often little better than horoscopes that tell people information they were already predisposed to believe. Like a horoscope, I found myself nodding along to information that already fit into my pre-conceived notion of self, and tossing aside anything that didn’t.
“Most of this stuff is bogus,” Eric Topol, a geneticist at Scripps Research Institute, told me as he scrolled through Helix’s DNA app store on the other end of the line. “I can find hardly any science that backs most of this up. It’s going to give genomics a bad name.”
There are plenty of explanations for the inconstancies I found in my tests. In some cases, the science was simply shaky, based on studies that were too small, too few or too narrow to extrapolate for the general population. When it comes to nutrition, several experts told me that there is simply not enough research to back up the majority of the many “nutrigenomics” tests now on the market. (There are a few exceptions. For example, the genomics behind genes that result in lactose intolerance are well-studied.) Different tests look at different genes to tell you the same piece of information. And methods of interpretation vary. SlumberType, for example, built an algorithmic model of my chronotype based on several genetic variants. Orig3n, on the other hand, simply tells users about all of the individual genes they have and what each variant might mean, which is why some of the results seemed contradictory.
The other hitch is that we are, of course, more than the sum of our genetic parts—my tendency towards sunrise is based on more than just the As, Ts, Cs and Gs that comprise my DNA code. Children and elderly people generally rise early; teens stay up late at night. Gender, diet, ethnicity, exercise and other environmental factors can all play a role.
“I’ve been worried for many years that in the public discourse there is this message that we are our DNA,” UC Berkeley geneticist Rasmus Nielsen told me. “The biggest problem is that this stuff is marketed as actionable and there is no evidence of that. If they’re selling snake oil, it’s because of this implicit claim that you can somehow improve your health.”
Test that give consumers information about disease must go through the FDA approval process, but otherwise consumer genetic testing has so far evaded regulatory approval. The biggest risk in getting a genetic palm reading is likely to your bank account. But critics point out other troubling possibilities. For one, the growing market of pseudoscientific tests might give consumers a misunderstanding of genetics.
The privacy you give up when giving out your genetic information is a concern—a court of law could compel companies to hand over your DNA. And, as all genetic testing companies point out in their fine print, while the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act protects against health insurers requesting your genetic data, it does not prevent providers of life, disability or long-term care insurance from doing so when a test has already been done.
Nielsen also told me tests doling out fitness and dietary advice could wind up encouraging people to adopt lifestyle habits that are not really right for them. Many tests suggest that users seek out the advice of a doctor before making lifestyle changes, but often it’s in the fine print, or somewhere equally easy to miss.
“It’s hard to know if these tests are safe without knowing how people are really using them,” said Neilsen. “In general, you have to ask if it’s really good to have more information if you don’t really have the skills to use that information?”
For me, utility was the biggest sticking point. I had a deluge of data about my health and fitness, but there were so many data points I had no idea how to make sense of them. Some results were intriguing, such as the suggestion that a deleted GSTM1 gene means I need to eat more cruciferous vegetables to help my body make up for a lacking enzyme that helps with detoxification. Most of the time, though, the information just wasn’t useful.
This isn’t to say there are no genetic tests that are worthwhile. Tests like that for the BRCA gene, for example, can help a woman make important decisions about her own health, and parents-to-be often benefit from finding out whether they are carriers for serious genetic disorders.
“Some of these things have value,” said Topol, pointing to the hereditary cancer test set to debut in the Helix marketplace soon. “But cholesterol, you don’t need a genetic test for that. It doesn’t matter if you have a gene variant. Either you have high cholesterol or you don’t.”
Robert Green, a Harvard geneticist and advisor to Helix, told me that while he doesn’t think every DNA app on the market is useful or scientifically valid, he does think that the explosion of the consumer genomics market will help to educate consumers and ultimately to democratize DNA.
“There is a tension between building on legitimate science and marketing things that stray so far from the science or imply lifestyle utility that hasn’t been proven,” he told me. “There is an explosion going on in personalized genomics and it’s not going to slow down. I don’t think we can stop it, so I think we have to start going in the other direction.”
Green said he anticipates the field being messy for a while. In the end, though, he sees lifestyle products like those Helix and Orig3n offer as “relatively harmless ways to start learning about genetics.”
James Lu, co-founder and chief science officer of Helix, was upfront about the limitations of what his company’s genetic testing can tell you.
“Historically there has been this perspective that DNA is this book of all answers, a Magic 8 ball, per se,” he said. “Science has categorically proven that’s untrue.”
His hope, though, is that as the field progresses, the apps in the Helix app store will be able to do a better job contextualizing information to help consumers make sense of what all that data means.
“We’re going to have to merge DNA and other information together to provide complete answers,” he said. “It’s still the early days. I think a lot of the problems we see in the field will resolve themselves.”
Some of the products I tried did give me useful information about how to read my results. DNAFit offers several fitness and nutrition products through the Helix app store. When you get your results, before revealing them the company guides you to a page that explains “everything about who we are is comprised of the interaction between two factors — how we are born (our genetics), and what we do (our environment and lifestyle).” Understanding your genetics, it says, can help you to change the second part and achieve a happier, healthier you.
In the end, though, information is only valuable if we can make sense of it.
DNAFit’s fine-print reveals something that reads closer to the truth: “Genetic Information is subject to significant limitations”; “some of the interpretations that we provide may not be applicable”;”“Genetic Information reported has not been clinically validated.”
In the end, what use did learning I have genes that indicate I am a night owl really do? My genes are part of who I am. But who I am is not a night owl, no matter what any DNA test might say.
2017 has already seen a number of major terrorist attacks, which, coupled with rising tensions around the world and nuclear sabre-rattling from North Korea, have increased fears of a major military conflict.
The Sun has spoken to a range of military and terror experts about the threat of World War Three in 2017 – here is what they said.
Why is 2017 such a dangerous year?
Throughout the past year events have been taking unexpected twists and turns. Let’s recap.
Britain has voted itself out of the European Union and continues to negotiate on Brexit.
Dr Alan Mendoza, executive director at the Henry Jackson Society security think-tank, told SunOnline: “We’ve seen Russia increase its sphere of influence and been quite aggressive on its borders and seemingly getting away with it. And that will empower to do more.
“The Russians have had it all their own way. Time [Magazine] said man of the year 2016 was Trump but actually it was Putin.
“Everything has gone his way. Everything.”
Will ISIS start a world war?
As ISIS flee their strongholds in Syria and Iraq they have the potential to embark on a world terror campaign with security chiefs fearing lone wolf attacks.
About 850 people from Britain and Northern Ireland have travelled to support or fight for jihadist organisations in Syria and Iraq, British authorities believe.
And around half have since returned to the UK, but the rest could follow when the so called Caliphate of ISIS is wiped out this year.
Veryan Khan, director of Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium, said: “It’s nothing new, every time ISIS has losses, they attack abroad.
“It’s a way of showing their supporters they are still strong and can seemingly attack at will.
“Big or small in scale, it ‘puffs’ them up like a blow-fish and distracts everyone from fans to media alike from what is happening.”
That’s according to comScore’s "2017 US Mobile App Report," which gathers data about smartphone app use among US adults.
ComScore found that the ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft were among those that had grown most rapidly since 2015, along with the resale apps Letgo and OfferUp.
ComScore measured apps with at least 5 million monthly visitors that have been growing steadily since June 2015. While apps like Musical.ly, Waze, and Uber have all taken dips from time to time, the top 10 apps have at least doubled their unique visitors over the past two years. Some, like Bitmoji, have seen more than a 2,000% increase in users since 2015.
Actor and voice coach Amy Jo Jackson has consulted on productions of Venus in Fur, Henry IV, and the Broadway production of Kinky Boots. An experienced actor herself, whose credits include The Laramie Project, Into the Woods, Twelfth Night, and The Rocky Horror Show, Jackson teaches actors and non-actors how to reduce unwanted accents or gain desired ones. We talked to her about her process, the challenge of increasing intelligibility without devaluing diverse dialects and heritage, and resources outside of personal coaching.
Can you walk me through the typical process you take with someone who wants to eliminate an accent?
When working with a client who is interested in accent reduction, we’ll begin with a diagnostic session, where I’ll have them read a passage of text so I can hear where they are and what their mouth is doing. We’ll then start working through some short phrases involving some of the sound combinations that seem to be most tricky for them. Many folks who are non-native English speakers find the “th” sound in thought or breathe to be difficult, for instance, and some languages don’t employ the “ih” as in kit sound at all, so if that’s unfamiliar to them, we’ll start looking at how to differentiate that sound from “ee” as in fleece.
I’ll send them away with a bunch of these practice phrases, and we’ll start the next session seeing what dexterity they’ve gained. In each session, we’ll focus on a few sounds, and slowly add more and more into the mix. Ideally, with accent reduction, we’re looking at meeting once a week, with the client putting in daily work on their own, both drilling by themselves and employing the changes as they speak in their daily lives. In order to change the habits of years, it takes constant daily practice.
It’s a lot of work. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t. Progress can begin to happen very quickly if the speaker is willing to put in the time, but it won’t be overnight. It’s a bit like fitness and muscle-building in that everyone is different, and there is no set timeline for success. Tremendous progress may still sound like a very thick accent to someone who hasn’t heard where the speaker began. And it can be very emotional, as it can feel like changing the way you speak is an erasure of your heritage, of who you are.
Do most clients have the same goal, or want the same “standard American accent” in the end?
There’s a lot of talk in our community about the way we possibly overvalue the General American (or GenAm) accent over other regionalisms. (In the UK the same conversations are had about the classic “BBC sound” and whether or not everyone needs to be able to do it.) Some actors have had highly successful careers without ever shedding the accents they were born with (Matthew McConaughey, Sophia Vergara and Javier Bardem, for example).
Intelligibility is always important, though, so there is value to working on clarity of speech, even if you’re not looking to completely disappear into an American accent. Actors who want to be able to play a wide variety of roles, however, especially on the stage, might find that being able to do a bang-up GenAm at times is useful to them (Alan Cumming, Toni Collette and Alexander Skarsgard are all examples of actors from other countries who do great dialect work).
Non-actors tend to pursue accent reduction for different reasons. I’ve worked with several women who felt that their native accents were causing others not to take them seriously in their line of work, and they wanted more control over the way they spoke English so that they could have more control over the way they were perceived in the workplace. Not everyone is looking for a seamless GenAm, but usually everyone is looking for more mastery over the way they sound.
If someone can’t afford a dialect coach, what else can they do?
There are many tutorials on YouTube that folks can consult for self-study, which is a great place to begin. Attempting to speak in GenAm as much as possible is going to help speed the learning process up considerably. If the speaker didn’t grow up speaking English, one of the biggest things they can do the help themselves is to watch as many things as possible in English, and to parrot back what they are hearing. Podcasts are now a fabulous free resource to have on in the background. A coach is incredibly useful to connect the dots, as it were, and draw the speaker’s attention to really finely tuned sounds and tongue/lip movements, but someone can make a great deal of headway if they really have American shows or films on all the time and work to imitate what they are hearing.
The book I draw most of my exercises from is called Speak With Distinction, by Edith Skinner. It is incredibly comprehensive, and takes you through all the sounds in English with various drills, phrases, and sentences of varying complexity. Again, easier to navigate through with a coach, but totally possible to derive benefit from on your own. I have a friend who recently passed the TOEFL [Test of English as a Foreign Language] after failing it multiple times, who attributed her skill level increase to working by herself through Speak With Distinction and listening obsessively to Hamilton.
Can you tell me about your work teaching dialects and accents to actors? How does this differ from accent elimination?
As actors are generally coming to me with a script in hand, preparing for an audition or a performance, we often will take only an hour or two and work through all of their lines, as they’ll be saying the same thing over and over. I’ll have them record the sessions, suggest films and clips of primary speakers (folks who speak with the accent or dialect naturally) to watch, and give them ideas of how to work on their own.
In any dialect, though we often begin with how something sounds, the work then takes us to how the accent feels in the mouth. What is my tongue doing? Am I using enough lip tension to shift this sound? Am I gripping in the back of my tongue unnecessarily? Should I be letting my jaw hang looser here? Once an actor is able to transition from simply listening to themselves to understanding what is mechanically going on in their mouth as they produce sound, they’ll be far more able to improvise in the accent, and more likely to sound truly authentic.
Again, the internet is also an incredible resource. In addition to websites entirely devoted to dialect sound samples, YouTube has a plentiful supply of folks from all over the world speaking in English through their accents. Look for travel videos, tutorials, video game reviews, town hall meetings — you’ll uncover some incredibly useful material.
The work isn’t all that different with regards to learning an accent versus reducing an accent, because technically in accent reduction, we are learning GenAm, but since actors only have to learn x amount of words, they can put it away when they go home from work, whereas someone attempting to learn GenAm for their daily life has to practice every time they open their mouths. It’s tiring, emotional, and requires diligence. To be quite frank, most of the actors I work with aren’t willing to work as hard as the folks who are working on their American accents.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
"A lot of people come to me in coaching and say, ‘I’m in a soul-sucking position," Debra Bednar-Clark, CEO and founder of career and leadership coaching firm DB+co., told Business Insider. "What I say is OK, let’s first look and understand who you truly are and what you truly want."
Before starting her own company, Bednar-Clark was the global head of strategy and growth at Facebook, and spent time as Microsoft’s director of US market strategy and engagement.
She told Business Insider that figuring out whether you’re ready to leave a job starts with being honest about what you want.
"I think one of the things that it can be really easy for us to do is build a career we think we should do instead of one that is really aligned with who we are in that moment," she said.
Note that she specified "in the moment" — the right job for you changes right along with your experience and your goals.
"Sometimes when you go into a job, it is the right position for you because the opportunity is really incredibly interesting, you’re aligned with the mission, the role is really challenging, you’re learning these skill sets, you can impact so many other individuals," she said. "But after a while if you feel that as you evolve as a human being, your professional goals evolve as well."
"I think it’s paying attention to: What do you need now? What do you need today to really fulfill you on a deep level? Because work can be really challenging. With every job there’s highs and lows, regardless of whether or not you love it and you’re drawn to it. If you’re finding your interests are evolving or you want to develop your skill set in new ways, it just makes that choice so much more important. You want to make sure that you’re aligning who you are with what you do as much as you possibly can."
So how do you make sure you’re still aligned, in Bednar-Clark’s words, with your current job?
Start asking questions. Here are some of the questions she recommends asking yourself as you make your decision:
What are my values?
What are my beliefs?
What are my strengths?
What are my passions and what are my interests?
Is this what’s fueling me, or is this something that’s draining me?
Do I feel aligned to what I’m doing?
Does this feel authentic to me?
Do I feel like I’m bringing my best self forward every day at the office?
And, Bednar-Clark added, don’t worry if you’re struggling with the decision. It’s "never easy to walk away from something so fantastic on paper," she said.
Or you could grab littleBit’s new Droid Inventor kit and call it a day. It’s pint-sized and not quite as intense as the aforementioned options, but hey — it’s your R2.
Unfamiliar with littleBits? It was founded back in 2011, and focuses on introducing kids to electronics and circuitry by way of modular components that snap right together. Want to build a little Taboo-style buzzing button? Grab a battery module, a button module, and a speaker module, stick their magnetic ends together, and you’re set — no soldering (and thus no soldering iron burns) required.
This Droid Inventor Kit is a pretty sweet concept: one $99 box containing all the motors, speakers, stickers, sensors, and Droid body parts you’d need to recreate a bleeping, blorping, rolling R2-D2 of your own. Want to mix things up a bit? You can do that, too:
A companion iOS/Android app gives you the step-by-step breakdown of how to piece things together, along with a series of missions meant to encourage kids to tweak their Droid to their liking. That one above, for example, has a little paper “drill” that spins as it rolls around the room.
This kit should start shipping by September 1st.
This is a pretty huge partnership for littleBits; they joined Disney’s startup accelerator last year, and this is the first new product to hit the shelves as a result. Check it out at around the 2 minute mark in the video below.
The head is attached from the side, not the center, which alters its center of gravity.
There’s also a wider edge. When the axe hits the wood, the head twists in your hands and for a brief moment, the sharp edge of the ax becomes a lever, breaking off whatever chunk of wood is at the side of the blade.