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Monthly Archives: September 2017

Virtual Reality Technology

Remember watching “The Matrix” for the first time? Remember the mixed emotions of awe and excitement you felt at that time? Virtual reality technology is no more a thing of fiction these days! Let’s find out more about this coming-of-age technology and find out some fascinating facts about it.So, what is all this hype and hoopla over the likes of virtual and augmented reality technology all about? Is it really possible to experience a Matrix-like phenomenon in the real world? To continue with the Matrix theme, is the world, as we know it, the REAL world? Well, that was a rhetoric question meant to tease the technologically curious nerve inside you! Or was it? Okay, enough playing! It’s time to get down to the brass tacks now! So what is this technology all about? Let’s get us some answers!

A Layman’s Take on Virtual Reality

A computer simulated environment that either resembles or substitutes the physical reality so well that the viewer is left wondering whether what he sees or feels is the real thing or if it’s all in his mind is known as virtual reality. The concept of virtual reality technology includes all such computer and IT based technologies that can perfectly simulate and project any place or situation of either the real or imaginary plane to the eyes or any other sensory organ. However, presently, the major chunk of virtual reality experiences fall under the category of visual virtual reality with auditory effects coming from additional appendages like speakers, headphones, etc. Research and product development is being carried out for new varieties of virtual reality techniques and technology which would be capable of extending stimuli to other sensory organs like touch, taste, smell, etc. The most common and commercial examples of virtual reality technology can be seen in the forms of virtual reality games (such as Dactyl NightmareHeroLegend QuestGrid BustersMage, etc.) and virtual reality glasses, gloves and other gear used for playing such games. You can check out the movie How to Make a Monster by Stan Winston to get an idea about how physical reality and virtual reality can, at times, get confusingly inter-tangled!

How Virtual Reality Works

In order to grasp the mechanics of virtual reality, we first need to understand what virtual reality space is. A virtual reality space is created using sensory output generated by a computer that is 3D enabled. Such a virtual space enables the users to carry on interactions with the virtual environment while still being in the physical environment. To create an experience of virtual reality, the effect of telepresence must be present. The term telepresence refers to the feeling of the user that he/she is present at a location different from his true, physical location. This different location, other than the actual physical location, is what we call the virtual reality environment. The essence of complete telepresence is very important as without telepresence, the virtual reality experience would be flawed and incomplete.

Virtual Reality Tools

The tools and technology used to create virtual reality environments include (but may not be limited to) virtual graphics library, programming languages that are commonly used for games, scripting and web applications (such as Java, C++, Perl, Python, etc.), multi threading technology (for better cluster computing and enhanced multi-user interactions), etc. Telepresence can be induced by using standard computer interaction devices such as the mouse, keyboard, etc. or by employing multi modal interaction devices including wired gloves, motion trackers, digitizers, 3D scanners, eye-trackers, ODT, etc.

Speech Rate Conversion Technology

The world is moving at a faster pace. Transportation is faster, communication is faster, and so on. Some even feel that people are speaking faster. This makes it hard for some of us to keep pace. The Science and Technical Research Laboratories of Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, has developed a device that they feel will help (at least with how fast people seem to be talking). They’ve created a speech rate conversion technology that is designed to be used in a couple of different ways.

Have you ever listened to a recording played at a fast speed? This is commonly done in video or audio editing to search through a large volume of material in a short time. Normally, when speech is sped up, the pitch is also changed, causing the recorded voices to sound like the chipmunk characters that some of us listened to, or watched, as children. Even when the pitch is shifted to restore it to its original level, it is often difficult to understand the individual words. The system designed by Japan’s STRL has changed that.

Their new technology maintains the original timber and pitch of the speech, while playing it back at a faster rate. The playback rate is varied adaptively, which allows listeners to comprehend what is being said even at speeds that are five times the normal rate.

This system also benefits elderly listeners by slowing down radio broadcasts or the audio in television programs. It is common for older people to have some degree of hearing impairment, for various reasons. This disability might include a difficulty in perceiving specific frequencies, a weaker cognitive capacity, or a problem understanding speech with a large amount of background noise. It has also been found that with age comes a decreased ability to comprehend rapid speech. At the same time, the population statistics of many countries have forecast that twenty years from now, twenty five percent of the radio and television audience will be sixty five years of age or older. In order to reach this audience, STRL felt that something had to be done. Since it seemed unlikely that television announcers would slow down, they applied the speech rate conversion technology to solve this problem. Again, the pitch and timber are maintained, while the rate of speech is adjusted. By shortening the pauses between sentences, the slowed speech can be presented in real time. In addition to the Japanese language, it can be used for English, German, Chinese, French, and other languages.

Android Game Development

If you want to successful build  games, you need to explore the field of game engines that will provide you the best framework. The crucial part of developing a game is choosing the right tool, and it follows few factors. Factors like: game’s featured set, capabilities of your target platform, cost and time constraints and also familiarity with the tool. Keeping all that in mind, we have discussed here the top gaming engines for Android game development.

1.    Unity3D

Unity3D is very popular and common choice among game developers. Unity3D game engine helps to create 3D or 2D games with multi-platform support. This game engine also provides a free indie version along with the commercial license version. Unity3D helps you to design beautiful 3D content and also provides cross-platform publishing. It supports a single integrated development environment (IDE) for a variety of platforms. Besides, developers also enjoy the great graphics quality of Unity3D as it supports audio and visual effects.

2.    Cocos2d-x

An open source framework Cocos2d-x is written in C++. This game engine is basically a 2D game engine for mobile game development. It allows developers to use their existing C++ or JavaScript knowledge for cross-platform development on Android and other platforms. This game engine is fast and easy to develop games as developers need to run single code across all platforms. Developers can write the code once for a specific game and can publish it on all the global mobile platforms.

3.    HTML5

HTML5 is one of the most promising technologies as a game development engine. It allows developing games that easily adapt to different resolutions, screen sizes, aspect ratios, and guidelines. Comparing the other complex technologies like Objective-C, C#, and Visual Studio, HTML5 is much easier and efficient for game development.Games developed in HTML5 are not restricted by the frames of windows. As developers don’t have to wait for compilation, updates and debugging in real-time, it makes very fast to develop games in HTML5.

4.    AngularJS

AngularJS framework is designed to create the games by writing fewer codes. In MVC (Model View Controller) model, the view is defined with the concise format of HTML and can be written without getters. The data on the view level can be manipulated using filters without changing the controllers. On the other hand, the MVC architecture of AngularJS enables developers to break interface into three components that make it easier to customize the modules. In AngularJS, the data models are designed like plain objects that work as a temporary repository to store the retrieving data.

5.    Unreal Engine 4

Unreal Engine 4 is an integrated tool for game developers. The best part about this game engine is it provides realistic graphic rendering. The technology also includes Persona animation system and Blueprint visual scripting system. Importantly, the company, Epic Games frequently releases the newer versions that include improved features, updates and also bugs fixes. It’s a complete mobile game development tool. Besides games, this game engine also supports real-time 3D films, visualizations, and training simulation.

Security of the Future

Pass-thoughts: The Concept

A recent research by the The Berkeley School of Information, University of California, has revealed that it might be possible for us to access our accounts by simply thinking of our passwords instead of typing them. Electroencephalograms (EEGs) or brainwave computer authentication shall help you access the accounts by collecting the data we imagine in our minds! The scope of converting passwords into pass-thoughts, by using relatively affordable biosensor technology, could well become our next virtual reality.

This extraordinary project was led by professor John Chuang, and his students Hamilton Nguyen, Charles Wang, and Benjamin Johnson. The findings of the research were presented at the Seventeenth International Conference on Financial Cryptography and Data Security, during the 2013 Workshop on Usable Security.

Research Using the NeuroSky MindSet Brainwave Sensor

The NeuroSky MindSet device consists of a single sensor that rests against the forehead, and was used for carrying out this research. This wireless headset looks similar to any normal Bluetooth, except that it has the added feature of EEG sensors which read the brainwave signals of the person wearing the headset. The team carried out experiments to assess whether the computer was able to distinguish between the brainwave patterns of different people, and whether the signal provided by the EEG channel was strong enough for producing a positive authentication. The team selected 15 volunteers to perform seven mental tasks, both individually and together, so that their brainwaves could be measured. These were the seven tasks:

  1. The participants were asked to visualize moving a finger up and down, while focusing on their breathing.
  2. Some were asked to respond to an audio tone, by focusing on a dot placed on a sheet of paper.
  3. They were told to make up a secret and focus on it for some time.
  4. They had to imagine replaying a specific motion from a sport of their choice.
  5. Some were asked to watch images on a screen, and count the objects of their chosen color.
  6. They were asked to imagine themselves singing a song they liked a lot.
  7. They had to focus on a specific thought for ten seconds.

The data collected from all the brainwaves sampled, provided sufficient information to authenticate each user from one another. The devices were able to read customized ‘pass-thoughts’, by reducing the error rate to less than 1%. They also found that the results gathered from individual tasks were more or less the same, as compared to the data gained from combined tasks.

The team also found that, more user-friendly tasks should be incorporated in order to make brainwave-based computer authentication successfully replace conventional passwords by pass-thoughts. The majority of the volunteers found the task of imagining to move a finger very boring. Many participants chose complicated thoughts that were hard to focus on, while others thought that imagining to perform a sports motion felt unnatural. On the other hand, picking their chosen colored objects from a series of slides, or imaging singing a song was comparatively more interesting.

The Concern

Even though this research may be a mere step towards brainwave authentication, the possibility of computers being able to recognize an individual by their specific task-oriented brainwaves seems more likely than ever before. However, unless a distinct brainwave is accepted by the computer, the current research raises some security concerns. Some have raised concerns that it would be easy to hack into someone’s mind or Internet account, if the perpetrators knew the song imagined or object/color picked, or other tasks imagined by the owner of account.