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Artificial intelligence app helps blind people

A team of university students from the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology have created a smartphone app which uses artificial intelligence to help blind people make better visual sense of the world.

The app, which has been designed for Windows phones, allows visually impaired users to take a photo of their surroundings, for example, a piece of clothing, and the app verbally describes the item to the user. All the user needs to do is tap anywhere on the phone’s screen to capture a photo. Images are then compressed to around 50 to 70kb and sent to the app’s server for analysis. Artificial intelligence is then used to detect colours, text, darkness and brightness to analyse the image and send back a verbal description of the photo.

“There are many things that computer or artificial intelligence can do, so it’s just using computer algorithms you can get some information about an image. [For example], what are the most significant colours in an image or is there any printed text that you can read out or detect darkness and brightness and so on,” Aakash Polra, MobileEye’s team leader, toldComputerworld Australia.

In cases where the image cannot be analysed, it is sent to a human ‘helper’, such as friends on Facebook or volunteers who are helping blind people, who identify the image, with verbal descriptions again sent to the blind user.

“Humans answer the images where the [app] can’t, so it’s a mixture of human intelligence and computer intelligence,” Polra said.

The app took around seven to eight months to develop, with trials carried out to discover the app’s limitations and bugs - it was recently trialled by around 20 users from the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind. There are also plans to extend the app to other countries, including Australia.

“We have been in constant touch with the users and getting their constant feedback and improving the product as we go,” Polra said.

Throughout the trials, Polra said issues which had not been evident at the concept phase were raised. For example, one user took a photo of a shoe and the app simply described it as a shoe.

“She said ‘I already know that because I can touch and feel that it’s a shoe, but I want to know what colour it is? What are the patterns on it?’” Polra said.

“We realised what kind of information is required by the blind users and as we talked with more and more people we learnt more about how the product can be useful in their daily lives and what features we needed to add, so we started adding them, developing them and testing them as well.

“That actually helped make the product more useful to actual users rather than just concepts.”

Team MobileEye are one of six finalists competing in the 2012 Microsoft Imagine Cup, which challenges students around the world to develop unique products using technology. The winner to be announced tonight. Other finalists include:

- uCHAMPsys from Taiwan with a ubiquitous Cloud-based health assessment, management and promotion system

- quadSquad from Ukraine with which transforms sign language into a form of verbal communication by creating a mobile device that continuously recognises sign language phonemes

- Coccolo from Japan with a system that enables LED lamps to communicate with each other and automatically dim if there is more light in the room than needed

- wi-GO from Portugal with a robotic cart designed to improve the mobility of people with special needs by using motors and sensors powered by Kinect

- Symbiosis from Greece, which provides therapy for Alzheimer’s patients through augmented reality and provides support to all people affected by Alzheimer’s, such as caregivers and doctors

Australia's Team StethoCloud, which created a digital stethoscope, placed in the top 20.

Source: http://www.techworld.com.au/article/430055/artificial_intelligence_app_helps_blind_people/?fp=16&fpid=1

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Founded by Russian entrepreneur Dmitry Itskov in February 2011 with the participation of leading Russian specialists in the field of neural interfaces, robotics, artificial organs and systems.

The main goals of the 2045 Initiative: the creation and realization of a new strategy for the development of humanity which meets global civilization challenges; the creation of optimale conditions promoting the spiritual enlightenment of humanity; and the realization of a new futuristic reality based on 5 principles: high spirituality, high culture, high ethics, high science and high technologies. 

The main science mega-project of the 2045 Initiative aims to create technologies enabling the transfer of a individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality. We devote particular attention to enabling the fullest possible dialogue between the world’s major spiritual traditions, science and society.

A large-scale transformation of humanity, comparable to some of the major spiritual and sci-tech revolutions in history, will require a new strategy. We believe this to be necessary to overcome existing crises, which threaten our planetary habitat and the continued existence of humanity as a species. With the 2045 Initiative, we hope to realize a new strategy for humanity's development, and in so doing, create a more productive, fulfilling, and satisfying future.

The "2045" team is working towards creating an international research center where leading scientists will be engaged in research and development in the fields of anthropomorphic robotics, living systems modeling and brain and consciousness modeling with the goal of transferring one’s individual consciousness to an artificial carrier and achieving cybernetic immortality.

An annual congress "The Global Future 2045" is organized by the Initiative to give platform for discussing mankind's evolutionary strategy based on technologies of cybernetic immortality as well as the possible impact of such technologies on global society, politics and economies of the future.


Future prospects of "2045" Initiative for society


The emergence and widespread use of affordable android "avatars" controlled by a "brain-computer" interface. Coupled with related technologies “avatars’ will give people a number of new features: ability to work in dangerous environments, perform rescue operations, travel in extreme situations etc.
Avatar components will be used in medicine for the rehabilitation of fully or partially disabled patients giving them prosthetic limbs or recover lost senses.


Creation of an autonomous life-support system for the human brain linked to a robot, ‘avatar’, will save people whose body is completely worn out or irreversibly damaged. Any patient with an intact brain will be able to return to a fully functioning  bodily life. Such technologies will  greatly enlarge  the possibility of hybrid bio-electronic devices, thus creating a new IT revolution and will make  all  kinds of superimpositions of electronic and biological systems possible.


Creation of a computer model of the brain and human consciousness  with the subsequent development of means to transfer individual consciousness  onto an artificial carrier. This development will profoundly change the world, it will not only give everyone the possibility of  cybernetic immortality but will also create a friendly artificial intelligence,  expand human capabilities  and provide opportunities for ordinary people to restore or modify their own brain multiple times.  The final result  at this stage can be a real revolution in the understanding of human nature that will completely change the human and technical prospects for humanity.


This is the time when substance-independent minds will receive new bodies with capacities far exceeding those of ordinary humans. A new era for humanity will arrive!  Changes will occur in all spheres of human activity – energy generation, transportation, politics, medicine, psychology, sciences, and so on.

Today it is hard to imagine a future when bodies consisting of nanorobots  will become affordable  and capable of taking any form. It is also hard to imagine body holograms featuring controlled matter. One thing is clear however:  humanity, for the first time in its history, will make a fully managed evolutionary transition and eventually become a new species. Moreover,  prerequisites for a large-scale  expansion into outer space will be created as well.


Key elements of the project in the future

• International social movement
• social network immortal.me
• charitable foundation "Global Future 2045" (Foundation 2045)
• scientific research centre "Immortality"
• business incubator
• University of "Immortality"
• annual award for contribution to the realization of  the project of "Immortality”.

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