15.August 2018 NEW YORKNow67°F
AdminAugust 14, 2018


Who amongst you have never experienced staying up late just to browse your newsfeed on Facebook or just to play online games on your mobile phone? Admit or not, we are somewhat addicted to doing these things and having broadband Internet just snowballs it further.

Sleep deprivation is an ever-increasing problem in some of the developed countries. In worst case scenarios, this can cause impaired cognition and may result in some serious consequences.

The reasons for this shortage of sleep can be attributed to so many factors. For instance, there is overtime at work, stress, and interpersonal relationships. In a recent study, it was claimed that access to broadband Internet is partly to be blamed for this occurrence.

broadband Internet

Researchers Discover a New-found Cause of Sleep Deprivation

To find out more about this growing problem, Francesco Billari, who is a professor of demography at Milan’s Bocconi University, led a research team to study the correlation in Germany, a country which has an extensive survey data on the technology use and sleeping pattern of its citizens. According to a 2016 Report, Germany had lost about 200,000 working days because of insufficient sleep, which amounted to an economic loss of $60 billion or about 1.6% of the country’s GDP.

Billari, along with colleagues Luca Stella from Bocconi University and Osea Giuntella from the University of Pittsburgh, published their study in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. In their study, they found that having access to broadband Internet is one of the causes of the sleep shortage that is widespread today.

In a study funded by the European Research Council, it was stated that individuals with broadband Internet tend to sleep 25 minutes less than individuals who don’t have broadband Internet. As a matter of fact, they are less likely to sleep for about 7 to 9 hours, which is the recommended amount of sleep by the scientific community. Moreover, they are also less likely to be satisfied with their sleep.

New-found Cause of Sleep Deprivation

Who are Most Likely to be Susceptible

Now, this is typically true for individuals who both are facing time constraints during the day, such as having school or work and are engaged in a constant and uninterrupted use of electronic devices during night time.

“Digital temptations may lead some people to delay their sleep time, which ultimately decreases the duration of sleep for individuals who are not able to compensate for later bedtime since they wake up early in the morning,” Professor Billari explained.

The temptation that some individuals are susceptible to actually varies depending on the age group they are included in. For teenagers and young adults, or those who are aged 13 to 30, they are almost certainly prone to spending most nights playing computer games or watching TV or videos, whereas older adults, or those who are aged 31 to 59, are inclined to spending most of their evenings using their personal computer and smartphones.

Most Likely to be Susceptible

The Conclusion of the Study

Upon the conclusion of their study, the researchers were able to finally determine how sleep deprivation is connected to broadband Internet access by means of comparing this to high-speed Internet penetration in a country.

What the researchers found is that broadband Internet access encourages excessive electronic media usage, which is proven to have damaging effects on sleep quality and duration. In addition, these effects were mostly visible in younger age demographics.

Indeed, having access to a high-speed Internet makes it very tempting to stay up and play games or surf the web. However, we should also be aware of the detrimental effects that it may bring to our bodies. In order to prevent further damage from happening, there should be an awareness of the importance of having a quality sleep. Let’s promote healthier sleep for everyone’s well-being.

AdminAugust 13, 2018


One of the most complex occupations that are in demand today is software engineers or software developers. Now, these developers use various tools for each of their projects, especially in handling millions of lines of computer codes. They run those codes using different tools in order to help edit, construct and test systems and also for project management to get their programs running smoothly.

A team of computer scientists at the University of British Columbia has turned Amazon’s Alexa into a tool for software developers, making the virtual assistant take care of some routine programming tasks, which helps to increase their productivity and accelerate workflow.

Amazon Alexa Assistant to Software Developers

The Origin of the Idea

Switching between different tools can become fairly complicated because each tool uses a unique syntax and you have to be familiar with how they are put together.

According to Nick Bradley, who is the lead researcher for this research, “The idea to use Alexa came out of my frustration from using these different tools and having to spend so much time looking up how to do it and use those tools together.”

Bradley, along with computer science professors Reid Holmes and Thomas Fritz, decided to do an experiment to find out whether Amazon’s Alexa could help with this process. They sought to provide software engineers with an easy and conversational language that they could use to ask Alexa to accomplish some of their tasks in the same way that you would ask the virtual assistant for a weather forecast or to play your favorite songs.

Bradley and his colleagues said that it was more than just training Alexa with some important phrases and mapping different commands to the work, they also had to determine the usual multi-step tasks that software engineers are performing and then create a system that is capable of automating those tasks. After going through all of that, the researchers then asked 21 engineers from local Vancouver software companies to try out their system and evaluate it.

The Origin of the Idea

Setbacks or Hurdles

The tool was indeed useful and provided lots of positive feedback; however, there was still one stumbling block. As stated by Bradley, “The biggest problem with this venture was using voice commands in an office setting since they found it distracting to their neighbors.”

According to the computer scientists, their next development will be to create a chatbot that will carry out a similar function so that engineers can type nominal requests and have the system execute their multi-step tasks in order for them to focus on the more important parts of their jobs.

Setbacks or Hurdles

The Goal of the Research

Reid Holmes, who is a computer science professor at the University of British Columbia and one of the contributors in this research, says that their research is part of an endeavor to figure out how software engineers carry out their jobs.

“The pace of change in the software field is so fast that engineers don’t have time to be introspective and think about the way they work,” he said. “Our job in academia is to step back and really think about how we can better support engineers to quickly and correctly build the kinds of software we depend upon in our modern society. Systems keep getting larger and more complex and using personal assistants could be one way to help developers be more effective in this fast-paced environment.”

The Goal of the Research

Bradley and his colleagues also acknowledge that these virtual assistants could also be programmed to work for people with a different profession like accounting, law, or even medicine.

These virtual assistants are indeed most flexible; in fact, I can just imagine seeing a doctor who is reading a patient’s medical history and asking Alexa to look for relevant information on the patient’s condition so that he or she can go on doing other critical tasks.

AdminAugust 11, 2018


Over time, the traffic situation in the city is becoming more and more frustrating as the population continues to explode. When it comes to driving in the city, being caught in traffic is really undesirable.

Traffic Light System

Luckily, some researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have come up with a solution. They have claimed that they have discovered a way to reduce a city driver’s travel time by up to 40%, as well as lower carbon emission, lessen congestion, and prevent accidents.

Virtual Traffic Lights and How it Works

Virtual Traffic Lights, which is an emerging vehicle-to-vehicle technology, is primarily designed for road efficiency. The concept behind it is to transfer the traffic control from fixed street signals to the cars themselves.

virtual traffic

“This technology basically buys you universal traffic control in each intersection,” Ozan Tonguz, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, explained. “The system makes traffic lights smart in the sense that it takes into consideration the number of vehicles that are present in each direction, and so it adjusts the cycle duration.”

In addition, Tonguz said that Virtual Traffic Light technology can be used as a standalone technology for traffic management. He even added, “The Virtual Traffic Light could also be used in combination with autonomous cars and congestion pricing, which is used by IBM and several other companies in different countries to mitigate congestion during rush hours.”

To explain how the technology actually works, Ozan Tonguz has provided a simple explanation: “When the driver is looking through the windshield, they’ll see that going straight is a green light, and turning right is a red light. It’s a seamless process as the driver doesn’t need to get involved in this decision-making process.”

After the driver has passed through the intersection, the virtual traffic light will automatically disappear.

Goals of Virtual Traffic Lights

The startup company truly has something going on with this technology, and they have a very venerable set of goals like aiming for a greener environment, for instance.

The most important goal of Virtual Traffic Lights is to give people their life back. Surely, most people believe that time is precious. Time lost cannot be taken back, after all. The average driver spends 15 hours each week just commuting. Now, wouldn’t it be nice to cut that time in half and give people more time to spend with their loved ones?

Traffic signs

Since less time is being spent on the road, we have more time to spend doing what we love to do; there is increased productivity not only in work but also in the personal lives of people. That is another goal of Virtual Traffic Lights.

Another goal is to improve general safety and reduce traffic fatalities. Because the technology can effectively function as a traffic system anywhere and because traffic lights at every intersection improve safety, there is a substantial increase in safety on highways and other road segments.

As mentioned earlier, having a greener environment is also a goal of Virtual Traffic Lights. Because drivers spend less time on the road, it leads to less pollution and reduction in carbon footprint of vehicles.

Lastly, Virtual Traffic Lights hope to improve the health and quality of life of people. It cannot be denied that traffic tends to induce stress, road rage, and pollution; all of which are bad for people’s health. And so if people spend less time getting stuck in traffic, their health and quality of life are considerably improved.

When it Will Be Available in the Market

Trafic It isn’t clear yet when the Virtual Traffic Lights will be sold in the market since it hasn’t been tested in a real-world setting. In fact, the biggest obstacle of Virtual Traffic Lights is to get the government to test the system in the real world.

When asked about it, Tonguz only said, “In my mind, the argument here is so compelling, the benefits so compelling; it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when.”

AdminAugust 10, 2018


X-ray vision is one of the world’s most popular superpowers. Young boys all over the world, at some point, even wished to have this superpower but could only resign to daydreaming about it.

X-ray vision

Presently, that is about to change because, for the past ten years, scientists from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT are doing their best to bring us closer to seeing through walls.

AI that Equates to Having a Superpower

The “RF-Pose”, which is the latest project of a team of scientists at MIT, uses artificial intelligence in order to instruct wireless devices to sense people’s poses and gestures, even when they are obstructed from view.

The team uses a neural network in order to analyze radio signals, which usually bounce off people’s bodies, and then generate a dynamic stick figure that walks, sits, and stands as the person performs those actions. Moreover, the system doesn’t even have to see to know how someone is walking, sitting, or standing.

In order to train the neural network, the MIT scientists collected samples of people walking using both wireless signal pings and cameras. Now, those camera footages were processed to create stick figures to substitute real people.

The scientists complemented that data with radio waves, and that combined data was used by researchers to teach the neural network. With a deep-seated connection between the stick figures and the RF data, stick figures are successfully created based on radio wave reflections.

RF data

Fascinatingly, the camera can’t actually see through the walls. So, it is clear that the system was never explicitly trained in recognizing people on the other side of an obstacle. The only reason that it works is that the radio waves bounce off a person on the other side of a wall, just like how they would do when they’re in the same room. Moreover, the system also works with many people crossing paths.

Overcoming the Challenges

One of the hurdles that the scientists had to overcome is that a majority of neural networks are trained using data labeled by hand; for instance, a neural network that is taught to recognize dogs needs people to look at a big dataset of images and label each one as either “dog” or “not dog”. Manually labeling radio signals, on the other hand, proves to be quite difficult.


So as to deal with this concern, the scientists gathered images of people doing activities like standing, walking, sitting, and opening doors. Afterward, they used these images to generate stick figures, which they presented to the neural network together with the matching radio signal. This enabled the system to learn the connection between the radio signal and the stick figures of the people in the scene.

Practical Uses of RF-Pose

According to the scientists, there are quite a few practical applications for RF-Pose; one of them is to monitor diseases, such as Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy, in order to provide a better understanding of the disease and will allow doctors to make modifications to the medications correspondingly.


The scientists also said that RF-Pose could also help elderly people live more independently by offering an extra security of monitoring for falls, injuries, and changes in activity patterns.

At present, the team is working with doctors to discover future applications of RF-Pose in health care. Apart from health care, the scientists state that RF-Pose could possibly be used for new classes of video games and also in search-and-rescue missions that would need help in locating survivors. Now that’s what I would call a superhero power.

AdminAugust 8, 2018


There’s an old adage that says, “Where there’s a water source, there are pests.” Indeed, that is true, especially for cockroaches. I’m not really sure if you’re aware, but a cockroach can survive underwater for up to 30 minutes. It’s one of their coolest attributes.

Now, researchers at Harvard University decided to draw inspiration from that attribute and create a robotic cockroach, which is called Harvard’s Ambulatory Microrobot (HAMR), with the ability to walk on land, swim on the water surface, and walk underwater for as long as required.

About HAMR

The Harvard’s Ambulatory Microrobot, or commonly known as HAMR, weighs a measly 1.65 gram and is tremendously small. Despite that, it can carry 1.44 gram of extra weight without sinking. In fact, the robot’s size is the foundation of its operation. If it were bigger than it is now, it would have been difficult to support the robot with surface tension. On the other hand, if the robot were smaller than its current size, it might not be able to produce adequate force to break the surface tension.

Harvard’s Ambulatory Microrobot

The Technology in HAMR

To learn more about what makes the HAMR work, here is an explanation from The Harvard Gazette: “The HAMR makes use of multifunctional foot pads that rely chiefly on surface tension and surface tension-induced buoyancy when it is time for the HAMR to swim, but it can also apply a voltage to break the water surface when it is necessary for HAMR to sink. This procedure is known as electrowetting, which is the reduction of the contact angle between a material and the water surface when a certain voltage is applied.”

Source: Harvard

The HAMR’s multifunctional feet, which actually gives it its terrain flexibility, is made of electrowetting pads (EWP). The goal of electrowetting is to reduce the surface tension in a liquid-solid interaction by means of electricity. That is to say, an electric charge makes it possible for materials to break a water surface.

With the robot’s electrowetting pads underwater and activated, the HAMR is able to move across the water surface. Having four pairs of asymmetric flaps and customized swimming gaits, the HAMR propels in a manner that is quite similar to a diving beetle.

Technology in HAMR

Rooms for Improvement

Now, one of the major hurdles for the engineers was getting the HAMR to move from walking underwater to the surface again. The issue was with the water tension since it would weigh down on the tiny HAMR with a force twice its weight.

The answer to that problem was to stiffen the robot’s transmission and to install soft pads on HAMR’s front legs, mainly because the new pads allowed for friction redistribution. Doing all of that enables HAMR when treading slowly up a small underwater slope, to penetrate the surface and walk onto dry land.

Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory

Kevin Chen of the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory stated that they are looking forward to the day that these HAMR robots could eventually be used in rescue and emergency situations. Indeed, it is quite possible that it could happen, and it might just be sooner than we think.

AdminAugust 7, 2018


Some of you might have a fear of cockroaches. Most times you might feel like your heart would stop or that you might want to run away whenever you see a cockroach, but what if that same cockroach is running to save you?

A team of researchers at UC Berkeley has designed a prototype of a robot that looks just like a cockroach. The robot, which is called CRAM (Comprehensive Robot with Articulated Mechanisms), is thought to be the first step in creating an extremely effective search-and-rescue robot.

fear of cockroaches


What Exactly is CRAM?

The team of researchers at UC Berkeley has named their creation CRAM, which is a robot prototype that has a jointed exoskeleton and a soft casing that enables it to shapeshift and squeeze into small spaces.

Similar to a cockroach, CRAM can get through areas that are less than half its height while still maintaining full speed. They can achieve this feat by using various parts of their legs to push themselves depending on their stance.

It will be a while, of course, before CRAM can manage feats like squeezing into crevices that are 1/10th of an inch, although the findings on the tests conducted on the prototype show great promise. At present, CRAM is still in the prototype stage and hasn’t been tested in any real-world setting. According to one of the researchers, the next phase is to find out which materials would be most effective in a disaster situation. In due course, CRAM may be equipped with a wider range of movement, such as the ability to turn, jump, and climb.

To ascertain how the body of the robotic cockroach responds to different situations, the researchers constructed a series of experiments. They created three custom apparatus, with each apparatus aiming to emphasize a specific element of movement: “crevice traversal”, “confined-space crawling”, and the reactions of cockroaches to “dynamic compressive forces” while moving.

The “crevice traversal” apparatus assessed the movements of the cockroach in tiny horizontal spaces, whereas the “confined-space crawling” apparatus assessed their movements in tiny vertical spaces. Based on the study, the cockroaches were able to keep on moving swiftly in horizontal spaces that are as small as 3mm and 4mm in vertical spaces.

The team also tested the exoskeleton of the cockroach by applying force on its body as it was trying to pass through a tight space. They discovered that the cockroaches can withstand a force of 300 times their body weight even when squeezing into the narrowest spaces and a force of 900 times their body weight without incurring any damage.

The findings on these tests alerted the researchers to a new form of movement, which they call “body-friction legged crawling”. The cockroaches moved efficiently when subjected to an “intermediate” level of friction by using a mixture of “body drag” and “friction-dominated leg thrust”.

The researchers captured these tests on film and in slow motion in order to see clearly what was happening to the bodies of the cockroaches while they moved. The results contributed to the conception of the design of the prototype, which is roughly the size of a person’s palm, and made of poster board and polyester.

What Exactly is CRAM?

What Inspired the Creation of CRAM?

Robert Full, who is a professor at Berkeley, and his student Kaushik Jayaram had the inspiration from the extraordinarily flexible cockroach to create a robot version with an exoskeleton that enables it to be compressed to less than half its height so that it can get through confined spaces.

In a paper that was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, both professor and student showed how a cockroach is able to get its body through tight spaces and still keep moving, owing chiefly to an exoskeleton made of soft materials.

The researchers conducted a series of experiments and eventually built a device from several folding exoskeleton-like plates. They hypothesize that its flexibility and strength could make it perfect for searching collapsed buildings.

What Inspired the Creation of CRAM?

What Makes CRAM the Perfect Rescue Robot?

Furthermore, Jayaram and Full thought that the unique way that a cockroach moves and its universal resistance to destruction make it the best design for a search-and-rescue robot since a rescue bot would need to be able to go through rubble and cramped spaces. To further prove his point, Full even stated: “Cockroaches are great at revealing nature’s secrets about design.”

The experiment also showed a significant and new trend in robotics. Many scientists and corporations are quickly becoming fascinated in soft or malleable robot designs because of the different physical benefits they present.

By now, I bet that if you happened to be trapped under a pile of trouble, this little cockroach might be the one thing you’d want to see scurrying towards you.

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