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Google tests AI app to help vision-impaired people run unassisted

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google tests ai app to help vision impaired people run unassisted

Google is testing a new app that will allow blind people to run on their own without a guide dog or human assistant. 

Project Guideline uses a phone’s camera to track a guideline on a course and then sends audio cues to the user via bone-conducting headphones.

If the runner strays too far from the center, the sound will get louder on whichever side they’re favoring.

Still in the prototype phase, Project Guideline was developed at a Google hackathon last year when a blind runner asked developers to design a program that would allow him to jog independently.

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The app uses a phone's camera to track a painted line and then sends audio cues via bone-conducting headphones if a runner strays too far to the left or right

The app uses a phone's camera to track a painted line and then sends audio cues via bone-conducting headphones if a runner strays too far to the left or right

The app uses a phone’s camera to track a painted line and then sends audio cues via bone-conducting headphones if a runner strays too far to the left or right

Thomas Panek, CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, began losing his vision when he was just 8 years old and was legally blind by the time he was a teenager.

While Panek remained active and independent, he had to give up running, one of his passions.

Eventually he heard about running with human guides, who are tethered in front of a vision-impaired runner.

‘I even qualified for the New York City and Boston Marathons five years in a row,’ he wrote in a Google blog post. But as grateful as I was to my human guides, I wanted more independence.’

Thomas Panek, who is blind, tasked Google with creating an app to help him to run independently. Here he uses the Project Guideline app via a phone attached to his harness

Thomas Panek, who is blind, tasked Google with creating an app to help him to run independently. Here he uses the Project Guideline app via a phone attached to his harness

Thomas Panek, who is blind, tasked Google with creating an app to help him to run independently. Here he uses the Project Guideline app via a phone attached to his harness

At a Google hackathon in fall 2019, Panek asked designers if they could devise technology to help a blind person run independently.

He didn’t expect much, he admitted, but by the end of the day they had designed a demo that allowed a phone to recognize a line taped to the ground and give audio cues.

Eventually a more sophisticated prototype was produced: The camera on a phone attached to a harness Panek wears uses AI to look for a market on the ground and sends audio signals to him depending on his position.

‘If I drifted to the left of the line, the sound would get louder and more dissonant in my left ear,’ he said. ‘If I drifted to the right, the same thing would happen, but in my right ear.’

Within a few months, and a few adjustments, he was able to run laps on an indoor track without assistance, human or canine.

‘It was the first unguided mile I had run in decades,’ Panek said.

Panek (left) ran marathons tethered to a human guide but he wanted more independence

Panek (left) ran marathons tethered to a human guide but he wanted more independence

 Panek (left) ran marathons tethered to a human guide but he wanted more independence

Panek phone's tracked the line in the road while he tested Project Guideline outdoors. 'I began sprinting on my toes, as fast as my legs could carry me,' he said

Panek phone's tracked the line in the road while he tested Project Guideline outdoors. 'I began sprinting on my toes, as fast as my legs could carry me,' he said

Panek phone’s tracked the line in the road while he tested Project Guideline outdoors. ‘I began sprinting on my toes, as fast as my legs could carry me,’ he said 

The developers then got to work adapting the technology outdoors, where there are a whole new set of obstacles.

Once out on the open road, Panek said, ‘I began sprinting on my toes, as fast as my legs could carry me, down the hill and around a gentle bend in the road.’

The system was able to keep him on course, and with every stride, ‘I felt free, like I was effortlessly running through the clouds.’

Project Guideline doesn’t need an internet connection to work and can account for weather conditions, Endgadget reports. 

Later this month, Panek will attempt to run NYRR’s Virtual Run for Thanks 5K along a painted line in Central Park.

His company, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, pairs seeing-eye dogs with people with vision loss.

A machine-learning algorithm on an Android phone can detect if the runner is to the left, right or center of the guide line.

A machine-learning algorithm on an Android phone can detect if the runner is to the left, right or center of the guide line.

A machine-learning algorithm on an Android phone can detect if the runner is to the left, right or center of the guide line.

But there are millions more people with vision loss than there are available guide dogs.

He hopes Project Guideline can be adapted and expanded to provide independence to more people like him.

‘Collaborating on this project helped me realize a personal dream of mine,’ he said, thanking Google ‘and whoever came up with the idea of a hackathon.’

Google has been increasingly investing in accessibility technology: In October it unveiled Sound Notifications, a new feature for Android that notifies deaf users if there is water running, a dog barking or a fire alarm going off.

Users can be notified about ‘critical’ sounds through push notifications, vibrations on their phone or a flash from their camera light.

While the feature is designed for the estimated 466 million people in the world with hearing loss, it can also help people who are wearing headphones or otherwise distracted.

The company has also expanded Lookout, which can read mail aloud and verbally identify packaged goods.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Video game players are NOT typically obese, but are healthier than the general public, study reveals

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video game players are not typically obese but are healthier than the general public study reveals

Esports players might be viewed as individuals who sit around, eat junk food and guzzle down sugary drinks, but a new study finds these gamers are just the opposite.

A team from Queensland University of Technology uncovered uncovered players are up to 21 percent more likely to have a healthier body weight than the average person.

The survey also reveals that esport gamers smoke and drink less than the general public and are significantly more active as a result of certain video games.

Although a majority are in tip top shape, the study did find that 4.03 percent of esports players are more likely to be morbidly obese than the general public.

A team from Queensland University of Technology uncovered uncovered players are up to 21 percent more likely to have a healthier body weight than the average person. The team surveyed 1,400 gamers from 65 countries

A team from Queensland University of Technology uncovered uncovered players are up to 21 percent more likely to have a healthier body weight than the average person. The team surveyed 1,400 gamers from 65 countries

A team from Queensland University of Technology uncovered uncovered players are up to 21 percent more likely to have a healthier body weight than the average person. The team surveyed 1,400 gamers from 65 countries

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) conducted the study by surveying 1,400 gamers from 65 countries in, what they say is, the first study to investigate the BMI (Body Mass Index) status of a global sample of esports players.

QUT esports researcher Michael Trotter said: ‘The findings challenge the stereotype of the morbidly obese gamer.’

‘When you think of esports, there are often concerns raised regarding sedentary behavior and poor health as a result, and the study revealed some interesting and mixed results.’

Trotter and his team collected the surveys and found players were between nine and 21 percent more likely to have a healthier body weight than the general public.

Experts found elite esports athletes spend more than an hour per day engaging in physical exercise as a strategy to enhance gameplay and manage stress

Experts found elite esports athletes spend more than an hour per day engaging in physical exercise as a strategy to enhance gameplay and manage stress

Experts found elite esports athletes spend more than an hour per day engaging in physical exercise as a strategy to enhance gameplay and manage stress

Many work with personal trainers to make sure they stay in shape for their gaming competitions

Many work with personal trainers to make sure they stay in shape for their gaming competitions

Many work with personal trainers to make sure they stay in shape for their gaming competitions 

‘As part of their training regime, elite esports athletes spend more than an hour per day engaging in physical exercise as a strategy to enhance gameplay and manage stress,’ he said.

‘Only top-level players surveyed met physical activity guidelines, with the best players exercising on average four days a week.’

Along with having a healthier body weight, the study found a majority of gamers do not smoke and drink less than the general public as well.

Players are 7.8 percent more likely to abstain from drinking daily, and of those players who do drink, only 0.5 percent reported having a drink daily.

Along with having a healthier body weight, the study found a majority of gamers do not smoke and drink less than the general public as well. Players are 7.8 percent more likely to abstain from drinking daily, and of those players who do drink, only 0.5 percent reported having a drink daily

Along with having a healthier body weight, the study found a majority of gamers do not smoke and drink less than the general public as well. Players are 7.8 percent more likely to abstain from drinking daily, and of those players who do drink, only 0.5 percent reported having a drink daily

Along with having a healthier body weight, the study found a majority of gamers do not smoke and drink less than the general public as well. Players are 7.8 percent more likely to abstain from drinking daily, and of those players who do drink, only 0.5 percent reported having a drink daily

And only 3.7 percent of the gamers said they smoked daily, which is compared to the global 18.7 percent.

‘Exercise and physical activity play a role in success in esports and should be a focus for players and organisations training esports players,’ Trotter said.

‘This will mean that in the future, young gamers will have more reason and motivation to be physically active.

‘Grassroots esports pathways, such as growing university and high school esports, are likely to be the best place for young esports players to develop good health habits for gamers.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Environment: Britain’s first plastic-free lidless disposable and compostable cup launches today

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environment britains first plastic free lidless disposable and compostable cup launches today

A plastic-free, disposable takeaway cup that breaks down completely in soil and has a unique folding top to prevent spills — instead of a lid — launched in the UK today.

Regular paper cups typically come with a plastic lid which must be disposed of separately — and harbour a plastic lining which impairs its recycling.

When plastic is thrown away they can take decades to break down — and release tiny particles called microplastics that further pollute the environment.

In contrast, all parts of the ButterflyCup are entirely composed of paper, with plant-derived inks and a water-based dispersion coating that keeps it from leaking.

As such, it can be composted, or recycled with other paper and cardboard waste.

The novel cup will premiere in the UK at Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) centres across the UK — but it is already being used in 20 countries.

Designer Tommy McLoughlin — who says he hopes the cup will ‘lift the lid on the eco disaster’ — is in talks with several major coffee chains about making use of the cup. 

It is estimated that some 2.5 billion coffee cups are disposed of in the UK each year — with only 1 in 400 actually ending up being recycled.

Moreover, all the plastic lids from these cups, were they stacked on top of each other, would form a tower tall enough to stretch around the entire globe.

A plastic-free, disposable takeaway cup (pictured) that breaks down completely in soil and has a unique folding top to prevent spills — instead of a lid — launched in the UK today

A plastic-free, disposable takeaway cup (pictured) that breaks down completely in soil and has a unique folding top to prevent spills — instead of a lid — launched in the UK today

A plastic-free, disposable takeaway cup (pictured) that breaks down completely in soil and has a unique folding top to prevent spills — instead of a lid — launched in the UK today

‘It is a travesty that, of the billions of coffee cups the UK uses each year, so few get recycled,’ said ButterflyCup CEO and Founder Tommy McLoughlin.

‘We created ButterflyCup to lift the lid on this eco disaster and help solve it.’

‘We believe it is the world’s most environmentally friendly disposable cup, and we hope more coffee outlets across the UK give their customers the option of using it in the near future,’ he added.

‘We are thrilled to be launching in the UK with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, an organisation whose ethos of protecting the natural world we share.’

The ButterflyCup takes its name from its unusual folding design, which can both completely close the top of the cup, in lieu of a lid, and also serve as a built in spout from which to drink, replacing the need for a straw.

This folding design is patented — as is the paper insert held inside the cup which helps to ensure against splashes, leaks and drips — while the specially treated paper, which can hold cold and hot beverages, comes from a special mill in Finland.

According to the designers, each ButterflyCup costs only around one pence more to manufacture than the typical plastic-coated cup and plastic lid — and three pence less than those lined with so-called Polylactic Acid (PLA), with a lid of the same.

PLA is a bioplastic made from a mix of corn starch with some plastic added.

Regular paper cups typically come with a plastic lid which must be disposed of separately — and harbour a plastic lining which impairs their recycling. When plastic is thrown away it can take decades to break down — and release microplastics that further pollute the environment

Regular paper cups typically come with a plastic lid which must be disposed of separately — and harbour a plastic lining which impairs their recycling. When plastic is thrown away it can take decades to break down — and release microplastics that further pollute the environment

Regular paper cups typically come with a plastic lid which must be disposed of separately — and harbour a plastic lining which impairs their recycling. When plastic is thrown away it can take decades to break down — and release microplastics that further pollute the environment

In contrast, all parts of the ButterflyCup (pictured) are entirely composed of paper, with plant-derived inks and a water-based dispersion coating that keeps it from leaking. As such, it can be composted, or recycled with other paper and cardboard waste

In contrast, all parts of the ButterflyCup (pictured) are entirely composed of paper, with plant-derived inks and a water-based dispersion coating that keeps it from leaking. As such, it can be composted, or recycled with other paper and cardboard waste

In contrast, all parts of the ButterflyCup (pictured) are entirely composed of paper, with plant-derived inks and a water-based dispersion coating that keeps it from leaking. As such, it can be composted, or recycled with other paper and cardboard waste

ButterflyCup comes five years after TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall highlighted the difficulties inherent in recycling regular takeaway cups in the BBC documentary ‘Hugh’s War on Waste’.

 ‘Only by changing to a cup that is properly recyclable in the public waste disposal system… can [major coffee chains] justify the bold environmental claims they are making. This is a solvable problem, so let’s see them solve it,’ he said.

‘The sorry truth is, next to none of them are recycled — and the even sorrier fact is that no-one’s taking responsibility for that, least of all the big coffee retailers who have created this takeout trash mountain,’ the chef added. 

The ButterflyCup takes its name from its unusual folding design, which can both completely close the top of the cup, in lieu of a lid, and also serve as a built in spout from which to drink, replacing the need for a straw, as pictured

The ButterflyCup takes its name from its unusual folding design, which can both completely close the top of the cup, in lieu of a lid, and also serve as a built in spout from which to drink, replacing the need for a straw, as pictured

The ButterflyCup takes its name from its unusual folding design, which can both completely close the top of the cup, in lieu of a lid, and also serve as a built in spout from which to drink, replacing the need for a straw, as pictured

‘We are delighted to be using ButterflyCup across all our wetland sites. We have had brilliant feedback from staff and visitors when we trialled it at one of our centres,’ said WWT sustainability head Lucy Smith.

‘We offer a discount for refilling reusable cups but where this is not possible, a fully recyclable and compostable cup provides a great option.’

‘ButtlerflyCups could even be reused for seed planting and then put straight in the soil where they will fully break down.’

‘The product offers a simple but brilliant solution to part of the plastic waste crisis.’

The novel cup will premiere in the UK at Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) centres across the UK — but it is already being used in 20 countries. Designer Tommy McLoughlin — who says he hopes the cup will 'lift the lid on the eco disaster' — is in talks with several major coffee chains

The novel cup will premiere in the UK at Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) centres across the UK — but it is already being used in 20 countries. Designer Tommy McLoughlin — who says he hopes the cup will 'lift the lid on the eco disaster' — is in talks with several major coffee chains

The novel cup will premiere in the UK at Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) centres across the UK — but it is already being used in 20 countries. Designer Tommy McLoughlin — who says he hopes the cup will ‘lift the lid on the eco disaster’ — is in talks with several major coffee chains

WHAT COMMITMENTS ARE BIG NAME BRANCHES MAKING TO CUT DOWN ON SINGLE-USE PLASTIC?

Costa Coffee has promised to recycle as many cups as it puts into the market by 2020 and also offers customers a 25p discount on hot beverages if they bring their own reusable cup.

Pret A Manger offers a 50p discount on hot beverages if people bring their own reusable cup. 

A spokesperson said: ‘We doubled our discount for customers who bring in their own reusable cup to 50p in January 2018 and, since then, usage has increased almost 20-fold. 

‘We now serve over 150,000 drinks in reusable cups every week, and since the discount was doubled, Pret customers have saved over six million paper cups.’

Starbucks offers customers a 25p discount on hot beverages if they bring their own reusable cup

Starbucks offers customers a 25p discount on hot beverages if they bring their own reusable cup

Starbucks offers customers a 25p discount on hot beverages if they bring their own reusable cup

Starbucks offers customers a 25p discount on hot beverages if they bring their own reusable cup. 

The chain has announced its London cafes will trial a redesigned cup that will be both recyclable and compostable.

A spokesman said: ‘Our British stores are the first globally to have trialled a 5p charge on takeaway cups.’ He said reusable cup uptake had risen from 1..8% to more than 5% in the past 18 months. 

Along with McDonald’s it has invested £10m in firms hoping to design a sustainable alternative to the disposable cup.

Caffè Nero  says that, along with its competitors, it is ‘working to increase the number of [coffee cup] recycling points’ in the UK. It also encourages the use of reusable cups by offering 2 stamps per coffee on its loyalty card.

Caffè Nero, Starbucks, Greggs, McDonald’s UK and Pret A Manger are also involved in a cup recycling scheme that funds the collection of takeaway cups for recycling.

Cafe Nero encourage the use of reusable cups by offering 2 stamps per coffee on its loyalty card

Cafe Nero encourage the use of reusable cups by offering 2 stamps per coffee on its loyalty card

Cafe Nero encourage the use of reusable cups by offering 2 stamps per coffee on its loyalty card

But are they doing enough?

Research shows that very few disposable coffee cups get recycled.

The mixture of plastic and paper in the lining, which is designed to make them leakproof and retain the heat, causes difficulties.

In 2011 a survey by Which? Suggested eight out of 10 people mistakenly believed coffee cups could be recycled.

They create tens of thousands of tonnes of landfill every year and hundreds of thousands a day are discarded as litter.

Many people mistakenly think they can be recycled

2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away every year. A minuscule 0.25% are recycled. 

A shocking 25,000 tonnes of waste a year in landfill 

1 in 5 people visit a coffee shop daily. 

 

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Health: Tanning bed use three times a year could increase risk of endometriosis by 30 per cent

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health tanning bed use three times a year could increase risk of endometriosis by 30 per cent

The risk of women developing endometriosis is increased by around 30 per cent by just three sessions a year on a tanning bed, a study has warned.

US Experts found that risk of the painful condition also increased the more women got sunburnt or used sunscreen during their teenage and young adulthood years.

However, the team also found that women living in areas with high levels of UV light — like in the southern US – were less likely to be diagnosed with the disorder.

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Celebrities such as singer Dolly Parton and journalist Emma Barnett have previously spoken out about their experiences with the condition.

The risk of women developing endometriosis is increased by around 30 per cent by just three sessions a year on a tanning bed (pictured), a study has warned

The risk of women developing endometriosis is increased by around 30 per cent by just three sessions a year on a tanning bed (pictured), a study has warned

The risk of women developing endometriosis is increased by around 30 per cent by just three sessions a year on a tanning bed (pictured), a study has warned

‘Prior research into the long-term health consequences of endometriosis has suggested that women with endometriosis are at greater risk of melanoma,’ said paper author and epidemiologist Leslie Farland of the University of Arizona.

‘The exact mechanisms underlying the association between endometriosis and melanoma are not known.’

However, she added, ‘several studies have found a greater risk of endometriosis in women who are sensitive to sunlight, don’t tan easily and have red hair, light eyes, freckling or a high number of moles.’

‘These associations may reflect a common genetic background between endometriosis and melanoma or an underlying association between sun exposure and risk of endometriosis.’

In their study, Professor Farland and colleagues studied 116,429 women who joined the US Nurses’ Health Study II in 1989, when they were aged between 25–42 years.

Every two years up until June 2015, each woman provided updated information on their medical history and their exposure to risk factors for several chronic diseases.

They were also asked about how easily they sunburnt, the number of moles on their legs, and the number of severe sunburns they had  between the ages of 15–20.

In 1993, participants also provided information on their use of sunscreen, and in 2005 were asked about their use of tanning beds during their teenage and early adult years, as well as between the ages of 25–35.

The women were also asked whether they had been diagnosed with endometriosis, which is identified by means of by laparoscopy, a minimally invasive procedure to analyse the organs of the abdomen.

Based on the records of the women’s home addresses, the researchers were able to estimate each participant’s annual ambient ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B exposure.

'Several studies have found a greater risk of endometriosis in women who are sensitive to sunlight, don’t tan easily and have red hair, light eyes, freckling or a high number of moles,' noted paper author and epidemiologist Leslie Farland of the University of Arizona

'Several studies have found a greater risk of endometriosis in women who are sensitive to sunlight, don’t tan easily and have red hair, light eyes, freckling or a high number of moles,' noted paper author and epidemiologist Leslie Farland of the University of Arizona

‘Several studies have found a greater risk of endometriosis in women who are sensitive to sunlight, don’t tan easily and have red hair, light eyes, freckling or a high number of moles,’ noted paper author and epidemiologist Leslie Farland of the University of Arizona

In their study, the researchers focussed solely on white women, because of the known racial and ethnic disparities in endometriosis diagnosis and differences in the influence of UVA and UVB light on different races.

Of this cohort of 95,080 women, there were 4,791 cases of endometriosis diagnosed during the period of the data collection.

The team found that — compared to women who never used tanning beds — those who partook six or more times a year when they were teenagers and young adults had a 19 per cent increased risk of endometriosis.

Furthermore, those who reported using them six or more times a year between the ages of 25–35, were found to have a 24 per cent increased risk of the condition.

And those who used tanning beds three or more times a year across both time periods had a 30 per cent higher risk of developing the painful disorder.

Around five women in every 100 might develop endometriosis over the average follow-up period — of nearly 14 years per person — if they had never used tanning beds as teenagers, young adults or between the ages of 25 and 35, the team said.

However, they warned, nearly seven women in 100 would develop the condition if they used tanning beds more than three times a year.

A history of having five or more severe sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 was associated with a 12 percent increase in the risk of endometriosis, as compared to women who were never sunburnt.

Meanwhile, those who used sunscreen all the time had a 10 per cent higher risk of endometriosis compared with those who never applied such. 

Women who lived in the sunniest parts of the country at birth, 15 years and age 30 had a 19, 21 and 10 per cent reduced risk of endometriosis, respectively, when compared to those living in parts of the US with the least annual sunshine.

‘Our findings suggest that avoiding excessive recreational sun exposure and tanning beds may reduce your endometriosis risk,’ said paper author and epidemiologist Stacey Missmer, of the Michigan State University.

The researchers cautioned that the mechanisms between exposure to the sun and tanning beds and risk of endometriosis are not clear.

Furthermore, the observational nature of the study means that it cannot show that these exposures certainly caused the increased risk of endometriosis.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Human Reproduction.

WHAT IS ENDOMETRIOSIS?

Endometriosis occurs when cells in the lining of the womb are found elsewhere in the body. 

Each month, these cells react in the same way as those in the womb; building up, breaking down and bleeding. Yet, the blood has no way to escape the body.

Symptoms include pain, heavy periods and fatigue, as well as a higher risk of infertility, and bowel and bladder problems.

Its cause is unknown but may be genetic, related to problems with the immune system or exposure to chemicals.

Treatment focuses on pain relief and improving quality of life, which may include surgery or hormone treatment.

Source: Endometriosis UK

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