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Kids with lazy eye can be treated just by letting them watch TV on this special screen

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Amblyopia, commonly called lazy eye, is a medical condition that adversely affects the eyesight of millions, but if caught early can be cured altogether — unfortunately this usually means months of wearing an eyepatch. NovaSight claims successful treatment with nothing more than an hour a day in front of its special display.

The condition amounts to when the two eyes aren’t synced up in their movements. Normally both eyes will focus the detail-oriented fovea part of the retina on whatever object the person is attending to; In those with amblyopia, one eye won’t target the fovea correctly and as a result the eyes don’t converge properly and vision suffers, and if not treated can lead to serious vision loss.

It can be detected early on in children, and treatment can be as simple as covering the good eye with a patch for most of the day, which forces the other eye to adjust and align itself properly. The problem is of course that this is uncomfortable and embarrassing for the kid, and of course only using one eye isn’t ideal for playing schoolyard games and other everyday things.

And you look cool doing it!

NovaSight’s innovation with CureSight is to let this alignment process happen without the eyepatch, instead selectively blurring content the child watches so that the affected eye has to do the work while the other takes a rest.

It accomplishes this with the same technology that, ironically, gave many of us double vision back in the early days of 3D: glasses with blue and red lenses.

Blue-red stereoscopy presents two slightly different versions of the same image, one tinted red and one tinted blue. Normally it would be used with slightly different parallax to produce a binocular 3D image — that’s what many of us saw in theaters or amusement park rides.

In this case, however, one of the two tinted images just has a blurry circle right where the kid is looking. The screen uses a built-in Tobii eye-tracking sensor so it knows where the circle should be; I got to test it out briefly and the circle quickly caught up with my gaze. This makes it so the other eye, affected by the condition but the only one with access to the details of the image, has to be relied on to point where the kid needs it to.

The best part is that there isn’t some treatment schema or tests — kids can literally just watch YouTube or a movie using the special setup, and they’re getting better, NovaSight claims. And it can be done at home on the kid’s schedule — always a plus.

Graphs from NovaSight website.

The company has already done some limited clinical trials that showed “significant improvement” over a 12-week period. Whether it can be relied on to completely cure the condition or if it should be paired with other established treatments will come out in further trials the company has planned.

In the meantime, however, it’s nice to see a technology like 3D displays applied to improving vision rather than promoting bad films. NovaSight has been developing and promoting its tech over the last year; It also has a product that helps diagnose vision problems using a similar application of 3D display tech. You can learn more or request additional info at its website.

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Grave of ancient Iron Age warrior unearthed in ‘incredibly rare’ discovery

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Embargoed to 0001 Wednesday January 29 Undated UCL handout image of a 3D model of the grave of a 2,000 year-old Iron Age "warrior" which was unearthed by archaeologists in West Sussex. PA Photo. Issue date: Wednesday January 29, 2020. The recently-revealed burial site, one of only a handful known in the south of England, featured an iron spear and a sword in a highly decorated scabbard. See PA story HERITAGE Iron. Photo credit should read: UCL/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
A 3D model of the 2,000 year-old Iron Age grave (Image: PA)

Archaeologists are celebrating the discovery of an ‘incredibly rare’ 2,000-year-old grave of an Iron Age ‘warrior’.

The recently-revealed burial site, one of only a handful known in the south of England, featured an iron spear and a sword in a highly decorated scabbard.

The grave was discovered during excavations ahead of the building of 175 new homes near Chichester.

The team that made the discovery were from Archaeology South-East (ASE), the commercial branch of UCL’s Institute of Archaeology.

ASE archaeologist Jim Stevenson, who is managing the post-excavation investigations into the burial, said: ‘There has been much discussion generally as to who the people buried in the ‘warrior’ tradition may have been in life.

‘Were they really warriors, or just buried with the trappings of one?

‘Although the soil conditions destroyed the skeleton, the items discovered within the grave suggest that the occupant had been an important individual.’

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The grave dates back to the late Iron Age/early Roman period (first century BC to AD50).

Embargoed to 0001 Wednesday January 29 Undated UCL handout photo of the excavation of the grave of a 2,000 year-old Iron Age "warrior" which was unearthed by archaeologists in West Sussex. PA Photo. Issue date: Wednesday January 29, 2020. The recently-revealed burial site, one of only a handful known in the south of England, featured an iron spear and a sword in a highly decorated scabbard. See PA story HERITAGE Iron. Photo credit should read: UCL/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
The recently-revealed burial site, one of only a handful known in the south of England, featured an iron spear and a sword in a highly decorated scabbard (Image: PA)
Embargoed to 0001 Wednesday January 29 Undated UCL handout photo of the sword which was unearthed during the excavation of the grave of a 2,000 year-old Iron Age "warrior" by archaeologists in West Sussex. PA Photo. Issue date: Wednesday January 29, 2020. The recently-revealed burial site, one of only a handful known in the south of England, featured an iron spear and a sword in a highly decorated scabbard. See PA story HERITAGE Iron. Photo credit should read: UCL/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Photo of the sword which was unearthed during the excavation (Source: PA)

Archaeologists say it is ‘incredibly rare’, as only a handful are known to exist in the south of England.

X-rays and initial conservation of the sword and scabbard reveal beautiful copper-alloy decoration at the scabbard mouth, which would have been highly visible when the sword was worn in life.

Dotted lines on the X-ray may be the remains of a studded garment worn by the occupant when buried.

This is particularly exciting for the archaeologists, as evidence of clothing rarely survives.

The grave also held the remains of a wooden container, preserved as a dark stain, probably used to lower the individual into the grave.

Embargoed to 0001 Wednesday January 29 Undated UCL handout photo of pots which were unearthed during the excavation of the grave of a 2,000 year-old Iron Age "warrior" by archaeologists in West Sussex. PA Photo. Issue date: Wednesday January 29, 2020. The recently-revealed burial site, one of only a handful known in the south of England, featured an iron spear and a sword in a highly decorated scabbard. See PA story HERITAGE Iron. Photo credit should read: UCL/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
These pots were also found during the dig (Source: PA)

Four ceramic vessels were placed outside this container, but still within the grave. The vessels are jars made from local clays and would usually have been used for food preparation, cooking and storage.

It is likely that they were placed in the grave as containers for funerary offerings, perhaps intended to provide sustenance for the deceased in the afterlife.

Archaeologists are continuing to investigate this new discovery and hope to find out more about the identity and social status of the individual, and the local area and landscape around that time.

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Source: Metro News

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Apple to start online sales in India in Q3 this year

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Apple’s much-awaited online store in India will be operational starting Q3 this year, a little longer than previously expected, a source familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The iPhone-maker said in August last year that it was “eager to serve [customers of India] online and in-store with the same experience and care that Apple customers around the world enjoy.”

While the company never shared a firm timeline on when the online and brick-and-mortar stores would be set up in India, it was originally aiming to start the online sales in the country in the first quarter of this year, the source said. (The Q1 launch timeline was first signaled by Bloomberg, which reported that the operations would begin “within months.”)

An Apple spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

The source said the company was still working on the logistics of setting up the store and that the quarter between July and September was the new tentative deadline. Apple CEO Tim Cook would likely plan an India trip for the announcement, the source said.

The company’s first official physical store in India, to be situated in Mumbai, will take an additional few months of time for setting up and might not be ready by this year, the source said.

India, the world’s second largest smartphone market, eased sourcing norms for single-brand retailers last year, paving the way for companies like Apple to open online stores before they set up presence in the brick-and-mortar market.

Currently, Apple sells its products in India through partnered third-party offline retailers and e-commerce platforms such as Amazon India, Flipkart and Paytm Mall. Prior to New Delhi’s policy change, Apple had requested the government numerous times to relax the local foreign direct investment (FDI) rules.

Apple executives have long expressed disappointment at Amazon India, Flipkart and Paytm Mall for offering heavy discounts on the iPhone and MacBook Air to boost their respective GMV metrics, people familiar with the matter have told TechCrunch.

iPhone shipments in India grew 6% in 2019 compared with a 43% decline in 2018, according to research firm Counterpoint, which projected that the growth would continue this year.

Apple on Tuesday posted a record revenue of $91.8 billion for the quarter that ended in December. Cook said in the earnings call that India was among the markets where the company’s revenue grew in “double-digit.”

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Modified HoloLens helps teach kids with vision impairment to navigate the social world

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Growing up with blindness or low vision can be difficult for kids, not just because they can’t read the same books or play the same games as their sighted peers; Vision is also a big part of social interaction and conversation. This Microsoft research project uses augmented reality to help kids with vision impairment “see” the people they’re talking with.

The challenge people with vision impairment encounter is, of course, that they can’t see the other people around them. This can prevent them from detecting and using many of the nonverbal cues sighted people use in conversation, especially if those behaviors aren’t learned at an early age.

Project Tokyo is a new effort from Microsoft in which its researchers are looking into how technologies like AI and AR can be useful to all people, including those with disabilities. That’s not always the case, though it must be said that voice-powered virtual assistants are a boon to many who can’t as easily use a touchscreen or mouse and keyboard.

The team, which started as an informal challenge to improve accessibility a few years ago, began by observing people traveling to the Special Olympics, then followed that up with workshops involving the blind and low vision community. Their primary realization was of the subtle context sight gives in nearly all situations.

“We, as humans, have this very, very nuanced and elaborate sense of social understanding of how to interact with people — getting a sense of who is in the room, what are they doing, what is their relationship to me, how do I understand if they are relevant for me or not,” said Microsoft researcher Ed Cutrell. “And for blind people a lot of the cues that we take for granted just go away.”

In children this can be especially pronounced, as having perhaps never learned the relevant cues and behaviors, they can themselves exhibit antisocial tendencies like resting their head on a table while conversing, or not facing a person when speaking to them.

To be clear, these behaviors aren’t “problematic” in themselves, as they are just the person doing what works best for them, but they can inhibit everyday relations with sighted people, and it’s a worthwhile goal to consider how those relations can be made easier and more natural for everyone.

The experimental solution Project Tokyo has been pursuing involves a modified HoloLens — minus the lens, of course. The device is also a highly sophisticated imaging device that can identify objects and people if provided with the right code.

The user wears the device like a high-tech headband, and a custom software stack provides them with a set of contextual cues:

  • When a person is detected, say four feet away on the right, the headset will emit a click that sounds like it is coming from that location.
  • If the face of the person is known, a second “bump” sound is made and the person’s name announced (again, audible only to the user).
  • If the face is not known or can’t be seen well, a “stretching” sound is played that modulates as the user directs their head towards the other person, ending in a click when the face is centered on the camera (which also means the user is facing them directly).
  • For those nearby, an LED strip shows a white light in the direction of a person who has been detected, and a green light if they have been identified.

Other tools are being evaluated, but this set is a start, and based on a case study with a game 12-year-old named Theo, they could be extremely helpful.

Microsoft’s post describing the system and the team’s work with Theo and others is worth reading for the details, but essentially Theo began to learn the ins and outs of the system and in turn began to manage social situations using cues mainly used by sighted people. For instance, he learned that he can deliberately direct his attention at someone by turning his head towards them, and developed his own method of scanning the room to keep tabs on those nearby — neither one possible when one’s head is on the table.

That kind of empowerment is a good start, but this is definitely a work in progress. The bulky, expensive hardware isn’t exactly something you’d want to wear all day, and naturally different users will have different needs. What about expressions and gestures? What about signs and menus? Ultimately the future of Project Tokyo will be determined, as before, by the needs of the communities who are seldom consulted when it comes to building AI systems and other modern conveniences.

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