Gadgets, games and computer industry news. Including building the ultimate dance anthem, smartphones helping people with autism cope with anxiety, and food labelling developments.
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MUSIC PLAYS THROUGH EARPHONES
All right. Don't bore us. Get to the chorus!
This week on Click, we're using data from the dancefloor
to build the ultimate dance anthem, live.
Should be right up my street.
We take a look at the smartphone tech
that's helping people with autism cope with anxiety.
And we have some fresh developments in food labelling
that should stop you munching on mush. Plus we'll bring you
some very random moments from your past, in Webscape.
Welcome to Click. I'm Spencer Kelly.
And welcome to the London Science Museum.
We're here because Click and this other famous institution
are teaming up for a unique experiment. Come on.
We talk a lot on this programme about data analysis
and crowdsourcing and its myriad applications.
But we did want to have a play ourselves.
So we're putting on our own democratic dance event in this room.
Now, that over there is LJ Rich. You probably recognise her
from all the music hacking she's done for us over the years.
She's been very busy over the last few weeks
trying to use the power of coding
to scientifically create the ultimate dance anthem.
LJ, hit it.
DANCE MUSIC PLAYS
Who knows more when it comes to music -
It's a question I've been obsessed with for a while.
Dance music's all about making people feel good,
and if the audience could control the music,
maybe we'd learn something.
Perhaps we could use that data to make the ultimate floorfiller.
That data could help to compose some epic tunes
that I think people would universally enjoy.
I blogged about my quest,
and thus the Democratic Dance Music experiment was born.
Time to enlist some fellow hackers on my musical journey.
The Dance For Science Alliance.
First up, my crude analysis of commercial dance tracks
with a wide appeal. Yep, spreadsheets!
The most popular tracks were slower than I thought -
between 125 and 129 beats per minute.
I also collected data on the kinds of sounds and song structures
common to the most popular tracks.
Among other things, these songs all have a theme...
and a drop.
So I composed some tunes based on my analysis.
These tunes go to Adam.
His programme will play a specific piece of each track.
Which piece depends on commands sent by Rob's machine.
Now, Rob's computer should let dancers
press a button on their mobile screen to control the music.
When 80% of the audience press a button on their phone screen,
a command goes to Adam's machine to trigger the drop,
or introduce the bass, in more formal language.
Emi is working on a generative visual display
based on the output from Adam's computer.
It's a mammoth undertaking.
It's going to be amazing.
But there's a lot that could go wrong.
A few weeks in, and we're checking out the space.
Turns out the Science Museum has a rather spiffing sound system.
Techies David and John hook us up
while we each work on our respective areas.
And before we know it, the event is upon us.
Word has got out about our little experiment,
and attendance is nearly a third higher than usual.
There's clearly something about my idea that, er, strikes a chord.
You have a sort of narrow band
in which you want to keep your listeners.
When people know that the drop is going to happen,
that will be more pleasurable than when they don't know.
Raising their level of arousal
and then subsequently bringing them back down
to a kind of warm homely feeling
where they feel that their expectations have been confirmed.
And expectations are high.
A month's solid work, and we still haven't had a chance
to fully test our six-computered, eight-handed hack.
It's 40 minutes to go.
We are trying to finish all of the coding,
all of the cutting up of the pieces and everything
before the public come in and start experimenting with us.
Er...I'm actually terrified,
and I'm also really super-excited at the same time.
Just have to hope everything's working!
Time to load our audience.
We're asking them to connect to our network
and keep a finger pressed on their smartphone screen.
We'll track the motion sensor on their phone,
and from that derive the "wiggle index".
'People will be able to control the music
'when the drop button becomes available.
I think we've actually got more than eight people participating.
'I sense a tiny problem with our system.'
Oh, er, the wifi is being broadcast from a laptop,
and when people are trying to join, everyone's kicking each other off,
and it seems to be capping out at about eight.
It even kicked off our laptop here that's running on the screens.
If you can't get online, don't worry - we're sorting it out.
OK. We've done our first session.
Our wifi fell over, predictably enough.
I mean, when you're working with so many different things
and there's not enough time to get those redundancies checked out,
things are bound to go wrong.
But the show must go on.
It's not my first time on one of these stages,
and we're actually 80% working.
I have a contingency plan - manual measurement.
So, essentially, we're now doing what DJs do -
reading signals from the crowd - albeit more overtly.
Everything else works, the visuals look great,
and the crowd seem to like the music.
Every time we do a project that's something that's never been done,
we realise halfway through, "There's a reason
"why no-one's ever done this - because it's so difficult."
But, er...people are still really getting into it
and we're getting usable data, which is what we were after,
so I'm pretty pleased.
On the night, maybe we couldn't do the actual mobile phone things,
but we've still got some useful research.
And we're going to try it again.
'Much of that useful research
'is how to make this work better for next time.
'Essentially, we beta-tested in public.
'We are optimistic that we can find the elusive wiggle index,
'so we're planning on giving the Dance For Science Alliance
'another outing. After all, we can't keep this guy waiting forever.'
LJ Rich. And a few technical glitches are to be expected,
of course, when you are that close to the cutting edge of science.
Don't worry - LJ and her team of hackers will be back soon,
so watch this space. Actually, coding and tech development
can sometimes be more about the journey than the destination.
Talking of which...
this super-smooth video of a New York walk
has been created using Instagram's new app Hyperlapse.
It is really hard to keep a camera dead steady as it is,
but over a journey of a number of minutes it's even harder.
Well, Hyperlapse uses some pretty clever processing
to produce a much more watchable result.
Once you've recorded your journey,
you can decide how fast you want the final video to run.
Now, the app itself looks pretty simple,
but what's going on behind the scenes inside your smartphone
is actually quite impressive.
When video footage shakes, if you think about it,
the middle part of the picture stays pretty similar.
So by zooming in a bit and twisting a bit when you need to
and then getting rid of all those wobbly edges,
you can create smooth, albeit slightly lower resolution, video.
Now, this kind of technology has been available on computers
for a while. That's why Click looks so fantastically smooth every week.
The smartphone version, though, has an extra trick up its sleeve,
by mixing in data from the phone's built-in gyroscope
as well as analysing the video footage.
And because you're speeding the video up,
the app can throw away frames which would make the end result shaky,
giving those videos a ghostly smoothness.
This is not a video sharing app.
This is actually a creative tool that you can use with Instagram
or with other social networks.
The idea was that it was a fantastic creative tool
that was created as a hack in our office.
Engineers just started playing with our technology,
and found a really good method of using it.
You've previously needed really high-powered technology,
not a smartphone, to do this, and this was the test
that came alongside the video compression technology
that we already had in Instagram. And when you link the two together,
you've got this really fantastic creative tool.
And that's how this was born.
It looks like Instagram is trying to steal a march on Apple's iOS 8,
due out this autumn, which also touts a timelapse feature.
Microsoft has also demo-ed a similar technology a few weeks ago,
and it says it's working on putting it in an app for Windows phones.
Instagram does plan to release an Android version of its app,
but until then, you will have to have an iPhone
to create your Hyperlapses.
Very cool, and we'd love to see
what you can do with this kind of feature.
So tweet us @bbcclick
or email your results to [email protected]
Next up, a look at this week's tech news.
A safety advisor at Facebook is going to call on the company
to introduce safeguards to prevent users coming across gruesome images.
Users have complained about violent images from a part of Syria
controlled by the jihadist group Islamic State.
Facebook initially refused to delete the images,
saying they didn't contravene its guidelines,
but later blocked the material after being contacted by the BBC.
Google has shown off delivery drones it's been developing
in secret for two years.
Project Wing could rival Amazon's delivery drone plans,
announced last year.
Google says the longer-term goal is to use the drones
to drop disaster relief into isolated areas.
Project Wing came out of Google's
clandestine research centre Google X,
where its autonomous car was also developed.
And you can finally achieve that perfect dog point-of-view video
with the Fetch, from GoPro.
The harness securely holds a GoPro camera on a dog's back or chest
if they weigh between 15 and 120 lbs.
No fur is pinched, and it has padded adjustment points.
But please do note, it's not designed for cats,
so no cat videos, please.
We've all been in situations which make us nervous,
but for a person living with autism,
noisy, busy environments can cause overwhelming anxiety.
But researchers at the University of Lancaster
have been working on a device which may just help,
and Victoria Gill has been to meet them.
Just mopping the cup, son.
'Like one in every hundred people in the UK,
'Valerie lives with autism.
'She was diagnosed 15 years ago at age 37,
'so it was only at that point she realised what it was
'that affected how she made sense of the world.'
'Having autism can make my life difficult.
'I sometimes do not understand what people are saying to me.'
I don't know where we're all going to sit, though.
'When I am going somewhere new
'or doing something I have never done before,
'I start to think about it too much and start to get worried.
'Going out in the community can be difficult for me.'
A trip to the shops is something a lot of us just take in our stride,
but for many people who live with autism, the unpredictability
of a high street like this can be a source of huge anxiety.
So what if there was something that many of us keep with us all the time,
that could alleviate this social stress?
Researchers at Lancaster University have combined what looks like
a stress ball, a pressure-sensitive squeezable game controller,
with a smartphone app to develop a prototype piece of technology
that could help people escape episodes of crippling social anxiety.
The squeezy ball is connected via Bluetooth to the smartphone.
And the smartphone can be put away in your handbag or your pocket,
and then whenever you pick this up and start using it
or start playing with it when you're getting anxious,
the smartphone is recording that information and how you've used it.
As well as measuring what's making the user anxious,
the app can respond, posting to a social network
or sending a message to a friend asking for help.
It can also be set to send a distraction -
a favourite song or online video,
to take someone away from whatever's making them so uneasy.
Every individual with autism is different.
But for Val, even for a trip to the supermarket
she needs the company of her support worker.
Now, which sort of soap? Do you think that one would be good?
'Technology like this could help her use her phone
'to gain much more independence.'
If this technology did come into play and Val was able to use it,
it would be help her to gain ownership over what she does.
Rather than having to have me physically there,
she wouldn't need that, because she'd have prompts on her phone,
and then if she was to become anxious
she'd then be able to, you know, use the technology
and have either a song that she likes come on
or a shopping list come up on the phone.
And it might be squeezy balls, or it might be, like I say, a ring,
-that you could play with.
'The researchers worked with a small group of people with autism
'to help them develop their prototype.
'Later versions could be tailored to different objects
'or even different fidgeting habits - whatever each individual
'tends to do with their hands when they become anxious.
'Val's diagnosis was the first big step
'to a better and more independent life.
'Technology like this could give her another tool
'to help her make sense of a world that can sometimes be frightening.'
Since I've been diagnosed with autism,
my life has changed for the better.
I've learned to cope.
I've learned to cope with situations.
I've learned to think for myself.
Victoria Gill. It's amazing how the best ideas
are often the simplest, isn't it?
I have another one here which I'd like to demonstrate to you
through the medium of pre-packaged ham.
Now, we're all used to seeing these use-by dates on the packaging, here,
but this package of ham also has use-by bumps.
When the meat is still edible,
this bit up here feels smooth,
but when it starts to go off, like this one has,
this starts to feel bumpy.
Now, this has been entered for the James Dyson design award.
It's already won an award for inclusive design.
The inventor is Solveiga Pakstaite. Hi, Solveiga.
-Now, this idea of accessibility and inclusivity
was the inspiration behind these bumpy labels, wasn't it?
I realised that blind people don't have any access
to expiry information on their food.
So I wanted to create a tactile solution that they could access,
but because retailers wouldn't find it enough to change something
just for a minority of people, I needed to add added value,
so that's when I thought...
What's another problem that we have?
It's food waste, and how can I reduce that?
I've used a natural substance, gelatine,
er, which when you first set it, it's a solid.
You set it over these bumps,
and at first you can't feel the bumps because it's rigid,
and gelatine, because it's a protein and it's a natural substance,
it decays at the same rate as the food inside the package,
and then it has the property of when it expires,
it turns back into a liquid, which then enables you
to run your finger over and feel the bumps underneath,
indicating that the food inside the package is also off.
Different food goes off at different speeds, so how do these things know
whether they're attached to something that goes off in two days
or something that goes off in two weeks?
You can use the exact same formulation,
you just need to increase the concentration of the gelatine.
So the higher it is, the longer the formulation will last.
So I guess the point is that if there's a printed use-by date,
that commits to a certain date, that doesn't take into account
how the food's been stored - whether it's been stored in a fridge
or in a warm cupboard.
Absolutely, and that's not the only problem.
We don't know if retailers are actually being honest
with the way that they transport and store the food
before it even hits our fridge.
For all we know, a lorry could unload a crate of meat
and it might not go straight into the fridge, as it should,
and we're trusting this date that says it's still safe to eat,
when in fact it might not be.
OK, Solveiga, thank you very much for your time and very best of luck.
Now, when it comes to labelling our fruit and veg,
things could be changing already.
Lara Lewington has been given exclusive access
to a project which is trialling laser food labelling on fruit,
which could soon come to around 100 UK branches of Marks & Spencer.
A grape and citrus packing plant.
Every year, 1,500 tonnes of fruit are checked, packed
and given their obligatory labels here
before being sent on their way to the shops.
But hidden away at the back is this laser machine
that could change food labelling as we know it.
Only a couple of months ago, the EU gave the go-ahead for this technology
which uses safe iron oxides and hydroxides
to label fruit and vegetables.
But now we're there - logos, barcodes, prices,
use-by dates, and even food traceability information
could be permanently tattooed on our produce.
Yes, there have been laser labelling systems around before.
What the difference between those systems and this system is
is that this system doesn't damage the fruit in any way whatsoever.
What it does is remove a tiny amount of pigment from the fruit surface.
So it doesn't compromise the surface of the fruit
or the interior in any way at all.
Or speed up the ageing process.
Hmm. I don't think I've ever really thought about
the stickers on oranges before.
But once you learn that Marks & Spencer in one year alone
produce seven tonnes of labelling for their oranges,
you start to see how this could be the future.
There's a lot of environmental benefits to this, because currently
paper labels have to be applied to loose products for identification.
Those labels have to be produced in factories
and then shipped around the UK and around the world
to be applied to the products.
With this technology, it's sent by modem to a machine,
so there's no stock of labels, designs can be changed easily,
the carbon footprint is much lower.
It's a fraction of what it is currently.
We're going to do the trial first on oranges but we're also looking at
other products, and one of the products we're excited to look at
is pumpkins for Halloween.
Because with pumpkins we can actually etch the image of a face
on to the side of the fruit to make it easy for customers to cut out
the shape of the Halloween face.
So there are options aplenty. But what will the public make of it?
I think it's better like this.
It's clear and it's not going to fall off like a sticker would.
I don't mind that, because that can't come off,
so I don't mind that at all.
Personally I think that's a lot clearer. It's an improvement.
If it was a fruit that you were biting into,
if you saw that, would you have reservations?
Well, I wouldn't, but there's possibly people who would have.
No, I wouldn't like that on an apple.
And why is that, even if you knew it was safe?
I think it's just cos it's an apple, I don't know!
No, I think I would eat it with an apple. I would, yeah.
You might have two packets of apples in your house.
'With reactions looking encouraging,
'this could be a realistic taste of the future.
'Even if not everyone wants it on their apples.'
Lara Lewington, lasering fruit.
Back here at the Science Museum, this is Babbage's Difference Engine.
It was designed in the late 1840s
and it's essentially one of the first mechanical calculators.
This is actually Difference Engine number two.
If you're wondering what the difference is between two and one,
apparently it's one.
Now, I might be getting a little overexcited about this,
but I'm not alone in that. There's a fair amount of geek blood
flowing through Kate Russell's veins and she's up next, in Webscape.
# There's a place and time
# In the back of my mind... #
Some dates you always remember,
like birthdays and hopefully your anniversary.
But that doesn't make the other 364 days of the year any less special.
Timehop is a fun free app for iOS and Android
that reminds you of random things you were doing each day in the past
by showing you something
you posted on your social media accounts on that day.
# There's a place and time... #
The amount of noise the world makes on social media
has grown to such an extent it almost defies comprehension.
Collectively on the web,
we create as much information in two days now
as was made from the dawn of civilisation up to 2003.
So this glance into the past could prove a valuable link
to those long-forgotten memories.
You can connect your account with several social channels
like Facebook, Instagram and Foursquare,
and then get ready for a daily dose of nostalgia.
Listening to the chatter online, you might wonder what it all means.
Test your tech jargon know-how with this quick quiz
and let us know how you stack up.
# Get my geek on Get my, get my geek on
# Get my geek on Get my, get my geek on... #
It seems there is a neverending supply of quizzes and tests
to amuse yourself online, from What Computer Am I?
to What Rodent Are You?
to Which Hot Dog Represents Your Inner Self?
If all that seems like a colossal waste of time,
why not try doing nothing instead?
To help you, this quirky website asks you to sit and be peaceful
for two minutes.
No mouse, no keyboard,
just sit there.
The big question is, can you do it?
1:58, 1:59...two minutes!
Did I miss anything?
Anyway, that's it from Click at the London Science Museum.
Hope you enjoyed the programme, and if you'd like to get in touch
about anything you've seen, please feel free to email us.
We are [email protected]
and for more from us throughout the week, you know where we live -
on twitter, @bbcclick, and on the web, bbc.co.uk/click.
Thank you very much for watching, and we will see you next time.
Building the ultimate dance anthem, smartphone tech helping people with autism cope with anxiety, and fresh developments in food labelling.