Smartphone maker Foxconn replaces 60,000 workers with robots

Image: Wikimedia/Steve Jurvetson

A Chinese government official told the South China Morning Post that a Foxconn factory has "reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots. It has tasted success in reduction of labour costs. More companies are likely to follow suit."

As many as 600 major companies in Kunshan have similar plans, according to a government survey.

The job cuts do not augur well for Kunshan, which had a population of more than 2.5 million at the end of 2014, two-thirds of whom were migrant workers.

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ChicoBags - reusable cloth bag packs into tiny bundle

I've been keeping a ChicoBag in my travel kit for about ten years. It's small enough that I could almost hide it in my fist. But when opened, it's large enough to carry a laptop and charger, or a beach towel and sunscreen, or a fair amount of groceries. It's made of polyester and can carry a lot of weight without bursting at the seams. It has handles. I've used it countless times. The bag has a sewn on pouch, so you can stuff the bag into the pouch, ouroboros-style. A four-pack costs $20 on Amazon. Read the rest

Nobel laureate spots Turkish banknote error

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The Turkish five lira note, issued in 2009, has a DNA helix. But Nobel laureate Aziz Sancar noticed that the note "shows a left-handed Z-DNA helix winding from left to right, when it should be the other way round." What Sancar doesn't know is that the monetary systems of the world are controlled by the lizard people, whose DNA is exactly like that depicted on the banknote. Read the rest

US Marshals send wrong woman to jail, where she was strip searched and shackled

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When a team of "vested up and gunned up" U.S. Marshals in Tennessee apprehended Tracy Hinson and began interrogating her about selling 10 Xanax tablets in 2012, she gave them answers that made it clear they had the wrong woman. The marshal in charge told Hinton he needed to make a call.

"After he went and made a call, he came back and told me that he had to do what the paper said he had to. He asked if I ever lived in Mt. Pleasant, and I said no," said Hinson. "They took me to the Dyer County Jail and I was fully processed there, and that included being shackled and strip searched. They said they were holding me until Lawrence County could come and pick me up that night."

From State Gazette:

Unfortunately for Hinson, officials from Lawrence County didn't arrive until late on Saturday, a full day after being arrested. During the time of being incarcerated, a frightened Hinson said she tried to think of how she was in the predicament, but she simply could come up with nothing.

...

Once Hinson arrived at the Lawrence County Jail, with a $5,000 bond, her husband Kenny was not far behind and was able to arrange for her to be bonded out of jail at 11:40 p.m. on Saturday night. The cost was $536 for the bail bondsman, something Hinson hopes at the very least to recoup, along with an apology from the law enforcement agency.

The U.S. Marshal's Office in Jackson issued the following statement: "The West Tennessee U.S. Read the rest

Ant bites butterfly's tongue

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In this video a butterfly is trying to eat something but a turfy ant won't let it. Read the rest

Incredible build video of a goopy meal

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It starts with a simple ear of corn. Then, it is drenched in pools of viscous liquids, topped with layers of crumbled something, and sprinkled with spices. Over and over again.

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Real time face capture lets you control famous faces

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Researchers at Stanford have developed face-capture technology that can alter pre-recorded videos in real-time on low cost computers. In other words, you can make George W Bush or Donald Trump appear intelligent.

We present a novel approach for real-time facial reenactment of a monocular target video sequence (e.g., Youtube video). The source sequence is also a monocular video stream, captured live with a commodity webcam. Our goal is to animate the facial expressions of the target video by a source actor and re-render the manipulated output video in a photo-realistic fashion. To this end, we first address the under-constrained problem of facial identity recovery from monocular video by non-rigid model-based bundling. At run time, we track facial expressions of both source and target video using a dense photometric consistency measure. Reenactment is then achieved by fast and efficient deformation transfer between source and target. The mouth interior that best matches the re-targeted expression is retrieved from the target sequence and warped to produce an accurate fit. Finally, we convincingly re-render the synthesized target face on top of the corresponding video stream such that it seamlessly blends with the real-world illumination. We demonstrate our method in a live setup, where Youtube videos are reenacted in real time.

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Compact, lightweight 10,000mAh external battery

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The Anker PowerCore is advertised as the "smallest and lightest 10,000mAh portable charger." That may be true. It's smaller than a deck of cards, which is smaller than any 10,000mAh charger I've seen. Amazon has them on sale for $19 right now.

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Three modern media inventions predicted by 20th century authors

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Stanislaw Lem predicted ebook readers in his 1961 novel, Return from the Stars.

I spent the afternoon in a bookstore. There were no books in it. None had been printed for nearly half a century...

The bookstore resembled, instead, an electronic laboratory. The books were crystals with recorded contents. They can be read the aid of an opton, which was similar to a book but had only one page between the covers. At a touch, successive pages of the text appeared on it... Thus all my purchases fitted into one pocket, though there must have been almost three hundred titles. My handful of crystal corn - my books.

Also in 1961, William Burroughs predicted social media in his novel The Soft Machine:

"Posted everywhere on street corners the idiot irresponsibles twitter supersonic approval, repeating slogans, giggling, dancing...”

(Thanks, Jacques Vallée!)

And in 1926, French Symbolist poet Saint-Paul-Roux predicted streaming media:

[I]n possession of an evocation device ... these images will come at our call, the Chaplains and Pickfords of the day, and we will receive them anywhere, in the living-room or in the wood or on the terrace. Each one of us, solitary or not, will be able to receive the images at home, tonight we will have Cleopatra, Danton, or Madam Du Barry, and these shadows, alone or in numbers, will people our homes and vanish at a click... Animated images generated by electric current or by the sun...

Any other examples of authors foreseeing 21st century media technology? Read the rest

Scientists make transparent wood

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Scientists at the University of Maryland, College Park, have developed see-through wood by removing the material that gives wood its yellowish color and then injecting the wood with epoxy to strengthen it. From CNN:

The "invisible" wood -- as Dr. Liangbing Hu of the University's Department of Material Science and Engineering describes it -- is sturdier than traditional wood, and can be used in place of less environmentally friendly materials, such as plastics.

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What happens when you stuff 2000 match heads into a stress pig and light the fuse

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PyroGirl took one of those rubber squeeze toys with the popping eyeballs, put 2000 match heads in it, and ignited them.

2000 matches chain reaction - match bomb fail. Stress-Pig volunteered that I could experiment by stuffing 2000 match heads into him, some filler material, a fuse and that I could seal him off well. Why? Stress-Pig wanted to demonstrate what can happen if you don't manage stress well and vent your emotions in positive ways. Bottling things up can eventually or (in this case, due to intense stress for Mr. Pig... understandably), quickly lead to an uncontrollable breakdown and catastrophic release of tension. We are really grateful for Stress-Pigs contribution and hope he's recovering well (though we doubt it).

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US releases Guantánamo prisoner after 14 years and no conviction

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A man who goes by the single name of Obaidullah was never convicted of of a crime, yet remained in Guantánamo for 14 years, even after charges against him were dropped in 2011. From The Guardian:

US forces captured Obaidullah during a raid in Afghanistan in July 2002 when he was about 19. They found about 20 unactivated land mines buried in a field near his home. Authorities later concluded he was part of a bomb cell linked to al-Qaida, an allegation his lawyers have denied.

He was charged in the military tribunals in September 2008 with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism, which appeals courts have said cannot be pursued as war crimes at Guantánamo for conduct that occurred before 2006. The government dismissed the charges in 2011 and his lawyers have been pressing for his release ever since.

Of the 80 remaining prisoners being held at Guantánamo, 28 are cleared for release. Read the rest

Gaze controller for humanoid robots

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Developed at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Genoa, the iCub robot resembles a baby or a drunk trying to track a moving ball.

Our humanoid robot, the iCub (I as in “I robot”, Cub as in the man-cub from Kipling’s Jungle Book), has been specifically designed to support research in embodied artificial intelligence (AI). At 104 cm tall, the iCub has the size of a five-year-old child. It can crawl on all fours, walk and sit up to manipulate objects. Its hands have been designed to support sophisticate manipulation skills. The iCub is distributed as Open Source following the GPL/LGPL licenses and can now count on a worldwide community of enthusiastic developers. More than 30 robots have been built so far which are available in laboratories in Europe, US, Korea and Japan (see http://www.iCub.org). It is one of the few platforms in the world with a sensitive full-body skin to deal with safe physical interaction with the environment.

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The Barbie Doll Illusion experiment gives you an out-of-body experience

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Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet demonstrate the Barbie Doll Illusion experiment.

In this experiment participants experience ownership of a tiny (30cm and 80cm) or a huge (400cm) body. Participants look at the artificial body through a set of head-mounted-displays. They see the body from the perspective of the doll with 3D vision. To induce the illusion of owning the artificial body, the experimentator strokes the participants body and the doll's body at the same place and at the same time. These synchronous strokes cause the brain of the participant to interpret the felt touches to be caused by the rod that they see touching the doll. This makes makes it seem as if the doll's body is the participants body. Next, participants see a cube and their task is to show the size of the cube with their hands. Having the illusion of owning a tiny body causes the world to appear gigantic, and owning a huge body makes the world appear smaller. Importantly, disruption of the Barbie illusion (by asynchronous stroking of the participant and the doll) also diminishes the change in perception. Thus, our OWN body serves as a fundamental reference in perceiving the world around us.
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Slo-mo video of potato cannon shooting watermelon

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Truculence and bellicosity in the vegetable kingdom, slowed down for your viewing pleasure. Read the rest

Canadian government records censored with Scotch tape, paper

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A Paris based Associated Press correspondent was flabbergasted to receive a freedom of information request from the Public Health Agency of Canada that had been censored with scotch tape and paper. “I’ve never seen someone use an arts and crafts method in order to hide information from me,” he told the Star.

Tom Henheffer, executive director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, has never heard of any redactions being made with tape and paper.

“This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It must’ve been someone’s first day.”

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Fox uses someone else's YouTube video, then orders YouTube to remove original video

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There should be a three-strikes-and-you're-out rule for any individual or corporation that issues bogus DMCA takedown notices.

From Torrent Freak:

This week's episode of Family Guy included a clip from 1980s Nintendo video game Double Dribble showing a glitch to get a free 3-point goal. Fox obtained the clip from YouTube where it had been sitting since it was first uploaded in 2009. Shortly after, Fox told YouTube the game footage infringed its copyrights. YouTube took it down.

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