Facebook Wants To Track Emotions Using Your Webcam

If you still aren’t covering your laptop’s webcam with a piece of duct tape, here’s a great incentive: Facebook wants to use it to track your emotions in real-time.

According to several recently published patent applications, the social media giant is looking to monitor users’ emotions in several new and invasive ways, including monitoring the rhythm of their keystrokes and peering through webcams to analyze facial expressions in real-time. According to the filings, the goal is to allow the company to incorporate their users’ emotional state into typed messages, automatically translate facial expressions to reaction emojis, and of course, use intimate data to target ads.

Some of the patents were originally filed as far back as 2014, but are being published now, as face and emotion recognition technology is become increasingly prevalent. One filing, published May 25, 2017 and titled “Augmenting Text Messages With Emotion Information,” describes a method for predicting a user’s emotions by analyzing user input interactions in Facebook Messenger — including the rhythm of keystrokes and interaction patterns from using a mouse or touchscreen  — and changing the visual formatting of the text to reflect their emotional state.

“By integrating emotion information within a text message, the message system can retain context associated with the message that might otherwise be lost in a conventional text message,” the patent’s description states. “Automatically formatting the text in a message to convey emotion information allows the sender to more accurately convey a specific meaning of the message without requiring that the sender include other content or explicitly state an emotion in the text.”

Another patent filing, published in May, depicts a system for using facial expressions observed through a webcam to automatically generate Facebook’s emoji reactions. The filing describes a method for analyzing portions of the user’s face, then matching the real-time image data with an appropriate emojis, like the current selection of “wow,” “angry,” “sad,” and “haha.” Of course, having a seamless, hands-free emoji experience like the kind the document describes would mean giving Facebook constant, unhindered access to your laptop or smartphone’s forward-facing camera — allowing the company to track and profile your emotion responses.

The patents are not surprising, given the widespread usage of machine learning for emotion recognition and Facebook’s well-known ambitions for exploiting users’ emotions and behavioral data. The company has previously shown its willingness to use emotional data to secretly manipulate users’ behavior through its infamous “Emotional Contagion” experiment, which influenced the emotional content of their posts by altering the appearance of positive or negative articles appearing in their news feeds.

As previously reported, independent researchers have created relatively simple systems that identify users and predict their emotional state by analyzing keystroke patterns — and data-hungry tech conglomerates like Google and Facebook are presumably much farther along in implementing such systems for their billions of users. The emoji-generating patent also follows Facebook’s November purchase of FacioMetrics, a startup company that prides itself on gesture controls and systems that can “recognize facial expressions and perform related actions.”

The COVFEFE Act Aims To Archive Trump’s Tweets For Posterity

What started as a typo, and quickly turned into an online joke, is now a bill at Congress. Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois introduced a bill dubbed the COVFEFE ACT to include preservation of the president’s social media records as part of the Presidential Records Act of 1978. That would mean that all posts from presidential posts from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter would be part of the National Archives.

The COVFEFE Act stands for Communication Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement Act, but it’s a jab at President Trump’s Twitter typo last month, “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.” The tweet was deleted, but not before it inspired tons of jokes for other social media users, late night show hosts, and even coffee shop boards. The COVFEFE Act would forbid Trump from deleting any of his tweets — so his rants would live on forever.

“President Trump’s frequent, unfiltered use of his personal Twitter account as a means of official communication is unprecedented,” Quigley stated in a statement, according to The Hill. “If the President is going to take to social media to make sudden public policy proclamations, we must ensure that these statements are documented and preserved for future reference. Tweets are powerful, and the President must be held accountable for every post.”

This is not the first time Quigley uses an acronym to take jabs at Trump. In March, he helped introduce the MAR-A-LAGO bill, also known as the Make Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act, which would make Trump’s administration publicly release visitor logs for the White House or anywhere else the President conducts business. The bill was a jab at Trump’s Florida resort dubbed “the winter White House.”

The COVFEFE Act shows just how much government is behind in holding public figures accountable for what is shared online. In 2013, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission officially considered Twitter and Facebook as valid public disclosure sources for executives and brands to share company information. The National Archives already qualifies social media posts from Trump as presidential records, but the problem is that it’s still not a law and he can get away with modifying those records.

Microsoft Unleashes the Most Powerful Console Ever, the Xbox One X

Following months of speculation and teasers, Microsoft officially unveiled the Xbox One X at E3 2017.

Worked on under the codename “Project Scorpio,” the announcement comes just days after Microsoft teased what looks to be one of the Xbox One X’s main taglines: “Feel True Power.”

Billed as “the most powerful console ever,” the system comes in black while specs include a whopping six teraflops of graphical power, more than the PS4 Pro which pushes 4.2 teraflops.

The console is also the smallest Xbox ever and features a custom GPU engine runs at 1172MHz, a big improvement over the Xbox One’s 853MHz and the PS4 Pro’s 911MHz.

The Xbox One X comes packed with an Ultra HD Blu-Ray drive for 4K movies and entertainment, alongside a standard 1TB of storage and liquid-cooled vapor-chamber cooling, normally reserved for high-end PC gaming.

Welcome news to current Xbox gamers: all Xbox One accessories will work on the new Xbox One X, alongside all existing Xbox 360 backwards compatible titles and Xbox One games. Microsoft is planning to use “super sampling” on the One X to make new games look better even on 1080p TVs.

“Console launch exclusives” include titles like Crackdown 3, Forza Motorsport 7, and Sea of Thieves.

The Xbox One X launches on November 7 worldwide for a retail price of $499 USD, £449, 499 euro, 599 Canadian dollars, and 649 Australian dollars.

Cracked Cellphone Screens Could Soon Be a Thing of the Past

Almost every smartphone owner knows the sickening feeling of watching your phone fall to the ground and seeing the screen splinter like a spiderweb into dozens of tiny pieces. The screens are one of the iPhone’s major design flaws; they are made primarily out of silicone, a material that is not only expensive, but also easily broken.

But researchers think they may have developed a material that would end cracked screens for good.

Claudia Ojeda-Aristizabal from California State University, Long Beach, who participated in the research, said the material is made by layering hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN), graphene, and C60, which is also known as Buckminsterfullerene, or “bucky-ball,” because of its resemblance to the geodesic dome structures of architect Buckminster Fuller.

Not only is the new material crack-resistant — it’s energy-efficient and a fast conductor of electricity. And, because of the C60, which is commonly used in solar cells, the material could mean your screen might one day recharge your phone’s battery.

Here’s how the material is constructed. Graphene, a 2D form of carbon, is far stronger than steel, while remaining ultra-lightweight. It’s also highly conductive. The hBN helps electrons move between the graphene and the C60, another super-conductive material.

When layered one on top of the other, the properties of these three transparent materials compliment each other. The conductive properties of C60 and graphene, helped along by the hBN, mean that the electricity in the screen will move ultra-quickly. That, combined with the durability of graphene and the solar charging abilities of C60, make it an ideal candidate for a phone screen.

The material has some similar properties to silicone, Elton Santos of Queen’s University’s School of Mathematics and Physics said in a press statement, “but it has improved chemical stability, lightness, and flexibility.”

The research was a collaboration between scientists at Queen’s University Belfast, Sanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, California State University, and the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan. The results of their work were published in the journal ACS Nano.

Ojeda-Aristizabal said the new material could lead to lots of applications besides smartphone screens. Perhaps we’ll soon see solar-powered windshields or crack-proof windows for homes and offices.

That’s not to say the miracle material doesn’t have its drawbacks. For one, graphene lacks a “bandgap,” meaning that its conductivity and electrical signal can’t be turned on and off.

But once that problem is solved, bemoaning cracked cellphone screens may be a thing of the past.

Site For Crowdfunding Justice Comes To U.S.

Justice may be blind, but she’s also made out of solid gold. The cost of bringing forth public interest cases is an issue that one legal advocacy startup aims to address through crowdfunding.

CrowdJustice is a Kickstarter for legal cases in the public interest that aims to improve on generic crowdfunding platforms by seeing the legal process all the way through. Unlike Kickstarter or GoFundMe, where legal cases are among many types of campaigns, CrowdJustice manages the proceedings closely. It works to ensure a lawyer has been hired and monitors how donations are spent. For these efforts, the site takes 5 percent of all donations.

It has made its way to the U.S. after getting its start in the U.K. in 2014 under CEO and founder Julia Salasky, a former United Nations lawyer. There, the site had amassed enough support to bring multiple cases to Britain’s Supreme Court, raising $3.5 million in total through 2017.

Salasky is now moving to the U.S. because she sees opportunity in the Trump presidency.

“There’s a real excitement in the U.S. around the possibility of the courts as a way to provide accountability to the executive branch as a way to push forward change,” Salasky, who was raised in the U.S., told Vocativ.

She first launched CrowdJustice in the U.K. as the government slashed legal aid funding, which created what Amnesty International called a “two-tier” system that denies poor citizens access to justice.

“The law is so inaccessible to people, and that’s partly a function of lack of funds,” she said. “There are so many people who can’t afford access to legal services, and there’s another barrier to entry around access to information. The law is a very scary thing to a lot of people.”

Already, CrowdJustice has shown the power of harnessing public advocacy in crowdfunding a legal defense for Yemeni brothers Tareq and Ammar Aqel Mohammed Aziz. The young men were temporarily forced to waive their legal immigration status hours after President Trump’s initial executive order banning Muslims from entering the country. Along with the Legal Aid Justice Center, which helps clients facing legal problems relating to poverty and injustice, CrowdJustice raised over $36,000 for the brothers’ defense.

The Aziz brothers’ case was among the first that helped bring the role of lawyers, who are enjoying a rare moment of public goodwill, into the spotlight as potential change-makers under the Trump Presidency.

“There are so many lawyers who have been working at the forefront trying to advance human rights and civil rights [but] lawyers, in general, have such a bad rap…everybody gets tarred with the same brush,” Salinsky said. “It’s great when there’s a recognition that lots and lots of lawyers dedicate their lives to really seeking justice for people.”

Following the Aziz case and another that challenges political gerrymandering in Virginia, CrowdJustice is now crowdfunding the defense for Mike Hallatt, a Vancouver resident who buys products from the grocery chain Trader Joe’s products in bulk and resells them in the Trader Joe’s-less country of Canada. Hallatt, whose business he calls “Pirate Joe,” is now being sued by the chain for trademark infringement.

Maintaining that his business is legal and a legitimate secondary market, Hallat stated that he approached CrowdJustice as “a way for me to gain equality of arms against a much bigger adversary.”

His campaign has garnered the support of 113 people so far and will end on June 29, regardless of whether or not it hits the still far-off fundraising goal of $50,000.

Power-Generating Clothes Are In Our Future

Materials scientists are bringing about the latest and greatest in power generating technology, by creating clothes that have the potential to transport electricity and power small electronics.

No longer a futuristic fantasy, power-generating clothes have become a present reality thanks to materials scientist Trisha Andrew at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. By applying PEDOT-coated yarn to any type of clothing material, your favorite clothes could become conductors.

Working under the umbrella of textile electronics, materials scientists and electrical engineers hope to turn conducting textiles into advanced electronics that can convert simple body motion into electricity fit for generating power. Andrew claims that utilizing fabric to power electronics and monitor health data are gaining relevance in the health care industry as well as in the military.

The science behind the fabric is equally as fascinating as it’s purpose. As a person moves about in clothes outfitted with the power conducting electrodes, friction from any particular piece of clothing against the electrodes electrically charges the materials, and a few microwatts of power are generated.

After testing conductivity and stability of the PEDOT yarn on 14 fabrics, Andrew says, “We show them to be stable to washing, rubbing, human sweat and a lot of wear and tear.” In addition, the PEDOT layer did not affect the feel of fabric on any of the materials. Perhaps this is because the layer increased total fabric weight by less than 2%, making this technology light and powerful.

On the horizon for textile electronics are plans to use already-made garments as solar cells, meaning a casual morning run could store enough energy to power your phone for the day.

But, until these pliable, breathable electrodes make their way onto our favorite sweaters and running shirts, we will have to settle for plugging our iPhones up to the charger before we fall asleep each night.

Study Reveals Over Half of Gamers Have Experienced Cyberbullying

The online games market is booming, with more of us seeking entertainment in virtual worlds than ever. However, while many choose multiplayer titles to have a fun social gaming experience, there are also more sinister goings on. Rather than offering a form of escapism, these online communities can be a hub for bullying and hateful abuse.

Most will be aware that bullying can occur online, but the scale to which this has been happening within the gaming community was unknown, until now. A new study by anti-bullying charity, Ditch the Label has found that one in two online gamers have experienced abuse when playing multiplayer video games.

The survey was conducted via hotel creation game, Habbo. The PC title is branded as a social experience allowing users to “make friends and chat with millions”. However of 2,500+ gamers who were questioned, over half had experienced abuse, with some even encountering death threats or hacking.

Participants were aged 12-25 and were evenly split between male and female gamers.

Noteworthy responses included how someone’s personal details were shared on a social network following an individual taking a dislike to them. As a consequence, the victim received abuse from others as well as the original perpetrator, with moderators doing little to protect the player or to ban those harassing them.

In all, sharing of personal information online was reported by more than a third of those surveyed. Others were bullied based on their skill level, with some quitting the game altogether to escape harassment.

Furthermore, 74% felt that it needed to be taken more seriously to protect online gamers, with over half believing extra moderation could be a solution to prevent trolling and bullying in the game.

Ditchthelabel.org offers support and advice for those that have experienced bullying, both online and offline. Their website offers a series of guides and tips for anyone that requires it.

The Next Generation of iPhones May Be Coming With an Artificial Intelligence Chip

Your next smartphone might be more “intelligent” than anyone could have guessed. Apple is working on artificial intelligence (AI) chips for the iPhone that could increase battery life and perform tasks that currently require a human, according to an informant who wants to remain anonymous.

The chips, which are reportedly known internally as the “Apple Neural Engine” and would be integrated into all Apple devices, are specifically designed to cope with the high processing power that AI demands. Currently, Apple uses the main processor and graphics chips to deal with AI features like Siri, iPhotos’ facial recognition, and predictive typing — but, because the hardware not designed specifically for this purpose, battery life suffers.

Apple is characteristically secretive about the reports, and has declined to comment. However, we may hear more concerning the AI chip at the developer’s conference coming up in June — as we did concerning Google’s AI plans at their own conference earlier this month.

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, said at a press call in March that the company is planning to expand into the Augmented Reality market — this chip would be vital if this is the case.

The development of an AI chip for iPhones, iPads, and MacBook makes sense in the context of other recent Apple news, too. The company has recently purchased Lattice Data, which uses AI to structure “dark data” (data that cannot be used from an analytics standpoint). In addition, Apple’s self-driving car software, currently mounted on a Lexus, has been approved for road testing — it incorporates features like a radar, GPS, laser measuring, and computer vision.

Apple’s interest in the future of the AI industry is also reflected in the company joining the “Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society,” a multi-corporation think tank that explores the responsible implementation of the technology. Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are also partners in the project to make AI a useful tool for all humanity.

Deleting the Facebook App Will Double Your Phone’s Battery Life

We’ve covered how Instagram is seriously damaging to mental health, but another self-study revealed that Facebook‘s mobile app is the most draining of your smartphone battery life. This observation came to light after Inc. journalist John Koetsier decided to delete Facebook from his phone after seeing that the social media app accounted for almost 50 percent of his device’s daily juice. Upon deletion, his phone’s battery doubled in lifespan.

While this may not come as a surprise to many, it’s the app’s specific functions that make Facebook battery use more demanding. SRAX executive ad tech developer Aaron Hetler says that Facebook’s wide range of features is what causes it to kill your phone battery, even by just opening the app. Facebook’s wide range of features such as device location, notifications, live videos, contacts, etc has contributed to the app’s 10-fold increase in megabytes over the past few versions. Some suggest that disabling the “Background App Refresh” function after quitting the app can extend battery life, but as long as Facebook is tracking your device’s location, it will continue to eat away at power.

Driverless Cars Will Be Huge for Buffalo Wild Wings

Financial analysts in every industry are mashing their brains to figure out how the rise of autonomous cars will affect the economy, but one group of analysts at Morgan Stanley has a pretty wild prediction: if nobody has to drive any more, people might start going HAM at the Buffalo Wild Wings more often.

In a letter to clients on Thursday, the analysts looked at some of the major industries that will be affected by the rise of “shared autonomy” a term used seemingly to describe the twofold impacts of self-driving cars and a ride-sharing based transit economy.

The team’s recommendations highlight areas and certain stocks that could benefit from “shared autonomy,” including, hilariously, Buffalo Wild Wings and Domino’s Pizza. BWW, because 20 percent of its revenue comes from alcohol, and Domino’s because its delivery business won’t need human drivers.

“There are around 1.2 million DUIs issued in the U.S. every year,” the analysts write. “The average American consumes nearly 500 alcoholic drinks per year. Over the course of a year, how many more drinks might be consumed if people were completely freed from the responsibility of driving? Moreover, how many more drinks could be consumed during the 400 billion global hours humanity currently spends behind the wheel?”

Constellation, the American corporation that owns Corona, Model, Pacifico, Svedka vodka, and a whole bunch of other wine and liquor brands, will benefit, project the analysts.

Also, apparently, the best beneficiary of shared autonomy, where most people will ask their self-driving cars to take them, is Buffalo Wild Wings. It does caution, though, that the company is still vulnerable to the temperamental price of chicken wings.

Domino’s will benefit from shared autonomy after it nixes delivery drivers. Domino’s has already experimented with drones and weird autonomous robots so this one actually seems like a pretty sound prediction.