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Saturday, May 26, 2012
Facebook Camera and Two Other Stories You Need to Know
Ketchup Slides Out of Bottles With LiquiGlide [VIDEO]
Apple Intros Free App of the Week; Big iTunes Changes Next?

New Computer Algorithm Knows Your Phony Smile [VIDEO]
Friday, May 25, 2012 10:26 PMSonia Paul

Have you ever wondered how genuine that smile really is?

If your intuition isn't stellar at gauging real versus fake smiles, this information might be of interest to you: Researchers at MIT have developed a computer algorithm to distinguish honest-to-goodness smiles from those simply trying to mask frustration.

Experiments conducted at MIT's Media Lab asked people to act out expressions of delight or frustration -- and webcams captured their reactions. Researchers then watched the participants either fill out an online form purposefully designed to cause frustration, or invited them to watch a video designed to draw out delight. The researchers captured and logged each smile.

The results? According to Ehsan Hoque, graduate student in the Affective Computing Group of MIT's Media Lab and lead author of the paper documenting the research, when asked to feign frustration, an overwhelming majority of the subjects -- 90% -- didn't smile. Yet when it came time to fill out the form intentionally designed to be frustrating, the same percentage of people did smile to cope with the situation.

While still images of the photographs showed little difference between the frustrated smiles and the delighted smiles, the video analysis of the experiences eliciting those reactions revealed the nuances -- especially regarding the progression of the smiles. While the genuine, happy smiles built up gradually, feigned smiles appeared quickly but faded just as fast.

With the data accumulated from the experiment, the researchers then created the computer algorithm they say is more effective than humans at determining the sincere smiles.

"We humans can normally zoom out and try to interpret an expression, whereas a computer algorithm can utilize the nitty gritty details of a signal, which is much more enriching than just zooming out and looking at the high-level picture," Hoque said.

Indeed, when humans were asked to interpret the smiles, they were only 50% successful at accurately determining the real responses. The algorithm, on the other hand, was correct 92% of the time.

In addition to noting the timing of the smiles, the algorithm tracks the movements of different facial muscle groups, which also come into play when people smile. Phony smiles tend to be made with just the major muscles at the corners of the mouth. Real smiles, though, involve involuntary muscles that raise the cheeks and cause crinkles around the eyes.

And who might be able to benefit from the research? Just about anyone, says Hoque. Timing especially has much to do with how people interpret expressions. For example, he says, people perceived former British Prime Minister Gordan Brown as having a fake smile because of the unnatural timing of his grin. Similarly, when former presidential candidate Herman Cain came out with a campaign video that concluded with him displaying an incredibly slow-motion smile -- it took 9 seconds to appear -- it was widely parodied.

"Getting the timing right is very crucial if you want to be perceived as sincere and genuine with your smiles," Hoque says.

Although knowing how to create genuine smiles just might obviate the sincerity behind them -- if people do in fact take the time to appear happy when they really aren't -- Hoque says the goal of the research is "to help people with face-to-face communication."

That means that this information is especially important in areas like autism, since autistic people are generally taught that a smile means someone is happy. Potentially, the research could help train autistic people and others who have difficulty interpreting expressions how to more accurately gauge the expressions they see.

Not only that, but the information could also be useful to marketers in assessing customer satisfaction. As Hoque says, "The underlying meaning behind the smile is crucial."

Would you be interested in a computer algorithm to figure out real versus fake smiles? Let us know in the comments.

? Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, TPopova ?

Apple Intros Free App of the Week; Big iTunes Changes Next?
Friday, May 25, 2012 3:44 PMGamezebo

We’ve been saying it for years. You’ve been saying it for years. Nine out of 10 dentists have been saying it for years. The App Store needs a redesign. Like a loveable inventor, it’s full of exciting things to see, but seems to have no understanding of how to organize them. With over 500,000 apps, simple search and generic categories isn’t enough. So you’ll have to excuse me if I’m excited when I say: change might be on the way!

Spotted in the wild by the Gamezebo team while doing our daily browse of the App Store are a couple of new features that seem to hint at bigger changes to come. Foremost among them is something you’ll definitely enjoy: Free App of the Week. Likely looking to wrest control away from hugely popular services like Free App a Day and Free App King and make the “charting” process more regulated, Apple has taken it upon themselves to push one app into the spotlight each week, and drop its price to the affordable zero dollar range. This week it’s ZeptoLab’s awesome Cut the Rope: Experiments -- which you should already have, of course. From the looks of it, the free app each week will be located right under the “New & Noteworthy” section.

And yet it’s the next change -- while arguably more minor -- that has me most excited. In order to prevent confusion between the “App of the Week” and their prominent featured content, Apple has changed the name of its weekly featured apps to “Editor’s Choice.” Subtle, perhaps, but far more streamlined. And as our friends at Inside Mobile Apps point out, “streamlined” is Chomp’s MO. The company -- recently purchased by Apple for $50M -- may be giving the App Store a facelift from its new position on the Apple team.

Let’s hope this summer’s WWDC conference in San Francisco brings with it news that iTunes as we know it is headed the way of the dinosaur. Viva la App Store revoluciĆ³n!

Siri: 'Steve Jobs Would Have Been Embarrassed,' Says Former Apple Employee
Friday, May 25, 2012 1:17 PMAppAdvice

We’ve all seen them, those pricey ads Apple is using to promote Siri and featuring actors Zooey Deschanel, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Malkovich. Now, there’s word those ads might not be as realistic as one would expect. In fact, things have gotten so bad for the often-criticized voice assistant that one former Apple employee says Steve Jobs would have been “embarrassed by Siri,” according to AppleInsider.

First launched in April, Apple’s four ads highlight the iPhone 4S’s much-discussed feature. In the ads, the actors explain just how essential Siri is to their lives.

According to Paul Kafasis, the ads aren’t accurate. The One Foot Tsunami writer calls Siri “over-promise(d) and under-deliver(ed).” To prove his point, he repeated to Siri some of the words Jackson used in his ad. In this case, he asked the assistant to remind him to “put the gazpacho on ice in an hour.”

Instead of scheduling a reminder, Siri didn’t understand the request. Whereas Kafasis said “gazpacho,” Siri heard “just bacchio,” “this bogil,” or “this poncho.”

Stranger still is what happened when Kafasis placed his iPhone next to his computer and played the actual Jackson ad for Siri to hear.

In this case, instead of setting a reminder, Siri suggested Kafasis call three individuals in his iPhone’s contact list. The names of the folks Siri suggested he call include: Mirium Booksbaum, Anna-Genelle Harev, and Ron Ridenhour. On what planet do those names sound anything close to gazpacho?

One would think Apple would know better and at least use the ads to show an accurate interpretation of what Siri actually does.  After all, users and bloggers alike have been highly critical of Siri over its lack of performance and functionality. If fact, it has gotten so bad, a class action lawsuit is now in full-force by users that claim the service is highly suspect at best.

Steve Jobs would have “lost his mind” over Siri

With many crying foul, it shouldn’t come as a surprise what one former Apple employee said about Siri.

According to Fortune writer Adam Lashinsky, the “former insider” said that, “People are embarrassed by Siri. Steve (Jobs) would have lost his mind over Siri.”

I certainly agree. As suggested in May, I feel that the time has come for Apple to muzzle Siri, make it better, or put it out of its misery. Hopefully, Apple will announce a Siri upgrade at next month’s Worldwide Developers Conference. If not, Siri could soon join Lisa and the Newton as rare Apple products that just didn’t click with consumers.

Are you still using Siri on your iPhone 4S? What steps should Apple take to improve the Siri brand?

Sources: AppleInsider, Fortune Photo: AppleInsider

Behold: The First Video Taken with Google Glasses
Friday, May 25, 2012 12:51 PMSamantha Murphy

Google has unveiled the first video taken with its sci-fi eyewear concept, Project Glass. The topic: jumping and flipping on a trampoline, doing a backflip while wearing Google glasses.

Google launched its Project Glass goggles on Google+ in April, and the news sent the concept of Google's futuristic glasses -- which would project augmented reality images into wearers' field of vision -- into a worldwide frenzy on the web. Although Google co-founder Sergey Brin has been testing the device and teasing pictures to show the Internet what it can do, this is the first time we've seen a video taken by the device itself.

SEE ALSO: Google: Here's What Our Sci-Fi Glasses Look Like

In addition to taking pictures and video, the glasses can perform many tasks performed by a smartphone. For example, while wearing the glasses, you would be able to see weather forecasts and what's on your calendar for the day, as well as send text messages and emails to friends and family -- all projected right before your eyes.

Google told Mashable in April that selling the glasses this year would be "very unlikely."

Would you want a pair of Google Glasses? Do you think this is the way we will live our lives in the future? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS: Google Glasses Pictures

New App Gives Valet Parking a Mobile Upgrade
Friday, May 25, 2012 11:44 AMBusinessNewsDaily

Valet parking is a great convenience for restaurant patrons and store customers and a nice business for parking providers. But it’s traditionally been a cash- and paper-based industry plagued by lost tickets, cashless customers and long waits curbside while cars are retrieved. Flash Valet thinks there’s a better way.

The Austin, Texas-based company has launched a mobile app solution that frees valet parking operators from the tyranny of cash registers and paper tickets by channeling communications and payment through mobile phones. And it puts an end to customers waiting outside or in a line for their car.

Flash Valet is a software-as-a-service cloud-based solution that enables operators to track vehicles, manage multiple locations, keep track of employee time and attendance and accept mobile payments from customers using a mobile phone. It is available for iOS devices through the Apple App Store. Apps for BlackBerry, Android and Windows will be rolled out in the near future, the company told BusinessNewsDaily.

When customers drop off their cars they are given a ticket with a phone number. When they are ready to retrieve their car, they send a text message to the number along with their ticket number, which alerts the valet parking attendant through the Flash Valet mobile app. When the car is ready for pickup, the customer receives a text message and can pay for their parking with a credit card or PayPal.

There are currently about 30 operators using Flash Valet in Austin, Dallas, Houston and Boston, the company said. The target market is large metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Operators pay $149 a month per location with no restriction on the number of users at each location.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, KLH49

SpaceX Dragon Makes History, Docks With the ISS [PICS]
Friday, May 25, 2012 11:12 AMStan Schroeder

SpaceX's Dragon capsule has successfully docked with the International Space Station, making SpaceX the first privately owned company in history to achieve such a feat.

This success came after a long period of planning and several launch delays. While there's still work to be done (the Dragon must successfully return to Earth), it's a historic event, hopefully marking the beginning of a new era of privately funded space exploration.

Now that the docking process is complete, the astronauts aboard the ISS will open the Dragon's hatch and unload the supplies the spacecraft is carrying.

After that, they'll load used equipment into the Dragon, which will return back to Earth approximately two weeks later. The Dragon is scheduled to land in the Pacific, hundreds of miles west of Southern California.

Check out a gallery of photos from the mission tweeted by SpaceX below and our interview with SpaceX's founder and chief designer Elon Musk here.

10 Nerdy Accessories for Your Summer BBQ
Friday, May 25, 2012 9:44 AMAmy-Mae Elliott

The Memorial Day holiday weekend marks the start of summer, and with the sunniest season comes all the fun of eating outdoors with your friends and family.

Here at Mashable we love barbecues and we're rather partial to gadgetry, so it was no trouble at all to find some great BBQ gizmos and accessories to geek up your next summer party.

SEE ALSO: 15 Fun Products to Geek Up Your BBQ/a>

From unusual cooking kits to novelty accessories, we've found some fun products for you to peruse. Take a look through the gallery above for our choices. Let us know which items you'd bring along to your next outdoor function.

Image courtesy of Flickr, ctaloi

Facebook Camera and Two Other Stories You Need to Know
Friday, May 25, 2012 8:12 AMStan Schroeder

Welcome to this morning's edition of "First To Know," a series in which we keep you in the know on what's happening in the digital world. Today, we're looking at three particularly interesting stories.

Facebook Launches Camera App

Facebook has released Facebook Camera for iOS, a camera application with a close resemblance to Instagram, which Facebook recently acquired for $1 billion.

The app's claim to fame is photo filters, which should -- in theory, at least -- make your photos look more attractive, but we're not too sure Facebook Camera can compete with Instagram, whose filters are arguably much better. In any case, it's a win-win situation for Facebook which owns both apps, and it can choose whether to push them both at the same time, merge one into the other or completely abandon one and put all its photo-nicefying eggs in one basket.

SpaceX Dragon Docking Attempt

SpaceX's Dragon capsule is attempting to dock with the International Space Station today. If successful, SpaceX would become the first private company to achieve such a feat. Watch the live video stream of the docking here.

Google Announces In-App Subscription in Google Play

Google is adding an in-app subscription option for Android apps offered through the Google Play store. Starting today, developers can use in-app billing to sell monthly or annual subscriptions from inside of their apps. The subscriptions are auto-renewing, and developers just need to set the price and billing interval, with Google Play managing the purchase transactions for them.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

Watch the SpaceX Dragon's Historic Docking Attempt Live [VIDEO]
Friday, May 25, 2012 6:38 AMStan Schroeder

Update: SpaceX Dragon Makes History, Docks With the ISS/a>

SpaceX's Dragon capsule will today attempt to dock with the International Space Station.

If everything goes as planned, SpaceX would become the first private company to ever complete such a feat.

The docking manuevers have already started -- the Dragon is currently some 350 meters from the ISS -- and the ISS' robotic arm is expected to grab hold of Dragon at 9 a.m. EDT. Full berthing is expected two hours later.

Following a successful docking, the astronauts aboard the ISS will open the Dragon's hatch the next day and unload the supplies the spacecraft is carrying.

The mission has initially suffered a series of setbacks, with several launch delays happening virtually at the last second. After the launch, however, everything else seems to be on track. You can follow SpaceX's docking attempt in the live video above and on Twitter.

Check out a gallery of photos from the mission tweeted by SpaceX below.

Private Space Capsule 'Go' for Space Station Arrival
Friday, May 25, 2012 5:38 AMSpace.com

A private spaceship is preparing to link up with the International Space Station for the first time Friday (May 25) in a historic step for commercial spaceflight.

The unmanned Dragon capsule, built by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is due to arrive at the station early tomorrow and be attached to an open docking port, becoming the first spacecraft built by a company — and not a national space program — ever to do so.

A series of orbital tests Thursday (May 24), including a practice flyby of the space station by Dragon, cleared the way for the capsule to attempt the groundbreaking berthing tomorrow.

At around 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT), NASA is due to give Dragon the go-ahead to move within about a mile (1.4 km) of the orbiting laboratory. After about an hour, the capsule will move to roughly 820 feet (250 meters) below the station.

A few more checkouts later, NASA will decide whether Dragon can make its final approach to the station, where it will move into position to be grabbed by the outpost's robotic arm, which will be controlled by astronauts inside. Dragon will then be attached to the lab's Earth-facing Harmony node.

"Sort of like a cowboy ropin’ a steer we fly in the robotic arm and lasso the vehicle and then we bring it up to one of the docking ports on station," NASA astronaut Don Pettit, who will control the arm for tomorrow's maneuver, said in a preflight NASA interview. [SpaceX's Historic Flight to Space Station (Photos)]

If all goes smoothly, the robotic arm is expected to grab hold of Dragon at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT).

The rendezvous and docking plan was approved by NASA today after Dragon completed a near-flawless series of tests this morning, including checkout of its navigation and communications systems, during a flyby of the station.

"Certainly this is a demonstration flight, a test flight, and to get through the first piece of it, obviously makes you feel positive, but in terms of the activity tomorrow there's still a lot of new things that the teams need to perform and the vehicle needs to perform," NASA flight director Holly Ridings said during a briefing today.

There are further checks in place tomorrow to make sure the untested Dragon is cleared to safely approach the $100 billion International Space Station, a collaboration between the United States, Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan. The rendezvous activities will be punctuated with a series of "go-no go" queries in Mission Control in Houston, starting when Dragon is 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) from the station and again at various points closer in.

Finally, Dragonwill approach to 656 feet (200 meters), and then 98 feet (30 meters), and ultimately to 32 feet (10 meters), the point where it will be captured by the robotic arm.

The capsule is a 14.4 foot-tall (4.4 meter) and 12 foot-wide (3.7 m) gumdrop shape, packed with student-designed science experiments as well as crew food rations and clothing for the six spaceflyers living on the orbiting laboratory.

"Dragon is go for berthing day tomorrow and right now we're looking good across the board," Dragon Mission Director John Couluris said today from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthore, Calif.

Dragon launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Tuesday (May 22). It was the second-ever fight to orbit for the new capsule.

The vehicle is due to spend just under a week docked at the space station being unpacked. On May 31, the capsule will be loaded with its return cargo, completed science experiments and equipment no longer needed on the station, and sent back to Earth. The spacecraft is equipped with a heat shield to survive the temperatures of re-entry; Dragon is intended to be recovered by ship crews after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.

Dragon is one of two commercial vehicles being nurtured by NASA to replace the cargo-carrying duties of the retired space shuttles (the other spacecraft is the Cygnus built by Orbital Sciences Corp., of Dulles, Va.). This flight is a test mission sponsored by the agency's COTS program (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services).

If the current mission goes smoothly, SpaceX will be cleared to begin flying delivery missions to the space station starting this fall. The company is contracted for at least 12 of these flights for a total of $1.6 billion.

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