Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 12 June 2015

Google technology counts the number of calories on your plate by analysing a photo -

Google technology counts the number of calories on your plate by analysing a photo - 

Unsure whether the food you are eating is laden with calories? Google is using artificial intelligence to tell from a simple photograph.

The rise in popularity of mobile phones has bred several photo trends: retro filters, selfies and food photography, notably in photo-sharing app Instagram.

Google is taking the food snap to the next level by developing software which can determine how many calories are in your meal simply by analysing a photograph of it.

The project, called Im2Calories, is being run by researchers within Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) division and was revealed at the Rework Deep Learning Summit by research scientist Kevin Murphy.

According to Popular Science, the software works using image-recognition technology that analyses the depth of each pixel, matching it with patterns it recognises and existing calorie information.

Food items aren’t always the same size, of course (for example, a burger varies in size and thickness), so the software analyses the size in relation to the plate and any condiments.

It’s not totally automatic, but if the software incorrectly recognises a piece of food, you can correct it using a drop-down menu.

Murphy admitted Im2Calories isn’t 100% accurate: “Ok fine, maybe we get the calories off by 20 percent. It doesn't matter. We're going to average over a week or a month or a year.”

As well as being a useful tool for dieters, Murphy believes the information could be useful on a bigger scale.

“We can start to potentially join information from multiple people and start to do population level statistics,” he said. “I have colleagues in epidemiology and public health, and they really want this stuff.”

The technology could also be used beyond food, analysing streets.

“We want to do things like localise cars, count the cars, get attributes of the cars, [and] which way are they facing. Then we can do things like traffic scene analysis, predict where the most likely parking spot is,” said Murphy. “And since this is all learned from data, the technology is the same, you just change the data.”

Google has filed a patent for Im2Calories, but there’s no news yet when it will be available to the public.


As their currency dies, Zimbabweans will get $5 USD for every $175 Quadrillion local dollars -

As their currency dies, Zimbabweans will get $5 USD for every $175 Quadrillion local dollars - 

Zimbabweans will start exchanging 'quadrillions' of local dollars for a few U.S. dollars next week, as President Robert Mugabe's government discards its virtually worthless national currency, the central bank said on Thursday.

The southern African country started using foreign currencies like the U.S. dollar and South African rand in 2009 after the Zimbabwean dollar was ruined by hyper-inflation, which hit 500 billion percent in 2008.

At the height of Zimbabwe's economic crisis in 2008, Zimbabweans had to carry plastic bags bulging with bank notes to buy basic goods like bread and milk. Prices were rising at least twice a day.

From Monday, customers who held Zimbabwean dollar accounts before March 2009 can approach their banks to convert their Zimbabwean dollar balance into dollars, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor John Mangudya said in a statement.

The process will legally end the local currency. Zimbabweans have until September to turn in their old bank notes, which some people sell as souvenirs to tourists.

Bank accounts with balances of up to 175 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars will be paid $5. Those with balances above 175 quadrillion dollars will be paid at an exchange rate of $1 to 35 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars.

The highest - and last - bank note to be printed by the RBZ in 2008 was 100 trillion Zimbabwean dollars. It was not enough to ride a public bus to work for a week.

The RBZ said customers who still have stashes of old Zimbabwean dollar notes can walk into any bank and get $1 for every 250 trillion they hold.

That means a holder of a 100 trillion bank note will on Monday get 40 cents. The RBZ has set aside $20 million to pay Zimbabwean dollar currency holders.


STUDY: Dogs snub people who are mean to their owners... -

STUDY: Dogs snub people who are mean to their owners... - 

Dogs do not like people who are mean to their owners, Japanese researchers said Friday, and will refuse food offered by people who have snubbed their master.

The findings reveal that canines have the capacity to co-operate socially -- a characteristic found in a relatively small number of species, including humans and some other primates.

Researchers led by Kazuo Fujita, a professor of comparative cognition at Kyoto University, tested three groups of 18 dogs using role plays in which their owners needed to open a box.

In all three groups, the owner was accompanied by two people whom the dog did not know.

In the first group, the owner sought assistance from one of the other people, who actively refused to help.

In the second group, the owner asked for, and received, help from one person. In both groups, the third person was neutral and not involved in either helping or refusing to help.

View galleryCanines have the capacity to co-operate socially -- …
Canines have the capacity to co-operate socially -- a characteristic found in a relatively small num …
Neither person interacted with the dog's owner in the control -- third -- group.

After watching the box-opening scene, the dog was offered food by the two unfamiliar people in the room.

Dogs that saw their owner being rebuffed were far more likely to choose food from the neutral observer, and to ignore the offer from the person who had refused to help, Fujita said.

Dogs whose owners were helped and dogs whose owners did not interact with either person showed no marked preference for accepting snacks from the strangers.

"We discovered for the first time that dogs make social and emotional evaluations of people regardless of their direct interest," Fujita said.

If the dogs were acting solely out of self-interest, there would be no differences among the groups, and a roughly equal number of animals would have accepted food from each person.

"This ability is one of key factors in building a highly collaborative society, and this study shows that dogs share that ability with humans," he said.

The trait is present in children from the age of about three, the research papers said.

Interestingly, noted Fujita, not all primates demonstrate this behaviour.

"There is a similar study that showed tufted capuchins (a monkey native to South America) have this ability, but there is no evidence that chimpanzees demonstrate a preference unless there is a direct benefit to them," he told AFP.

The study will appear in the science journal "Animal Behaviour" to be published later this month by Amsterdam-based Elsevier, he said.

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