Be warned – spiders can hear you

❝ While jumping spiders are known to have great vision, a new Cornell University study proves for the first time that spiders can hear at a distance.

The discovery runs counter to standard textbook wisdom that claimed spiders could only detect nearby sounds.

❝ A study describes how researchers used metal microelectrodes in a jumping spider’s poppy-seed-sized brain to show that auditory neurons can sense far-field sounds, at distances up to 3 meters, or about 600 spider body lengths.

In further tests, researchers stimulated sensitive long hairs on the spider’s legs and body – previously known to pick up near-field airflow and vibrations – which generated a response in the same neurons that fired after hearing distant sounds, providing evidence the hairs are likely detecting nanoscale air particles that become excited from a sound wave…

❝ The techniques open up studies that link neurology with behavior in all spiders, Ron Hoy said. Gil Menda has since found evidence of hearing in five different spider species: jumping spiders, fishing spiders, wolf spiders, netcasting spiders and house spiders.

Future work by Hoy’s lab will investigate audio perception from lyriform organs and will better investigate audio neurons in the brain. The findings could have applications for using hairlike structures for extremely sensitive microphones, such as in hearing aids.

I wonder if they’ll investigate Google spiders? Har.

Meanwhile, RTFA. A delightful tale of accidental discoveries and cross-discipline cooperation.

The Autoplay Arms Race

Click to enlarge

I find autoplay video or audio commercials so offensive my automatic response is to click away from the page. It is the advertising dross-du-jour. Not only Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are devouring their young with the tech, WordPress has leaped with both feet into this disaster.

I have complained to the powers-that-be, here at WordPress, and my eventual choice appears to be a request for no advertising at all on my personal blog.

Thanks to re/code

Eidos aids users in tuning their senses

They may look somewhat bulky and a bit like someone wandered out of an avant garde theater, but a pair of concept pieces developed by students and the Royal College of Arts in London allow wearers to fine tune their senses of sight and hearing. Called “Eidos,” from the Greek for “form,” “essence,” “type,” or “species,” the system uses sensors and computer processing to select sensory input and alter it for applications in sport, the arts and medicine…

Eidos Vision is a simple arrangement of a visor equipped with a camera and a head-mounted display attached to a computer. Its function is to take the input of the camera and process it so that what comes out of the eyepieces provides a sense of motion similar to long-exposure photography. In other words, the wearer sees moving objects as a series of overlapping images moving across the scene. This means that the viewer doesn’t just see things moving, but also trends and patterns of motion.

Behind the art deco exterior of Eidos Audio are directional microphones hooked to a computer that feeds into two earpieces and a transducer in the mouth for bone conduction. This means that the wearer not only hears through the ears, but also picks up the sound through the teeth and jaw bones directly in the inner ear. In other words, you can hear people talking inside your head.

The team sees a number of applications for the Eidos system. Eidos Vision could be used in sports to allow trainers to analyze performance in real time and by spectators to enhance their experience. It could also be used to add a new dimension to pursuits such as fashion and ballet.

Meanwhile, Eidos Audio might be used for listeners at concerts to focus on one instrument or singer while muting the rest. In addition to the aesthetic or sporting applications, the team also says that the technology could be used to help those whose senses have been lessened by age or disability, or to help students suffering from ADHD to avoid distraction.


Keep tabs on your baby via an iPhone or iPad

Belkin has announced the launch of its WeMo Baby device that turns any iOS device into a digital baby monitor. Comprising a Wi-Fi connecting baby monitor and an accompanying iOS app, the WeMo Baby lets anxious parents listen to high-quality audio from their baby’s room whether they’re in the next room or the other side of the world … though it’s probably not a good idea that the baby is left that unattended.

Once the inoffensive-looking device is installed in a nursery (or anywhere you want to listen to for that matter), users download the free iOS WeMo Baby app and connect it to their existing Wi-Fi network. They can then use an iPhone or iPad to listen in to streaming audio using 3G/4G or Wi-Fi.

There’s no video like we’re seen previously on the iBaby monitor and BabyPing, but there is a visual indicator of baby noise, complete with a dial going from a contented green to ominous orange. Because there’s no range limit as is often the case with traditional baby monitors, and listening does not require an additional receiver, it’s claimed the WeMo Baby will allow parents to travel further afield while their little-ones sleep…

The Belkin WeMo Baby will support up to six users. It is “Coming Soon” and it will sell for US$90.

Are you excited about HDMI 1.4? Maybe.

Peep behind your HDTV and you’ll find at least one HDMI cable. It’s the wire that lets your HD cable box or DVD player to connect with your TV screen, and it conforms to existing HDMI 1.3 standards. That means it’s limited in a number of ways… which is why HDMI 1.4 is on the way.

The neatest bit of HDMI 1.4 is that it’s capable of carrying video at 4096 x 2160 pixels with a 24 Hz refresh rate–that’s enough resolution to support two entire 1080p signals. That’s the key to delivering 3D TV. It’s also robust enough to support the next-gen higher-def TV that will soon make your current shiny HDTV look like last-decade’s junk.

The new cable would also have a built-in ethernet connection, meaning TVs will be able to communicate with wired data devices–like your home PC–without the need for a separate cable. That’s going to be useful for the type of TV that’s already emerging on the market with built-in, web-connected widget powers.

HDMI 1.4 will come in a micro-sized plug as well as the regular-sized one, which is better suited to connecting up gadgets like digital cameras and perhaps netbook PCs. There’s even an automotive spec, designed for the more robust environment inside a car.

The details have been revealed well ahead of the final specification design–due by June 30–presumably so that the public can get used to the idea, while manufacturers get going on building compatibility into their devices. Which is where we come to the downside: It’s still a whole new cabling system. In other words all those new devices will need a bunch of new cables. And that’s always going to cost you, the consumer, more than you think it will.

Fast Company cranks out a pleasant, knowledgeable – and trite – little article about HDMI 1.4. The tech is correct. The analysis is banal. Too bad because the polish and smarts are appreciated.

Reaching out to a mass audience with HDMI as the topic – and not mentioning HDCP – serves only the interests of media barons. Though few content delivery systems use the built-in copy protection features required by our electronic masters, they’re still there. Keeping the option to shut down Fair Use on any other electronic devices you and your family may own.

Does HDMI 1.4 add that censorship capability to the newly added ethernet function? If you try to send a downloaded movie to your TV set direct from your computer, will HDMI 1.4 look for MPAA approval and shut down transmission if it isn’t there? You betcha! There’s even a new HDCP 2.0 designed to do a better job of controlling your access to content.