Tag: kinect

IEEE enthuses about new cache memory management

The IEEE is getting excited about a new process for managing the fast-access memory inside a CPU which it claims can lead to as much as a twofold speedup and to energy-use reductions of up to 72 percent.

According to its inhouse mag, the idea fixes several important problems.

At the moment, control is hard-wired into the CPU’s circuitry, but the substantial speedup came when the designers let the operating system do the job.

According to an IEEE paper, the idea, dubbed Jigsaw, is the brainchild of two MIT researchers Daniel Sanchez and his graduate student Nathan Beckmann.

They realised that as computers and portable devices accumulate  more memory and CPU cores, it makes less  sense to leave cache management entirely up to the CPU. Instead, they say, it might be better to let the operating system share the burden.

The idea is not new, it was first seen in IBM’s Cell processors, as well as Sony’s PlayStation 3, but what is new about the MIT technology, called Jigsaw, is that it allows software to configure some on-chip memory caches but without requiring so much control that programming becomes a memory-management nightmare.

This solves many of the problems that people had with the PS3.  It was a bugger to programme because of the memory management requirement.

On-chip caches must be designed to handle every job, from pure floating-point number crunching to intensive searches and queries of a computer’s memory banks.

CPUs have no higher-level knowledge of the kinds of jobs they’re doing. This means a self-contained numerical simulation with complex equations but little need for memory access would run with exactly the same cache resources as would a graph search, a memory-hogging hunt for relationships between stored data.

But using the Sanchez and Beckmann plan you give a percent of the CPU’s footprint to a simple piece of hardware that could monitor in real time the cache activity in each core. Hardware cache monitors would give Jigsaw the independent oversight it would need to play air traffic controller with the CPU’s caches.

It means that the OS’s kernel needs at most a few thousand more lines of code which is not that much considering that the lighter weight Linux’s kernel in 2012 weighed in with 15 million lines.

One of Jigsaw’s features is a software module, to be folded in with the OS, that the researchers call Peekahead which computes the best configuration of CPU caches based on the upcoming jobs it expects the cores to do in the coming clock cycles.

However IEEE has warned that the technology is not baked yet.  It is proven to work well on one chip, but might not be effective on other processors with a different hardware design. It also means that every time the processor changes, you have to redo your software.

But Sanchez thinsk that software applications and utilities would remain unaffected by Jigsaw. The only thing that needs to be done is the operating system code needs to be aware of that intimate knowledge of the hardware, like the topology of the different portions of the cache.

Scientists revolt against political interference

A scientific programme, which would prove that humans had nothing to do with global warming, has hit a snag.

Nebraska State Senator Beau McCoy who wants his big business chums to make their profits while not doing something about the planet, dreamt up the theory that Global Warming was nothing to do with humans.

He formed the Nebraska Climate Assessment and Response Committee to stand up their theory that global warming was “cyclical” and told them to gather a group of boffins who would confirm it.

McCoy had not accounted for the fact that scientists would disagree with his basic premise and refuse to say that black was white, or the earth was flat.

According to the Omaha World-Herald Bureau, Barbara Mayes, a meteorologist pointed out that “cyclical” isn’t even a scientific term – it was just made up by McCoy because he was a climate change denier.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientists said they wouldn’t participate in the climate study if it excludes the influence of humans.

Nebraska state climatologist Al Dutcher told the committee said he did not want his name on the study or to be used as a political pawn.

MIT geek sex creates chips configured by light

MIT researchers have emerged from their smoke filled labs after watching a coupling of photons and electrons on a topological insulator.

This type of coupling had been predicted by theorists, but never observed, mostly because the photons and electrons are rather shy.

The researchers think that now they have seen photons and electrons entwined on a topological insulator they can move on to create materials whose electronic properties could be “tuned” in real time simply by shining precise laser beams.

According to this week’s copy of Science, which we get for the coupling centrefold, the work “opens up a new avenue for optical manipulation of quantum states of matter”.

Nuh Gedik and Sarah Biedenharn, associate professor of physics and senior author of a paper ,described shooting femtosecond pulses of mid-infrared light at a sample of material. They then look at an electron spectrometer.

They have seen a quantum-mechanical mixture of electrons and photons, known as a Floquet-Bloch state, in a crystalline solid.

Swiss physicist Felix Bloch theorised this and thought it was because electrons move in a crystal in a regular, repeating pattern dictated by the periodic structure of the crystal lattice.

Victor Galitski, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland who was not involved in this research, it “opens new avenues not only for optical control of topological states, but also more generally for engineering of new kinds of electronic states in solid-state systems”.

It all suggested that it was possible to alter the electronic properties of a material from a conductor to a semiconductor just by changing the laser beam’s polarisation.

It could mean that you could make a chip, which does not heat up at all. You could make a material to conduct electricity, or to be transparent simply shining light on the materials. 

MIT comes up with Kinect through walls

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have emerged from their smoke filled labs with a Kinect type of device which can see through walls and pinpoint a person with incredible accuracy.

According to IT World, the gizmo uses three radio antennae spaced about a metre apart and pointed at a wall. The system tracked the movements with an accuracy of plus or minus 10 centimetres, which is about the width of an adult hand.

One of the designers, Fadel Adib, said that gaming is an obvious use for the technology, but that Wi-Fi localisation was another important thing to come out of the research.

At the moment, working out someone’s position based on Wi-Fi, requires a person to hold a transmitter.

The machine can identify a person through a wall without requiring them to hold any transmitter or receiver by using reflections off a human body, he said.

The next stage is to offer a real-time silhouette of a person, which will enable full Kinect interpretation. It also needs to be able to track more than one moving person at a time.

Unlike previous versions of the project that used Wi-Fi, the new system allows for 3D tracking and could tell if a person has fallen or injured themselves.

It also needs to be miniaturised before it will be any real use.

It might take a while to do all these things and get a product into the market. The researchers filed a patent last week and there are no immediate plans for commercialisation. 

Apple to buy PrimeSense

Apple is reportedly in talks to acquire Israeli motion-tech firm PrimeSense, the company responsible for the inner workings of the Kinect.

Israel’s Calcalist reports the two had been in recent weeks and a delegation of Apple engineers visited in early July, an unusual move for the company.

Calcalist notes that the talks are at an early stage, but expects a potential sale to reach $280 million – not bad for PrimeSense, which raised initial venture capital funds of $85 million.

PrimeSense’s technology is licensed to power Microsoft’s Kinect. It lets device cameras understand scenes in 3D.

If the buy does go ahead, it is likely to do with Apple ramping its capabilities in motion sensing technology, possibly for an Apple TV update or similar set top box. There could even be potential applications for Apple’s long-rumoured smartwatch, which is understood to be at the design stage.

Owning PrimeSense’s technology would put Apple at something of an advantage in gesture recognition, too, not to mention giving the company an interesting list of licensees.

Microsoft open sources bits of Kinect

Proprietary software king Microsoft has open sourced some of the code for Kinect for Windows.

Microsoft has released 22 code samples for Kinect to CodePlex. It is not a total open sourcing, but it is still fairly important.

The samples are available in C++, VisualBasic, and C# and allow elements as face tracking, depth of field, and audio capture/speech controls.

Developers who want to use the code will have to download VisualStudio, .NET, and the Kinect for Windows SDK.

Writing in the company blog, Ben Lower said that the goal of open sourcing some of its most interesting technology is for the company to get feedback and rapidly improve on Kinect and its software.

All the code samples are released under an Apache 2.0 licence and can be taken, reused, or remixed.

Microsoft is using a Git repository so it’s easy clone and fork the code if required.

Microsoft recently released guidelines for gestural controls which are designed to help developers come up with gestures for the first time. 

Creepy Microsoft patent filing turns Kinect into 1984-style monitor

Microsoft has registered a patent with the USPTO which could turn the Kinect into a spying device that regulates viewing content based on how many users are in a room.

Microsoft’s bizarre idea would essentially turn a gaming device into a Big Brother-style monitoring screen discretely spying on users and making licensing calls on behalf of big content.

In summary 0004, the patent filing suggests presenting the user with licensing options when they plan to view content. Basically, another way to squeeze cash from the customer. 

The Kinect would then monitor the “number of users consuming the content during the performance” – essentially an extreme conclusion to the notices at the beginning of VHS tapes that told the user movies were for individual consumption only, and not for unauthorised screenings. Who would have thought that gripe was still irking content industry bigwigs? 

Creepily, ‘Processing unit 191’ may include chips that specifically recognise and execute facial, object, and voice recognition. “Facial recognition may be used to detect the face of a particular person,” the patent ays, adding that particular faces, voices, sounds, and objects could be stored in memory.

Theoretically, this patent, Gizmodo notes, could also turn the Kinect into an age verification unit, which would be a lofty presumption for Redmond to make considering the billions of unique faces here on Planet Earth.

We would hope Microsoft’s not insane enough to actually bring this patent into real world use. Although privacy is increasingly being taken away from users online, it’s hard to imagine the consumer buying the idea of giving Ballmer and his voles access to your living room.

Company comes up with ultra-accurate Kinect alternative

A new USB device, called The Leap, has just been released that puts Microsoft’s Kinect back into the stone age.

The hardware creates an 8-cubic-feet bubble of “interaction space”, which detects your hand gestures down to an accuracy of 0.01 millimeters.

This is 200 times more accurate than a smartphone touchscreen or Vole’s Kinect. The hardware doesn’t only detect hand movements and gestures. It allows you to use virtual objects, such as a pen or chopsticks.

So far the company, Leap Motion, has said nothing about the technology behind the Leap. It could use infrared LIDAR or a higher definition camera than the Kinect has.

The video below talks about a patented mathematical approach to identifying the movements. It is available to pre-order now for $70, which is cheaper than the Kinect and is expected to ship early next year.

If interfaces like this become common place the users will become a lot fitter. All that movement can only be good for the circulation. The lazier of us will still use the keyboard and mouse.

Sony VAIO gets Kinect-style gestures

Sony is about to release its latest 14-inch notebook, the VAIO E Series 14P with Kinect style gesture control.

It measures in at 22.4mm thick, the 1366 x 768 notebook runs Intel’s Core i3-2350M processor paired with 4GB of DDR3 memory and AMD Radeon HD 7670M graphics with 1GB of dedicated VRAM.

What is unusual about this machine is that the 1.3-megapixel Exmor HD webcam can be used for video calls, but also with gesture control.

If you hold your hand up in front of the camera moving around objects can control your software.

This means that you can swipe left or right moves through webpages or photo galleries and pulling your hand down pauses music playback or a slideshow.

The gesture control is only supported by Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer 9, PowerPoint and PowerDVD. Other than that it is an ordinary 500GB wi-fi machine.

The hardware is not Kinect, and indeed we are expecting to see Kinect on Windows 8 machines,  but it does mean that Microsoft was on the ball when it introduced the technology. What is interesting is that it means that touch screen technology, which Intel was telling us was going to be a must have on laptops, probably isn’t.

After all, what is the point of having greasy smears all over your screen if the gesture controller can see what you are doing without having to touch the screen. 

Microsoft admits Xbox hacks

Software giant Microsoft has admitted that users of its Xbox Live network are being hacked, but denies that it is any hardware, software or networking flaw.

Instead, Microsoft thinks that its customers are having their accounts hijacked by cyber criminals.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the situation is being watched closely because insecurity experts have been waiting for another PlayStation Network security breach to happen. In that case, millions of customer accounts were made public and the network was shut down for a month.

While it might have been a bit tighter on security than Sony, Microsoft has been slow to publicly address hijacked Xbox Live accounts.

But Xbox Live users who have had their accounts compromised and facilitated to make unauthorised transactions have been moaning for months. They say Microsoft has been slow to assist customers and restore access to their accounts.

Last month, Redmond improved security on its Xbox.com website, which seems to have been how hackers got access to user account information.

The general manager of Xbox Live Alex Garden penned an open letter about security on Xbox Live that acknowledged “account hijacking across the internet continues to grow”.

Garden described how there was a surge of personal information being compromised and sold but Microsoft said that there was no evidence of a security breach in the Xbox Live service.

Microsoft says the most common sources of security attack are social engineering, phishing, malware and using the same passwords.