Flexible stick-on sensors could wirelessly monitor your sweat and pulse

As people strive ever harder to minutely quantify every action they do, the sensors that monitor those actions are growing lighter and less invasive. Two prototype sensors from crosstown rivals Stanford and Berkeley stick right to the skin and provide a wealth of phsyiological data.

Stanford’s stretchy wireless “BodyNet” isn’t just flexible in order to survive being worn on the shifting surface of the body; that flexing is where its data comes from.

The sensor is made of metallic ink laid on top of a flexible material like that in an adhesive bandage. But unlike phones and smart watches, which use tiny accelerometers or optical tricks to track the body, this system relies on how it is itself stretched and compressed. These movements cause tiny changes in how electricity passes through the ink, changes that are relayed to a processor nearby.

Naturally if one is placed on a joint, as some of these electronic stickers were, it can report back whether and how much that joint has been flexed. But the system is sensitive enough that it can also detect the slight changes the skin experiences during each heartbeat, or the broader changes that accompany breathing.

The problem comes when you have to get that signal off the skin. Using a wire is annoying and definitely very ’90s. But antennas don’t work well when they’re flexed in weird directions — efficiency drops off a cliff, and there’s very little power to begin with — the skin sensor is powered by harvesting RFID signals, a technique that renders very little in the way of voltage.

bodynet sticker and receiver

The second part of their work, then, and the part that is clearly most in need of further improvement and miniaturization, is the receiver, which collects and re-transmits the sensor’s signal to a phone or other device. Although they managed to create a unit that’s light enough to be clipped to clothes, it’s still not the kind of thing you’d want to wear to the gym.

The good news is that’s an engineering and design limitation, not a theoretical one — so a couple years of work and progress on the electronics front and they could have a much more attractive system.

“We think one day it will be possible to create a full-body skin-sensor array to collect physiological data without interfering with a person’s normal behavior,” Stanford professor Zhenan Bao in a news release.

Over at Cal is a project in a similar domain that’s working to get from prototype to production. Researchers there have been working on a sweat monitor for a few years that could detect a number of physiological factors.

SensorOnForehead BN

Normally you’d just collect sweat every 15 minutes or so and analyze each batch separately. But that doesn’t really give you very good temporal resolution — what if you want to know how the sweat changes minute by minute or less? By putting the sweat collection and analysis systems together right on the skin, you can do just that.

While the sensor has  been in the works for a while, it’s only recently that the team has started moving towards user testing at scale to see what exactly sweat measurements have to offer.

RollToRoll BN 768x960“The goal of the project is not just to make the sensors but start to do many subject studies and see what sweat tells us — I always say ‘decoding’ sweat composition. For that we need sensors that are reliable, reproducible, and that we can fabricate to scale so that we can put multiple sensors in different spots of the body and put them on many subjects,” explained Ali Javey, Berkeley professor and head of the project.

As anyone who’s working in hardware will tell you, going from a hand-built prototype to a mass-produced model is a huge challenge. So the Berkeley team tapped their Finnish friends at VTT Technical Research Center, who make a specialty of roll-to-roll printing.

For flat, relatively simple electronics, roll-to-roll is a great technique, essentially printing the sensors right onto a flexible plastic substrate that can then simply be cut to size. This way they can make hundreds or thousands of the sensors quickly and cheaply, making them much simpler to deploy at arbitrary scales.

These are far from the only flexible or skin-mounted electronics projects out there, but it’s clear that we’re approaching the point when they begin to leave the lab and head out to hospitals, gyms, and homes.

The paper describing Stanford’s flexible sensor appeared this week in the journal Nature Electronics, while Berkeley’s sweat tracker was in Science Advances.

VW’s adorable buggy is part of an electric master plan

The Volkswagen ID. Buggy is cute, doorless (and roofless!), and gives off strong beach vibes. But the dune buggy-inspired concept car is more than its looks. It’s about the possibilities of an electric vehicle. See, it’s not just SUVs and sedans that can get the electric treatment.

After making its debut earlier this year at the Geneva Motor Show, the ID. Buggy was just at Monterey Car Week to show what it can do off the showroom floor. The car kept busy hitting the beach and sand dunes of the California coast this week, not just sitting pretty with fancy design ideas on display. This is a driveable car. Even if it isn’t likely to ever be produced — at least for the masses — it shows “the versatility of the electric platform,” as VW spokesperson Jochen Tekotte said at the beach before a test drive.

The vehicle takes what Volkswagen calls its MEB platform, or modular electric drive matrix, and shows how its detachable upper body can lead to other creative electric vehicles. The electric structure with its 62 kWh lithium-ion battery at the base can inspire other all-electric designs and fun ideas. And the buggy is open to other producers to license out and modify as they want. 

As for its electric stats, it has a 155-mile range on a charge, a top speed of 99 mph, and can go from 0 to 62 mph in 7.2 seconds. Yes, the car is just an idea, but it uses the electric platform of other VW cars that will be in production. (The ID family is VW’s electric lineup, with a hatchback, sedan, and SUV coming in the next few years.)

It’s not just the bright green that stands out, but also the simplicity of the vehicle. With its minimal interior, bare-bones Targa bar and windshield frame,”play” and “pause” foot pedals, and button-free hexagonal steering wheel, it gives a sense of what future cars could be, especially with a car driving itself. (You can still play music through the stereo system, don’t worry.) It’s also a throwback to the cars of the 1960s that focused on no-frills design and were intended purely for driving through the elements.

All you need to go.

All you need to go.

Image: volkswagen

Ford and Volkswagen announced a collaboration on electric vehicles using VW’s platform last month, and now other car producers can take a stab at creating a new type of electric vehicle. But it’ll be hard to top something as fun as the beach buggy.

Cms%252f2019%252f7%252fa4e0d797 d229 3c2d%252fthumb%252f00001.jpg%252foriginal.jpg?signature=wkpuiv3hswscwvc6jdlf9hvfiqu=&source=https%3a%2f%2fvdist.aws.mashable

ClearBrain launches analytics tools focused on connecting cause and effect

Businesses need to understand cause and effect: Someone did X and it increased sales, or they did Y and it hurt sales. That’s why many of them turn to analytics — but Bilal Mahmood, co-founder and CEO of ClearBrain, said existing analytics platforms can’t answer that question accurately.

“Every analytics platform today is still based on a fundamental correlation model,” Mahmood said. It’s the classic correlation-versus-causation problem — you can use the data to suggest that an action and a result are related, but you can’t draw a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

That’s the problem that ClearBrain is trying to solve with its new “causal analytics” tool. As the company put it in a blog post, “Our goal was to automate this process [of running statistical studies] and build the first large-scale causal inference engine to allow growth teams to measure the causal effect of every action.”

You can read the post for (many) more details, but the gist is that Mahmood and his team claim they can draw accurate causal relationships where others can’t.

ClearBrain analytics screenshot

The idea is to use this in conjunction with A/B testing — customers look at the data to prioritize what to test next, and to make estimates about the impact of things that can’t be tested. Otherwise, Mahmood said, “If you wanted to measure the actual impact of every variable on your website and your app — the actual impact it has on conversation — it could take you years.”

When I wrote about ClearBrain last year, it was using artificial intelligence to improve ad targeting, but Mahmood said the company built the new analytics technology in response to customer demand: “People didn’t just want to know who was going to convert, they wanted to know why, and what caused them to do so.”

The causal analytics tool is currently available to early access users, with plans for a full launch in October. Mahmood said there will be a number of pricing tiers, but they’ll be structured to make the product free for many startups.

In addition to launching the analytics tool in early access, ClearBrain also announced this week that it’s raised an additional $2 million in funding from Harrison Metal and Menlo Ventures.

Nationwide US Customs computer outage causes gigantic lines at airports

Airports around the United States are experiencing delays in processing international travelers thanks to an apparent nationwide outage affecting the computer systems used by Customs and Border Protection.

“US Customs and Border Protection is experiencing a temporary outage with its processing systems at various air ports of entry and is taking immediate action to address the technology disruption,” a CBP official said in a statement to The Verge. “CBP officers continue to process international travelers using alternative procedures until systems are back online. Travelers at some ports of entry are experiencing longer than usual wait times and CBP officers are working to process travelers as quickly as possible while maintaining the highest levels of security.”

Travelers at airports around the country posted videos of massive, slow-moving lines that sprung up as a result of the outage. But there are reports that the system is back up at some airports.


Apple sues startup for creating a software copy of the iPhone

For more than a year, a company called Corellium has been offering hackers a virtual iPhone. For a price, you could summon up a virtual iPhone on your computer, changing the model or iOS version through a simple menu tab.

Now, Apple is suing to shut that virtual iPhone down. In a lawsuit first reported by Bloomberg, Apple alleges that Corellium’s virtual iPhone replica infringes on the company’s copyright of iOS and related technology. It would be near impossible to use Corellium’s system as a replacement for an iPhone (it’s not mobile or SIM-accessible, for a start), but it still copies iOS directly, giving Apple grounds for a claim.

“The purpose of this lawsuit is not to encumber good-faith security research, but to bring an end to Corellium’s unlawful commercialization of Apple’s valuable copyrighted works,” Apple’s counsel argues in its initial complaint.

Some of Apple’s concern over the product may have been what Corellium was really being used for: bug-hunting. According to reports last year from Motherboard and Forbes, Corellium’s virtual iPhone was primarily used by researchers looking for vulnerabilities in iOS and the iPhone itself, which were often sold to third-party exploit traders rather than reported to Apple.

Still, it remains to be seen how Corellium will respond. As noted by Bloomberg, Corellium updated its public Intellectual property policy just last month. A summons was issued in the wake of Apple’s filing, giving Corellium 21 days after delivery to respond to the suit.

‘Silicon Valley’ heads to Washington in new trailer

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It shouldn’t be news to any of us now that some parts of the internet…are bad. Even a lot of the good parts are being used by bad people, or for bad purposes like datamining and invasions of privacy without user consent.

That’s the kind of hard-hitting ethical quandary you probably wouldn’t expect from Silicon Valley, but the teaser for the forthcoming season of HBO’s tech startup satire promises to at least touch upon big names like Google and Amazon, even if it’s just for a scathing joke (what is Amazon, anyway?). 

The final season of Silicon Valley begins Oct. 27 on HBO.

The looming Obi-Wan TV series is another hint at Disney’s planned streaming tactics

Ewan McGregor is reportedly in talks to return to his iconic Star Wars role in an Obi-Wan Kenobi series for Disney’s Disney+ streaming service. If the series actually makes it to screens, it’ll mark the end of years of effort to get an Obi-Wan movie made, and it will show how Disney intends to use its streaming service.

The original plan was to make a feature-length theatrical Star Wars spinoff, according to a Hollywood Reporter story from 2017. Those plans were eventually scrapped following the lackluster success of two Star Wars spinoff films, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo: A Star Wars Story. A third spinoff movie was planned, but Disney and Lucasfilm decided to forgo those plans entirely, pushing back future Star Wars installments — including a trilogy from The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and a trilogy from the Game of Thrones creators — to 2021.

Star Wars exhaustion hit, basically. Disney CEO Bob Iger told The Hollywood Reporter, “As I look back, I think the mistake that I made — I take the blame — was a little too much, too fast.” But even a theatrical disappointment (at least, by the standards of a major conglomerate like Disney, which is becoming used to billion-dollar box office hits) could be a perfect fit for a streaming service, and Disney execs are clearly thinking about those dynamics.

A Star Wars spinoff based on Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk’s Rogue One characters (Cassian Andor and K-2S0, respectively) is in development for Disney+. Rogue One might not have met theatrical expectations for Disney, but it won enough critical acclaim and earnings that a digital streaming series seems worth exploring. The Obi-Wan show would be the third Star Wars series in development at Disney+. While Iger has previously said Disney doesn’t rely or lean on Star Wars for hits, it’s certainly a famous brand that will draw in certain subscribers.

Disney+ could also let Disney experiment with new content without worrying about theatrical stakes. Even if the Obi-Wan series is critically panned, it will continue to exist on the platform as library content. Having a library full of exclusive series and movies that keep people watching — even if no one title is their primary reason for subscribing — is crucial.

Netflix refers to this method of subscriber retention as an “efficiency” model when it comes to figuring out whether a show is worth renewing. It either needs to bring in subscribers or keep those at risk of canceling from leaving. People might join Disney+ to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Marvel’s new Loki series, but if they’re hanging around to watch Obi-Wan, it’s still a win.

Disney+ is arguably the company’s biggest investment in Disney’s future. Iger called it one of the most important projects he’s launched in his tenure at the company. (This is the same man who oversaw the purchase of Marvel Studios, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox.) The service is expected to draw between 60 and 90 million subscribers in five years, according to Variety, but even that would be on the conservative side, according to analysts.

Simply put, Disney+ is going to be big. That means it’ll need a vast collection of shows, movies, and originals to keep people watching. An Obi-Wan series with McGregor sounds like a perfect fit for Disney+. Who knows, with Disney’s current plans to integrate TV and film projects (things that happen in Marvel’s WandaVision will end up relating to the events of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, according to Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige), an Obi-Wan show could translate to a movie in the future.

More information about Disney+ and the Obi-Wan series is expected to be announced next week at D23, the company’s biennial convention in Anaheim, California.

How to make and share your own Instagram face filters

A tool that lets you create custom face filters and other excellent effects for Instagram, Spark AR Studio is now available to all users. Previously, it had only been available for Facebook and beta testers.

We here at The Verge have already used it to create our first filter, which you can see and share through Instagram’s mobile app by going to The Verge’s Instagram account (@verge) and tapping on the face icon.

Facebook and beta testers.) We here at The Verge have already used it to create our first filter, which you can see and share through Instagram’s mobile app by going to The Verge’s Instagram account and tapping on the face icon. 
The Verge Instagram face filter

If you’d like to know how to make your own filter for use on Instagram, grab your phone and computer and let’s go.

Start your project

It’s always good to start with a sample project as a jumping-off point. In this case, we’re going to create a Face Distortion effect.

  • Download & install the latest version of Spark AR Studio onto your computer (we’re using v68 for this how-to). It’s available for both Mac and Windows.
  • You’ll be greeted by a splash screen that has a ton of great starter projects to explore. I encourage you to open them all up and poke around if you want.
  • When you’re ready to start this sample project, go to the Samples tab and choose Face Distortion.
Instagram face filters
  • Save your project to a local folder by going to “File” > “Save.”

Modify your filter

Now that you’ve opened up a sample project, you’ll probably want to make a few changes.

  • On the left side of the window in the “Scene” tab, find and select “faceMesh_distortion.”
  • On the right side of the window, find “Deformation.”
  • Make sure the Deformation window is expanded.
Instagram face filters
  • Under “Blend Shapes” tweak any of the sliders to adjust the facial distortion.
  • Go ahead — create a nightmare!
Instagram face filters

Use the filter on your own video

Up to this point we’ve been using the default sample video to see our effect. Let’s change it to see how our effect looks on other face types. If you have a webcam you can even preview it on yourself in real time. Here’s how to change the input video:

  • On the far left edge of the window, find and click the camera icon.
  • From the selection of faces presented, choose one.
  • If you have a webcam attached to your computer, you will see a button for it just above the faces. Choose it for a live interactive preview.

Your effect should automatically update and be applied to the new face. Make any additional adjustments you’d like then save the project.

Export your filter

Next, we’ll export a final file we can use to upload to Facebook and publish to either Facebook or Instagram (you can only choose one). Here’s how:

  • From the file menu choose “Export.”
  • A window will pop up showing how much space your filter will use on different types of devices.
  • If everything is all green and checked, hit the “Export” button. (Note: You can still export your file if not all the device types are checked, but that may cause problems along the way.)
Instagram filter - file check
  • Choose a save location you’ll be able to easily find later and choose “.arexport” as the file type.
  • Open a web browser and make sure you’re logged in to the Facebook / Instagram account where you want to publish the effect.
  • Navigate to https://www.facebook.com/sparkarhub/
  • You’ll be greeted with an intro screen. Keep going — you can check a box to skip this page the next time you navigate here.
Instagram filter - effects on faces - file check
  • In the upper right of the page click the “Upload Effect” button.
  • Choose the platform (Facebook or Instagram) you want the effect to live on (in this case, Instagram), and name your filter. Hit “Next” at the bottom of the screen to advance.
Instagram filter - effects on faces - which service
  • In the “Effect Icon” section, drag and drop an image you’d like to represent your filter on Instagram.
  • In an Explorer / Finder window, find the file you exported earlier.
  • Drag and drop it into the “Effect File” section of the page.
  • Tick the legal agreement checkbox saying you have all the necessary rights.
Instagram filter effect details
  • Choose “Upload” and “Continue.”
  • Verify the information that pops up and hit “Continue.”

Test your filter

You’ve now uploaded your filter and it’s almost ready. You just need to do some testing first. On the next page, you’ll be greeted with two options: “Preview in the app” and “Get a preview link.”

“Preview in the app” will let you test your filter for 60 minutes from the account you’re currently logged in to. “Get a preview link” will give you a link you can send to friends, family, or co-workers so that they can test your filter; it can only be used 200 times in a single day, which should be plenty. (Note: I’ve personally had issues using the “Preview in the app” option, so I recommend using the link.)

instagram filters - preview link

Either way, go ahead and test to your heart’s content.

Also, you’ll want to send that preview link to yourself (either via email, chat, or however you like), because you’re going to need it later.

Publish your filter

When you’re ready to publish your new filter for the world to see, here’s how:

  • Hit the “Next Steps” button at the bottom of the screen. (If you’ve left the previous page, you can find it easily by going back to facebook.com/sparkarhub.)
  • Choose a category. Our test filter could easily fit into “Selfies,” “Funny,” or even possibly “Weird & Scary.”
  • Remember that preview link that you sent yourself? Go get your phone, click on the preview link, and take a short video of your effect in action with Instagram. This demo video will show people what your filter does without having to download it. Once you’re happy with the video, make sure the file is accessible on your computer.
  • Okay, go back to your computer. Drag and drop the video into the “Demo video” section of this page. Hit “Next.”
Instagram filter demo video
  • Choose when your filter will go live. You can have it start immediately upon approval, or set a start and end date. Hit “Next.”
  • On the “Review Information” page, type up a quick summary of what your effect does. This is only for review purposes and is not public.
Instagram filters - review
  • Hit next and you’ll be able to review everything you’ve done so far. Make sure everything is right and hit “Submit for Review” at the bottom of the page. Reviews take about one business day, but could potentially take longer.
Instagram filter submit

Congratulations, you’re all done! Now all you need to do is wait for your filter to be approved. When it is, your friends and followers will be able to find your filter on the app. Now go out and make some awesome stuff!

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Looking for a good cheap phone? Get the Samsung Galaxy A10 for $145 on Amazon

samsung galaxy a10 smartphone amazon deal

Samsung introduced its A-Series lineup earlier this year, featuring phone models that range from the low-end to the mid-tier level. One of its cheaper phones, the Galaxy A10, is perhaps the most watered down when it comes to specs but still boasts enough workable features and a surprisingly fast performance that makes it a recommendable smartphone.

You can get the Samsung A10 on Amazon for 19% off. Instead of its usual price of $180, get a factory unlocked unit for the very affordable price of $142.

When it comes to its build quality, there’s really nothing to write home about the Samsung Galaxy A10. It is constructed entirely of plastic that has a glossy finish, with a unibody design that extends to the phone’s sides. It is pleasantly lightweight at just 0.64 ounces and feels firm in the hands.

On the back of this phone, you’ll see a single 13-megapixel camera (quite unlike the rest of the A-Series lineup which boasts multiple rear cameras) with an LED flash underneath it. On the upper right side of the phone are the power and volume control keys. This phone can support two SIM cards, so you have the option to have two mobile carriers at the same time. No need to get an extra phone. Although it has an internal memory of 32GB, you can choose to expand the phone’s storage to up to 1TB as it has a dedicated microSD slot.

This phone has a V-shaped notch on the top with a 5-megapixel selfie camera, a design it shares with a lot of recent phones starting with the iPhone X. Some people like it, some people don’t. That’s because the notch blocks a certain amount of the screen which can be irritating when watching videos.

It has a 6.2-inch IPS display with a 720 x 1,520 pixels resolution. Despite being a lower-tier phone, the screen can get pretty bright and possess what Samsung calls “adaptive display.” This means it can automatically adjust its brightness depending on the amount of light in the surroundings, making it power efficient.

The Samsung Galaxy A10 runs on Android Pie with Samsung’s proprietary software One UI version 1.1., one of the finest mobile OS that doesn’t come with a lot of bloatware. Working with an Exynos 7884 chipset and 2GB of RAM, the Galaxy A10 runs exceptionally fast for an entry-level phone.

The camera works fine if a little underwhelming. Unlike the Galaxy A9 which has four rear cameras, one of which has a depth-sensing lens, this phone does take good photos but cannot take shots with a blurry background effect. The colors are nicely balanced, and the details look sharp and accurate.

The Samsung Galaxy A10 is a good entry-level phone with an awesome display and an excellent performance that comes with a very reasonable price tag to boot. Get it for just $145 on Amazon.

For more options visit this page for our best smartphones for 2019. And for more awesome deals visit our curated deals page.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.

Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.

Editors’ Recommendations

These fraudulent Android apps were downloaded 8 million times

Have you downloaded a photo editing app to your Android phone? It’s worth checking where that app came from and seeing if its on the list below. It turns out that a series of Android apps disguised as photo editing apps and games have been serving ads that are part of fraudulent schemes.

The ads themselves take up the entire screen of the phone when they’re served, and the scheme was discovered by Trend Micro, which reported that it found a whopping 85 apps on Google Play that were part of the scheme. The apps had been downloaded over 8 million times, but have thankfully now been removed from the Google Play Store.

Often, the ads would run on a user’s device — and while doing so, would silently and invisibly serve other ads in the background and click on those ads without the user’s knowledge or consent. The result of that is that ad revenue would be generated. The apps even protected themselves from being deleted from a device; they would keep a record of when they were installed, and lie dormant for half an hour. Then the app would hide the home screen icon and create a shortcut on the home screen instead, meaning that if a user tried to uninstall the app, they would instead simply be removing the shortcut.

As mentioned, these apps have been removed from the Google Play Store, so it shouldn’t be possible for users to download them anymore. If you have the app on your phone, you should be able to uninstall it by heading to Settings > Apps & Notifications > See all apps, then tap on the app and hit the uninstall button. Here, even hidden apps should be shown.

Worried that you might have one of these apps on your phone? Check out the list of the apps below.

  • Super Selfie
  • Cos Camera
  • Pop Camera
  • One Stroke Line Puzzle
  • Background Eraser
  • Meet Camera
  • Pixel Blur
  • Hi Music Play
  • One Line Stroke
  • Beautiful House
  • Blur Photo Editor
  • Stylish Camera
  • Face Camera
  • Beauty Camera
  • Magic Camera
  • Super Selfiecam
  • Owl Camera
  • Seals Camera
  • Selfie Artifact
  • Selfie Camera
  • Toy Smash
  • Color House
  • Fast Blur
  • Date Stamp Camera
  • Find Differences
  • Charm Camera
  • Cherry Camera
  • PIC Eraser
  • Sweet Selfie
  • Toy Story
  • Blur Camera
  • Sweet Camera
  • Photo Background Eraser
  • Selfie Dog
  • Smart File Manager
  • Easy Camera Pro
  • Connect Together
  • Toy Blast
  • HD Video Player
  • Draw 1 Line
  • Fancy Camera
  • Panda Camera
  • One Stroke Drawing
  • One Touch Draw
  • Background Changer
  • QR Code Scanner
  • Quick Blur
  • Blur Master
  • Checkers box
  • Face Camera
  • Fashion Camera
  • Perfect Camera
  • Easy Camera
  • Mirth Cam
  • 361 Camera
  • One-line draw puzzle stroke
  • Super Camera
  • Connect Smash
  • Jelly Crush
  • Video Cut

Editors’ Recommendations