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Forget Google’s self-driving cars, here’s something totally different and unique. Researchers at Oxford University have developed a new auto-drive technology drive by Apple’s iPad which allows drivers to hand control of the wheel to the robot system to drive itself. Unlike Google’s self-driving cars, this technology combines the best of both worlds: drivers can control their vehicle themselves, but the iPad can optionally take over when the system determines it knows a route.

They built the tablet into the dashboard of a Nissan Leaf and the driver can activate the autonomous driving mode with a single tap. Of course, this technology is still in its infancy and far from commercialization. Currently, the prototype navigation system costs a whopping £5,000, or about $7,500, but researches believe that over time it will work its way down to about just a £100, or approximately $150. I’ve included a bunch of interesting clips just past the break…

CleanTechnica quotes Professor Paul Newman of Oxford University’s Department of Engineering Science who said that “it’s easy to imagine that this kind of technology could be in a car you could buy.”

He also opines in an article published at The University of Oxford web site:

Instead of imagining some cars driving themselves all of the time we should imagine a time when all cars can drive themselves some of the time. The sort of very low cost, low footprint autonomy we are developing is what’s needed for everyday use.

Even though the car itself only moves in 2D, it senses in 3D, but it must learn what its environment looks like before it can take over from the driver.

The system relies on cameras and lasers built into the body of the car. 3D laser mapping enables the system to rapidly build up a detailed picture of its surroundings rather than use third-party maps that are often outdated.

Here’s another video.

AI is heavily involved in interpreting data from the lasers and onboard cameras, including the mathematics of probability and machine learning that retrieves additional data from aerial photos and on-the-fly web queries.

Mind you, they are not using GPS at all because it’s not always available and does not offer the accuracy required for robots to make decisions about how and when to move safely.

“Even if it did,” the project’s web page explains, “it would say nothing about what is around the robot, and that has a massive impact on autonomous decision-making.”

“Because our cities don’t change very quickly robotic vehicles will know and look out for familiar structures as they pass by so that they can ask a human driver ‘I know this route, do you want me to drive?’ and the driver can choose to let the technology take over’,” said Professor Newman.

The prototype system is currently being tested in Begbroke Science Park, near Oxford. There are plans to commercialize the technology, but that won’t happen until the system can be programmed to understand complex traffic flows and to decide the best routes to take.

More information is available at the project’s web site.

As a driver, would you some day trust an iPad with your life?

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Volkswagen Shows Off Augmented Reality Ipad App For Repair Technicians

Apple’s iPad has been used for a number of various augmented-reality applications which impose real-world information over live video feed. The car industry seems to be particularly keen on embracing the Apple tablet. Cody last month told you about eKurzinfo, an Audi app that uses an iOS device camera to help identify parts and features on your car.

Today, Volkswagen is highlighting a similar augmented-reality software, but aimed at repair technicians and car dealers. It’s called MARTA (Mobile Augmented Reality Technical Assistance) and Volkswagen showed it off ahead of the InsideAR Conference, the world’s largest augmented reality conference slated to run October 11, 2013 in Munich, Germany…

Unlike eKurzinfo which has been designed to help with simple maintenance, Volkswagen’s app is aimed squarely at service technicians working on its XL1 concept car.

Developed in co-operation with Metaio GmbH, it shows real and virtual parts in three-dimensional relation to one another. It’s quite cool, have a look at a quick demo by Professor Dr. Werner Schreiber, Head of Volkswagen Group Research.

Here’s how MARTA works.

Each work task to be performed begins with what is known as an initialization  The vehicle’s silhouette is shown in the display of the mobile end device, and it shows the employee the orientation to be taken in relation to the vehicle.

If the silhouette and the camera image of the real vehicle agree, the initialization is finished successfully. Then the individual context-dependent work steps are shown on the tablet. This gives the employee a new system for identifying work items quicker and more accurately.

According to Volkswagen, Munich-based Metaio was also behind eKurzinfo for Volkswagen’s stablemate Audi. Again, that app is more of an end-user software for folks who like to tinker with their vehicle and perform simple maintenance like oil changes themselves.

Volkswagen recently partnered with Apple on the iBeetle, a 2014 vehicle (see below) that features a custom built-in iPhone docking station and a companion app that lets you sync your device with the in-car entertainment system for making phone calls, streaming music and more.

Apple already has always had a strong foothold in the car market through the iPod integration and has been working with the world’s top car makers on implementing native support for iOS device media playback features.

iOS 7 takes that experience to the next level with a brand new (and much-needed) feature dubbed iOS in the Car. Also called a “key focus” for the company and a “part of the ecosystem,” iOS in the Car lets you do much more with your iOS device, right on your car’s dashboard.

Features include making phone calls, accessing Maps and Siri, controlling music and other media and even apps using the car’s built-in display. And not only are those features accessible by hooking up your device to the in-car dashboard via the standard USB interface, but over Wi-Fi and AirPlay as well.

According to Apple:

iOS in the Car seamlessly integrates your iOS device — and the iOS experience — with your in-dash system. If your vehicle is equipped with iOS in the Car, you can connect your iPhone 5 and interact with it using the car’s built-in display and controls or Siri Eyes Free.

Now you can easily and safely make phone calls, access your music, send and receive messages, get directions, and more. It’s all designed to let iPhone focus on what you need, so you can focus on the road.

The iPhone maker confirmed it will officially launch iOS in the Car in 2014 with several launch partners and we heard that the next point update (maybe iOS 7.1?) might contain built-in support for the feature.

Researchers Develop A New Super

The proper hair care for curly or kinky locks can be incredibly confusing, and while there are more brands out there focusing on different textures of hair, the vast majority of hair studies have been conducted on straight or wavy hair strands for Asian or white hair.  Advice for maintaining your mane can even be contradictory and leaves highly variable results. 

A group of scientists are working to bring some order to this chaos by identifying hair properties, like the number of curls or coils in a given length of hair, that could eventually help consumers select products and get consistent results. The findings are being presented at the American Chemical Society’s spring meeting.

[Related: Alopecia patients finally have an FDA-approved hair-loss treatment.]

“As an African American, I was born with very curly, seemingly unmanageable hair, and other ethnicities can possess similar hair properties,” Spelman University chemist Michelle Gaines, this project’s principal investigator, said in a statement. 

“As a polymer chemist and materials scientist, I thought it would be great to start a project where I could study the nuances of my hair, because I felt like it wasn’t very well understood,” Gaines said.

With a team of undergraduates and collaborators at Spelman University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Gaines wanted to see if she could identify differences in properties beyond curl shape and tightness, and use those differences to develop a classification system that is more precise and quantitative.

The team looked at wavy, curly, and kinky hairs and measured their mechanical properties with a texture analyzer. When a strand of hair is uncurled and stretched until it breaks, texture analyzers measure stress, force, and other parameters.

Among their findings, the team found a newly developed parameter called a “stretch ratio.” This ratio quantifies and compares the force that is needed to uncurl a strand of hair until it straightens. The ratio was negligible for straight hair, about 0.8 for wavy, 1.1 for kinky, and 1.4 for curly. The team believes that this measurement could be a quantifiable way of distinguishing between hair types since it indicates the initial curliness of hair. 

[Related: Why time in the sun lightens your hair but darkens your skin.]

The team also measured geometric properties including diameter, cross section, and the 3D shape of hair strands. This helped them develop new parameters, including the number of complete waves, curls, or coils—known as contours—that were measured on three centimeter lengths of hair. According to the results, wavy hair had less than one full contour in that length, curly hair had about two, and kinky or coily hair had approximately three or more. These results could help people classify their own hair by counting contours. 

Gaines has also started to examine the layer that protects the surface of each hair fiber, or the cuticle. This layer consists of flat cells that overlap each other, like roof shingles, and have a natural tendency to open and close reversibly when exposed to plain water, shampoos, and conditioners. Retaining excessive acid and moisture permanently damage the cuticles and make the strand more porous and retain more moisture. Preliminary findings show that wavy hair has cuticle layers that are larger and spaced further apart compared to curly or coily hair. The cuticle edges are smoother in wavy hair, and these findings could help scientists explain why coily and curly tresses dry out quicker than wavy or straight locks.

As a whole, Gaines hopes, this work will identify the best parameters for better hair product development so that consumers can buy the best products for their specific hair needs. 

Spin Off Vs Split Off

Difference Between Spin off vs Split off

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What is Spin off?

In the case of a spin off, the parent company chooses to distribute the equity stocks of the subsidiary to its existing shareholders on a pro rata basis, mostly in the form of dividend payout. In this type of deal, no cash transaction is involved between the parent company and the subsidiary. Essentially, the shareholders of the parent company are now offered shareholding in the new entity and so effectively they now become shareholders of two separate companies instead of one. Usually, the spun-off entities have their own management as they are recognized as a distinctly separate entity. Spin off is also known as spin out, but it is less frequently used.

In the year 2023, Baxter International Inc. decided to spin off its biopharmaceuticals business, Baxalta Inc. The announcement of the separation came in the month of March and was finally completed in the month of July. As per the definitive agreement, the shareholders in the parent company were offered 1 Baxalta share for each Baxter share they held. Post spin off, Baxter retained a 19.5% stake in Baxalta, while the remaining 80.5% stake was distributed through a special dividend.

What is Split off?

Split off is quite similar to spin off but with a catch. In the case of a split off, the shareholders of the parent company are given the option of either becoming the shareholders in the newly formed subsidiary in exchange for that of the parent company or continue to remain the shareholders of the parent company only. Basically, they can’t have a shareholding in both the parent company and subsidiary. Given that all the shareholders of the parent company might not choose to participate in the split off, the distribution of the subsidiary shares, in this case, can’t be pro-rata as in the case of a spin off. However, in order to complete the split off successfully with the exchange offer is made more attractive so that shareholders participate. Usually, the exchange ratio is more favorable for the investors who choose to participate in the split off.

Head to Head Comparison Between Spin off and Split off (Infographics)

Below is the Top 4 Comparison between Spin off vs Split off.

Key Differences Between Spin off vs Split off

Some of the key differences between spin off and split off are as discussed below:

Allotment of Shares: In case of spin off, the shareholders in the parent company are offered the share of the spun off entity on pro rata basis, whereas in case of split off, the shareholders in the parent company are offered the shares of split off entity only in exchange of that of the parent company.

Business Objective: In the case of spin off, the parent company intends to create a separate identity for the spun off entity, whereas, in case of split off, the parent company seeks to separate its core business from that of the new subsidiary.

Spin off vs Split off Comparison Table

Basis of Comparison

Spin off

Split off

Concept The divestment is carried out in such a way that the parent company’s assets are used in the formation of the new subsidiary. The existing shareholders are allotted shares of the spun off entity on pro-rata basis. The divestment is carried out in such a way that the parent company’s assets are used in the formation of the new controlled entity. The existing shareholders of the parent company can opt for shares in the new entity in exchange for the shares in the parent company.

Objective The parent company intends to create a separate identity for the new entity through the mechanism of spin off. The parent company intends to make a clear demarcation between the core operation of the parent company and that of the new subsidiary.

Option for Shareholders The existing shareholders of the parent company are not offered any option. They are bound to accept the shares in spun off entity. The existing shareholders of the parent company are offered the option to either go for the split off or to continue to stay with the parent company.

Shareholding in One or Two Companies In spin off arrangement, the shareholders of the parent company end up with the ownership in two companies. In split off arrangement, the shareholders of the parent company can only have the ownership of one of the two entities – parent or subsidiary.


So, it can be seen that both spin off and split off are recognized as one of the best tools for corporate divestment. Both the arrangements help companies build a more efficient and effective corporate structure. Companies go for spin offs when they intend to create a separate identity for the spun off entity, while they go for split offs when they want separate their core business from the subsidiary.

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Alleged Sorority Hazing Investigated By University, Police

Alleged Sorority Hazing Investigated by University, Police Sigma Delta Tau suspended during probe

Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore is weighing the fate of the Sigma Delta Tau sorority after it was temporarily suspended earlier this month for alleged alcohol-related hazing.

Elmore says the University is investigating both the group and roughly 20 individual students—SDT sisters and members of an undisclosed fraternity—involved in the alleged hazing. The fraternity is not recognized by BU, unlike SDT before its suspension.

“Given the facts we had, I asked that SDT be suspended pending our ability to investigate this,” says Elmore (SED’87). He hopes to wrap up the inquiry by the end of next week and says most students involved have been cooperative.

If the allegations are judged true, the sorority could face permanent suspension, while individuals found to have violated BU’s conduct policies “could warrant suspensions or worse,” Elmore notes. “Any organization that has members who are going to be complicit with hazing or haze other students should expect that they are not going to be associated with BU.”

This is the first reported allegation of hazing at BU in more than a decade, according to the dean. “I’m particularly disappointed,” he says, because of the timing: just this past January, in the wake of incidents elsewhere, Elmore met with student organization leaders, including those from fraternities and sororities, to talk about hazing. He says he discussed with the leaders that Massachusetts outlaws hazing and that “there’s just no place at all for hazing in these organizations and in this community.”

The March 3 incident, first reported by the Daily Free Press, began when students summoned an ambulance for an intoxicated female student on Ashford Street around 9 p.m., according to BUPD Lieutenant Peter DiDomenica. About an hour later, he says, BUPD officers stopped three men helping a second woman who also appeared intoxicated. “It caused concern for her medical condition,” and the officers arranged for her to go to the hospital as well, DiDomenica says.

“My understanding was they were treated and released,” says Elmore.

Further investigation revealed that the drinking was part of an alleged hazing at an off-campus private residence. Aside from the University probe, Boston police and the BUPD are investigating possible violations of the state’s anti-hazing law, according to DiDomenica. Hazing is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $3,000 fine and a year in jail.

Marisa Feehan (CAS’12) and Juliette Miller (CAS’12), respectively the president and vice president of campus affairs for the Panhellenic Council, which governs the University’s recognized sororities, issued a public statement deploring “any behavior that threatens the well-being of any member of Greek Life,” and saying, “we will not accept the occurrence of such incidents.”

The council lifted its SDT recognition, the statement says, but also urges the University community to “support each other and the sisters of Sigma Delta Tau.”

The alleged hazing drew local media attention to BU at a time when two former members of the hockey team are facing sexual assault charges. President Robert A. Brown appointed a task force earlier this month to report by this summer on the culture of the hockey team.

Against that backdrop, Elmore says, “I want to remind folks the overwhelming majority of our students are doing the right thing. Real community holds its own accountable, and we’ve been consistent in terms of doing that. In social situations, we’ve got to be ‘present.’ We’ve always got to be folks who look after themselves. This community still moves on.”

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Researchers Found Proof Of Neanderthals Reproducing With Other Species

About 90,000 years ago, two people boinked inside of a Russian cave and had a child. Nothing totally unusual about that—except that these two people were from two different species. A new genomic analysis by German researchers shows that a early human bone fragment found in Siberia actually belonged to a female teenager born to a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father. The findings, reported in the journal Nature on Wednesday, provide the first known evidence of a direct offspring between these groups, a confirmation of scientists’ strong suspicions that the two species had interbred.

“This is an amazing finding, mainly because there were probably never many of these hybrid individuals around,” says Ian Tattersall, curator emeritus for the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Anthropology, who was not involved with the study. “It’s a bit like winning the lottery.”

Neanderthals and Denisovans are two of the closest extinct relatives of modern humans. Populations of both species roamed through Europe and Asia, and after the discovery of Denisovans in 2010 in the Denisova cave located in Siberia’s Altai Mountains, analysis indicated they and Neanderthals had split from a common ancestor about 390,000 years ago. The two species were both on their way out of existence roughly 40,000 years ago. Scientists were almost certain they interbred with each other as well as with Homo sapien, since the remnants of both species’ DNA lingers in modern humans.

The Denisova cave itself has a strange, windy history. Researchers previously found a Neanderthal toe bone estimated to be about 120,000 years old, so the cave probably changed hands rapidly over the years. Researchers have spent quite a bit of time analyzing the genome of the few Denisovan fossils pulled out from the cave, which was also home to the hybrid’s bone.

Researchers hailing from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology managed to get ahold of the bone fragment for genomic analysis, and they learned it likely came out of a an arm or a leg, from a female teenager who died when she was around 13 years old. That might not sound like a whole lot, but it’s plenty of information to pull out from an shard barely an inch long.

But the team wasn’t done. After an initial round of analysis on the fragment’s mitochondrial DNA confirmed the bone belonged to an early human whose mother was a Neanderthal, scientists started probing the nuclear DNA, which is inherited in equal parts from both mother and father.

Shockingly, the bone presented near equal amounts of both Neanderthal DNA and Denisovan DNA. After confirming the analysis hadn’t been compromised by an error of some sort, the team realized the results meant the father was Denisovan. Moreover, the Denisovan father shared genetic material with another Denisovan woman who lived in the cave thousands of years later (whose pinky was found in 2010). Meanwhile, the Neanderthal mother was most closely related to Neanderthals who lived farther west in modern day Croatia, about 20,000 years after the female hybrid died.

The rarity of this discovery can’t be understated, but that excitement is tempered by the discouraging limits of what we can learn from the bone. According to Tattersall, besides the fact that stumbling upon preserved evidence of an interspecies hybrid is extremely rare, the fragment doesn’t illuminate any new insight into the biology or behavior of Neanderthals and Denisovans, separately or in mixed populations. It’s still an astonishing discovery, but it’s difficult to use such a specimen to really piece together some new understanding of either species.

That’s quite a shame. While we know plenty about the physiology and lives of Neanderthals, we know “practically nothing about the Denisovans, who are basically known only from their DNA,” says Tattersall. “We know they interbred with modern humans, too, but we have no idea what happened to them, except that they disappeared,” he says. “Neanderthals bred with modern humans as well, of course, but the consequences for both species were minor, and the Neanderthals became extinct as recognizably who they were.” The new findings don’t tell us anything about what Denisovans looked like, what they ate, their social habits—nada.

What the study does do is suggest interbreeding between past species of human was probably much more common than previously thought. The Denisova cave and its specimens imply that Neanderthals and Denisovans were living side-by-side, and they might have been forming familial units at high frequencies. This wouldn’t be entirely shocking—the Denisovan father of the hybrid teenager, for example, exhibits genetic signs of having Neanderthal ancestors. But this also further complicates the question of why, if interbreeding was possible and perhaps common, Neanderthal and Denisovan populations remained distinct before they died out.

There are likely other Denisovans-Neanderthal hybrid bones waiting to excavated and studied, and most certainly more Denisovan specimens that could give us a better glimpse of what this species’ biology looked like and how they may have behaved—and who else they might have gotten busy with.

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