AI might soon be an ally in the quest to banish wake words from voice assistants. Researchers have developed a machine learning model that estimates the direction a voice is coming from, indicating your intent without the need for a special phrase or gesture. The approach relies on the inherent properties of sound as it bounces around a room. The system recognizes that the first, loudest and clearest sound is always the one aimed directly at a given subject. The model is also aware that human speech frequencies vary depending on the direction you’re facing. Lower frequencies tend to be more omnidirectional.
Researchers have developed a high-power, portable version of a device called a quantum cascade laser, which can generate terahertz radiation outside of a laboratory setting. Until now, powerful terahertz radiation required temperatures far below 200 kelvins or lower. This terahertz quantum cascade laser can function at temperatures of up to 250 K (-10 F), meaning that only a compact portable cooler is required. “This will enable portable terahertz imaging and spectral systems that will have an immediate impact on wide-ranging applications in medicine, biochemistry, security, and other areas.”
Scientists have found that specific waves of brain activity increase in power when people get the chills from emotionally moving pieces of music. When the participants listened to songs that gave them the chills, the team found an increase in theta waves (a wave of brain activity that follows regular oscillations) in the orbitofrontal cortex. This area of the brain is associated with emotional processing. The chills could be one way of helping us realize we’re on the road to a reward, but this is just an early idea. Scientists still don’t exactly know what that “ancestral function” is — although some do hypothesize it’s a socially rooted, biological adaptation.
Ants use their own acid to disinfect themselves and their stomachs. A team has found that formic acid kills harmful bacteria in the animal’s food, thereby reducing the risk of disease. The team was able to show that ants disinfect themselves on the inside. “When the ants were able to access the acid, their chances of survival increased significantly after eating food enriched with pathogenic bacteria.” Ants also pass food from their mouth to the mouths to their nest mates. If the ant passing on the food has previously ingested the acid, the receiving ant had a lower risk of falling ill which might reduce the spread of infection within the ant colony.
Wealthy people in England are booking private jets to escape the lockdown. Air Partner, one of the biggest aircraft charter firms, said there had been a “sharp rise” in private jet bookings out of the country. “Many of these flight inquiries are for individuals wishing to go to their second homes in Europe, with the Canary Islands, which are still warm at this time of year, being the most sought-after destination.” Commercial airlines have dramatically reduced their flight schedules. However, private jet operators have reported a much smaller decline in bookings. The operators say this is because the super-rich have continued to travel as much as before.
Volkswagen launched two ID.4 electric sport-utility vehicle models in China, taking on Tesla in the world’s biggest auto market. The models mark the start of a major push by Volkswagen into the electric vehicle market in China to take on the likes of Tesla and Nio Inc. AThe ID.4 models will have driving ranges of over 400 kilometers and offer over-the-air software updates presentation at the product launch said the starting price of the SUVs, which are larger than Tesla’s China-made Model 3 sedans, would be less than 250,000 yuan ($37,450) after electric vehicle subsidies from the Chinese government.
Baby Shark, the infuriatingly catchy children’s rhyme recorded by South Korean company Pinkfong, has become the most-watched video ever on YouTube. The song has now been played 7.04 billion times, overtaking the previous record holder Despacito, the Latin pop smash by singer Luis Fonsi. Played back-to-back, that would mean Baby Shark has been streamed continuously for 30,187 years. The song is catnip for children, whose appetite for repetition has undoubtedly helped it climb the ranks of YouTube’s most-watched videos.
In what the city claims as a world first, the project will use around 70,000 glass bottles to create its two bridges on Nuns’ Island, replacing two overpasses. The two bridges will contain roughly 10% of finely ground recycled glass, as the bottles are mixed in with around 88,000 pounds (40,000 kg) of cement, which will ultimately become the bridge. “Using glass powder is going to increase the durability of the concrete — durability [against] freezing and thawing and resistance to ice and salt. The concrete is going to be a little more strong also.”