Author Archives: Fidura Maria

Games on Microsoft Teams

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Microsoft Teams is a well-known and widely-used program allowing people to work remotely. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, we have seen many improvements in MS Teams, Google Meet, and Zoom. After all, many people, from school-aged children to working adults, started using these apps daily.

Recently, The Verge brought up that Microsoft is planning to introduce games into Teams. It is said in the article that the company is ‘testing games like SolitaireConnect 4, and Wordament inside Microsoft Teams. The casual games are designed to allow colleagues to play against each other during meetings’.

However, what is intriguing is the idea behind this innovation. Introducing small games into Teams is just a start to a bigger plan that Microsoft has. The company is planning to introduce even more improvements. As mentioned in The Verge article, ‘These virtual spaces are part of Microsoft’s broader metaverse plans, and the company has previously detailed its ambitions for 3D avatars and immersive meetings that are expected to arrive in Microsoft Teams this year’.

Are you looking forward to having meetings in the improved version of MS Teams?


Imagen All the Issues

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Text-to-image generators are a relatively new thing in the AI world. The idea of ‘feeding’ a program just a few words and it generating an image seems really exciting.

That is exactly what OpenAi’s DALL-E or Google’s Imagen can do. Users can input a short description of whatever they want to see generated, and the program shows an image.

A chrome-plated duck with a golden beak arguing with an angry turtle in a forest
A robot couple fine dining with Eiffel Tower in the background

As you can see, some results are incredibly accurate and detailed. However, it is important to remember the images above were previously chosen by humans, meaning there are probably a lot more images out there that are not as good.

Both DALL-E and Imagen are not accessible to the public and there is a reason for that. With such programs available universally anyone could create, for instance, fake news or an image with the intent to harass someone. Moreover, it is crucial to remember that most algorithms are trained on biased data. That means that the output can often be, for example, racist or sexist.

I believe that programs like DALL-E and Imagen will eventually become public. Hopefully, by then, we will figure out a way to make them less biased and less harmful.

Do you think that such programs will be available to the public in the nearest future? Do you think they should be?



R.I.P iPod

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Unless you were born yesterday you probably heard about the iPod or maybe you even owned one of the many models that Apple released.

Say Hello To iPod | 1000 songs in your pocket

The story of the iPod starts in 2001 when the first model was launched and ends, well, seemingly late – in 2019. However, I feel that the iPod has been slowly ‘dying’ over the last 10 years. With technology development, more storage is available on our phones than on the first iPod. It is said on BBC News that, ‘ the first iPod […] could store 1,000 tracks’. It might have been a big number in 2001 but nowadays we can access millions of songs on popular streaming platforms like Spotify or Apple Music.

However, what I believe is worth mentioning is the impact the iPod had on our culture and the way we think about music, and how we listen to it. As mentioned in the BBC News article, in the early 2000s the music industry was faced with a massive issue of illegally downloading music and sharing it. The article suggests that the issue was somewhat solved with the development of the first iPod as well as iTunes.

What else did the iPod revolutionize? In my opinion, it made music more available to its users. You no longer needed a cassette or a cd – you had all you needed in one small and simple to use the device. After all, the simplicity and the easy-to-use UI is what attracts people to Apple products.

To sum up, I believe that the iPod was a great product in the 2000s and early 2010s. However, with technological development, there is no longer a need for a device like the iPod.

Were you surprised that new iPods were still launched till 2019? What are your thoughts on the topic?


New nudity-blurring feature by Apple

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The feature was released in the US last year and now it is coming to the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. But what is it exactly?

This new feature is aimed at children’s protection against nude photos. It disables them to send or receive this kind of content. As explained on Apple’s website, ‘if Messages detects that a child receives or is attempting to send this type of photo, Messages blurs the photo before it’s viewed on your child’s device and provides guidance and age-appropriate resources to help them make a safe choice, including contacting someone they trust if they choose.’

The screenshots below show how a child could get help after receiving a photo containing nudity:

iPhone Messages Ways to get help options
iPhone New Message to Mom and Dad

Moreover, the following screenshots show what would appear on the screen when a child tries to send or view a photo containing nudity:

iPhone view sensitive photo confirmation screen

It is said that all the scanning happens only on the device and is not shared with Apple.

Moreover, as stated on The Verge, ‘Apple is also expanding the rollout of a new feature for Spotlight, Siri, and Safari searches that will point users toward safety resources if they search for topics relating to child sexual abuse’.

What do you think about this new feature? Will technology be able to help with such a sensitive topic?



The Strech Robot Found a New Job

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Boston Dynamics is a company whose name might sound familiar to many. It is not surprising as they are behind the creation of the often discussed ‘dog robot’. The machine is called Spot and is one of the most known products of the company.

What sensors are in Spot, the robotic dog?
Spot by Boston Dynamics

However, Boston Dynamics produces other just as useful machines, like the Stretch robot. As stated on the company’s website, ‘Stretch is a versatile mobile robot for case handling and truck unloading’.

Stretch by Boston Dynamics

The machine got noticed by the German logistics company DHL and they signed a deal worth $15 million.

What is interesting in this story is not only that the Strech robot is less known than its ‘collegue’ Spot (even though Strech generates more profits for the company) but also how Strech and other similar products can revolutionize many industries. Maybe soon other companies will follow DHL’s lead and start using robots to automate simple tasks. However, the question is: are we ready for this revolution and all the changes it will bring?



AI helps with reducing harmful content

Reading Time: 2 minutesAs we all probably know there is a lot of content on the internet that could be marked as inappropriate. This includes various mental health-related images.

Some social media platforms started banning content that refers to self-harm or suicide. Instagram, one of the most popular social media apps, is one of them. As stated on Cnet, “the photo-sharing app will no longer allow fictional depictions of such actions, including drawings, memes and graphic images from films or comics. It’s also pulling down other images that may not depict self-harm or suicide but includes “associated materials or methods””. The app took it a step further and as said on Cnet “accounts sharing this type of content won’t be recommended in search or other parts of the app”.

However, Instagram is not the only social media platform that decided to impose a ban on potentially harmful content. According to AI News, Pinterest, a popular social media page, “announced on World Mental Health Day that it’s reduced self-harm content by 88 percent over the past year using AI”. So how did they manage to do it? As stated on The Next Web “Pinterest announced in a blog post that for the past year, it’s been using machine learning techniques to identify and automatically hide content that displays, rationalizes, or encourages self-injury”. Moreover, it is continued with the fact that they are “now able to remove harmful content three times faster than ever before”.

In my opinion, it is crucial that we fight with harmful content on the internet as nowadays people spend more and more of their free time on social media. It is important to remember that self-harm content can not only be triggering for those who struggle with mental health issues but it can also encourage people to engage in self-destructive behaviors. Therefore, I find it very pleasing to see that artificial intelligence can help with detecting unhealthy content.



VR during a surgery

Reading Time: 2 minutesAccording to Marxent, “Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment”. It may seem like VR is only good for gaming as it has been mostly used for that purpose. However, it turns out that it can be very convenient in an operating room.

As stated on BBC News, “virtual reality headsets are being offered during regional anaesthetic surgeries at a south London hospital to try and reduce stress among patients”. The technology is being tried out by Orthopaedic surgeons in St George’s Hospital in London. As stated on BBC News, “the technique [is being tested] with patients undergoing upper limb surgery, as a way of helping them to relax and reduce any anxiety they may be feeling”.

Patients during upper limb surgery are given regional anesthetic which makes them not feel the pain in the area where they are operated. Unfortunately, they are awake and conscious which makes some people very anxious as they can hear the procedure and doctors’ conversations. It was stated in BBC News, that in the past patients would get sedation which made them calmer but nowadays, thanks to VR, they do not need to do that as patients are given VR headsets as well as headphones so they are unable to see or hear anything that is going on in the room. Instead, they are “transported” to some picturesque locations where they can relax.

Moreover, it has been proved by PubMed that “virtual reality patients felt the experience helped them to relax, and they would recommend virtual reality-assisted wide-awake local anesthesia no tourniquet surgery”. It was also stated that “among patients with self-reported preexisting anxiety, virtual reality patients had lower pain and anxiety scores during injection of local anesthesia compared with non-virtual reality patients”.

To sum up, so far VR is only used in upper limb surgery but the results are great. Therefore, it might have broader use in the future.



A healthier chocolate

Reading Time: 2 minutesWe all love chocolate. Or at least most of us do. The texture, the taste – everything about it makes it the perfect snack. Unfortunately, as you may know, it is not the healthiest of foods as it contains a lot of sugar and fat. However, it looks like scientists came up with an idea of how to make chocolate better for us.

The fact that chocolate is unhealthy is common knowledge but do you know exactly how unhealthy it can be? As stated in Everyday Health “according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 25 grams (g) of white chocolate has 146 calories and 10 g of fat”. Moreover, it is said that “the USDA estimates that 38 g (about three squares) of milk chocolate contains 220 calories and 13 g of fat”. Additionally, as claimed by Everyday Health “it’s estimated that a 1 ounce (oz) serving (28 g) of 85 percent dark chocolate has 136 calories, 14 g of fat”. Knowing those statistics it is obvious why chocolate is not the healthiest.

It seems like there might be a way to make chocolate better for us but first, we need to understand why there is so much fat in this delicious snack. According to Science Mag, “manufacturers have traditionally struggled to make low-fat chocolates because reducing the fat level of liquid chocolate below 36% by using less cocoa butter makes it extremely thick and likely to clog machinery”.

However, it looks like scientists discovered a way to reduce fat in chocolate using electric fields. According to Science Alert “the physicists involved in the research, from Temple University in Philadelphia, found that by applying an electric field in the same direction as the flow of the liquid chocolate, they could reduce its viscosity in that direction – and only that direction”. It is said that “what happens during the new process is that the cocoa particles get aggregated into small chains as the electric field is applied, which means they’re more highly organised inside the sticky chocolate, and flow in a certain direction more readily”. In agreement with the Science Mag, the results are incredible as “this allows confectioners to use less fatty cocoa butter while not risking clogging their machinery”.

This discovery could potentially revolutionize the chocolate industry although as stated in Los Angeles Times “the research was funded in part by Mars, though a company spokeswoman declined to say whether the company planned to use the electric-field technology”.


How to create a strong password?

Reading Time: 2 minutesYou probably heard at some point of your life that a strong password is very important but what exactly makes a password strong and what makes it easily hackable?

What shouldn’t be in a password?

Let’s start with passwords that you shouldn’t use. It may seem like common knowledge but it turns out that many people still use passwords that are very easy to guess. According to Mashable, the most popular passwords in 2018 were “123456”, “password” and “123456789”. If one of those passwords is what you are using right now, please change it for your own safety. In addition, the things that you should never put in a password are your own name as well as your pet’s name or your children’s name (don’t use names in general because that are easy to guess), don’t use the date of your birthday or wedding (just like a name this information is easy to check). The last but not least thing that you should avoid is using the same password for many websites. Why? The answer is simple. According to Intego “this is the main reason why cyber-criminals want to harvest passwords. If they get a user name and password and then find that it works on other web sites, they can usurp your identity, and perhaps even liquidate your assets”.

How to create a strong password?

Now that we have learned how our passwords shouldn’t look like, let’s see how we can create a strong one. According to Webroot “the secret to creating a hard-to-crack password that’s unique and easy to remember is to focus on making it memorable and making it hard to guess”. It is also stated that you should “use a phrase and incorporate shortcut codes or acronyms”. It can be, for example, a quote that you like but written using a code. What that means is that, for instance, instead of using the word “great” you use “gr8”. Another tip shared on Webroot’s website is that you should “use passwords with common elements, but customized to specific sites”. This method makes it much easier to remember passwords on different websites while making sure that you don’t repeat them. The last advice presented in the article is that you should “play with your keyboard” which means using different symbols and emoticons.

Now that you know what you should and shouldn’t do, go check if your passwords are strong enough.




Reading Time: 2 minutesWhat does human enhancement mean?

Human enhancement may sound like a phrase from a science fiction movie but it is in fact very present in our lives. So what actually does human enhancement mean? According to Science Direct human enhancement (also known as human augmentation) is “a field of research that aims to enhance human abilities through medicine or technology”. It is believed that HE can be divided into three categories:

  • Augmented senses
  • Augmented action
  • Augmented cognition


Is it a new technology?

Human enhancement might sound like one of those new technologies that have not been entirely discovered yet but the truth is that we have been using HE for many years. As stated in Science Direct, HE “has historically been achieved by consuming chemical substances that improve a selected ability or by installing implants which require medical operation. […] Augmented abilities have also been achieved with external tools, such as eyeglasses, binoculars, microscopes or highly sensitive microphones”.


Examples of human augmentation:

As I mentioned previously, human enhancement has been present in our lives for some time. In this part, I would like to share some examples of HE that are being used or worked on today.

  • The first example of HE is gene editing. According to Medium “In a study conducted in august, 2017, scientists […] were able to edit a dangerous mutation from genes in human embryos. The new technique they developed involved inserting gene-editing components together with sperm in the human embryo before any fertilization took place”.

As stated in Medium “The produced results from using this new technique provided that 42 of 58 tested embryos had all of their cells repaired from the damaging gene, which causes a common heart condition that could lead to sudden death latter on in life”.

What it means is that this technology could make future generations healthier by eliminating dangerous genes as well as stopping them from transmitting them onto the next generations.


  • Another example of HE are smart contact lenses. According to Big Think, “both Sony and Samsung have patented smart contact lens technology that can record video by blinking. The augmented reality company Magic Leap is also working on a smart contact lens, in tandem with its much anticipated new augmented reality headset”. So what will smart lenses do? Other sources claim that they will be able to ”would help diabetics by measuring the glucose levels in tears” (Medium) and even “record video and let you control your phone just by blinking” (The Telegraph).


What is the future of HE?

As stated in Science Direct “In the past, humans had to adapt to computers. In the future, computers will adapt to humans”.

In the future, HE will be even more developed which might bring some issues. After all, it is hard to predict which way will, for example, gene editing go.