Conservation research is not being done in the countries where it is most needed - a situation which is likely to undermine efforts to preserve global biodiversity. That's the conclusion of a new study publishing in the Open Access journal PLOS Biology on 29th March, led by Associate Professor Kerrie Wilson from The University of Queensland and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). "Our analysis revealed that comparatively less conservation research is undertaken in the world's most biodiverse countries such as Indonesia and Ecuador" says Kerrie Wilson. The study analysed over 10,000 conservation science papers from over 1,000 journals published in 2014. The researchers then compared the countries where these studies were done (and by whom) with the world's most important countries for biodiversity conservation. What they found suggested a massive mismatch in terms of need and effort. "If you dig a little deeper, it gets worse. The science conducted in these countries is often not led by scientists based in those countries and these scientists are also underrepresented in important international forums." What this adds up to, says Wilson, is a widespread bias in the field of conservation science. "If research is biased away from the most important areas for biodiversity conservation then this will accentuate the impacts of the global biodiversity crisis and reduce our capacity to protect and manage the natural ecosystems that underpin human well-being," says Wilson. Biases in conservation science will also undermine our ability to meet Target 19 of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). Target 19 states that "By 2020, knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity, its values, functioning, status and trends, and the consequences of its loss, are improved, widely shared and transferred, and applied." "Our comprehensive analysis of publishing trends in conservation science literature suggest we won't meet this target if these biases aren't addressed," says Wilson. The researchers believe that a range of solutions is needed. These include reforming open access publishing policies, enhancing science communication strategies, changing author attribution practices, improving representation in international processes, and strengthening infrastructure and human capacity for research in countries where it is most needed. "We won't change the situation by simply ignoring it," says Wilson."Researchers need to examine their own agendas and focus on areas with the greatest need." More information: Wilson KA, Auerbach NA, Sam K, Magini AG, Moss ASL, Langhans SD, et al. (2016) Conservation Research Is Not Happening Where It Is Most Needed. PLoS Biol 14(3): e1002413.DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002413
News Article | April 1, 2016
Researchers have identified a common, universal facial expression referred to as the "Not Face" that represents 'negation' or negative statements, devoid of the cultural background or nationality the person is related to. This particular look that descriptively entails a set of creased brows, pressed lips and a raised chin was identical across people, despite the fact that they spoke in English, Chinese or Spanish. Further, this facial expression was consistent even with those people who use the American Sign Language (ASL) to convey negative emotions. The researchers made a hypothesis that the universal "not face" would comprise of three basic facial expressions representing negative emotions such as anger, disgust and contempt. The study that was carried out by the Ohio State University, reveals that at the very pace we speak or communicate negatively, our facial muscles inadvertently flexes to form the "not face" expression. It's been observed as an instinctive reaction. "To our knowledge, this is the first evidence that the facial expressions we use to communicate negative moral judgment have been compounded into a unique, universal part of language," said Aleix Martinez, cognitive scientist and professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Ohio State University. Hence for the purpose of the study, 158 Ohio State students were selected and divided into four groups. Each group representing the languages English, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and ASL, and respectively comprising of students who natively spoke that language. The students were made to sit opposite a digital camera and recorded, while they carried on a generic conversation in their native language. The research carried out a technical analysis of photographic data, frame by frame, and kept track of the distinguishing movements of the facial muscles. Astonishingly, the investigation found clear, identical grammatical markers of negation across the four different groups. The distinct negative facial expressions — the furrowed brows of "anger" combined with the raised chin of "disgust" and the pressed-together lips of "contempt" — were surprisingly common and recurrent across the groups. It was observed that regardless of the language the participants spoke or communicating through sign language, they all expressed the similar "not face" expression while conveying negative statements. The details of the study have been published in the journal Cognition.
A facial expression that implies disagreement is the same in several cultures, scientists have found. More The facial expression indicating disagreement is universal, researchers say. A furrowed brow, lifted chin and pressed-together lips — a mix of anger, disgust and contempt — are used to show negative moral judgment among speakers of English, Spanish, Mandarin and American Sign Language (ASL), according to a new study published in the May issue of the journal Cognition. In ASL, speakers sometimes use this "not face" alone, without any other negative sign, to indicate disagreement in a sentence. "Sometimes, the only way you can tell that the meaning of the sentence is negative is, that person made the 'not face' when they signed it," Aleix Martinez, a cognitive scientist and professor of electrical and computer engineering at The Ohio State University, said in a statement. Martinez and his colleagues previously identified 21 distinct facial emotions, including six basic emotions (happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust), plus combinations of those (happy surprise, for example, or the kind of happy disgust someone might express after hearing a joke about poop). The researchers wondered if there might be a basic expression that indicates disapproval across cultures. Disapproval, disgust and disagreement should be foundational emotions to communicate, they reasoned, so a universal facial expression marking these emotions might have evolved early in human history. [Smile Secrets: 5 Things Your Grin Reveals About You] The researchers recruited 158 university students and filmed them in casual conversation in their first language. Some of these students spoke English as a native tongue, while others were native Spanish, Mandarin Chinese or ASL speakers. These languages have different roots and different grammatical structures. English is Germanic, Spanish is in the Latin family and Mandarin developed independently from both. ASL developed in the 1800s from a mix of French and local sign language systems, and has a grammatical structure distinct from English. But despite their differences, all of the groups used the "not face," the researchers found. The scientists elicited the expression by asking the students to read negative sentences or asking them to answer questions that they'd likely answer in the negative, such as, "A study shows that tuition should increase 30 percent. What do you think?" As the students responded with phrases like, "They should not do that," their facial expressions changed. By analyzing the video of the conversations frame by frame and using an algorithm to track facial muscle movement, Martinez and his colleagues were able to show that a combination of anger, disgust and contempt danced across the speakers' faces, regardless of their native tongue. A furrowed brow indicates anger, a raised chin shows disgust and tight lips denote contempt. The "not face" was particularly important in ASL, where speakers can indicate the word "not" either with a sign or by shaking their head as they get to the point of the sentence with the negation. The researchers found, for the first time, that sometimes, ASL speakers do neither — they simply make the "not face" alone. "This facial expression not only exists, but in some instances, it is the only marker of negation in a signed sentence,” Martinez said. The researchers are now building an algorithm to handle massive amounts of video data, and hope to analyze at least 10,000 hours of data from YouTube videos to understand other basic facial expressions and how people use expressions to communicate alongside language. Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science. Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Initially known to many for their military use, drones have evolved quickly into tools for creating and enjoying new experiences. They have become flying extensions of the human desire to innovate, help people and have fun. Nearly four million commercial drones are expected to sell this year, rising to 16 million a year by 2020, according to a new report by Juniper Research. "Three years ago, this technology was so expensive, so unattainable, that only the professional cinematographer could afford it," said International Drone Racing Association CEO Charles Zablan in an interview with The New York Times. Zablan said that now a full drone racing kit with flying google can be bought for about $1,000. Like many new technologies that become affordable and widely available, these flying robots are proving to be useful as well as entertaining. In war-torn Syria, drones are delivering food to starving villages. Drones carry cargo so frequently in Rwanda that they have their own airport. While drones bring stunning aerial video perspectives on life, they're also inspiring people to create art and invent games that never existed before. Here are five innovative ways drones are bring used: Using drones to capture footage that would normally require expensive helicopters or cranes is more common not just in major Hollywood productions but also in videos created by small production houses and even amateurs. In "First Flight of the Phantom," viewers see the oft-filmed grandeur of NYC from a totally new perspective, with the DJI Phantom moving from street level to building-top in one continuous shot. It's not just for smaller indie films, either—Chappie, Neil Blomkamp's latest venture into South African sci-fi, filmed several of its action shots with aerial drones. This November, the Flying Robot International Film Festival will even make history as the first to feature films exclusively made by, and about, these autonomous flying devices. On the beaches of the Ottawa River, geese reign wide swaths of land as tyrants, proving resistant to all efforts to dislodge them and rendering most of the watery real estate uninhabitable. Ottawa, however, has a new trick up its sleeve. The GooseBuster is a drone fitted with speakers blaring the howl of a grey wolf as it zooms through the air (geese hate flying wolves). Unsurprisingly, it's done wonders, scaring off the winged bullies at lightening speeds. Aside from terrifying geese, drones can also be used to protect endangered animals. Lian Pin Koh and Serge Wich, two scientists spearheading conservation efforts for the Sumatran orangutan, developed an inexpensive, lightweight drone that maps large swaths of land, a process that was once costly and time-consuming. They've even used their drone to take aerial photographs of orangutan treetop nests, something that's been impossible to do in the past. Drones Capture the Eye of the Storm Because drones are unmanned and cheap, scientists can send them into all kinds of dangerous situations. One explorer, Sam Cossman, even sacrificed a camera-mounted drone to capture mind-blowing images and footage of active volcano Vanuatu. For those more interested in academics, drones can venture inside a tornado. Right now, scientists have a lot of questions about how tornadoes are formed, and although the movie Twister showed otherwise, humans can't safely collect data from the center. Engineering students at Oklahoma State University could be changing that in the future. They are working to develop drones capable of flying into dangerous storms and collecting data. NASA is also developing a drone for monitoring dangerous weather: The Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel, or HS3, studies the storms from above, closer than any piloted aircraft could ever safely attempt. "Our hope is to be able to make better predictions about the impacts of hurricanes," meteorologist Sharan Majumdar told Discover Magazine. That's certainly a crucial task, considering how hard coastlines around the world have been pummeled by severe weather in the last few years. When these flying machines are used for surveillance and military combat they invoke authoritarian symbolism, so it was shocking for many to see rebellious drones defacing a colossal Calvin Klein outdoor advertisement in New York under the dark of night. Last April, KATSU, a well-known graffiti artist, vandal and ne'er-do-well, used a drone armed with a can of spray paint to draw horizontal slash marks across the gargantuan billboarded face of Kendall Jenner. While the art itself wasn't terribly impressive, it's the kind of performance that could never have been accomplished by mere human hands. As drone technology improves, so, too, will the displays of public tagging. "Seventy percent of the concentration is in maintaining this equilibrium with the two dimensional surface while you are painting," KATSU explained to Wired. But he seemed optimistic about future careers of drones as graffiti artists. "It's exciting to see its first potential use as a device for vandalism." The dream of battling robots to the death has been around ever since robots were first imagined. Something about unmanned machinery summons the inner toddler in everyone who used to mash action figures together until a limb popped off. So it seems only natural that the most exciting use of this high-tech gadgetry is making them fight each other for human amusement. Robot Combat League, anyone? But fighting while flying takes the amusement to new levels. As this video from Intel's Meet the Makers series shows, it takes more than cutting-edge technology to win. Pilots are constantly fixing their fighters on the fly, which requires them to become skilled engineers in order to best their opponents. The Aerial Sports League (ASL) currently leads the pack in flying robot death matches, featuring races and obstacle courses for pilots to navigate. But the real draw is the cage matches (or net matches, more accurately) where two drones try to get the drop on each other by jamming their frames on top of the other's propellers, sending the lesser drone into a crash landing. But ASL founder Maqrue Cornblatt points out that the heavy-duty drones used in these sports are great for reasons other than aiding destruction. "They're really ideal for STEM and educational outreach," he explained. "It's a drone little kids can build and smash and take apart and rebuild over and over again." Cornblatt and his team specifically incorporated "pit stops" that allowed pilots to fix their fighters on the spot, making drones sports a fantastic hobby for burgeoning engineers. "We have an intrinsic human desire to see violence," Cornblatt said. "But to put it in this context, where it's safe and actually educational, is extremely rewarding." Presumably, though, it's only a matter of time before flamethrowers and buzzsaws are added to the fray. As drone technology continues to improve, philanthropists, makers and rebels will find new and interesting ways to entertain, inform and accomplish their goals. Explore further: NYC police see risks with drones' popularity
News Article | December 4, 2015
Email, text messaging, and chat apps might seem the perfect tools for deaf people to communicate. But those with little or no hearing are a visual bunch, and many prefer sign language, says Claude Stout, executive director of TDI, an organization that promotes equal-access technology for the deaf and hard of hearing. "We show the nuances of communication," says Stout, through a sign interpreter. "And we use our expressions to show our feelings, and show that we are happy or sad or concerned or upset, just like you can hear those nuances in a person's voice." And signers can talk fast, says Stout, at up to 200 words per minute. Furthermore, signing is often the native language for those who use it. Moving to the keyboard means switching to a second language. That's why Stout and his colleagues at TDI were excited to find Glide, an Israeli startup founded in 2012 that makes a free video-chat app of the same name for Android and iOS. Glide told me that it now has "at least several hundred thousand deaf users." (The app has been installed on more than 20 million devices and Glide claims "millions" of active users.) "They were a community that we found accidentally," says Sarah Snow, Glide's community manager. Snow was making YouTube videos about Glide when she started getting comments from app users asking her to add subtitles. "When I first saw those messages, I didn't know what to think; I didn't know how many deaf users we had," she says. "But I knew that they were a community that always responds to my videos." Finding a trove of unexpected fans, Snow went all-out to cultivate them. That meant not only adding captions to her YouTube clips, but starting to learn American Sign Language (ASL) so she could make videos specifically for this community. Snow has also done meetups for users and institutions for the deaf and hard of hearing, including Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and the schools for the deaf in Austin, Chicago, New York City, and Fremont, California. Glide users even proposed their own sign for the app, with the most popular being a fist with thumb and index finger extended out. Snow describes Glide's relationship with its deaf users in a video promoting a South by Southwest panel on the experience she's presenting in March 2016. Glide isn't the first tech company to discover fans it never anticipated. Igniter.com, for instance, was founded in 2008 as a group-dating service focused on New York City, but it soon became the fastest-growing dating site in India. "In January 2010, we made the decision that we are an Indian dating site," Igniter cofounder Adam Sachs told the New York Times in an interview. Glide is far from the first video-chat service: Skype was founded a dozen years ago, and FaceTime debuted on the iPhone 4 in 2010. And of course Snapchat has video. But Glide has one killer feature for deaf people: the ability to leave a video message rather than having to prearrange a live call. "With Glide, they can send a message whenever they want," says Snow. "They don't have to wait for someone to answer a call." With that asynchronous messaging capability, sign language users get the same flexibility everyone else has with tools such as email or Facebook messages. The app could do more, though, Snow soon learned. Glide uses a feature called optimize video frame rate, in which it skips some video frames when bandwidth is limited. A hearing person might appreciate trading quality for speed, but dropped frames could garble sign communication. At the request of deaf users, Glide added a setting to turn off the feature. "If you send a video and you have a poor connection, then it might take a second or two longer to send," says Snow, "but it will play smoothly." In August 2015, TDI chose Glide for its biennial Andrew Saks Engineering Award for enabling technologies. "We wanted to show the world that Glide's video technology is starting out as a mainstream technology for anyone who wants to use it," says Stout. "But Glide [is] proceeding with advertising and promoting this technology as a benefit in the deaf community." The previous two recipients of the award were Microsoft in 2013 for its overall commitment to accessibility, and Google in 2011 for its technology to automatically create captions on YouTube videos. (The feature was introduced in November 2009.) Even the companies that are leading in this field could be doing more, some say. Rikki Poynter is a deaf YouTube videographer who began with instructional videos on makeup (though she can't hear, she can speak pretty clearly) and has since broadened her focus to other issues in the deaf community. The quality of YouTube's automated caption creation, she says, is still poor—she calls the feature "automatic craptions." (We chat over Skype, with me typing questions and her speaking answers.) "People always laugh about it," she says, "but it's not really funny, because that is all that's given to us." People viewing college lectures, for example, could miss key information, she says. Poynter says she has spoken with people at YouTube, who tell her that the technology isn’t far enough along for better quality. But she remains skeptical, noting her experience with Apple's speech recognition. "My boyfriend will talk to his iPhone," she says. "It will come out spot-on." Poynter was featured in a February 2015 BBC article that quotes YouTube product manager Matthew Glotzbach saying, "Although I think having auto caption is better than nothing, I fully admit and I fully recognize that it is by no means good enough yet." A bigger problem, though, is that most YouTubers don't even think about using captions, says Poynter. According to Glotzbach, in the same article, only 25% of YouTube content has captioning. Sarah Snow has taken up the cause with a campaign encouraging users to contact their favorite YouTube creators and post about it using the hashtag #withcaptions. One selling point is that captions are useful in many situations beyond the deaf community, such as in noisy settings like bars, where closed-captioned TV broadcasts are a staple. Stout calls this an example of universal design policies that benefit everyone, not only the deaf or hard of hearing. Much as he likes Glide, Stout looks forward to a day when such video messaging capability is a universal design across devices and doesn’t require a special app. "You could use instant messaging . . . regardless of what technology you use," he says. "In the future, it would be nice to be able to send a video message or to make a video call with anyone, regardless of what technology device they are using."