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App Gives Older People More Time to Cross the Street

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Crosswalk signals don’t take into account how quickly different kinds of pedestrians can walk across the street. But maybe they should. A new app currently being tested in the Netherlands allows older people to hold traffic for longer, allowing them more time to cross the street, according to The Guardian.

The Crosswalk app, made by the Dutch transportation technology company Dynniq, alerts traffic signals that someone with mobility issues is waiting. Using GPS and the software that runs the traffic signals, the technology helps traffic signals detect if someone using the app is standing on the corner. If so, the traffic signal’s timing will adjust accordingly.

The app has four settings so that people can adjust how much extra time they’re given, based on their individual needs. That way, someone who only needs a few extra seconds doesn’t leave traffic waiting forever while they’re already on the sidewalk.

The issue with creating a mobile app for older people, though, is that many of them might not be comfortable with smartphones. After advertising in the local paper and holding informational meetings, Dynniq was only able to recruit 10 people to test the app.

Still, there are other possible applications for signal-changing technology. It could be used more generally for people with disabilities or to increase safety during situations like when groups of schoolchildren need to cross the street. It could also be expanded to traffic itself, to create lights that are better timed for bikes (so that cyclists don’t have to start and stop every block) or to create green lights for emergency service vehicles.

Right now, the app is being tested in Tilburg, a city of about 210,000 people, but it's only in use in some areas of town. The current test will run into the fall. If it proves successful, the city will equip more traffic signals with Crosswalk in the future.

[h/t The Guardian]

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Animals
Watch an Antarctic Minke Whale Feed in a First-of-Its-Kind Video
WWF
WWF

New research from the World Wildlife Fund is giving us a rare glimpse into the world of the mysterious minke whale. The WWF worked with Australian Antarctic researchers to tag minke whales with cameras for the first time, watching where and how the animals feed.

The camera attaches to the whale's body with suction cups. In the case of the video below, the camera accidentally slid down the side of the minke whale's body, providing an unexpected look at the way its throat moves as it feeds.

Minke whales are one of the smallest baleen whales, but they're still pretty substantial animals, growing 30 to 35 feet long and weighing up to 20,000 pounds. Unlike other baleen whales, though, they're small enough to maneuver in tight spaces like within sea ice, a helpful adaptation for living in Antarctic waters. They feed by lunging through the sea, gulping huge amounts of water along with krill and small fish, and then filtering the mix through their baleen.

The WWF video shows just how quickly the minke can process this treat-laden water. The whale could lunge, process, and lunge again every 10 seconds. "He was like a Pac-Man continuously feeding," Ari Friedlaender, the lead scientist on the project, described in a press statement.

The video research, conducted under the International Whaling Commission's Southern Ocean Research Partnership, is part of WWF's efforts to protect critical feeding areas for whales in the region.

If that's not enough whale for you, you can also watch the full 13-minute research video below:

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AI Could Help Scientists Detect Earthquakes More Effectively
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Thanks in part to the rise of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, earthquakes are becoming more frequent in the U.S. Even though it doesn't fall on a fault line, Oklahoma, where gas and oil drilling activity doubled between 2010 and 2013, is now a major earthquake hot spot. As our landscape shifts (literally), our earthquake-detecting technology must evolve to keep up with it. Now, a team of researchers is changing the game with a new system that uses AI to identify seismic activity, Futurism reports.

The team, led by deep learning researcher Thibaut Perol, published the study detailing their new neural network in the journal Science Advances. Dubbed ConvNetQuake, it uses an algorithm to analyze the measurements of ground movements, a.k.a. seismograms, and determines which are small earthquakes and which are just noise. Seismic noise describes the vibrations that are almost constantly running through the ground, either due to wind, traffic, or other activity at surface level. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between noise and legitimate quakes, which is why most detection methods focus on medium and large earthquakes instead of smaller ones.

But better understanding natural and manmade earthquakes means studying them at every level. With ConvNetQuake, that could soon become a reality. After testing the system in Oklahoma, the team reports it detected 17 times more earthquakes than what was recorded by the Oklahoma Geological Survey earthquake catalog.

That level of performance is more than just good news for seismologists studying quakes caused by humans. The technology could be built into current earthquake detection methods set up to alert the public to dangerous disasters. California alone is home to 400 seismic stations waiting for "The Big One." On a smaller scale, there's an app that uses a smartphone's accelerometers to detect tremors and alert the user directly. If earthquake detection methods could sense big earthquakes right as they were beginning using AI, that could afford people more potentially life-saving moments to prepare.

[h/t Futurism]

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