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Michael Page
Michael Page

Haptic Holography: The Next Mind-Blowing Technology

Michael Page
Michael Page

Young people have had fun with the older generations, watching them struggle to wrap their heads around modern technology. It’s funny at times (like when they try to text) and frustrating at others (if you’re anything like me, you help your mother troubleshoot the wireless printer via telephone at least three times a year). But you can’t hold their confusion against them. Things truly have changed—my grandfather can remember the commercial release of televisions—and guess what? It’s only going to get crazier in the future.

While there are numerous examples of soon-to-come expanding consumer technology, “haptic holography” will be part of the next wave that will change the way we live and entertain ourselves. To understand exactly what that means and what it entails, we need to break down the concept.

“Haptic” devices, defined as things that communicate nonverbally via the sense of touch, have existed for a few decades. A modern day example would be a gaming controller that vibrates to communicate something happening on the screen, such as a running back being tackled in a game of Madden or an explosion in a first-person shooter.

Haptic holograms, therefore, will be ones that humans can interact with. Remember the hologram of Tupac? That was a hologram (obviously), it just wasn’t haptic—no one could interact with it. If you had walked up to it and tried to touch it, your hand would have passed right through it. But now research is being conducted on the idea of “mutual touching,” where a human can reach out and physically touch a hologram. The human would also feel a sensation in return, such as their hand being squeezed by the hologram. Basically, it would amount to a robotic interaction without all the metal gears.

Once perfected, this technology will have far-reaching practical benefits, from entertainment all the way to advances in medicine. For example, medical students would be able to practice surgical procedures on a hologram, experimenting first on an “enlarged” version of the human body and slowly reducing it down to normal size as they become more comfortable with the surgery.

In terms of entertainment, holographic video would allow us to view a sporting event from different angles in a way unlike anything we experience today. Think of it this way: Right now, if we’re sitting on the left side of a theater watching a 3D movie, there would be no change in what we saw if we moved over to the right side. With holographic video, moving to the other side of the theater would give you a different vantage point on the same image. Thus, if a hockey game was viewed in holographic video, you could watch the same goal being scored from multiple angles by simply changing your position in the room, according to Michael Page, a professor at OCAD University in Toronto who has been researching holography for 30 years.

“I have to say that holograms pretty much have to be seen firsthand to believe,” Page says. “Most people have not seen our technology.” 

So when will we see it? Page says that within three years we will have haptic gaming systems on the market that are affordable, both in the form of consoles and via the iPad and smart phones. He said that holographic musical instruments, such as drum kits, are already being tested and that medical simulations are not far off. And it only seems reasonable to assume that once nonverbal haptic holograms are perfected, the next step will of course be verbal interaction.

Yes, our imaginary friends might indeed not be so imaginary in the future. 

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There May Be an Ancient Reason Why Your Dog Eats Poop
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Dogs aren't known for their picky taste in food, but some pups go beyond the normal trash hunting and start rooting around in poop, whether it be their own or a friend's. Just why dogs exhibit this behavior is a scientific mystery. Only some dogs do it, and researchers aren't quite sure where the impulse comes from. But if your dog is a poop eater, it's nearly impossible to steer them away from their favorite feces.

A new study in the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science, spotted by The Washington Post, presents a new theory for what scientists call "canine conspecific coprophagy," or dogs eating dog poop.

In online surveys about domestic dogs' poop-eating habits completed by thousands of pet owners, the researchers found no link between eating poop and a dog's sex, house training, compulsive behavior, or the style of mothering they received as puppies. However, they did find one common link between the poop eaters. Most tended to eat only poop that was less than two days old. According to their data, 85 percent of poop-eaters only go for the fresh stuff.

That timeline is important because it tracks with the lifespan of parasites. And this led the researchers to the following hypothesis: that eating poop is a holdover behavior from domestic dogs' ancestors, who may have had a decent reason to tuck into their friends' poop.

Since their poop has a high chance of containing intestinal parasites, wolves poop far from their dens. But if a sick wolf doesn't quite make it out of the den in time, they might do their business too close to home. A healthier wolf might eat this poop, but the parasite eggs wouldn't have hatched within the first day or two of the feces being dropped. Thus, the healthy wolf would carry the risk of infection away from the den, depositing the eggs they had consumed away in their own, subsequent bowel movements at an appropriate distance before the eggs had the chance to hatch into larvae and transmit the parasite to the pack.

Domestic dogs may just be enacting this behavior instinctively—only for them, there isn't as much danger of them picking up a parasite at home. However, the theory isn't foolproof. The surveys also found that so-called "greedy eaters" were more likely to eat feces than dogs who aren't quite so intense about food. So yes, it could still be about a poop-loving palate.

But really, it's much more pleasant to think about the behavior as a parasite-protection measure than our best pals foraging for a delicious fecal snack. 

[h/t The Washington Post]

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The Prehistoric Bacteria That Helped Create Our Cells Billions of Years Ago
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We owe the existence of our cells—the very building blocks of life—to a chance relationship between bacteria that occurred more than 2 billion years ago. Flash back to Bio 101, and you might remember that humans, plants, and animals have complex eukaryotic cells, with nucleus-bound DNA, instead of single-celled prokaryotic cells. These contain specialized organelles such as the mitochondria—the cell’s powerhouse—and the chloroplast, which converts sunlight into sugar in plants.

Mitochondria and chloroplasts both look and behave a lot like bacteria, and they also share similar genes. This isn’t a coincidence: Scientists believe these specialized cell subunits are descendants of free-living prehistoric bacteria that somehow merged together to form one. Over time, they became part of our basic biological units—and you can learn how by watching PBS Eons’s latest video below.

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