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10 Crazy Things Your Smartphone Could Do

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We use our smartphones for everything from navigating and looking up restaurant reviews to sharing selfies and checking email and the weather. Some of us even use them to make phone calls. Turns out we’re barely scratching the surface of what we can do with these tiny yet powerful devices—which pack hundreds of times more computing power than the Voyager 1 spacecraft. Here are 10 amazing examples of how bright minds are putting smartphones to bigger use.

1. Function as a 3D scanner

Software developed by a group at the Institute for Visual Computing at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) allows you to scan a 3D object by moving your smartphone around it. A 3D model appears on the screen, showing you whether you missed anything, and the app can determine the absolute size of the scanned object. You could use this app to capture faces for a three-dimensional portrait or to copy real-world objects for later study or 3D printing.

2. Test for STDs

This smartphone dongle or attachment performs the functions of a lab-based blood test—specifically, an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)—to test for HIV antibodies and two types of syphilis antibodies. Researchers recently tested it in Rwanda in clinics that work to prevent mother-to-child-transmission and in voluntary counseling and testing centers. With an estimated manufacturing cost of $34 versus the $18,450 typical for ELISA equipment, this device could advance early diagnosis and treatment of these illnesses in developing countries.

3. Give you an instant eyeglass prescription

Smart Vision Labs created the SVOne, a pocket-sized device that measures refractive errors in the eye and displays a digital eyeglass prescription via smart phone. The company founders envision it for use by doctors with multiple offices or limited space and to serve patients who struggle with traditional machinery or have difficulties with mobility. Where it could really shine, though, is in developing countries where millions lack eye care. The World Health Organization reports that some 90 percent of the world’s visually impaired people live in low-income settings with no eye doctors available and that uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of moderate and severe visual impairment globally.

4. Track your cholesterol

Engineers at Cornell University created the Smartphone Cholesterol Application for Rapid Diagnostics, or smartCARD, to test cholesterol levels. Users clamp the device, similar to a credit card reader, over the phone's camera then place a drop of blood, sweat or saliva on a test strip. Insert the strip into the device and voila, a built-in flash illuminates the strip and an app matches the image's color values and shows results on the phone. Currently, the test measures total cholesterol, but the lab is working on measuring LDL ("bad" cholesterol), HDL ("good" cholesterol) and triglycerides, as well as vitamin D levels. This app might make you re-think that double cheeseburger, eventually.

5. Assess your mental health

Dartmouth University researchers built an Android app that knows the smartphone owner’s state of mind. The app automatically measures sleep duration, number and length of conversations per day, physical activity, locations and time spent there, stress level, eating habits and more—24/7 and without user interaction. Computational method and machine learning algorithms on the phone then assess that data and make higher-level inferences about sleep, sociability, activity, and other behaviors. When 48 students carried phones with the app during a 10-week term, the data significantly correlated with their mental health and academic performance. The app potentially could be used to provide real-time feedback on campus safety and stress levels, identify students at risk, and assess the quality of teaching. It could also be used to monitor mental health, trigger intervention, and improve productivity in the workplace as well.

6. Help keep you sober

The Addiction-Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System smartphone app, designed for patients with alcohol use disorder, provides audio-guided relaxation and sounds an alert if individuals stray near a high-risk location, such as a bar they previously frequented. Patients leaving residential treatment who used the app reported an average of 1.37 fewer risky drinking days—meaning more than four standard drinks for men and three for women in a two-hour period—than those not using the app. Patients using the app also were more likely to consistently abstain from alcohol.

7. Pilot your drone

An autonomous drone designed at the Vienna University of Technology navigates using the computing power in your smartphone. Drones are typically steered by humans or signals from an earthbound computer, but this one can negotiate completely on its own without external computer input. The smartphone camera provides visual data and its processor acts as the control center, coded in an app. The designers envision a number of possible uses: the device could be sent into a burning building to look around before firefighters enter, guide people in large and confusing areas, or inexpensively monitor illegal foresting. Don’t tell the paparazzi.

8. Pinpoint where gunshots originated

A team at Vanderbilt University's Institute of Software Integrated Systems turned an Android smartphone into a simple shooter location system. The Department of Defense has sophisticated, expensive sniper location systems that use dedicated sensor arrays to pick up on a firearm’s sonic signature. The smartphone version uses external sensors, about the size of a deck of cards, containing microphones and a processor that detects a gunshot’s acoustic signature and exact time. The processor sends that information to the smartphone, which transmits it to other modules and uses triangulation to pinpoint the origin of the gunshot. The system needs several participants, making it best suited for security teams or similar groups, such as SWAT officers...or lost hunters.

9. Alert you that the milk is spoiled

Researchers at MIT developed sensors that can be read by a smartphone to detect ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, cyclohexanone, and other gases. In the future, it could be used to monitor public spaces for explosives and other harmful chemicals, identify environmental pollutants, or detect food spoilage in warehouses. The sensors also could be used in "smart packaging" that detects spoilage or contamination in the foods you buy. Your next phone message could be from that old milk carton in the refrigerator.

10. Improve your hearing aid

This smartphone app could help improve the quality of life of people who use hearing assistive devices, including hearing aids, cochlear implants, and personal sound amplifiers. To remain small and low-cost, these devices typically use not-so-powerful processors. Smartphones, on the other hand, have powerful processors, large memories, microphones, speakers, wireless technology and long-lasting batteries, which can improve the performance of hearing assistive devices. For example, a smartphone could run sophisticated algorithms to distinguish background noise signals and enhance speech.

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Finally! Windows Notepad Is Getting an Update for the First Time in Years
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While some of Window's core programs have evolved dramatically over the years, or disappeared all together, Notepad has remained pretty basic. But as The Verge reports, the text-editing app is about to get a little fancier: Microsoft is updating it for the first time in years.

Since it debuted in 1985, Notepad has become a popular platform for writing out code. One common complaint from programmers working in non-Windows coding language is that Notepad doesn't format line breaks properly, resulting in jumbled, messy text. Now, both Unix/Linux line endings (LF) and Macintosh line endings (CR) are supported in Notepad, making it even more accessible to developers.

For the first time, users can zoom text by holding ctrl and scrolling the mouse wheel. They can also delete the last word in their document by pressing ctrl+backspace. On top of all that, the new update comes with a wrap-around find-and-replace feature, a default status bar with line and column numbers, and improved performance when handling large files.

The arrow keys will be easier to navigate as well. You can now use the arrow keys to deselect text before moving the cursor. And if you ever want to look up a word online, Microsoft will allow you to connect directly to Bing through the app.

The new Notepad update will be made available first to Windows Insiders through Windows 10 Insider Preview, then to everyone on the forthcoming update, codenamed Redstone 5, likely later this year.

[h/t The Verge]

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A Samsung Messaging Bug Might Be Texting Random Contacts Your Private Photos
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If you've been meaning to purge your phone of embarrassing or private photos, do it sooner rather than later. According to Gizmodo, some Samsung users have reported a bug that sends their images to random people in their contacts without their permission.

Complaints began popping up on web forums in the past week. The apparent bug isn't always texting out one or two photos from the user's stream: In some cases, it's exporting their entire gallery. Others have reported their phones sending scheduled text messages too early.

The glitch leaves no trace of shared data in the phone's messaging app. Unless the texts or photos end up with someone who's kind enough to reach out, there's no way of knowing it happened unless you check the log files for your device's account. This problem has been reported on Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9+, Note 8 phones.

Many of the incidents seem to be affecting phones with T-Mobile, a carrier that recently rolled out updates with their RCS "advanced messaging" service. Multiple Samsung bugs have been reported since the change, mainly connected to the Samsung Messaging app.

Samsung tells Gizmodo they are aware of the reports and are looking into them, but has yet to come out with an official statement warning users of the bug.

Until the company comes up with a fix, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself, as TechCrunch points out. Head to the app settings in your Galaxy phone and make sure Samsung Messages can no longer access your storage. This means you won't be able to send any stored data, like photos or saved messages, through text. In the meantime, you can switch to a third-party messaging app like WhatsApp, Signal, or Facebook Messenger to send all the photos you want to the right people.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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