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Snapchat World Lenses Are the Next Step in Augmented Reality

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Since it was founded in 2011, Snapchat has used cutting-edge technology to successfully set itself apart from other photo-sharing services. The app's latest feature, Snapchat World Lenses, integrates colorful, 3D objects into real-world scenes captured on your smartphone.

As The Verge reports, Snapchat World Lenses were introduced on Monday, April 18. This is the latest experiment with augmented reality we’ve seen from the mobile app. As Snapchat says in a statement:

"We launched Lenses over a year ago as a whole new way to express ourselves on Snapchat. Since then, we've become puppies, puked rainbows, face-swapped with our best friends—and begun to explore how Lenses can change the world around us.

Today, we’re adding new ways to use Lenses."

Unlike most of the app's high-tech filters, Snapchat World Lenses aren’t designed for faces. They’re meant to be plopped down anywhere in the space being recorded on your phone’s rear-facing camera. That’s where the augmented reality element comes in: The 3D objects behave as if they’re physically in front of you. Move your camera closer and the animation grows bigger; pull it away and the objects shrink, appearing more distant.

The introductory animations, which can be accessed through Snapchat’s lenses deck, include a cartoon rainbow, a crying cloud, sprouting flowers, and a colorful “OMG” written in bubble letters. The feature will be updated with new lenses on a daily basis. You can watch a demonstration of Snapchat World Lenses in the video below.

While the technology may look futuristic, it’s not exactly new. In 2015, Microsoft introduced the HoloLens, an augmented reality visor that allows wearers to view 3D versions of their favorite apps and games (like Minecraft) as part of the physical space around them. But with a $3000 price tag, the headset wasn’t the ideal vehicle for delivering augmented reality to the masses.

That distinction belongs to Pokemon Go. Last summer, the mobile game brought 3D characters into the real world by way of smartphone cameras. Since the world reached peak Pokemon Go mania shortly after its debut, no other 3D augmented reality app has come close to matching its popularity.

Now that Snapchat is embracing similar technology, users shouldn’t be surprised to see other social media sites launching their own versions of the 3D lenses. Facebook has been known to take direct inspiration from features that originated with Snapchat (like filters and stories), and we already know that Facebook has experimented with virtual reality in the past. Download or update Snapchat today to judge the potential impact of World Lenses for yourself.

[h/t The Verge]

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The Surprising Link Between Language and Depression
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Skim through the poems of Sylvia Plath, the lyrics of Kurt Cobain, or posts on an internet forum dedicated to depression, and you'll probably start to see some commonalities. That's because there's a particular way that people with clinical depression communicate, whether they're speaking or writing, and psychologists believe they now understand the link between the two.

According to a recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science, there are certain "markers" in a person's parlance that may point to symptoms of clinical depression. Researchers used automated text analysis methods to comb through large quantities of posts in 63 internet forums with more than 6400 members, searching for certain words and phrases. They also noted average sentence length, grammatical patterns, and other factors.

What researchers found was that a person's use (or overuse) of first-person pronouns can provide some insight into the state of their mental health. People with clinical depression tend to use more first-person singular pronouns, such as "I" and "me," and fewer third-person pronouns, like "they," "he," or "she." As Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Reading and the head of the study, writes in a post for IFL Science:

"This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words."

What remains unclear, though, is whether people who are more focused on themselves tend to depression, or if depression turns a person's focus on themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with depression also use more negative descriptors, like "lonely" and "miserable."

But, Al-Mosaiwi notes, it's hardly the most important clue when using language to assess clinical depression. Far better indicators, he says, are the presence of "absolutist words" in a person's speech or writing, such as "always," "constantly," and "completely." When overused, they tend to indicate that someone has a "black-and-white view of the world," Al-Mosaiwi says. An analysis of posts on different internet forums found that absolutist words were 50 percent more prevalent on anxiety and depression forums, and 80 percent more prevalent on suicidal ideation forums.

Researchers hope these types of classifications, supported by computerized methods, will prove more and more beneficial in a clinical setting.

[h/t IFL Science]

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There's a Train Full of New York City Poop Stranded in Alabama—Here's Why.
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Residents of Parrish, Alabama probably aren't too fond of New Yorkers right now. That’s because the town is currently home to a full trainload of poop courtesy of the Big Apple, as Bloomberg reports. Some 200 shipping containers of treated sewage have been stuck in Parrish for more than two months while the town takes landfill operators to court.

New York City doesn't keep its own sewage sludge to itself, and it hasn't for decades. In the 1980s, New York City was dumping its "biosolids"—the solids left over from sewage treatment, i.e., your poop—into the Atlantic Ocean, where it settled on the bottom of the sea floor in a thick film stretching over 80 square nautical miles. When the government banned the practice of dumping waste straight into the ocean, the city had to get creative, finding a way to get rid of the 1200 tons of biosolids produced there every day.

Enter the poop train. As a 2013 Radiolab episode taught us (we highly recommend you listen for yourself), treated sludge was eventually shipped out to other states to use as fertilizer in the 1990s. After farmers in Colorado began noticing better growth and fewer pests in the fields they grew with New York City's finest sewer sludge, growers in other states began clamoring to take the big-city poop by the train-full, too. That tide has turned, though, and now no one wants the city's poop. Because of the cost of running the program, the train to Colorado stopped in 2010.

Now, biosolids are instead shipped to landfills upstate and in places like Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to The Wall Street Journal. And Alabama. For more than a year, the Big Sky landfill near Parrish has been accepting New York City biosolids, and the locals who have to deal with trainloads of rotting waste aren’t happy.

Normally, the sludge would be loaded onto trucks and then driven the last stretch to get to the landfill. But Parrish and its nearby neighbor of West Jefferson aren't interested in playing host to those messy poop transfers anymore. As the two towns take the landfill operators to court over it, the trains are stuck where they are, next to Parrish's Little League baseball fields. The trainload of sludge is blocked from either being sent to the landfill or back to New York City. While the city has stopped shipping more waste to Big Sky, it essentially said "no takebacks" regarding what they've already sent south. Short of a legal decision, that poop isn't moving.

Needless to say, the residents of Parrish would really, really like to resolve this before summer hits.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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