FDA-Approved Eye Drops Eliminate Need For Reading Glasses

Say goodbye to reading glasses, at least if you are under 65. A new eye drop called Vuity which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October could change the lives of millions of people with age-related blurred near vision.

The condition affects about 128 million citizens mostly over 40 and the eye drops work well for people aged below 65. Vuity takes effect in about 15 minutes and lasts for 6 to 10 hours.

The drops make use of the eye’s inherent ability to reduce its pupil size.

“Reducing the pupil size expands the depth of field or the depth of focus, and that allows you to focus at different ranges naturally,” George Waring, principal investigator of Vuity’s clinical trial, told CBS.

The trial tested 750 participants who reported being happy with the results. “It’s definitely a life changer,” said Toni Wright, one of the participants.

 The Smartphone Camera That’s “Always On”

 “Your phone’s front camera is always securely looking for your face, even if you don’t touch it or raise to wake it.” That’s how Qualcomm Technologies vice president of product management Judd Heape introduced the company’s new always-on camera capabilities in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor set to arrive in top-range Android phones early next year.

Depending on who you are, that statement can either be exciting or terrifying. For Qualcomm, it thinks this new feature will enable new use cases, like being able to wake and unlock your phone without having to pick it up or have it instantly lock when it no longer sees your face.

But for those of us with any sense of how modern technology is used to violate our privacy, a camera on our phone that’s always capturing images even when we’re not using it sounds like the stuff of nightmares and has a cost to our privacy that far outweighs any potential convenience benefits.

Qualcomm’s main pitch for this feature is for unlocking your phone any time you glance at it, even if it’s just sitting on a table or propped up on a stand. You don’t need to pick it up or tap the screen or say a voice command — it just unlocks when it sees your face.

The company is also spinning it as making your phone more secure by automatically locking the phone when it no longer sees your face or detects someone looking over your shoulder and snooping on your group chat. It can also suppress private information or notifications from popping up if you’re looking at the phone with someone else. Basically, if you’re not looking at it, your phone is locked; if it can see you, it will be unlocked. If it can see you and someone else, it can automatically lock the phone or hide private information or notifications from displaying on the screen.

Smartphones That Last Weeks On A Single Battery Charge

 IBM and Samsung have unveiled a new semiconductor chip design they say can enable the continuation of Moore’s Law. The breakthrough architecture sees transistors built onto the chip in a way that allows for vertical current flows, resulting in a more densely packed device and paving the way for smartphones that run for weeks on a charge, among some other interesting possibilities.

Back in May, IBM revealed semiconductor chips with the smallest transistors ever made, measuring just 2 nanometres (nm) wide apiece, narrower than a strand of DNA. This allowed a whopping 50 billion transistors to be built onto a chip the size of a fingernail, greatly boosting performance and efficiency to offer a 75 percent reduction in energy use compared to industry standard chips with 7-nm transistors.

Traditional semiconductors feature transistors laid flat on their surface, carrying the electric flow in a lateral fashion, from side to side. The new architecture developed by IBM and Samsung, called Vertical Transport Field Effect Transistors (VTFET), sees the transistors built onto the chip in a perpendicular fashion, which allows the current to flow up and down instead.

Mercedes Wins Approval For Self-Driving Cars

Mercedes-Benz has become the world’s first automaker to gain regulatory approval for a so-called “level 3” self-driving system, perhaps better called a “conditionally automated driving system.” It’s called Drive Pilot, and it debuts next year in the new S-Class and EQS sedans, allowing the cars to drive themselves at up to 37 mph (60 km/h) in heavy traffic on geofenced stretches of highway.

Mercedes-Benz has offered various degrees of driver-assistance systems in the past, combining adaptive cruise control (which regulates the car’s speed) and lane-keeping assist (which tracks lane markers and uses the car’s steering to centre it between them), but those were only “level 2” systems, as defined by SAE International. That means that although the car can accelerate, brake, and steer for itself, a human driver is still required to maintain situational awareness.

The new system is true automated driving as opposed to driver assistance. It uses a combination of radar, cameras, lidar, microphones (to detect emergency vehicles), and a moisture sensor, plus the car’s high-accuracy GNSS, which locates the car on an HD map.

When engaged, Drive Pilot takes over managing situational awareness. As a result, the system can handle unexpected traffic situations and can take evasive action if necessary. Drivers really can turn their minds—and their eyes—to something else, unlike with (the still-level 2) Super Cruise system from General Motors.

Atmospheric Lakes 1,000KM Wide Discovered Above Indian Ocean

A new type of storm has been discovered in the skies over the Indian Ocean. Named “atmospheric lakes,” these events are slow-moving pools of concentrated water vapor that can last for days.

Atmospheric scientists Brian Mapes and Wei-Ming Tsai made the discovery while studying weather patterns over the Indian Ocean, a region they say doesn’t attract a lot of attention from meteorologists. The team specifically examined rain and water vapor patterns occurring on a day-to-day scale.

The new structures are related to atmospheric rivers, a well-studied and common phenomenon involving long, thin plumes of concentrated moisture that can stretch for thousands of kilometres. These fast-moving rivers can carry a huge amount of water, dumping it in a band of rain in their wake.

Atmospheric lakes start as rivers, the team says, but at a certain point they pinch off, forming an isolated, concentrated mass of water vapor. These lakes then drift very slowly across the sky, in areas where the wind speed is around zero. They can bring a lot of rain to the surface below – if the “lake” moniker was taken literally, the team says that they hold enough water to form a puddle a few centimetres deep and about 1,000 km (620 miles) wide.

Dutch Build Their Homes On Water To Tackle Climate Change

When a heavy storm hit in October, residents of the floating community of Schoonschip in Amsterdam had little doubt they could ride it out. They tied up their bikes and outdoor benches, checked in with neighbours to ensure everyone had enough food and water, and hunkered down as their neighbourhood slid up and down its steel foundational pillars, rising along with the water and descending to its original position after the rain subsided.

“We feel safer in a storm because we are floating,” said Siti Boelen, a Dutch television producer who moved into Schoonschip two years ago. “I think it’s kind of strange that building on water is not a priority worldwide.”

As sea levels rise and supercharged storms cause waters to swell, floating neighbourhoods offer an experiment in flood defence that could allow coastal communities to better withstand climate change. In the land-scarce but densely populated Netherlands, demand for such homes is growing. And, as more people look to build on the water there, officials are working to update zoning laws to make the construction of floating homes easier.

“The municipality wants to expand the concept of floating because it is multifunctional use of space for housing, and because the sustainable way is the way forward,” said Nienke van Renssen, an Amsterdam city councillor from the GreenLeft party.

Link Between Inflammation and Depression Discovered

 Furthering understanding into the links between inflammation and depression, a new study has highlighted a fascinating association between white blood cell counts and genetic risk scores for depression. The study found even in the absence of depression symptoms someone with increased genetic susceptibility for depression will show higher white blood cell counts.

“We know that there’s a strong relationship between depression and several chronic health conditions, and we also know there’s a relationship between depression and inflammation,” explains Lea Davis, an author on the new study from the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute. “What we don’t know is exactly how they’re connected, which condition causes the other or if there’s something underlying that causes both.”

Whether or not there is a causal relationship between depression and inflammation is still of great debate amongst scientists. Many observational studies have reported correlations between biomarkers of inflammation and depression but some researchers suggest the relationship could be indirect. For example, poor sleep or obesity can be a result of depression while also causing low-grade inflammation.

Snapchat Steps Into Augmented Reality

 Trying on clothes without stepping into a changing room, seeing your menu choices in 3D, viewing an art gallery’s contents outdoors and, of course, catching a Pokémon. This is the world of augmented reality, and one of its key players announced further additions last month.

The owner of Snapchat, the app that offers those quirky animal-face selfies, will give developers the ability to transform any local landscape or building. A user could scan Big Ben so it can be turned into a wobbly landmark when seen through a phone, or even put the Matrix in their living room.

While Mark Zuckerberg talks about an alternative world in the metaverse, the likes of Snapchat are getting on with transforming this one.

“I think we’re starting to see some real fun around being able to play with the power to manipulate, change and edit our physical environments,” says Bobby Murphy, a co-founder and the chief technology officer of Snap.

For all the excited talk about the metaverse – the concept of a virtual worldpopulated by digital representations, or avatars, of ourselves – augmented reality (AR) has been in our lives for years. AR is where a digital layer is put over reality, normally via your phone – although Snap recently unveiled whizzy spectacles that allow a similar experience. Think Pokémon Go, where players leave their living rooms to capture the characters outdoors, or Snapchat’s cartoon cat selfies.