Vatican launches smart “e-rosary” that connects to an app and tracks your “bead progress”

October 24, 2019 • 1:00 pm

No, this e-rosary is not a joke, but a real item launched by the Vatican, during the Month of the Rosary, clearly in a desperate attempt to keep young people wedded to Catholicism. You can read about this remarkable religious innovation at the two sites below (click on screenshot):

From Fox 35 Orlando:

Verification via the Vatican News:

Here it is!

And how it works (my emphasis):

In an effort to get more young people to pray for world peace, the Vatican has launched a $110 wearable digital rosary, called the “Click To Pray eRosary.

The “Click to Pray” eRosary can be worn as a bracelet and links to a mobile app that becomes activated when the user makes the sign of the cross. The beads of the bracelet are made of black agate and hematite, and the digital device is in the shape of a cross.

. . . Aimed at the peripheral frontiers of the digital world where the young people dwell, the Click To Pray eRosary serves as a technology-based teaching tool to help young people pray the Rosary for peace and to contemplate the Gospel,” the Vatican explained.

The smart rosary links to the official player app of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, called “Click To Pray,” that connects thousands of praying people worldwide daily.

Once the device is activated, users can choose whether they want to pray a standard rosary, a contemplative rosary or one of the thematic rosaries, which are updated annually. The smart rosary keeps track of and displays the user’s progress and tracks when each rosary is completed.

The part that needs fixing here is that apparently users still have to do manual work, moving the beads through their hands. If the Vatican were really savvy, they’d have the e-rosary move itself at preset times, making it even easier to use than the Buddhist prayer wheels that you can twirl in your hands, sending a prayer each which each revolution.

Machine learning creates realistic videos from just a few photographs

May 25, 2019 • 11:00 am

From, via reader Rick, we learn that AI programs have become so sophisticated that they can create motion, and videos, from as little as one photograph of a human face, though of course more photographs gives a better result. From the report:

The model is documented in a paper published by Samsung AI Center, which you can read here on Arxiv. It’s a new method of applying facial landmarks on a source face — any talking head will do — to the facial data of a target face, making the target face do what the source face does.

. . .The new paper by Samsung’s Moscow-based researchers, however, shows that using only a single image of a person’s face, a video can be generated of that face turning, speaking and making ordinary expressions — with convincing, though far from flawless, fidelity.

It does this by frontloading the facial landmark identification process with a huge amount of data, making the model highly efficient at finding the parts of the target face that correspond to the source. The more data it has, the better, but it can do it with one image — called single-shot learning — and get away with it. That’s what makes it possible to take a picture of Einstein or Marilyn Monroe, or even the Mona Lisa, and make it move and speak like a real person.

Here’s an example of what they can do with one shot of the Mona Lisa:

But that’s about it for La Giocanda:

That said, it’s remarkable that it works as well as it does. Note, however, that this only works on the face and upper torso — you couldn’t make the Mona Lisa snap her fingers or dance. Not yet, anyway.

Here is an explanation of how it’s done, as well as some examples of what the programs can do when trained on multiple photographs. Imagine the fake videos that will ensue!


Ripoffs for Apple repairs

October 12, 2018 • 2:30 pm

All the repairs I’ve had done on Apple computers were under my extended AppleCare packages, but I have to admit that things haven’t been perfect (my last computer had a broken microphone, and since it’s a huge desktop computer they sent a guy out, who came three times before he gave up and I got a new computer). But I had no idea they had some reputation for ripping off the paying customer.

I found this video online, so I can’t vouch for this as a general practice of the “genius bar” (oy, I hate that term!), but I wish I had this guy in California fixing my computer.

If you’ve had bad (or good) experiences with Apple repairs, put them in the comments. In general I’m very happy with Apple products. They’re not cheap, but I rarely have anything go wrong. And I always purchased AppleCare (or rather my grants and department did).