Facial Recognition Fail

So yes, I use iPhoto to manage my sprawling library of digital images.

iPhoto has a facial recognition feature, which–it is claimed–can automatically recognize faces and build an internal database, so you can (for instance) tell it “Show me a picture of Mom” and it’ll pull up all the photos that have her in them.

I don’t use this feature, though it’s on by default, always searching for faces even though I don’t identify any or give it any names. And sometimes, it seems to have a very…Pablo Picasso sensibility when it comes to recognizing faces. If this is the state of the art, it’s hard to wonder why the TSA has yanked all the automatic facial recognition scanners from the airports it was trialling them in:

Playing mad scientist

A couple weeks ago, a friend and I drove down to San Francisco for MacWorld.

That’s not actually what I’m going to talk about. We met some folks, toured a submarine, and explored a cave system, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about either.

Instead, what I’m going to talk about is sex. And brain research.

On the drive back, we were listening to a book on tape about neurology, which talked a bit about a company called Neurosky that was making brain research available to everyone. And it talked a good deal about neurofeedback, and learning to change one’s brain states at will by using neurofeedback devices.

Now, Neurosky makes a full-fledged EEG machine on a chip. It’s starting to show up in toys, like the Mattel Mind Flex, which teaches meditation by reading the user’s brainwaves and letting the user control the toy with her mind.

Which, as I’m sure you can anticipate, got me to thinking about sex.

So the thing I’ve started pondering is the notion of a gadget a bit like the Mind Flex, only that runs a vibrator or some other sex toy. Which got me to wondering if sexual arousal, like meditation or concentration, is associated with a characteristic set of brainwave patterns.

So I am talking to someone in Seattle with a similar interest, and she might be able to get me access to a brain lab and an EEG. The first step would be to find out if sexual arousal can indeed be identified by a specific pattern of brainwaves. The next step would be to see if the Neurosky chip can be hacked to detect that pattern, and to run a sex toy like a vibrator. The third step would be to see, if all this works, whether or not it’d be feasible to actually build a self-contained, brain-operated sex toy system.

So for the first part, I am looking for volunteers willing to go to Seattle, get wired up to an EEG, and sexually aroused while their brainwaves are recorded. There are a few folks who I’ve talked to who are interested; any more takers?

Link o’ the Day: HIV Visualization

From the Russian company called Visual Science comes this absolutely stunning 3D visualization of the human immunodeficiency virus:

From the article on the Web site:

HIV virion is a roughly spherical particle with a diameter between 100 and 180 nm. Virion is surrounded by cell-derived lipid membrane containing surface proteins. Some of these proteins are products of viral genome (surface glycoprotein gp120/gp41) and others are captured from the host cell during viral budding (e.g. ICAM-1, HLA-DR1, CD55 and some others). The gp120/gp41 glycoprotein interacts with receptors on cell surface promoting fusion of virus and cell membranes. Other surface proteins found in HIV perform supporting functions. […]

The HIV genome is approximately 10000 nucleotides long and contains 9 genes, which encode 15 different proteins. The most important viral genes (open reading frames) are Gag, Pol and Env. Gag encodes the p55 protein, which is subsequently cut into structural proteins: MA, CA, NC and p6. Pol reading frame encodes integrase, protease, and reverse transcriptase. Env encodes the two subunits of the surface glycoprotein complex. Other genes (Tat, Rev, Vif, Vpr, Vpu and Nef) produce accessory proteins, which modulate host cell metabolism and facilitate different stages of HIV life cycle.

Click on the picture for a larger version and other visualizations showing different cross-sections of the virus.