Final Project Time…

In honor of the fact that it is the end of the semester and my Computer Science students are starting their final projects, I present:

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Computer Scientist built a watch that calmed her Graphic Designer friend’s Parkinson’s tremors

Microsoft has invented a wristband that could help stem the tremors caused by Parkinson’s Disease. The Emma Watch sends small vibrations through a wearer’s wrist that can stop the shaking experienced by those with the neurological disease. It vibrates with a distinctive pattern that has been designed to “disrupt the feedback loop between the brain and hand”, Microsoft said. Uncontrollable shaking is one of the main symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, which affects around 127,000 people in the UK. It can prevent sufferers from conducting routine tasks such as getting dressed, writing things down or using a computer.

Currently a prototype, the Emma Watch was created by Microsoft developer Haiyan Zhang for her friend Emma Lawton, a 32-year-old graphic designer diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013. Microsoft unveiled the device at its annual developer’s conference in a video that shows Lawton regaining the ability to draw, a passion she has struggled with since her diagnosis. With the Emma on her wrist Lawton is able to write legibly and draw straight lines, something she struggles with on her own. “The technology has the potential to help Parkinson’s patients manage symptoms that impede regular functions,” said Microsoft. The Emma Watch is currently a prototype designed specifically for Lawton and a BBC documentary called The Big Life Fix. It is not clear if it will be released widely, but Microsoft said it plans to conduct further work in the area. “The goal of further research is to determine whether Emma Watch could help other people with similar Parkinson’s symptoms,” it said. It is fitted with sensors and software that could monitor other patients’ symptoms including tremors and stiffness to  create further products. “Once these symptoms can be identified and measured, its possible to develop technology and devices that help humans manage their symptoms,” said Microsoft. “AI is used to classify the sensor information and elicit real-time responses on small devices like wearables.” Zhang has previously designed cutlery that can react to people’s movement to prevent them from spilling food. Read more at the source

STARCRAFT Source Code Discovered, Fan Rewarded for Returning It To Blizzard

Blizzard has showered a fan in rewards after the return of a lost gold master source code disc for the original 1998 StarCraft. As spotted by Kotaku, Reddit user Khemist49 had purchased a “Box of Blizzard stuff” off eBay which happened to contain a disc marked “StarCraft Gold Master Source Code”. Unsure what to do with the seemingly valuable object, he turned to Reddit for answers and, after having some users request the code be made freely available or to sell it, was contacted by Blizzard’s legal team.

Blizzard naturally requested that he return the disc due to the “intellectual property and trade secrets” that it contained and once again Khemist49 turned to Reddit to express his confusion after seeking legal advice. Torn between having paid for and done nothing wrong in acquiring the disc and his potential legal obligations, he decided to send the disc back to Blizzard, just in case. The multi-billion dollar game company decided to reward Khemist49 by sending him a free copy of its popular FPS Overwatch, and $250 USD in Blizzard store credit. Khemist49 assumed that this was the end of this unusual event – until a week later he received a phone call from a Blizzard employee.  “He wanted to thank me for returning their disc (which was in fact stolen).” Khemist49 explains in his follow up Reddit post “He then asked me if i have ever heard of BlizzCon. I said well, yeah of course but it’s impossible for me to go, i live in the east coast, and the badges are always sold out before you can refresh the page lol. He said well, the reason we are calling you is to invite you to Blizzcon, all expenses paid, and we would love to take you out for drinks.” To top it all off, two days later he also received a box of Diablo and Overwatch themed merchandise for his troubles. Blizzard has confirmed the events and stated that it “wanted to show an appropriate level of appreciation to the player for doing the right thing, not just from Blizzard, but on behalf of the large and active community of players who still enjoy StarCraft today”. The recovery of the StarCraft source code comes at an interesting time for Blizzard, with the original StarCraft and its expansion not only made free to download last month but also being remastered later this year.