Tag Archives: Apps and Software

How to Detect Apps Leaking Your Data

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One reason that smartphones and smartphone apps are so useful is that they can integrate intimately with our personal lives. But that also puts our personal data at risk.

A new service called Mobilescope hopes to change that by letting a smartphone user examine all the data that apps transfer, and alerting him when sensitive information, such as his name or email address, is transferred.

“It’s a platform-agnostic interception tool that you can use on your Android, iOS, Blackberry, or Windows device,” says Ashkan Soltani, an independent privacy researcher who created Mobilescope with fellow researchers David Campbell and Aldo Cortesi.

Their first proof-of-concept won a prize for the best app created during a privacy-focused programming contest, or codeathon, organized by the Wall Street Journal in April this year; the trio has now polished it enough to open a beta trial period. Access is steadily being rolled out to the “couple of thousand” people that have already signed up, says Soltani.

Once a person has signed up for the service, Mobilescope is accessed through a website, not as an app installed onto a device. A user can use the site to see logs of the data transferred by the apps on their device. They can also specify “canaries,” pieces of sensitive information such as a phone number, email or name that trigger an alert if they are sent out by an app.

Mobilescope can catch apps doing things such as copying a person’s address book to a remote server, as Path and several other mobile apps were found to do earlier this year. Soltani says the service is intended to level the playing field between mobile apps and the people that use them by arming users with more information about what those apps do.

As became clear when several popular apps were caught quietly copying contact data from users earlier this year, neither Apple’s nor Google’s mobile operating systems currently offer people much insight into or control of what apps are sharing.

(MIT Technology Review)

“Our focus is making really simple the process of interception,” says Soltani. “If you’re not an advanced user, you can still get at this data using Mobilescope.”

When a person signs up for Mobilescope, a configuration file is sent to his device. Once installed, this file causes all future Internet traffic to be routed through a Mobilescope server so that it can analyze the data that comes and goes to the device and its apps.

That arrangement is possible thanks to the way that smartphones are designed to be compatible with VPNs, or virtual private networks — encrypted communications that some businesses use to keep corporate data private. That design doesn’t add much delay to a person’s connection, says Soltani, in part because users are connected with a server as geographically close to them as possible.

Mobilescope can even examine data that is sent over the most common types of secure connection used by apps, similar to those used by banking websites, by intercepting the certificates involved. The service cannot decrypt other data, but Soltani says that few apps bother to use encryption. Data collected by Mobilescope is discarded after each session of use, and is only ever stored on a person’s own device.

Soltani says he doesn’t imagine Mobilescope will have the mass appeal of something like Angry Birds, but he hopes it will encourage journalists, activists, and ordinary smartphone owners to look into what apps do, and will help put more pressure on app developers to respect privacy.

“Added transparency for everyone — app developers, users, regulators — will help the whole mobile ecosystem.”

An earlier version of Mobilescope gave users the power to send fake data to certain apps, for example sending a spoof location. “We had to pull that out because the ecosystem is not ready for it,” says Soltani, who says this broke some apps, sometimes in ways that could harm other users. A separate project does make that tactic available to Android users willing to use a modified version of their operating system.

(MIT Technology Review)

In April, Xuxian Jiang, an associate professor at North Carolina State University, published a study showing that the ad systems included in many Android apps endanger users’ privacy. Around half of these systems monitor a user’s GPS location, and some also collect call logs and other sensitive data.

Jiang, who has uncovered other security and privacy flaws with mobile apps, said Mobilescope will be an “interesting” new tool for keeping tabs on apps. However, he adds that it can’t be guaranteed to catch everything, and says mobile privacy can only be improved with greater transparency from developers, improved privacy statements, and action from the creators of mobile operating systems.

“[We] need of mechanisms for users to actually control apps’ access to various personal information,” he says.

Justin Brookman, who directs consumer privacy activity at the Center for Democracy and Technology, says this will require changes to the law, which currently simply encourages companies to write very broad privacy policies to avoid the penalties for writing false ones.

“Detailed disclosures are actually deterred by the law,” he says. The CDT is attempting to get legislation introduced that instead requires companies to explicitly tell consumers what’s happening to their data, and to provide them with more control over it.

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/10/detect-apps-leaking-data/

Zynga in Slumps-Ville, But Social Games Are Still Hot

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Social games have been synonymous with Zynga, the company that made FarmVille a sometimes maddening fixture on Facebook walls around the world. So given Zynga’s ongoing decline—the company’s stock has plummeted 75% since its December IPO, employees are fleeing, and its latest game titles are floundering—it’s easy to think social games are a quickly fading fad.

But plenty of investors and game developers are still writing checks and apps, betting that the average person isn’t bored with these kinds of games. The market for social and casual games is indeed still growing, but like many web applications, these games are moving to mobile devices—a transition that has brought new challenges.

“I don’t think they [Zynga] are a guide to the future,” says Andrew Marsh, a San Francisco-based game developer whose “indie” studio Fifth Column Games recently partnered with the rapidly expanding Japanese mobile-gaming company Gree.

While the investment bank Digi-Capital recently called the Zynga IPO the peak for “Social Games 1.0” investments, it also said investors are pouring money into games for smartphones and tablets. More than half of all game playing is on such devices, NPD Group, another research firm, recently estimated.

Yet major challenges remain for companies hoping to make their games more than make a fly-by-night hit on mobile devices. One longtime game developer, Tadhg Kelly, calls it “platform amnesia”—people get excited about the same old games presented on top of new technologies, but that wears out quickly.

And mobile-game companies have struggled to gain and keep users, especially ones willing to spend money. Zynga experienced this problem firsthand when it acquired OMGpop, the company behind the hit game Draw Something, earlier this year for more than $180 million, only to see the game quickly fade in popularity.

Gree, founded in 2004, is angling to succeed by creating a platform for smartphone games and courting developers like Marsh to create the next big hits. Where Zynga has struggled because it has largely depended on being seen in Facebook news feeds, Gree has created a specialized Facebook-like social network for gaming on mobile devices. Like DeNA, another Japanese company, it has found most of its current users in Asia, but it is seeking worldwide dominance with a recent spending spree and string of acquisitions.

Zynga, too, is trying to create an independent network. If it succeeds, this could help solve one problem that plagues mobile-game developers: how to get people to discover games among millions of apps in Google’s and Apple’s stores.

On Facebook, people naturally return day after day, but users aren’t as strongly inclined to open an app, says venture capitalist Charles Hudson, a partner with SoftTech VC who previously founded a company acquired by Zynga. As it is, since social elements are a less natural feature on smartphones, mobile-game companies are being forced to pour money into acquiring new users through advertising and cross-promotion. “Most mobile games are still discovered through the app store, and that’s not sustainable,” Marsh says.

Social games themselves may also need to become more creative as they migrate to mobile devices. To keep people playing, games can’t afford to get boring, says Kelly, who calls Draw Something a novelty that had no depth. Console game companies, such as Sony and Electronic Arts, and companies like Kixeye, which target more serious gamers, are starting to experiment with more casual social games for mobile devices.

Innovation could occur as developers take advantage of features particular to phones. Already, some are using feedback from touch interfaces and adapting to shorter gaming sessions—a couple of minutes while waiting for the train to come, for example.

Graphics on mobile devices are also nearing the quality of those on game consoles, especially in the case of tablets, and developers are starting to incorporate them into even simple social games. One example is NaturalMotion’s CSR Racing, a popular 3D drag-racing game that Apple CEO Tim Cook showed off at his company’s developer conference this year.

And while no company yet has found a lasting hit game that uses phone technologies such front-facing camera motion sensors or GPS location, Hudson says that could be coming as more startups experiment.

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/18/zynga-social-games-growth/

Want to Run Code on the ISS? There’s a Competition For That

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Any high school-aged coders with a love for space and NASA out there? Read on.

Zero Robotics, a robotics programming competition set up through MIT, is entering its fourth year — and there’s still a day left to register.

Here’s how it works: Students can sign up in teams for free on the website. Over the course of the semester, they compete head-to-head with other teams in writing programs — sort of situational, scenario-based challenges. Gradually, the challenges get more difficult. Then, after several phases, finalists are selected to compete in running code for the International Space Station (ISS) — which is broadcast live by an astronaut on board the ISS.

Since 2009, the competition has allowed participants to compete in a series of coding challenges through an online platform.

“There’s a whole ranking system that tells them how well they’re doing as they’re going through it,” said Jake Katz, co-founder of the competition and research assistant in the Space Stations laboratory at MIT. “And throughout the course of the season, the game gets slightly more complex. They start out in two dimensions and then they will soon, around Oct. 5, be going into 3-D competition — then we add some additional challenges towards the end.”

The original kick off for this year’s competition was on Sept. 8. But, Katz said, there’s still a day left to register.

“There have been people participating so far, and are already off and running with it, but it’s still possible to join in and make a submission for the first phase,” he said. “We have 75 teams so far, and that’s just from the U.S.”

There are an additional 43 teams from 19 other countries, he said.

The competition is sponsored by NASA, DARPA, TopCoder, Aurora Flight Sciences, CASIS and MIT. TopCoder, a programming company, designed the platform the games are played on.

“In 2009, when we started, we had just two teams competing against each other,” Katz said. “Just two years later, we had about 100 teams from all over sign up.”

Check out the promotional video below:

What kind of code would you write to run on board the ISS? Let us know in the comments.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/26/zero-robotics-mit/

10 Weird iPhone Games You’ve Got to Try

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Netflix Aside, Emmys Jury Honors 4 Interactive Digital Media Programs

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LOS ANGELES — During the tape-delayed Primetime Creative Arts Emmys aired on Saturday, Netflix wasn’t the only web entity winning awards. A YouTube series and several TV networks’ digital media programs were honored for their achievements in multiplatform storytelling, interactivity, social TV experience as well as user experience and visual design.

Although the television academy has recognized interactive media in the past, it placed a bigger emphasis this year on the digital content and second-screen experiences from creators on platforms like YouTube or from major networks.

In addition to the four juried Emmy winners (below) in interactive categories, the Emmys added an Outstanding Interactive Program category, which ComedyCentral.com won for its Night of Too Many Stars: America Comes Together for Autism Programs. The special featured Katy Perry’s viral “Firework” duet (pictured, above) with a girl living with autism.

“More than ever before, television has become an interactive medium in which the audience has a role in driving the storytelling, participating as a fan and engaging in community and sponsorship activities,” Lori Schwartz, a governor on the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Interactive Media Peer Group, said in a statement earlier this month.

Here are the Outstanding Creative Achievement In Interactive Media winners:

Multiplatform Storytelling

Winner: Top Chef’s Last Chance Kitchen at BravoTV.com

“We are honored to be recognized for achievement in multiplatform storytelling,” Lisa Hsia, EVP of digital media at Bravo, told Mashable. “Top Chef’s Last Chance Kitchen was a wonderful confluence where great content met the desires of the fan and our partner Toyota. The digital series impacted the results of the on-air show. The second-screen participation and social conversation amplified it even further. Multiplatform storytelling turns our one-hour show into a seven-day-a-week experience.”

Jurors’ Comments:

Top Chef‘s award-winning linear series was expanded into a comprehensive digital “buffet” and tantalizing interactive experience for foodies with the companion Last Chance Kitchen series. This component, available on web and mobile platforms, Bravo’s Now app, VOD and EST, required active input from the viewing audience, which in turn influenced and impacted events on the linear series on. Each week, as Top Chef competitors were eliminated, they got a second chance to battle that week’s winner on this digital series. Fans interacted with the contestants and judges, and even got cooking themselves to determine which of the dismissed chefs would be the last one standing in the digital series and would have a chance to appear on the Top Chef finale. 52% of Top Chef‘s on-air audience engaged in Last Chance Kitchen and experienced the series in a collaborative way.

Recipients: Bravo Production Team, Magical Elves Production Team, Bravo Digital/Social Team and Bravo Creative Team

Social TV Experience

Winner: Oprah’s Lifeclass at Oprah.com/Lifeclass

Jurors’ Comments:

The award-winning series Oprah’s Lifeclass is a richly interactive, worldwide social experience for millions of students who participate in inspiring conversations with Oprah Winfrey on-air, online and via social media. For each class, Oprah is joined by a hand-picked expert, and together they interact with viewers to share principles and tools that can help people live more meaningful and fulfilling lives. Prior to the scheduled airing of Lifeclass on OWN, key influencers in the social sphere on that topic are given a sneak peek of the episode, and invited to participate in the Sunday night social dialogue. Lifeclass consistently ranks in the top ten “most social shows” in primetime, according to BlueFin Labs. After airing, the conversations continue throughout the social space and in a digital classroom at Oprah.com, where tools are provided to help viewers reach their own “Aha” Moments via an extensive companion curriculum, including class notes (thanks to Storify) and assessments, and Life Work questions that can be saved in their custom profile.

Recipient: OWN Digital

User Experience And Visual Design

Winner: The Nick App from Nickelodeon

Jurors’ Comments:

The Nick App is a branded experience that allows kids to watch and play Nick in unprecedented ways. This free App features a moveable tile layout that can be swiped in any direction, promoting discovery and exploration and offering kids instant and on-demand access to more than 1,000 pieces of Nickelodeon-themed content. It includes short-form videos of original skits, sketch and comedic bits, behind-the-scenes clips and photos from Nick stars and animated characters, full episodes, polls, new games, and surprising random hilarity. The Nick App supports the full Nickelodeon on-air line up as well as specials such as the annual Kids’ Choice Awards. The App boasts new content daily and includes fun and funny interactive elements such as the “Do Not Touch” button that triggers an array of disruptive comedy and surprises. Nickelodeon’s goal was to go beyond a typical app that offers free video viewing and instead offer more interactive content, games, and video not seen on television — whenever and wherever the user wants it.

Recipients: Nickelodeon Digital

Original Interactive Program

Winner: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube from Pemberley Digital

Jurors’ Comments:

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is the award-winning, record-breaking, modern multiplatform adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” based around a fictional vlog kept by Lizzie Bennet, a 24-year-old grad student with an uncertain future, a mountain of debt and her best friend Charlotte behind the camera. When the LBD began in April of 2012 with two videos a week posted at Lizzie’s YouTube channel, there were only four characters appearing on screen. Unbeknownst to the audience, several other characters were conversing with each other over social media which kicked off a rapidly coruscating expansion of the LBD storyworld. Characters that only existed on Twitter soon began appearing on camera and even started their own channels, with one of them posting song recommendations and movie check-ins a full 10 months before they were to ever appear on camera. Throughout the entire process, the LBD characters used their social media presence to interact with the audience, creating an addictive world of engagement, while driving important plot points for the main video through their separate channels.

Recipients: Transmedia Producer Jay Bushman, Executive Producer Bernie Su and Transmedia Editor Alexandra Edwards

On Sunday, be sure to follow Mashable’s entertainment editor Brian Anthony Hernandez, who will be providing live coverage on Twitter (@BAHjournalist) and Instagram (BAHjournalist) from the Emmys red carpet and inside Nokia Theatre during the awards ceremony.

Mars Landing Broadcast on Ustream Outperforms Cable TV, Company Says

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New stats from Ustream suggest that more people are forgoing television for online sources when it comes to getting news, the company says.

More than 3.2 million people tuned in to the live streaming platform to see Sunday night’s landing of the Mars Curiosity rover, according to spokesman Tony Riggins.

“More people tuned in to watch the NASA Mars landing coverage on Ustream than many of the top cable news networks during Sunday primetime,” he told Mashable in an email.

Riggins said that at its peak, Ustream had 500,000 concurrent viewers across all streams watching live. The platform had broadcasts spanning NASA HDTV, NASA JPL and NASA JPL 2

While there’s no specific statistics for network coverage of the landing, Nielsen television ratings for Sunday’s primetime slot shows that among viewers over age 2, CNN had an audience of 426,000. Other major networks such as MSNBC had 365,000 viewers, while CNBC received 109,000. Only Fox had higher numbers, clocking in at 803,000.

“This speaks to how much more sophisticated social media tools are getting on the web, even from just a year ago, and how consumers are adapting technologies to get news now from sources like Ustream,” Riggins said.

Ustream also lets viewers interact in real-time over its “social stream,” via mobile phones, tablets, streaming players and smart TV. Aggregating multiple social networks, this feature integrates audiences across Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. More than 102,000 social stream messages were sent on Sunday, according to Ustream.

The New York Times reported on television’s downward trend in April.

“Across the television landscape, network and cable, public television and Spanish, viewing for all sorts of prime-time programming is down this spring — chiefly among the most important audience for the business, younger adults,” said reporter Bill Carter.

In contrast, Ustream’s viewership has soared in recent years. From a reported 10 million unique viewers in June 2008, the platform said it now has 51 million viewers “every month” (though it’s unclear whether this number refers to unique viewers).

Do you watch news online or on television more often? Tell us in the comments below.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/07/mars-curiosity-ustream/

Mashable Weekend Recap: 65 Stories You Might Have Missed

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The weekend started off with a bang, thanks to the dazzling opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. That was spectacular enough to get everyone super-ready for the athletic competition involving our entire planet.

There were plenty of stories about the Olympics, and at the same time, your intrepid Mashable team discovered so much more — happenings in the digital world, tech innovations that felt like they were from a future world, and GIFs, comics and weekend fun that seemed to be from another world entirely.

Best of all, we’ve gathered all those stories here for you, in one big easy-to-peruse package. So take a look at the latest Weekend Recap, where you can catch up with the entire weekend of delightful news and views, right here:

Editor’s Picks

James Bond and the Queen Parachute Into the Olympics [VIDEO]

Please, NBC and IOC, Learn How to Share the Olympics

13 Surprising OS X Mountain Lion Facts [SUNDAY COMICS]

Top 10 Twitter Pics of the Week

Mountain Lion Vs. Windows 8: Which One Is Better?

Best Pics Yet: This Could Be the Real iPhone 5

How to Watch the 2012 Summer Olympics Online

Spoilers: Angry Olympics Fans Tweet Their Protests, NBC Responds

Top 10 Tech This Week [PICS]

News & Opinion

Marissa Mayer Brings Free Food to Yahoo, Eyes Acquisitions [REPORT]

MTV’s ‘Teen Wolf’ Facebook Game Is Feast for Fans in First 5 Weeks

Where to Get Back-to-School Deals on Tablets, Computers

How Dictation Tools Can Help Speed Up Your Workflow [INFOGRAPHIC]

Russian Cargo Spacecraft Docks With Space Station on 2nd Try

Olympic Check-Ins: Hot Foursquare Deals and Badges for London 2012

Record-Setting Electric Plane Flight Almost Didn’t Make It [VIDEO]

Mysterious Billionaire Commissions World’s Largest Yacht [VIDEO]

Twitter Jokester’s ‘Bomb Threat’ Charges Dropped [VIDEO]

Olympic Popularity: Starcount Reveals Which Olympic Athletes Are Trending

Amazon Sales Tax — What it Means for You

Down to the Millisecond: All About Olympics Timing

Trioh! The Flashlight You Can See When The Power Goes Out

On Reddit, Rapists Say They’re Sorry

Latest Apple Ads Take a Turn for the Worse

Why the London 2012 Olympics Is the First Real-Time Games

The 9 Most Important Tablet Mysteries of 2012

Device Turns Eye Movement Into Handwriting

Apple Considered Investing in Twitter [REPORT]

Hidden Genius Project Provides Tech Mentorship for Young Black Men

What Higher Education Will Look Like in 2020 [STUDY]

Why Do We Keep Going Back to Mars?

This Is What the Olympians From 100 Years Ago Looked Like

Shedding Light on Mitt Romney’s Unexplained Twitter Surge

New Leaked Pics May Hint at iPhone 5 Design

Chick-fil-A PR Chief Dies as Company Battles Controversy

Hacking the Olympics Opening Ceremony

Romney Advisor Tweets ‘Follow Friday’ List of Potential VPs

Facebook’s Not the Only One Struggling With Mobile Advertising

Weekend Leisure

This Cute, Cubed Bamboo Speaker Packs Crazy Sound [VIDEO]

9 Nifty Laptop Feet to Keep Your PC Running Cool

Kickstarter Project Is a ‘Smartwatch’ for Your Smartphone

‘Fund Me Maybe’ Is Tech World’s Parody of ‘Call Me Maybe’ [VIDEO]

10 Stylish Onesies for Baby Geeks

12 Pictures of Animals Being Forced to Marry

It’s Official: This Is the Cutest Picture on the Internet

Twitter Doghouse Lets You Temporarily Dump Annoying Tweeps

Top 10 GIFs of the Week

Boys Will Be Boys In This ‘Girls’ Parody [VIDEO]

10 Brits Snubbed from the Olympic Opening Ceremony

You Have Upset The Tetris God [VIDEO]

Sneak Peek: Justin Bieber Teases ‘As Long As You Love Me’ Video

If ‘A Space Odyssey’ Were Remade as a Hollywood Blockbuster

Forget Traditional Tours; Vayable Helps You Discover New Ways to Travel

Listen to Talk Radio on Your iPhone? You’re Probably a Liberal

You’ll Grin and Bear it With This Wild Live Video Stream

Mr. Bean Gets Carried Away During Olympics Appearance

Get a Bird’s-Eye View of 25 Olympic Stadiums

Top 6 Comments on Mashable This Week

Helpful Resources

Everything You Need to Know About Foursquare’s New Merchant Tools

How to Structure Your Daily Job Search to Help Land Your Next Job

50 Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

6 Key Software Updates You Should Be Doing

The Beginner’s Guide to Socialcam

4 Reasons Why Recruiters Should Stop Accepting Traditional Resumes

The Anatomy of a Killer Content Marketing Strategy

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/30/weekend-recap-64/

Ancient Cambodian City Revealed in Laser Scan

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Airborne laser scanning has revealed the remnants of a vast urban structure in the vicinity of Angkor Wat, a famous temple in Cambodia. The study, which will be published soon in the journal PNAS, follows earlier research that showed Angkor Wat to have been one of the world’s most complex preindustrial cities.

Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) is making it easier for archaeologists to explore human settlements in tropical vegetation; previous LIDAR work has found evidence of new cities in Central America, in addition to further enhancing the layout of known settlements such as the Mayan city of Caracol.

For the new study, the researchers used a LIDAR setup emitting up to 200,000 laser pulses each second from a helicopter. Amazingly, the entire operation for the data collection spanned just two days in April 2012 for a total 20 hours of flight time, capturing imagery that would have taken many years to assemble from the ground, if at all. The LIDAR analysis also appears to have discovered what could be an older city beside Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat

A digital recreation of Angkor Wat temple site (top) based on raw LIDAR digital terrain data (bottom). Image courtesy of PNAS.

The study has revealed new canals, temples and still unidentified manmade features, confirming a metropolitan area that housed many thousands of people, much as the Giza Plateau Mapping Project is doing for cities surrounding the Pyramids construction in Egypt.

As LIDAR technology gets cheaper, it will accelerate our understanding of early human settlements from the lingering geographic footprints we left, traces which can be almost as shallow as a footprint itself. As the authors write in their PNAS paper:

LIDAR technology has recently matured to the point where it has become cost-effective for archaeologists with sufficient accuracy and precision to identify archaeological features of only a few centimeters in size.

Image courtesy of sam garza/Wikimedia Commons

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/18/lidar-angkor-wat/

How Footprint Recognition Software Can Revolutionize Zoology

Pawprint

New software can now ID an animal’s gender and age based just on a picture of a footprint.

This is how it works: Key elements uniquely identifying a footprint are marked on an image, as shown above with an Amur tiger print, prior to algorithmic classification.

Studying animal behavior in the wild usually starts with figuring out just where the wild animals are hiding. Field biologists can use a combination of methods for this, such as radio collars, aerial surveys, and camera traps to remotely monitor animal movement. However, to an expert eye, a well-preserved footprint can also reveal a surprising amount about an animal: its species, gender, age, even its individual identity.

The trick is being able to do the identifying accurately and quickly. Over the last decade, WildTrack, an organization founded by zoologist and veterinarian Zoe Jewell and her husband, Sky Alibhai, has been developing image processing software to detect physical footprint characteristics that are hard for an untrained eye to recognize. The organization’s software is being used to track a variety of animals in different habitats, including Amur tigers in Russia, tapirs in South America, and polar bears in the Canadian province of Nunavut.

Jewell and Alibhai call their method footprint identification technique, or FIT. Professional trackers photograph footprints (with a ruler for scale) and add GPS coordinates. The footprints are then loaded into software that allows WildTrack to match them to a large number of known footprints from captive animals of the same species. Algorithms compare elements of the photographed footprint against those in a database of animals whose age and gender are known.

Jewell and Alibhai got the idea for WildTrack while working with black rhinos in Zimbabwe in the late 1990s. It has taken years of tweaking and tinkering to develop algorithms that reliably recognize footprints of a given species.

An ongoing challenge will be FIT’s reliability (it is currently 90 percent accurate at correctly determining the sex, age, and species). Nonetheless the technique is low cost, relatively easy to use, and noninvasive compared to radio collaring, which requires darting an animal. But FIT doesn’t work well with all animals yet, and is still very much in an experimental stage.

“The zebra hoof is a big challenge because it’s hard to mark different shapes. On the other hand, a cheetah or lion footprint, where you have four toes and a heel pad, there’s lots of complexity there, making it easier to identify individuals,” Jewell says.

Image: Jiayin Gu; Jennifer C.

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/08/19/footprint-recognition-software/

52 Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

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It may not have been a good week for Big Bird, but it was a good one for Detroit Tigers infielder Miguel Cabrera, who won the first Triple Crown since 1967. Over the past few days we’ve witness the beginning of debate season and the end of baseball’s regular season.

With all that going on, it’s understandable if you lost track of what’s happening in the social media and tech world. To get you up to speed, we’ve rounded up all our best feature stories from the past week.

The Lifestyle section was particularly active with resources that could help improve your ever-important quality of life. You can also start crossing names of your holiday shopping list with gift ideas such as geeky wine racks, funky iPhone cases and a high-end coffee maker that brews the perfect cup of java.

For you political junkies, be sure to check out our new special feature on how the digital sphere is shaping modern campaigning and elections. There’s also plenty of information regarding social media and business. It’s all here; dig in.

Editor’s Picks

Social Media

For more social media news and resources, you can follow Mashable‘s social media channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Business & Marketing

For more business news and resources, you can follow Mashable‘s business channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Tech & Mobile

For more tech news and resources, you can follow Mashable‘s tech channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Lifestyle

For more digital lifestyle news and resources, you can follow Mashable‘s lifestyle channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/06/digital-media-resources-57/