Monday, March 19, 2007

Indoor Acoustics: Study of 40 Churches

Wired has a short write-up about research into church acoustics. The researchers used dummy heads with binaural microphones as well as separate soundfield microphones to make their recordings. A book is due to be published next month (April 2007) documenting their first round of results. The title is Worship, Acoustics and Architecture.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sonification: The Sound of Traffic

Wired has an article about a neat little Java application called Sound of Traffic that lets you 'listen' to TCP/IP traffic.

By the way, this process of converting non-speech data into sound in order to convey information is called sonification and it is a very interesting on-going area of research, particularly for helping the vision-impaired, but also for other things such as gaining insight into or simply entertainment from networking traffic.

Video Filtering: IBM Research on Automatic Face Masking and Privacy

IBM has been moving into the video surveillance services market as of late. Now comes word on some of its research into technologies that might support that. They are not the first to work on automatic face masking but it is the first time I've seen this privacy angle to it - automatically detect, track, and mask (i.e. blur) all faces on an incoming video stream and then selectively unmask as required to identify someone. I've worked with this regularly over the last ten years, so I know that it is a very challenging problem to do reliably, particularly with "real", not laboratory, video.

Human Hearing System: Subliminal Feedback Cure for Obsessive Gaming

Via Good Morning Silicon Valley.

Language: Prediction of the extinction of Manchu and half the world's other languages

Here is an article on the extinction of languages over at the New York Times.

Courtroom: Accreditation of Forensic Expert Witnesses & Daubert in UK

The issues of introducing accreditation for forensic expert witnesses and Daubert hearings have again been raised in the UK, this time in response to recent acquittals (where both sides had expert witnesses that disagreed) and the conviction of Gene Morrison on 20 counts of deceptively representing himself as a forensic expert with academic qualifications.

Several interesting things are discussed in this article (which basically reads like an opinion piece), including Daubert, whether a case should proceed when there is a serious dispute over forensic evidence, registration and accreditation of forensic expert witnesses, and the effect of privatizing forensic science service organizations.

(Hat Tip: TimesOnline, UK)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Human Visual System: Everything you know about the genetics of eye color is wrong

It turns out that the explanation behind what color (or colors, in rare cases) your eyes are is a lot more complicated than what I learned in school.

(Hat tip: GeekPress)

Courtroom: Jury Selection in USA

Psychology Today has an article on jury selection and who both sides use consultants to help decide who to excuse.

(Hat tip: Arts & Letters Daily, by way of GeekPress)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Biometrics: Biometric passport with RFID is hacked remotely

A regular reader pointed me to the Daily Mail (a UK tabloid) article describing how they had a security expert "hack" one of the new biometric passports with an electronic Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) microchip to extract all of the digital data. They arranged to simulate intercepting the passport being mailed from the government to the citizen. Because the passport had this RFID chip, it could be remotely interrogated, they were able to do this without even opening the postal envelope containing the passport. Of course, the data was encrypted, so then the security expert had to break that (and he succeeded). The only apriori information he needed was the citizen's date of birth, which he obtained through searching the Internet. The entire process took four days, but in the end, he was able to recover all of the passport's digital data, which even included the citizen's digital picture.

It seems pretty obvious that they either didn't bother to do a proper independent security analysis before they developed and deployed the system or the managers discounted the results of any one that was done. Because of that lapse, now it seems that they need to rethink their encryption scheme at the very least. When they do, it might make sense to add some type of limit to the number of times a passport can be interrogated with an incorrect password, either in a certain time window or an accumulated number over the life cycle of the passport.

Computer Audio & Video: Windows Vista changes how audio and video are handled

Howstuffworks has the best summary of Windows Vista as related to audio and video rendering that I've read thus far. The highlights are:
  • The graphics and audio drivers will run in user mode instead of kernal mode so that errors with either will not cause 'Blue Screens of Death.'
  • Vista supports DirectX 9 but is really built around DirectX 10.
  • DirectX previously did not require graphics hardware to support many DirectX capabilities; now, however, only three features are optional.
  • Finally, the sound volume coming from each application can be separately controlled.
There is even more interesting information about Vista in the article for those who are interested.

Computer Forensics: The Real World of Computer Forensics

Here is the link to an account by Keith Jones of three criminal and civil cases involving computer forensics. Mr. Jones is a computer forensics expert witness (with whom I have no relationship).

(Source: Information Week's Optimize Magazine)

Forensic Photography: Retrieving color of ancient textiles

Eurekalert summarizes work by Chirstel Baldia and Kathryn Jakes (both at Ohio State University) that used forensic photography techniques to determine the original color of textiles recovered from Ohio's Seip burial mounds which are about 1600 years old.