Meet Japan’s cyborg cockroach, coming to disaster area near you

Japanese researchers demonstrate the ability to mount ‘backpacks’ of solar cells and electronics on the cockroaches and control their motion by remote control

SAITAMA, Japan – If an earthquake strikes in the not too distant future and survivors are trapped under tons of rubble, the first responders to locate them could be swarms of cyborg cockroaches.

That’s a potential application of a recent breakthrough by Japanese researchers who demonstrated the ability to mount “backpacks” of solar cells and electronics on the bugs and control their motion by remote control.

Kenjiro Fukuda and his team at the Thin-Film Device Laboratory at Japanese research giant Riken developed a flexible solar cell film that’s 4 microns thick, about 1/25 the width of a human hair, and can fit on the insect’s abdomen.

The film allows the roach to move freely while the solar cell generates enough power to process and send directional signals into sensory organs on the bug’s hindquarters.

The work builds upon previous insect-control experiments at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and could one day result in cyborg insects that can enter hazardous areas much more efficiently than robots.

“The batteries inside small robots run out quickly, so the time for exploration becomes shorter,” Fukuda said. “A key benefit (of a cyborg insect) is that when it comes to an insect’s movements, the insect is causing itself to move, so the electricity required is nowhere near as much.”

Fukuda and his team chose Madagascar hissing cockroaches for the experiments because they are big enough to carry the equipment and have no wings that would get in the way. Even when the backpack and film are glued to their backs, the bugs can traverse small obstacles or right themselves when flipped over.

The research still has a long way to go. In a recent demonstration, Riken researcher Yujiro Kakei used a specialized computer and wireless Bluetooth signal to tell the cyborg roach to turn left, causing it to scramble in that general direction.

But when given the “right” signal, the bug turned in circles.

The next challenge is miniaturizing the components so that the insects can move more easily and to allow for mounting of sensors and even cameras. Kakei said he constructed the cyborg backpack with 5,000 yen ($35) worth of parts purchased at Tokyo’s famed Akihabara electronics district.

The backpack and film can be removed, allowing the roaches to go back to life in the lab’s terrarium. The insects mature in four months and have been known to live up to five years in captivity.

Beyond disaster rescue bugs, Fukuda sees broad applications for the solar cell film, composed of microscopic layers of plastic, silver, and gold. The film could be built into clothing or skin patches for use in monitoring vital signs.

On a sunny day, a parasol covered with the material could generate enough electricity to charge a mobile phone, he said



Social metaverse firm Meta announced that they will remove the Live Shopping feature on Facebook starting on October 1, 2022.

“Beginning on October 1, 2022, you will no longer be able to host any new or scheduled Live Shopping events on Facebook,” Meta’s statement read.

However, Meta assured the Facebook users that they can still broadcast live videos without creating product playlists or tag products.

“You will still be able to use Facebook Live to broadcast live events, but you won’t be able to create product playlists or tag products in your Facebook Live videos,” it added.

Meta made the move as they wanted to shift their focus to Reels on both social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram.

According to Meta, netizens can still tag their products using Reels on Instagram and broadcast a Live Shopping as well.

DICT eyes creation of online shopping platform for MSMEs

MANILA – The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is eyeing the creation of an online shopping platform to help micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME) expand their businesses into the digital space.

DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy said the platform would provide a complete e-commerce “ecosystem” from sourcing of raw materials, global digital marketing, and an e-payment system.

“This will be integrated — they won’t have to worry about how would they transform their business from a brick-and-mortar into an e-commerce-enabled business,” Uy said.

He said the platform, to be run by the DICT in cooperation with the Department of Trade and Industry, would be similar to other online shopping platforms such as Shopee and Alibaba.

“But then, specially designed for MSMEs. This will bring them up, make them more, and will become a major player. Because MSMEs have always been a major player in our economy,” he said.

Instead of having to design and develop their own websites to expand their businesses online, he said the government would design the platform and the MSMEs would simply need to “register and be onboard.”

“[It will] assist them to transform their businesses and introduce them to the e-commerce world seamlessly. Kasi ‘yan ang challenge nila (Because that’s the challenge for them). Where the heck are they going to hire web designers?” he said.

The project is to address the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that shuttered numerous businesses while others who adapted online thrived, he said.

“They haven’t been able to shift their business into the e-commerce platform because of challenges. We’re here, and we’ll solve those challenges for them and make it easier for them to do,” Uy said.

GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company based in the UK, said e-commerce market in the Philippines has registered growth during the last few years and the Covid-19 pandemic has further accelerated this trend.

It is expected to further grow an annual rate of 15.8 percent from 2022 to 2025 and transactions are projected to reach PHP495.2 billion in 2025

Samsung accidentally leaks the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Flip 3

Galaxy Z Fold and Flip 3

Samsung is hosting its annual Galaxy Unpacked event on August 11. In the weeks leading up to the event, the company already confirmed what was coming: a new slate of foldables and no Galaxy Note. Amid the company’s confirmations, a slew of leaks has revealed a lot of details already. And, less than two days before the event itself, Samsung has accidentally leaked ads for the upcoming Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Samsung Malaysia accidentally posted a 30-second ad on YouTube for the foldable, presenting them in detail with their touted features. The YouTube account has since deleted the ad but not before Reddit captured the video.

The video starts by displaying the Galaxy Z Flip 3’s bigger cover screen, allowing users to see much more of their notifications even without flipping the device on. It then moves on to the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s S Pen experience, confirming that the series will get a much more optimized S Pen. Finally, the video touts the series’ increased durability, a persistent problem since the form factor’s introduction.

Of course, these are all details that were hinted at in the past. The leaked video hasn’t really revealed anything new about the series. However, it does show the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Flip 3 in all their glory. Plus, it confirms formerly rumored details.

Scientist Invents Toilet That Turns Human Feces Into Cryptocurrency


Toilet Generator

A researcher at a university in South Korea has devised a toilet that turns human waste into power, Reuters reports. As a bonus incentive, each use rewards, uh, poopers with a small amount of digital currency that they can trade in for a coffee or a cup of noodles on campus.

The toilet first pumps your excrement into an underground tank, which means it uses less water right off the bat when compared to a traditional toilet. Microorganisms then break down the waste into methane, a usable source of energy.

In short, it’s a delightful new method of turning sewage into power.

Making Manure

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” inventor Cho Jae-weon, an urban and environmental engineering professor at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), told Reuters. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet could turn roughly a pound of solid human waste, the average amount a human poops in a day, into an impressive 50 liters of methane gas, according to Cho. That means it can generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to drive an electric car for three quarters of a mile.

And because its 2021 — a day and age in which nothing is safe from the world of cryptocurrencies — Cho came up with a virtual currency called Ggool, or “honey” in Korean. Every use of the toilet scores you 10 Ggool per day, which can be used to buy stuff on the university’s campus.

“I had only ever thought that feces are dirty, but now it is a treasure of great value to me,” a postgraduate student Heo Hui-jin who’s both earned and spent Ggool, told Reuters. “I even talk about feces during mealtimes to think about buying any book I want.”

Nokia is reviving the Nokia 3650

Another year, another classic Nokia phone resurrected from the grave. Since its revival, Nokia, helmed by HMD Global, has slowly revived its lineup of classic phones. The new lineup is a perfect match for the nostalgia and the budget-conscious market. According to a new report, Nokia is reviving another classic, the Nokia 3650.

Classic Nokia 3650

According to a Russian source, the company will modernize the brick phone for the new generation. Given how it looked, this comes as no surprise.

Back in its day, the classic brick phone presented a controversial form factor for the industry. Instead of the iconic numpad, it had a circular keyboard reminiscent of the old rotary phones. If you had a brick phone, you should have muscle memory of texting with a numpad without looking. Because of its weirder format, the Nokia 3650 is harder to memorize.

In 2003, the Nokia 3650 had a rare rear-mounted camera, albeit a VGA one. With a redesign on the horizon, Nokia can definitely make the brick phone more adaptable to the modern market.

However, since it’s only a rumor, we don’t know when the modern Nokia 3650 is coming out. If anything, a new classic Nokia phone is something to look out for this year.

New Release

Facebook launches drop-in video chat Rooms to rival Houseparty


Facebook  is co-opting some of the top video chat innovations like Zoom’s gallery view for large groups and Houseparty’s spontaneous hangouts for a new feature called Rooms. It could usher in a new era of unplanned togetherness via video.

Launching today on mobile and desktop in English speaking countries, you can start a video chat Room that friends can discover via a new section above the News Feed or notifications Facebook will automatically send to your closest pals. You can also just invite specific friends, or share a link anyone can use to join your Room.

For now, up to 8 people can join, but that limit will rise to 50 within weeks, making it a more legitimate alternative to Zoom for big happy hours and such. And more importantly, users will soon be able to create and discover Rooms through Instagram,  WhatsApp, and Portal, plus join them from the web without an account, making this Facebook’s first truly interoperable product.

“People just want to spend more time together” Facebook’s head of Messenger Stan Chudnovsky tells me. One-on-one and group video calling was already growing, but “Now in the time of COVID, the whole thing is exploding. We already had a plan to do a bunch of stuff here [so people could] hang out on video any time they want, but we accelerated our plans.” There’s no plans for ads or other direct monetization of Rooms, but the feature could keep Facebook’s products central to people’s lives.

Choosing to create a separate and extremely prominent space for discovering Room above the News Feed reveals how seriously Facebook is taking this product. It could have marooned Rooms in a standalone app or made them just another News Feed post that’s timeliness would get lost in the algorithm. Instead, it was willing to push the feed almost entirely off the start screen beneath the composer, Rooms, and Stories. Clearly Facebook sees sharing, ephemeral content, and synchronous connection as more key to its future than static status updates.

Facebook Goes All-In On Video

The launch of Rooms comes alongside a slew other video-related updates designed to shore up Facebook’s deficiency in many-to-many communication. Messenger and WhatsApp now see 700 million people using audio and video calls each day, while Facebook and Instagram Live videos now reach 800 million people per day. Facebook already owns the many-to-one feeds and has emerged as a leader in one-to-many livestreaming, but “the middle piece needed way more investment” Chudnovsky says.

Here’s a rundown of the other announcements and what they mean:

  • Virtual And 360 Backgrounds with mood lighting – Facebook will soon launch the ability to choose a virtual background to cover up what’s behind you on a video call, including 360 backgrounds that look different as you move around, plus mood lighting to make you look better on camera
  • WhatsApp expands group calls from four to eight max participants – Encompassing larger families and friend groups makes WhatsApp a more viable competitor to Zoom
  • Facebook Live With returns – It’s tough to be the center of attention for long periods, so being able to bring a guest on screen during Live calls keeps them interesting and low pressure
  • Donate button on live videos – This makes it much easier for musicians, activists, and normal people to raise money for causes during the coronavirus crisis
  • Live via audio only – With more musicians bringing their tours to Facebook Live, now you can listen while still going about your day when you can’t watch too or want to conserve data, and you can use a toll-free number to dial in to some Pages’ videos
  • Instagram Live on web – You can now watch Live videos and comment from desktop so you can multi-task during longer streams
  • Live on IGTV – Long live videos won’t have to disappear since they can now be saved to IGTV, encouraging higher quality Instagram Lives meant to last
  • Portal Live – You’ll now be able to go Live to Pages and Groups from Portal devices so you can move around while streaming
  • Facebook Dating Video Chat – Rather than going on a date where you have no chemistry, you’ll be able to video chat with matches on Facebook Dating to get a feel for someone first.

How To Use Facebook Rooms

Facebook strived to make Rooms launchable and discoverable across all its apps in hopes of blitzing into the space. You can launch a Room from the News Feed composer, Groups, Events, the Messenger inbox, and soon Instagram Direct’s video chat button, WhatsApp,  and Portal. You’ll be able to choose a start time, add a description, and choose who can join in three ways.

You can restrict your Room just to people you invite, such as for a family catch-up. You can make it open to all your friends, who’ll be able to see it in the new Rooms discovery tray above the News Feed or inbox and eventually similar surfaces in the other apps. In this case, Facebook may notify some close friends to make sure they’ll see it. Or you can share a link to your Room wherever you want, effectively making it public.

Facebook apparently watched the PR disaster that emerged from Zoombombing, and purposefully built security into Rooms. The host can lock the room to block people from joining via URL, and if they boot someone from a Room, it automatically locks until they unlock it. That ensures that if trolls find your link, they can’t just keep joining from the web.

Naturally, Chudnovsky tried to downplay the influence of Zoom and Houseparty on Rooms. “We’re glad there are many other apps people can use when they want to see each other and stay close to each other. I don’t think we necessarily learned anything that actually became part of this product” he insisted. It’s also convenient that Rooms is essentially a non-exclusive video version of Clubhouse, the voice chat app that’s the talk of Silicon Valley right now

The Uncopyable Copier

Facebook has been quietly working on Rooms since at least 2017, exploring how to make group chats discoverable. It tried a standalone app for group video chat discovery called Bonfire that year. In fact, Facebook launched a standalone app called Rooms back in 2014 for anonymous forums.

The genius of this launch is how it combines three of Facebook’s biggest strengths to build a product that copies others but is hard to copy itself.

  • The ubiquity of its messaging apps and web compatibility make Rooms highly accessible, without the friction of having to download a new app.
  • The frequency of visits to its feeds and inboxes where Rooms can be found by the family of apps’ 2.5 billion users plus Facebook’s willingness to bet big by sticking Rooms atop our screen like it did with Stories could unlock a new era of spontaneous, serendipitous socializing.
  • The social graph we’ve developed with great breadth across Facebook’s apps plus the depth of its understanding about who we care about most allow it to reach enough concurrent users to make Rooms fun by intelligently ranking which we see and who gets notifications to join rather than spamming your whole phone book.

No other app has all of these qualities. Zoom doesn’t know who you care about. Houseparty is growing but is far from ubiquitous. Messaging competitors don’t have the same discovery surfaces.

Facebook knows the real engagement on mobile comes from messaging. It just needed a way to make us message more than our one-on-one threads and asynchronous group chats demanded. Rooms makes video calls something you can passively discover and join rather having to actively initiate or be explicitly pulled into by a friend. That could significantly increase how often and long we use Facebook without the deleterious impacts of zombie-like asocial feed scrolling.

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How to transfer all your Facebook photos and videos to Google Photos

You have probably uploaded tons of photos and videos on Facebook, and you probably have forgotten most of them until they show up as Memories. But what if you want to download all those content and store them on a free cloud storage platform like Google Photos for safekeeping? Let us show you how.

The method can be done via the web browser or from the app. But for this guide, we’re going to use the former.

Step 1: Log in to your Facebook account and go to Settings.

Step 2: Click on the ‘Your Facebook Information’ tab on the left.

Step 3: Look for ‘Transfer a Copy of Your Photos or Videos’ then click on ‘View.’

Step 4: Enter your password to continue.

Step 5: Choose a destination where a copy of your photos or videos will be transferred to. In this case, click on Google Photos.

Step 6: Choose to transfer a copy of either your photos or videos you’ve uploaded to Facebook. After selecting, click on ‘Next.’

Step 7: Log in to your Google account and give Facebook access.

Step 8: Confirm transfer.

At this point, Facebook will proceed with uploading a copy of your photos or videos to your Google Photos. The photos are organized based on the name of the albums you have on Facebook. The transfer time might take a while depending on how much photos or videos are being transferred, so check back on this later.

You can also choose to stop the transfer. Take note that it will not pause the transfer so if ever you want to resume, you’ll have to start all over again.

And that’s it. We hope that you find this guide helpful. If you have tips or recommendations, let us know in the comments below.

Spotify adds fundraising features and a COVID-19 news hub to address the health crisis


Spotify this morning announced a series of new initiatives to address the COVID-19 health crisis across its platform. The company is launching a financial relief effort for those in the creative community who have been heavily impacted by the virus, which includes the addition of a public donations feature on its website. The company is also working to add a new feature that will allow artists to fundraise directly from their fans via their Spotify artist profile pages. Meanwhile, for listeners, Spotify is adding a COVID-19 news and information hub in its app to help keep users informed.

The new Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief Project will recommend verified organizations that are offering financial relief to those in the music community who are in need, worldwide. At launch, Spotify is partnering with MusiCares, PRS Foundation, and Help Musicians, and says it’s planning to add more partners in time.

The company says it will also match dollar-for-dollar the public donations made through the Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief page up to a total contribution of $10 million. Industry professionals in need of financial assistance will go to the partners’ sites for information to apply for relief funds.

“While streaming still gives artists a way to connect with their fans, so many other sources of revenue have been put on hold by this crisis,” notes the company on the Relief project’s page. “To play our part, we’re working with a growing list of organizations offering financial relief to creators around the world to find ways to support our community,” it says.

And though not yet launched, Spotify says it’s working to add a new fundraising feature for artists that will allow them to drive their fans to a fundraising destination of their own choice. This would allow artists to directly fundraise for other artists in need or another separate initiative of their own choosing. This feature will be optional for the artists to use and no changes to their profile pages will occur unless the artist wants to participate. And unlike the fundraising efforts on other sites, Spotify says it won’t take a cut of the funds.

Of course, offering personal fundraisers in a time of crisis can also be problematic, as there are a number of scammers now trying to capitalize on crisis with fake fundraisers. Artists, like anyone else, could fall for these scams and then rally their fans towards the cause — potentially redirecting money away from true relief organizations at a time when it’s critical.

This is worsened by the fact that personal fundraisers generally need vetting to ensure they in and of themselves aren’t scams or engaging in some kind of fraud. Even Facebook, operating at the scale it does, is warning users that it currently has fewer people on staff to review personal fundraisers due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It says fundraisers may not even be able to be reviewed at all and if they are, they’ll take longer than usual. And yet Spotify is readily the rollout of fundraisers at this time when staffing reductions and disruptions to schedules are in place. The staff works from home. But COVID-19 has disrupted every business and no entity is immune from that.)

In addition, Spotify is adding a new feature to connect listeners with news and information about COVID-19. Through a new in-app hub, the company is pointing users to news and podcasts from the media, including ABC News, BBC World Service, CNN, Foreign Policy, and NPR.

And, like most companies, Spotify is also offering advertising space to governments and nonprofits for health information and PSAs.

The new COVID-19 Music Relief Project and COVID-19 hub are live today. Artists fundraisers are in the works.

Samsung gives foldables another go with the Galaxy Z Flip

Samsung Z Flip1

Samsung did a surprisingly good job keeping the Galaxy Fold under wraps, surprising the world with its first foldable this time last year during the Galaxy S10 unveil. When it came to the Galaxy Z Flip, on the other hand, the company just went ahead and showed the whole thing off during an Oscar ad buy. (Not to mention numerous Samsung employees playing around with the handsets in their seats this morning, ahead of unveil). Crazy world, these mobile phones.

Of course, that’s not to say we haven’t know about the Flip for a while now. Samsung teased out the Moto Razr-style form factor before it even officially announced the Fold. Samsung wanted to make it perfectly clear that the foldable wasn’t just a one and done situation for the company.

The company kicked today’s event off by unveiling the new foldable, which it claims is “like nothing you’ve ever seen before.” Which, well, isn’t exactly true.

Certainly the Z Flip form factor seems a more logical one, harkening back to pre-smartphone days of clamshell devices. Of course, the Razr has been running into its own issues after its recent release. Between that and — even more notable — the Fold’s myriad problems, the Z Flip will no doubt been under as much scrutiny as any handset in recent memory.

When opened, the screen is 6.7 inches, with a hole punch camera up top. When closed, there isn’t much of a display, beyond a quick bar that offers time, notifications and battery life. Users can also snap selfies with the case closed. The clam shell comes in three colors: black, purple and gold.

One assumes that Samsung learned plenty of lessons the original Fold, after having to go back to the drawing board when multiple reviewers wound up with broken units. Samsung claims the device can handle 200,000 flips, courtesy of foldable glass — which should give it some extra durability.

Samsung claims the device can handle 200,000 flips, courtesy of foldable glass — which should give it some extra durability. In an offhanded reference to earlier issues, the company noted that the hinge is designed to keep debris out, one of the major downfalls of the first gen Fold, which allowed dust and particles behind the screen, damaging it when users pressed down. The new phone has a kind of brush system inside to keep stuff out.

Obviously we can’t quite speak to durability just yet (though I, for one, am excited to get my hands on the thing), but at $1,380, it’s priced — well, it’s less expensive than the $2,000 Galaxy Fold, at least. That puts it more in line with the new Razr, not to mention, Samsung’s just now introduced Galaxy S20 Ultra.

The Flip will be available on Valentine’s Day.

A Thom Browne Edition, meanwhile, will bring the iconic designer’s touch to the device, which will be highlighted in more detail at a special event tomorrow in New York as part of Fashion Week.