Parents struggle to reinstate screen-time rules / Humans + Tech - #86

+ This drone can detect human screams. What could go wrong? + A CCTV company is paying remote workers in India to yell at armed robbers + Other interesting articles


I’ve found some interesting articles for you this week.

After pandemic free-for-all, parents struggle to reinstate screen-time rules

For some countries like the US, where things are opening up again and the summer just beginning, parents are trying to reduce their children’s screen time and get them involved in regular outdoor activities. They are facing many challenges [Heather Kelly, The Washington Post].

While some parents just want their kids to be social or active again, many have noticed personality and behavioral changes in their children. They’re irritable, argumentative and have poor focus. Some have become anxious or depressed, or throw more tantrums and fly into rages.

Grant noticed moments when her kids weren’t acting like themselves. Like when her youngest son, 7, would burst into tears anytime something small went wrong. And when her 10-year-old faked attending Zoom class so he could watch YouTube, or got hypercompetitive and fought with a friend who was over playing video games.

“Having all that screen time all day for a whole year, their nervous system is really disregulated, and those symptoms need to be reversed,” said Victoria Dunckley, a child psychologist who studies the impact of screens on children and the author of “Reset Your Child’s Brain.” “All this overstimulation is putting them into a state of stress.”

Parents everywhere will face this challenge as restrictions go down and things start going back to normal. The article relates the stories of several parents who’ve struggled to reduce their children’s dependence on their devices.

Dunckley explains to parents that boredom is a normal, healthy process for kids that stimulates creativity as they find ways to play independently. Devices fill the boredom without any thinking required and fail to stimulate creativity.


+ They laughed, they cried, they killed monsters: How friendships thrived in video games during the pandemic [Heather Kelly, The Washington Post]

This drone can detect human screams. What could go wrong?

German research institute Fraunhofer FKIE and the Department of Sensor Data and Information Fusion have developed a drone that hunts for human screams [Kelsey D. Atherton, Popular Science].

In situations such as earthquakes where humans may be trapped under rubble, drones being able to hone in on human screams and guide rescuers to them increases the safety of the rescuers as well.

The drone manages to hear the human scream over the buzz from its six spinning rotors. With trained acoustic software and a microphone, the robot flies into place. The same human slams together two pieces of wood, creating another distinct sound, giving the drone more data to home in on. The drone arrives overhead. In the video of the test, the scream-hunting drone successfully locates the researcher below. It is at once a promising sign for rescue work, and an ominous one for the future of humans hiding from robots.

As with any technology, there is an opportunity to use it for both good and bad. Atherton points out the dangers of this technology as well.

But, there is a particular danger in any dual-use technology. A tool designed for an innocuous purpose can be easily used for the same function but with a far different application in mind. Rescue workers have reason to be interested in the drone that hunts for screams. However, it is also a technology that could easily be developed into use for military customers, incorporating the ability to find people by the sounds they make into a dedicated kill chain.

A CCTV company is paying remote workers in India to yell at armed robbers

Washington-based Live Eye Surveillance has developed a camera system that keeps watch and lets human operators intervene when they see something suspicious. The system is remotely staffed 24/7 in India and acts as virtual supervisors. They sell it as a safety feature. In reality, it seems like just another excuse to increase workplace surveillance [Todd Feathers, VICE].

In a short CCTV video, a clerk at a small convenience store can be seen taking a bottle of coffee from a cooler and drinking it. When he returns to the cash register, an unseen person's voice emits from a speaker on the ceiling and interrogates him about whether he scanned and paid for the item.

In another video, a cashier is standing behind the counter talking to someone just out of frame. There’s a 'ding' sound, and the voice from above questions the cashier about who the other man is—he’s there to give the cashier a ride at the end of his shift—then orders the man to stand on the other side of the counter.

Even in instances where the system appears to be helpful – such as when armed robbers attacked a 7-eleven store – the system could put people in more danger.

Even worse, the former field consultant said, the particular form of surveillance Live Eye is selling could actually be putting store workers in danger.

In one of the sample videos Live Eye sends potential customers, two black-clad robbers, one carrying an assault rifle, run into what appears to be a 7-Eleven store and force the clerk behind the counter. As the clerk starts to open the cash register, the Live Eye system dings and a voice informs the robbers that the police have been called. They run out of the store.

“That’s how someone is going to get killed,” the former field consultant said. “You don’t startle someone with an assault rifle. That violates 7-Eleven policy. There’s a reason why the silent alarm is silent” at banks and other businesses.

Other interesting articles from around the web

🖼 Artificial intelligence restores mutilated Rembrandt painting 'The Night Watch' [Shanti Escalante-De Mattei, ARTnews]

In 1715, Amsterdam city officials cut out panels from Rembrandt’s The Night Watch as it wouldn't fit in a space between two doors. The panels were later lost. Now the painting has been made complete again with the help of AI.

About the decision to use AI to reconstruct the missing pieces instead of commissioning an artist to repaint the work, Erdmann told ARTnews, “There’s nothing wrong with having an artist recreate [the missing pieces] by looking at the small copy, but then we’d see the hand of the artist there. Instead, we wanted to see if we could do this without the hand of an artist. That meant turning to artificial intelligence.” 

🇦🇷 In Argentina, cheap government-issued netbooks sparked a musical renaissance [Juan José Relmucao, Rest of World]

Constraints spark creativity more than abundance.

Valenzuela even got his artistic name thanks to his netbook. As a kid, he was so enamoured by it that he would spend hours watching videos in his pajamas. His mother would greet him with a sarcastic: “¡Qué elegante!” (So elegant!) The moniker stuck, and when Valenzuela chose his stage name, he opted for “L-Gante.”A $10 mic was the only hardware Valenzuela had needed to purchase to record L-Gante RKT — the single he created entirely on his Conectar netbook, which today has over 157 million views on YouTube after being released last October.

🛰 Tracking ocean microplastics from space [Gabe Cherry from University of Michigan, Wevolver]

Microplastic pollution has become a big nuisance, and monitoring it has been challenging. Researchers have employed satellites in space to help track the flow of microplastics more accurately.

An estimated eight million tons of plastic trash enters the ocean each year, and most of it is battered by sun and waves into microplastics—tiny flecks that can ride currents hundreds or thousands of miles from their point of entry. The bits can harm sea life and marine ecosystems, and they’re extremely difficult to track and clean up. 

Now,  University of Michigan researchers have developed a new way to spot ocean microplastics across the globe and track them over time, providing a day-by-day timeline of where they enter the water, how they move and where they tend to collect. The approach relies on the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) and can give a global view or zoom in on small areas for a high-resolution picture of microplastic releases from a single location.

Quote of the week

“It’s been really hard to just take the device and say, ‘Go do something.’ I feel like they’ve all forgotten how to go outside and play, or how to entertain themselves without devices.”

—Carrie Mengelkoch, a mother of three in Gainesville, FL, from the article, “After pandemic free-for-all, parents struggle to reinstate screen-time rules” [The Washington Post]

I wish you a brilliant day ahead :)