Tuesday, February 10, 2009

News Digest Feb 10

Google Makes it Easy to Spy on Kids, Workers

Associated Press (02/05/09) Liedtke, Michael

Google recently upgraded its mobile maps software with a feature called Latitude that allows users with mobile devices to automatically share their location with others.  The feature expands on a tool released in 2007 that allows mobile phone users to check their own location on a Google map.  The new feature raises several security concerns, but Google is trying to address this issue by requiring each user to manually turn on the tracking software and making it easy to turn off or limit access to the service.  Google says it will not retain any information on its users' movements, and that only the last location recorded by the tracking service will be stored on Google's computers.  The software uses cell phone towers, global positioning systems, or a Wi-Fi connection to find users' locations in the United States and 26 other countries.  Each user can decide who can monitor their location.  Latitude will initially work on Blackberrys and devices running on Symbian software or Microsoft's Windows Mobile.  Eventually the software will be able to operate on some T-1 Mobile phones running Google's Android software and Apple's iPhone and iTouch devices.  Google also is offering a PC version of the feature.  The PC program will allow people who do not have a mobile phone to find the locations of contacts or keep track of their children.


UAHuntsville Lab Combines Psychology With Technology for Unique Research Projects

University of Alabama in Huntsville (02/02/09) Maples, Joyce

University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAHuntsville) professor Anthony Morris directs the school's Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory, which combines psychology and technology to research work performed by human factors engineers.  Experimentation and research projects include human operator interactions with complex systems such as aircraft, and designing work stations that are logical, user friendly, and can help prevent injuries.  For example, Morris and UAHuntsville graduate student Sage Jessee have been working with the Human Research and Engineering Directorate of the Army Research Lab to evaluate the head and eye movements of Black Hawk helicopter pilots.  The project involved using eye-tracking in a video game-like simulator to monitor the pilot's point of gaze and head position during flight scenarios.  The researchers created an "attentional landscape" that characterized the general gaze of the pilot, and identified specific eye measures that correlate with mental workload.  The result of the project was a new ergonomically designed cockpit that enabled pilots to spend 90 percent of their time looking outside windows instead of continuously staring at the instrument panel.

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