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Medicine and Health

Apple Watch 2 round-up: innovation or just an upgrade?

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When Tim Cook announced the Apple Watch for the first time, he said it would change the way we live our lives.

Wearables from other companies already established in the wearable industry had secured a place for themselves in the niche, and Apple thought it could add something to it. The Apple Watch, although it didn’t become an indispensable accessory everyone wanted to own, did convince a lot of people that wearables could occupy a spot in their daily routines and relationship with technology. However, many people pointed out that the Apple Watch did reveal its first-gen caveats in the process.

The Apple Watch 2 is more or less confirmed as being in development, with the launch date pegged for the second quarter of 2016. The information comes from Qanta, the manufacturing company responsible with quite a few of the Apple Watch 2 components. The chairman of the company, Barry Lam, revealed that the Apple Watch 2 release date should be anticipated for Q2 2016, considering their intel with the manufacturing process. Although his statements do not represent the official stance of Apple, they do provide some level of credible insight into the development of Apple Watch 2.

Tim Cook seems concerned about how well his first device is being received, because while a good fitness tracker and a decent communications device for iOS users, the Apple Watch hasn’t quite made wearables mainstream. When the device was launched, the company’s main goal for it was to establish the wearable as something everyone should have. That didn’t happen, although the Apple Watch did take over the better part, about 95 % of market sale in the smart watch market.

The Apple Watch 2 release date was rumored well before Lam spoke up this weekend, but his statements are the first official information about the company until now. Unless Apple rushes to disprove these statements, we can pretty much say that next Spring, the Cupertino-based giant is definitely going to unveil another wearable device.

Compared to the first generation, the Apple Watch 2 should not only improve upon it but demonstrate that wearable technology can be an everyday thing. One of the reasons why the devie wasn’t widely adopted was its price, and another was its lack of Android compatibility. Android users are more accustomed to the concept of wearables because they have a lot of options out there. Apple fans don’t have as many and the Android market should have been a target for the wearable. Since the company insisted on exclusivity, the Apple Watch didn’t become the hit they expected it to become. Pricing and a lot of gimmicky, yet useless features can also be motives to downplay the importance of the launch.

However, the Apple Watch did turn wearables into a topic of conversation and brought attention to the market from customers who previously didn’t really care about it. When Apple gets in the game, usually it’s a sign that there’s potential in the product. Hopefully, the Apple Watch 2 will exploit some of that potential – not with digital heartbeat messages, though. The Apple Watch 2 is expected to either become what the first generation didn’t really accomplish – a mainstream device that really moves life along or an innovative product that adds a new dimension to wearable technology. I’m sure Apple wants the device to accomplish both those things, but there’s also a third scenario, in which the Apple Watch 2 becomes another elitist device that takes things already on the market and fits them to its ecosystem.

Right now, information about what kind of ideals the Apple Watch 2 is supposed to fulfill is scarce, so anything is possible. Most likely, however, the company will choose the round design this time around, seeing as most people seems to vote for those types of smartwatches. On the other hand, another great thing to turn the Apple Watch 2 into would be a completely health-oriented device, with minimal gimmicks included in the software. In this case, an even more popular smartband design could be adopted, keeping the improvements to the sensors and cloud computing.

The existing information about the Apple Watch 2 that can be considered viable does not point out new traits that the watch will have, nor does it reveal design elements and software features that Tim Cook and his team are working on. However, it does confirm that the company is working on improving their wearable and making it a universal tool of integration in every aspect of our lives.

One of the more interesting rumors going around about the Apple Watch 2 is that in order to become a more affordable and more widespread device, accepted by Android and Windows users alike, it will be a cross-platform device with a health-oriented function made to help people stay fit and healthy without too much effort. The company has already demonstrated their inclination towards positioning the wearable as a health-tracker and personal coach, so it’s entirely possible that the Apple Watch 2 will come with a very different user experience.

While pricing is one of the most widespread reasons why people didn’t buy the first Apple Watch, some pointed out that it tried to do too much. Tech enthusiasts were of the impression that the device could have been refined further into a healthy living aid, something many people are interested in nowadays. With the growing concern about spreading health issues across the world, a device that would help us keep track of our nutrition, fitness, mental health and lifestyle would be welcome. The Apple Watch 2 could be the device to do that.

With a better heart-rate monitor, advanced sensors for health readings and tracking, personalized coaching assistant functions for Siri and innovations in how the way the Watch would gather data from all your platforms in order to form an overview of your lifestyle could turn the Apple Watch 2 into an innovative device. At the same time, it could actually help the wearable become a mainstream device by targeting something everyone wants to do: live a long, healthy life. I believe if Apple were to go down this path, it could turn the Apple Watch 2 into a much simpler device that would pay for itself, even if the components and high-end sensors would warrant a high price. People would go crazy over an easy-to-use device that told them how to fix their eating habits step by step or how to slowly introduce exercise into their life at a comfortable pace.

However, the Apple Watch 2 could also become a device similar to the LG Watch Urbane 2 LTE – a wewarable that replaces your smartphone and connects you to everything you need at a glance. I don’t know about you, but complicated is not what I’m looking for in a wristwatch. Nonetheless, the idea of replacing a bulky device and all that social media nonsense with a small, useful device that only gives you the notifications that actually matter during your daily life could also make an impact on the market. But this is a difficult device to pull off, seeing as it would need accessories like a headset and a truly unique UX in order to be actually easy to use.

If you have to wait for the Apple Watch 2 display to get to where you want it to be and load the information you need, it’s not a very time-saving device, I guess. Maybe some of you guys find using wearables fun and easy, but I honestly only see them as health- and fitness-related devices. Notifications can be a bonus, but responding to emails and messages on a less than 2-inch display can’t be comfortable no matter how ingenious the user interface is. We’re looking down on our phones enough already.

Anyhow, the idea is that if Apple wants to make a device that everyone will want to have and will feel like they need in their life, they should focus on making the Apple Watch 2 a health-oriented device and on making the software smart enough for users to feel familiar with. At the same time, a health-oriented device would serve the easy purpose of getting you through the day and through your calendar appointments, serve you only priority information not related to your health metrics, stress levels, mood and mental state and give you an overview in a timely manner about how you’re actually treating your body. These are just my ideas and the way I see the future of wearable technology and the Apple Watch 2, the reality of things could be very different.

The idea is that the Apple Watch 2 is in development and will be launched around April 2016, if the info is correct. How the device will look like or what it will be able to do is still a mystery. I imagine the Apple Watch 2 as a health tracker and fitness coach, but I’m sure you guys could see a million other neat purposes for it. How could the Apple Watch 2, in your opinion, convince the majority of people to “need it”?

As part of the editorial team here at Geekreply, John spends a lot of his time making sure each article is up to snuff. That said, he also occasionally pens articles on the latest in Geek culture. From Gaming to Science, expect the latest news fast from John and team.

Medicine and Health

What are the indications of the novel COVID-19 variants?

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The COVID-19 virus remains prevalent, and it is increasingly common to hear people expressing their illness symptoms in recent weeks. We are aware of the presence of new COVID variants circulating, but what are the specific symptoms that should be monitored?

The COVID-19 FLiRT variants, known for their boldness, have rapidly gained worldwide prevalence in recent weeks, surpassing the previously dominant variant (JN.1). Currently, the variant KP.2 is responsible for the largest share of infections. These findings are based on the most recent data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fortunately, according to experts, there is evidence to suggest that previous vaccines or a recent COVID infection may still provide some level of protection. Promising recent research backs up this viewpoint. However, it is widely acknowledged that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is highly cunning and elusive. Although vaccines have undeniably had a profound impact on the trajectory of this pandemic, they do not provide complete immunity against infection.

Despite the Northern Hemisphere being currently beyond the usual period of highest activity for respiratory viruses, it is important to note that COVID-19 is not the sole pathogen present. What are the indicators of an infection?

The manifestations of COVID have evolved over time, in conjunction with our comprehension of how this ailment can exhibit distinctive characteristics in various individuals. Ziad Tukmachi, a general practitioner based in London, stated in an interview with BBC Future that the peculiar and ambiguous symptoms of COVID at its onset included cognitive impairment, extreme fatigue, and loss of taste and smell. “Currently, I perceive that it has undergone mutations that have led to symptoms that closely resemble those of the flu. This makes it challenging for medical professionals to differentiate between the two based on clinical observations.”

As of the time of publication, the CDC’s most recent update on COVID-19 symptoms was on March 15 of this year. Therefore, the list of potential symptoms provided is based on our current understanding of the latest variants that are currently circulating. The following items are included:

  • Fever/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea

These latter two can catch people off guard, as they may mistakenly believe they are experiencing symptoms of a stomach infection instead. Similarly, you may experience symptoms that are so mild that you could confuse them with a common cold or even seasonal allergies. Currently, symptoms such as the diminished ability to perceive taste and smell, which were highly indicative of COVID-19 during its initial stages, seem to be significantly less prevalent.

Consequently, it is currently more challenging than ever to determine if one is truly infected with COVID-19 or another ailment without undergoing a diagnostic test. If you are experiencing symptoms of the cold and flu, the most prudent course of action is to remain at home and maintain a safe distance from other individuals. If you possess risk factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing severe symptoms, the CDC advises promptly seeking medical attention, as there are currently available treatments that can be effective if administered in a timely manner.

COVID-19 can potentially result in enduring consequences that the scientific community is actively striving to comprehend. Although many of us may no longer be experiencing mask mandates and toilet paper shortages, it is crucial that we remain considerate of the more susceptible individuals in our communities who may still be unable to let their guard down. Adhering to fundamental measures such as isolating ourselves from others when we are ill and getting tested to confirm the significance of any symptoms can assist everyone in safely managing this pandemic.

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How will the global disease landscape appear in 2050?

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If you are curious about the potential state of health and disease in the next 30 years, including the prevailing conditions and their impact on our lives, your curiosity ends here. Based on the most recent findings from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD), it is projected that by 2050, there will be a significant rise in life expectancy and a shift towards non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

The GBD study is a comprehensive endeavor to measure the extent of health decline worldwide over a period of time. Since 1991, it has enhanced our comprehension of the evolving health challenges confronting individuals worldwide and provided valuable insights to healthcare professionals, researchers, and policymakers operating in the field of health.

In the 2021 edition of the GBD, it was found that neurological conditions have surpassed cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of ill health globally. The Lancet has recently published additional findings from the 2021 study in a series of six articles.

Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 became the main focus. According to Professor Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the most recent GBD findings show that there has been the greatest decline in life expectancy globally in the previous 71 years. According to Murray, global life expectancy experienced a decline of 1.6 years from 2019 to 2021. Peru witnessed the most significant decrease, with a decline of 6.5 years.

Moreover, the GBD also emphasized additional health patterns that have persisted during the global pandemic, with articles centering on fertility, mortality causes, disability-adjusted life-years, and risk factors to underscore the intricacies of disease burden worldwide, extending beyond COVID-19. It has also anticipated the future to forecast the potential state of diseases in the upcoming decades.

“Our article on projections for GBD […] emphasizes that future patterns may deviate significantly from past patterns due to factors such as the widespread occurrence of obesity, the rise in substance-use disorders, and climate change. It also emphasizes the immense possibilities to change the course of health for the upcoming generation,” Murray adds.

The study examined 204 countries and territories, projecting the anticipated disease burden until 2050. It also considered alternative scenarios by eliminating specific risk factors.

Undoubtedly, the researchers lacked the ability to predict the future of global health over the next three decades. Instead, they utilized projections of significant determinants of health, such as climate models and anticipated levels of particulate matter pollution (PM2.5), to inform their predictions.

Life expectancy is projected to increase, with males expected to gain an additional 4.9 years and females expected to gain an additional 4.2 years. However, this increase is slower compared to the three decades prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The largest increases are anticipated in countries with a lower life expectancy.

“Although climate change, BMI, high fasting plasma glucose, drug use, and, in certain areas, PM2.5 are becoming increasingly problematic, Murray predicts that life expectancy and healthy life expectancy will continue to rise until 2050,” states Murray. Nevertheless, he warns that the anticipated advancement is delicate and susceptible to being disrupted by various challenges, including but not limited to food insecurity, antimicrobial resistance, the escalation of conflicts involving nuclear weapons, and the rise in cases of diabetes, obesity, addiction, and aging.

Projections also indicated that “health will improve in the upcoming decades,”  but there will be a change in the prevalence of diseases. The burden of communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional diseases (CMNNs) will decrease, while non-communicable diseases (NCDs) will become more prominent. NCDs are diseases that cannot be transmitted directly from person to person, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.

In addition, there will be a rise in the number of years lived with disability (YLDs), suggesting a transition from early mortality to morbidity. This means that people will have longer lifespans but will experience more years of ill health.

Furthermore, it is anticipated that disparities in life expectancy based on geographical location will diminish. “Although health disparities between the most affluent and least affluent regions will persist, they are gradually narrowing, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa,” Murray stated.

Considering different possible futures that focused on lowering environmental risks, CMNN risks, and NCD risks, as well as the combined effects of these scenarios, showed that getting rid of certain risks can greatly improve future health outcomes, especially when big NCD risks are targeted.

“Murray concluded that there is a significant opportunity for us to shape the future of global health by proactively addressing the increasing metabolic and dietary risk factors. These risk factors are primarily linked to behavioral and lifestyle factors such as elevated blood sugar levels, high body mass index, and hypertension.”

The research findings are published in the prestigious scientific journal, The Lancet.

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Neurological implant aids paralyzed individual in regaining speech abilities in two distinct languages

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A solitary cerebral implant has been employed to facilitate the restoration of speech in a paralyzed individual, encompassing both his mother tongue, Spanish, and the English language. Despite acquiring English at a later stage in life, the brain-computer interface (BCI) successfully detected the language he attempted to speak without requiring pre-programming. It is plausible that this capability could be even more effective for individuals who have been bilingual for a significant portion of their lives.

The individual, who was 36 years old, experienced quadriplegia as a result of a stroke that impacted a section of the brainstem. Remarkably, it was at the age of 30, following the stroke, that he attained a high level of proficiency in English, which was his second language. This is in spite of receiving a diagnosis of anarthria from a speech-language pathologist. Although his cognitive functions remained intact, his ability to control his vocal tract was limited, allowing him to only produce grunts and moaning sounds rather than coherent words.

The man had been utilizing an interface that allowed him to form words by making slight movements with his head, but the implementation of a brain-computer interface (BCI) had the capacity to significantly enhance this.

Prior research has demonstrated the profound and revolutionary effects that this technology can bring about. Recently, researchers presented preliminary findings on a system designed to restore speech to individuals who lack physical control over their vocal abilities. Alternative systems exist that assist individuals in computer typing by simulating the act of handwriting. Neuralink, a company led by Elon Musk, has recently implanted its inaugural brain-computer interface (BCI) device, which is purported to function akin to “telepathy.”.

The bilingualism of the participants in this trial introduced an additional level of intrigue.

The authors state in their paper that it is still uncertain to what degree bilingual speech production depends on distinct or overlapping cortical activity between languages. Consequently, it was uncertain whether a solitary device could accurately interpret neural signals when the individual was attempting to communicate in both English and Spanish.

The successful surgical procedure for implantation occurred more than three years ago. The device comprises a grid of 128 electrodes and was affixed to the surface of the patient’s left hemisphere, specifically targeting regions that play a crucial role in speech production. The device can be connected to a computer system through a connector that is implanted in the skull.

The implant functions by interpreting the neural signals that typically indicate the intention to articulate a specific word, which would normally be transmitted to the facial muscles and vocal tract. There is evidence suggesting that when acquiring a second language, the brain integrates it with the existing speech patterns of the native language. The authors of the study hypothesized that the similarities between English and Spanish in the man’s brain could enable the implant to generate either language.

However, the act of implanting the hardware is merely one component of this process. The software required training as well. Initially, they possessed a restricted lexicon consisting of 51 English words, 50 Spanish words, and three words that were shared between both languages, such as the man’s moniker, Pancho. During the training session, the participant will be presented with words individually on a screen. Subsequently, the participant will be required to verbally articulate the words in order for the system to accurately interpret their brain activity.

In order to facilitate progress, the researchers utilized the advancements observed in large language models by inputting the system’s output into GPT2. This contributed to a decrease in the error rate.

Following extensive training, the ultimate assessment was to determine whether the participant could effectively utilize the system to engage in a conversation utilizing the pre-established vocabulary. It was demonstrated to be feasible by the authors in Supplementary Video 3, and the individual was capable of effortlessly transitioning between languages.

Although the system has a limited vocabulary and requires regular recalibration through ongoing training, it has lasted longer than some other systems, reaching a duration of 48 days. This provides an exciting glimpse into the potential achievements of this developing technology. Furthermore, it contributes to our understanding of the mechanisms underlying bilingualism in the brain.

An ideal system would possess enhanced versatility, enabling users to seamlessly transition between languages, even within a single sentence. The authors express a positive outlook regarding their technology, stating that it has the capability to enhance communication for bilingual individuals with paralysis, who may find it advantageous.

The research findings have been published in the esteemed scientific journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

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