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RFID builds a better rat trap

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In research funded by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), scientists have studied individual rat behaviour using scent detection and RFID-technology, better known as micro-chipping. This has dispelled some long-thought myths about cats as an effective means of rodent control. It turns out that cats do not successfully kill and control rat populations.
Although cats’ stalking activity may initially keep rats out of sight, the rodents will patiently wait them out and return undeterred once the cats lose interest and leave the scene. Bad news for those homeowners relying on feline friends to keep a tight patrol. The researchers also monitored how often a rat frequented remote sensors and found certain odours to be more attractive than others in luring rodents to a trap or feeding station.
“Historically, rats have always been extremely problematic in society as both carriers of disease and threats to our property and food,” said Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist for the NPMA. “Despite the risks they present, rats are also one of the most under-researched animals because they are so uniquely adept at living in close contact with humans, but remaining just out of sight. We embarked on this research to learn more about individual rat behaviour and to seek information to inform better rodent control methods for the professional pest control industry.”
Key conclusions from the research include:
1. Rat response to cat scents/pheromones 
Scents of male cats cause both female and male rats to investigate, but then ultimately avoid an area in the future. Mixed male and female cat scents cause rats to respond more favourably to the scent compared to male-only scents. Most interestingly, female-only cat scents are most attractive to both male and female rats and elicit the strongest response.
2. Cats and Rodent Control
Feral cats were observed over the course of a five-month period and their presence was recorded more than 300 times by the cameras monitoring the research site and active rat colonies located nearby. In that timeframe, less than 1% of the cat and rat encounters resulted in a rat being killed; despite, stalking behaviour being observed 20 times. Rats are also less likely to be seen on the day-of or the day after cats are present. Although rats were less likely to be seen, the feral cats had no observable long-term impact on the rat population. The rats went into hiding but came back later, determining that cats are not an effective measure in rat control in urban settings.
For more information about the study, rats and rodent prevention, visit PestWorld.org.

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CES: Most useless gadgets

The worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Language tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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