Archive for June, 2019

Canadian technology originally developed years ago to enhance speech recognition is now being used by some of the world’s biggest beauty brands.

University of Toronto engineering professor Parham Aarabi designed lip-reading software more than a decade ago that initially garnered interest from the military community.

“The goal was to read lips and combine that with audio to do better speech recognition,” Aarabi said.

Story continues below

HangZhou Night Net

Related

  • Canadian style guru Jay Manuel fuses art and science in new beauty line

  • Clothing and accessories that can be harmful to your health

“The idea was that in certain environments – noisy environments or very far away from the person you’re trying to listen to – audio doesn’t work, so you have to use computer vision to read someone’s lips to guess what they might be saying.”

The technology worked about half the time, he said.

“You could eavesdrop on someone from very far away and based on the image zoomed in on their face guess as to what they were saying.”

But the algorithms he built to track contours of lips proved adept in the beauty industry.

That’s when his company, ModiFace, was born. The company grew slowly since launching in 2007.

Aarabi says the technology is now used by cosmetics companies from L’Oreal to Unilever and Yves Rocher for different applications, such as adding different shades of lipstick to an image of a face uploaded by a user.

About a year ago demand for ModiFace began to surge. At the time, he said, there were about 20 brands using the software.

Now, he said, 52 brands have licensed his technology that appears in more than 200 apps, with a total of more than 60 million downloads.

“I don’t know what the catalyst was, but everyone is rushing to have augmented reality as part of their apps, websites and retail solutions,” Aarabi said.

He expects that total to double in the coming year.

It turns out his lip-reading software solved a long-standing problem.

“One of the biggest challenges in the beauty industry is that most people don’t know what product is best for them,” he said.

“The way the beauty industry has worked for a century is you’re shown what a model looks like and because it looks good on a model – or because the skin care makes the model look perfect by some definition of perfection – therefore this product must be the right product for you,” he said.

“What we found is that if we can show the product in a very realistic and truthful way to the consumer on their own image … it is substantially more effective as a marketing and educational tool than if you show an image of a model.”

In the next year or two Aarabi says his technology will allow customers to walk into a store, glance at a mirror and have different shades of lipstick on their reflection looking back at them.

©2015

Monday marks the first day of the free Fit for Fall Charity Challenge. Its mission is to get you to conquer 100 miles (160 kilometres) of cardio in eight weeks. It may sound like a lot, but it breaks down to just 30 minutes of cardio a day, which is pretty doable.

Story continues below

HangZhou Night Net

Related

  • Fitbit report reveals Canadians’ exercise habits and top workouts

  • Why too much sitting time increases risk of disease even if you exercise

Aside from helping you shed any unwanted summer pounds, the challenge can also benefit your favourite charity. All you have to do is download the Charity Miles app and for every mile you complete, a sponsor will donate to a charity of your choice on your behalf.

The team behind the initiative, Tone It Up, will also choose five participants every week and donate $200 to their chosen charities.

Those who sign up will have access to fitness tips and recipes, as well.

Getting started

If a fitness challenge isn’t your thing, there are still simple steps you can take every day to get in better shape. Walking is an easy start.

“You don’t need any equipment. Park your car further away. Take the stairs,” said Toronto’s Harley Pasternak, who has trained countless A-list celebrities like Halle Berry, Rihanna, Megan Fox, and Kim Kardashian.

The important thing is to just get moving. The Canadian physical activity guidelines for those aged 18 to 64 are “at least 150 minutes of moderate-to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.”

Pasternak is of the belief that Canadians are overexercising but underactive. For the most part, many of us lead very sedentary lives which consist of lying in bed for eight hours, then sitting in as we commute to work, where we sit some more for another eight hours.

READ MORE: 4 ways to combat sitting disease

A spin class twice a week (where you sit again) isn’t going to cut it, Pasternak stressed.

“Stop thinking of exercise as workouts and start thinking of it as activity, as movement.”

If you have a Fitbit, which Pasternak endorses, aim for 10,000 steps a day.

Diet

The device can help track your heartrate, as well as your sleep and diet — both of which Pasternak said are crucial.

His word of advice?

“Eat less Timbits. All the ab exercises in the world aren’t going to make up for a bad diet.”

Aim for protein, fibre and healthy fat in your meals. You should have three of them a day plus two snacks, added Pasternak, who’s also big fan of blending.

As for the portions, his rule of thumb is:

limit your protein to the size of the palm of your handhave a palm-full of high-fibre grains or high-fibre fruitsenjoy unlimited veggiesinclude at least a thumb-size of healthy fat each meal

Your snacks should be one-third the size of your meals.

READ MORE: The skinny on snack bars —What to look for on the nutrition label

“Move more, sleep better, eat properly,” Pasternak said. “Then if you want to do a work-out, do a workout. That comes after.”

Workouts

Want washboard abs? Don’t waste your time on sit-ups. They can create poor posture, according to Pasternak, and actually injure your lower back and neck.

Try planks instead.

And contrary to what you may have heard, you don’t need to feel pain to have a good workout, nor do you need to sweat a lot. Working out in the heat is also not better than doing it in the cold.

“You burn significantly more fat in a cold climate. When it’s cold outside, your body has to create heat, and it creates heat by burning calories.”

That’s good news for Canadians, especially as we approach our colder months. So don’t be afraid to take a walk in the brisk weather — just make sure you warm up beforehand.

Here are three of Pasternak’s top exercises to try.

The Walk-Lunge

How to do it: Keep your head straight up, do not look down at the ground; look where you are going. Make sure your leading knee does not go past the laces of your leading foot.

Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak demonstrates how to do a proper Walk-Lunge.

Shahin Edalati, Fitbit creative director

Spider Plank 

How to do it: Try to draw your right knee to your right elbow; then return to the start position and do the same on the left side.

Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak demonstrates how to do a Spider Plank.

Shahin Edalati, Fitbit creative director

The TRX Row

How to do it: Make sure your body is a rigid plank. Your nose, chest, knees and toes should all be on one plane. Try not to curl your wrists in as you draw your hands into your chest. Make sure you pull your hands and forearms high to your torso.

Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak demonstrates how to do a proper row using the TRX.

Shahin Edalati, Fitbit creative director

Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak demonstrates how to do a proper row using the TRX.

Shahin Edalati, Fitbit creative director

Follow @TrishKozicka

©2015

HALIFAX – A feasibility study will look at a total of 301 kilometres of Nova Scotia highways to see whether tolling will work for twinning the eight sections of  the 100 series highways.

The study, granted to Atlantic Canada engineering and environmental design company CBCL Limited, is expected to be finished by the end of April.

The following sections of highway will be included in the study:

Highway 101, Three Mile Plains to Falmouth – 9.5 kmHighway 101, Hortonville to Coldbrook – 24.7 kmHighway 103, Exit 5 at Tantallon to Exit 12 Bridgewater – 71 kmHighway 104, Sutherlands River to Antigonish – 37.8 kmHighway 104, Taylors Road to Aulds Cove – 38.4 kmHighway 104, Port Hastings to Port Hawkesbury – 6.75 kmHighway 104, St. Peter’s to Sydney – 80 kmHighway 107, Porter’s Lake to Duke Street, Bedford – 33 km

The map shows the stretches of highway to be included in the feasibility study.

Global News

Information that comes out of the study will be brought to the public through both in-person and online consultations, giving all Nova Scotians a chance to provide feedback before a final decision is made.

The government’s decision to look at tolling as a way to twin the 100 series highways came after the release of the 101, 103 and 104 highway safety studies in April.

Highway 103 has been called the second-deadliest highways in Canada, with 890 collisions occurring in a 274-kilometre stretch, with 22 resulting in deaths between the years of 2007-2012.

“It’s long overdue,” Halifax councillor Matt Whitman said in April. “It’s expensive, but it’s definitely long overdue. We’ve lost too many lives on this highway.”

After the studies came out in April, it was determined that twinning would be the best solution to the safety issues on the highways, but that tax dollars wouldn’t be enough to cover the cost of twinning, and that tolling would be the best way to make those major changes.

HangZhou Night Net

©2015

Charges have been laid against two men in connection with a string of arsons and shootings involving students and staff at the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

Chief Supt. Kevin Hackett of the B.C. Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit says 15 victims with links to the Justice Institute of British Columbia were targets in 19 arsons and four firearms related incidents between April, 2011, and January, 2012.

Their homes, vehicles and property were the subjects of multiple shootings and arsons.

Story continues below

HangZhou Night Net

In July 2011, a threatening email was received by the Justice Institute and referenced nine people, all but one of whom had their property targeted in the preceding months.

The RCMP determined the victims were linked and had a connection to the Justice Institute.

Investigators have also found that an ICBC employee had looked up the fifteen victims’ license plates, which provided their personal details.

In January 2012, an arson investigation in Surrey led to the identification of the person who is alleged to have orchestrated all of the offences.

Between December, 2014, and January, 2015, a number of victims received suspicious letters in the mail. One of the letters contained a warning that the attacks would resume in the new year.

Investigators reconnected with the victims to ensure adequate safety until the charges have been laid today.

Two men — 40-year-old Vincent Eric Gia-Hwa Cheung of Langley and 54-year-old Thurman Ronley Taffe of Burnaby — have been arrested and appeared in court today. They will appear in court again on Oct. 1.

Cheung is alleged to be the main orchestrator. He is charged with a number of offences and is believed to have gang ties. Taffe is charged with one count of arson.

The extensive investigation spanned four years and many jurisdictions across B.C., involving hundreds of police officers from several police agencies.

Police says their investigation was complicated by the efforts of the accused to disguise their intent through cunning and misdirection.

The motive of the crimes remains unknown, but police say the victims were all innocent.

Many were at home when the arsons or shootings took place and still feel the emotional impact of these crimes.

Investigators say the public may never know exactly why these people were targeted.

“We know that there are still people out there with information related to this investigation. We ask that the contact us so we can advance the investigation,” says Hackett.

More arrests and charges are expected.