Posts tagged with "Instagram"

Bunny, the dog that can ‘talk,’ starts asking existential questions

May 12, 2021

When Bunny, TikTok’s beloved talking Sheepadoodle, stared at herself in a mirror and asked “Who this?” using her augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device’s buttons, many followers believed she was having an existential crisis. Since then, the Internet-famous dog seemingly has become more interested in her own, dare we say,“sense of self,” Salon reports.

More recently on April 24, Alexis Devine, Bunny’s human parent—an artist based in Tacoma, Washington—has posted a video of Bunny pressing a button for “dog,” then a second button for “what,” a third button for “dog” and a fourth one for “is.” “Dog what dog is?” Devine narrated.

“This is happening so frequently that I’m going to add the buttons ‘animal’ ‘same’ and ‘different,'” Devine wrote in the caption which accompanied the Instagram post. 

The canine Bunny, who has 6.5 million followers on TikTok, is one of nearly 2,600 dogs and 300 cats enrolled in a project called “They Can Talk.” The study’s aim is to understand if animals can communicate with humans through AAC systems. AAC systems—such as Bunny’s giant labeled buttons that speak a single word when pressed—originally were designed to help humans with communication disorders. Yet they have been adapted to be used in language experiments with animals, such as the study Bunny is enrolled in, which is led by Federico Rossano, director of the Comparative Cognition Lab at the University of California–San Diego.

In Rossano’s study, participants receive instructions on how to set up their AAC buttons for their pets; generally, pets begin with easy words like “outside” and “play.” Pet parents set up cameras to constantly monitor the animals when they are in front of their boards—data that then is sent to the lab so that researchers examine what they say.

Now, Bunny’s followers have become obsessed with the notion that her language-learning is making her develop some kind of self-awareness. Is that possible?

And if so, does learning language have something to do with it?

“The question here is, is this a behavior that has been trained — like, look, I’m going to show you this individual here, this is ‘you’ or ‘dog,’ and don’t be afraid of it, and then over time the dog learns that,” Rossano told Salon. “Or to what degree is this spontaneous?”

If it is spontaneous, the research around the ethology for canines could get really interesting. Scientific evidence has previously suggested that dogs don’t recognize themselves in the mirror. The so-called mirror test is used to determine whether an animal has the ability of visual self-recognition, and is considered a marker of intelligence in animals. Elephants, chimpanzees, and dolphins are among the animals who have passed the test, but dogs typically don’t.

That might suggest dogs possess a lack of self-awareness. However, separate studies have shown that dogs can recognize their own scent, which hints at the opposite.

Péter Pongrácz, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, was curious if the standard mirror test was sufficient enough to determine whether or not dogs have “self-representation”—which, as Pongrácz explained, is what ethologists prefer to call “self-awareness” in animals. This curiosity led Pongrácz and a team of researchers to study dogs’ “self-representation” in a test called “the body as an obstacle.” As a behavioral test, the dogs were tasked with picking up an object and giving it to their owners while standing on a small mat. However, the object was attached to the mat, forcing the dogs to leave the mat in order to lift the object.

“Dogs came off the mat more frequently and sooner in the test condition, than in the main control condition, where the object was attached to the ground,” the researchers write in a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports published by Nature. “This is the first convincing evidence of body awareness through the understanding of the consequence of own actions in a species where previously no higher-order self-representation capacity was found.”

Pongrácz told Salon via email that the “body as an obstacle test” is more suitable for dogs, and perhaps, theoretically, could be for more species because animals are then forced “to negotiate physical challenges where their bodies can impede their actions.” Pongrácz added that mental capacity is “complicated” and should be thought of as something that consists of “several building blocks.”

“Dogs are large bodied, fast moving animals that live in a complex environment and they have a well-developed cognitive capacity; therefore, it was reasonable to hypothesize that they would benefit from being capable of understanding that they ‘have a body’ that can interact with the environment,” Pongrácz said.

“As our test proved this, yes, we can say that dogs are aware of their body—and, as body-awareness is part of the complex self-representation system, yes, they can be considered as being self-aware,” he added.

As an online spectator observing her, it is hard to deny that Bunny isn’t becoming more curious about what “dogs” are, as she has been recorded wandering over to her word board pressing “dog” and then “what.” Another time, she asked “dog” and then “why,” which humans might interpret as her asking why she’s a dog. Devine says on Instagram that this line of questioning occurs “regularly” now.

But as Rossano said, the tricky part is sussing out what is learned behavior and what is Bunny’s own doing. And that’s a separate question from whether the AAC device has influenced her sense of self. After all, as Pongrácz said, mental capacity is comprised of building blocks; language may be just another block.

“I think there’s a good reason to believe that Bunny is probably capable of a sense of self and recognizing herself in the mirror, but to what degree is spontaneous versus learned over repeated exposures, I would say it’s more likely to be the latter than the former,” Rossano said, adding that “self-awareness” wasn’t something they were interested in measuring at first in the “They Can Talk” study. But now, that’s changed.

“We know that language helps not just communicate with others, but also helps us categorize; and it also gives us some sense of consistency and continuity over time,” Rossano said. In other words, self-awareness and language could be connected, as

Rossano said a new, key interest of his study is whether or not dogs have a sense of

Research contact: @Salon

Heineken responds perfectly to the implosion of the European Super League

April 27, 2021

In America, the XFL is the most iconic example of a football league that couldn’t go the distance: After its eight teams engaged in just five weeks of play in its inaugural 2020 season, the league’s operations slowly came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic—leading to bankruptcy.

But, Adweek reports, the XFL feels like an enduring cultural institution compared to the European Super League, an audacious concept that lasted a mere 60 hours in late April before imploding spectacularly.

Now, brewmaker and soccer sponsor Heineken and its advertising agency Publicis have cheekily marked the misguided attempt at a new soccer league with an Instagram post that bears a simple warning: Don’t drink and start a league.

The social post was created through Publicis Italy and the agency’s dedicated Heineken group, Le Pub.

As a longtime sponsor of the UEFA Champions League, Heineken obviously had a clear side in the debate, but it’s also one that the brand could rest comfortably knowing that its sense of humor would be shared by most fans.

Indeed, according to Adweek, the Instagram post developed by Publicis has received more than 12,800 likes in its first six hours, with comments consistently describing the response as “brilliant” and “genius.”

Research contact: @Adweek

Seriously, stop sharing your vaccine cards on social media

March 19, 2021

When one of her editors at CNN Business recently shared a celebratory picture of his vaccine card on Instagram, Samantha Murphy Kelly sent him a direct message: “Didn’t you read our story about not posting your record? Scammers are watching!”

He argued they’d be hard pressed to dupe him based on anything listed on the card: “What scam are you gonna run on me just by knowing my name and my birthday? Unless it’s that you sign up for free ice cream scoops on my birthday and don’t give them to me in which case, yes, that is very serious.”

But it’s not just his birthday that was listed. The card showed medically sensitive information, including his vaccine lot number, clinic location and the brand of vaccination received. And for some people, the card contains even more.

As the COVID vaccine rolls out to more people around the country, Kelly writes that she has lost track of how many vaccine information cards I’ve seen across social networks and chat apps.

While selfies are encouraged as a way to express joy at being vaccinated and broadcast that people are doing their part to help stop the spread of Covid-19, multiple government agencies have warned about the risks of posting vaccine card images online.

“Think of it this way—identity theft works like a puzzle, made up of pieces of personal information. You don’t want to give identity thieves the pieces they need to finish the picture,” the Federal Trade Commission said in a blog post last month. “Once identity thieves have the pieces they need, they can use the information to open new accounts in your name, claim your tax refund for themselves, and engage in other identity theft.”

Cybersecurity experts said they’re not aware of any widespread hacks or scams specific to vaccine cards—although the roots of identity theft are hard to uncover. But some also said these security threats would be easy to execute.

For now, it’s mostly “speculation but plausible,” Mark Ostrowski, head of engineering at cybersecurity company Check Point Software said in an interview with CNN. “We will have hundreds of millions of people getting vaccinated. If cyberattack history repeats itself, these threat actors or scammers will try to find a way to take advantage of this situation.”

At the same time, there have been a number of COVID-19 scams—ranging from people pretending to be COVID-19 contact tracers to fake websites promising vaccine appointments.

Many of us (perhaps Kelly’s boss included) may be desensitized to the risks given how much information we assume is already available online about us—either because we posted it ourselves, it’s been harvested from public data, or because it was dumped as part of a previous security breach.

But Rachel Tobac, an ethical hacker who specializes in social engineering, told CNN that one of the biggest concerns around the vaccine card trend is that the information is visible all in one place and easy to access.

“Posting an unedited vaccination card, unfortunately, makes it much easier for a criminal to target a specific person,” she said. In some cases, a person’s medical record number is listed on the card. “To gain access to sensitive medical records over the phone, having the medical record number, last name, and date of birth—all of which are listed on the vaccination card—are all I need to authenticate as that individual and gain access to sensitive details.”

A cybercriminal could attempt to impersonate you and call your healthcare company to learn about your medical history or diagnoses, cancel upcoming procedures, change prescription doses and more.

With or without the medical record number, she said, vaccine cards could also allow a hacker to conduct a phishing scheme to steal data and passwords. With the lot number of the vaccine you received or the location of the place where you got the shot, they’d be able to spoof the email address of that facility with a message about, for example, a recall urging you to click a link, supposedly to reschedule an updated dose but really intended to take information from you.

This doesn’t mean you should ignore any email you get about your vaccine, but it is a good reminder to be thoughtful about links you click with any email about any subject and to make sure the sender is who they say they are.

People who are in the public eye more, whether they’re influencers, celebrities or journalists like my editor, have a higher threat of this because criminals are more likely to target them. Stealing their free ice cream scoops on their birthday would be just the start of it.

“There are all kinds of issues related to potential identity theft,” said Michela Menting, a research director who specializes in cybersecurity at tech market advisory firm ABI Research. “Individuals should be as wary of posting vaccine records information as they would be about posting their credit card numbers online.”

Research contact: @CNNBusiness

Casper and Romeo are the ‘reigning’ cats and dogs on Instagram

January 27, 2021

They think they are twins, but there are some obvious differences. People Magazine reports that Instagram’s newest odd couple is Casper and Romeo—a white and fluffy Samoyed dog and Peke-faced cat that have found love, despite their distinctive personalities.

The pet pair belongs to Rinsa Li from Christchurch, New Zealand. And despite what you would assume, the Casper of the pair is the smiley dog; Romeo is a gruff-looking two-yea-old feline with a heart of gold.

“Romeo looks grumpy but he is the sweetest cat I have ever met; he allows everyone to hold him and gives great cuddles,” Li first told Daily Mail about her kitty.

The animal lover always wanted a cat, but was worried about how Casper would react. After the six-year-old dog spent an enjoyable play date with a kitty belonging to Li’s friend, Li decided to take the plunge.

Casper and Romeo kept their distance at first, but soon curiosity got the best of both of them. It only took a few weeks of adjustment for the duo to become inseparable, People reports. Now, the pair spends two hours of each day outside exploring New Zealand with their owner, who also happens to be a professional photographer.

Li posts her shots of the pets to their Instagram #CasperAndRomeo, where they have over 43,000 followers.

When Casper and Romeo aren’t on road trips, they can often be found cuddling together on the couch at home.

“It warms my heart so much to see them as siblings and I enjoy waking up to the both of them every day; I can’t imagine a life without them,” Li said of her adorable Instagram celebrities.

Research contact: @people

After COVID, Bryan Cranston isn’t stopping to smell the roses

December 9, 2020

Bryan Cranston, 64—still celebrated for his memorable acting turn in Breaking Bad and now appearing in Your Honor—still can’t fully taste or smell after getting the coronavirus back in March, the actor shared December 4 on The Ellen Show.

Both Cranston and his wife, actor Robin Dearden, came down with the illness, Self Magazine reports.

As he told DeGeneres: “She got it first. She gave it to me because we share.”

Overall, Cranston and his wife had a mild experience with the virus. “We had a few days of achiness, but not enough to keep you in bed, and I had a temperature of about 99 [degrees] for about three hours. And then just exhaustion for a week after that,” he explained. “We were very lucky, in all seriousness.”

The majority of the couple’s symptoms lasted for about ten days, Cranston said. But his sense of taste and smell still aren’t what they used to be. “The only thing that lingered and still to this day is I lost a percentage of my ability to taste and smell,” the actor told DeGeneres. “I think about 75% has come back. But if someone was brewing coffee, and I walk into a kitchen, I cannot smell it.”

A loss of taste or smell is one of the strange but not uncommon symptoms of this novel coronavirus. One small study published by JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery last June surveyed 204 people who had been diagnosed with coronavirus and found that 55.4% of them reported a loss of taste, while 41.7% reported a loss of smell.

Then an August 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis by the Mayo Clinic looked at 24 studies with a collective 8,438 test-confirmed COVID-19 patients and found an average of 41% of patients had a loss of smell, while an average of 38.2% had a loss of taste.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 symptoms run the gamut. In addition to a new loss of taste or smell, symptoms can include fevercough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.

The CDC continues to update the list as new symptoms emerge. If a person with the virus develops symptoms, signs of illness appear between 2 to 14 days after exposure, though asymptomatic people can and certainly do spread the illness as well. Experts also continue to look into “long-haulers” such as Cranston—who experience coronavirus symptoms weeks or months after first getting the disease.

Several other celebrities have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Neil Patrick Harris also experienced a loss of taste and smell back in March, which alerted him to the fact that he didn’t just have the flu. Hugh Grant sprayed his wife’s perfume directly in his face to try to trigger his sense of smell, but got nothing—and also struggled with a feeling of pressure on his chest. Rita Wilson initially thought her fatigue symptoms were just jet lag when she and her husband, Tom Hanks, were diagnosed.

“I was pretty strict in adhering to the protocols and still… I contracted the virus. Yep. it sounds daunting now that over 150,000 Americans are dead because of it,” Cranston wrote on his Instagram back in July. “I count my blessings and urge you to keep wearing the damn mask, keep washing your hands, and stay socially distant. We can prevail—but ONLY if we follow the rules together.”

Research contact: @SELFmagazine

Photo finish: 33% of us are guilty of doing this to our exes, research shows

November 19, 2020

It’s human nature to want to rid yourself of any reminders of your ex after he or she is out of the picture. The thought of seeing you and your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend smiling in a picture together is often too much to bear. So, you take their photos down from your wall, donate the old sweatshirt they left in your drawer—and if you’re like many people, you delete any evidence of them from your social media profiles, as well, Best Life reports.

Dating app Plenty of Fish has just released its annual list of dating trends—and points out that this phenomenon is fairly common among daters, with more than one-third of people copping to it. In fact, there’s a word for it: sanitizing, which Plenty of Fish describes as “the act of wiping your social media of all photographic evidence of a past relationship.”

There are many reasons you may feel compelled to delete all traces of your ex from social media—and the following may be among them:

  • It helps you avoid those “Where’s your better half?” questions. If you want to avoid getting asked where your partner is all the time, deleting him or her from your social media can be a good way to send the message to others that you two are no longer together.
  • After a breakup, you enter a new chapter of your life, and with that shift, you may want to reinvent yourself a bit. Relationship expert and matchmaker Rori Sassoon tells Best Life that people are eager to “redo, restart, and reinvent themselves” after a relationship ends. “Once you break up, it’s not about the relationship anymore; it’s about you and your next chapter in life, which doesn’t include that other person.”
  • It’s cathartic. If you were in a toxic or abusive relationship, you’ll likely want to remove anything that will remind you of that experience. Indeed, deleting these images could even be therapeutic. Pressing ‘delete  on photo after photo, many of which are associated with painful memories, can feel cathartic and help you move on.
  • It helps you gain closure. Catching a glimpse of your ex every time you open an app could make it harder for you to move forward. Removing those photos allows you a symbolic fresh start. “Closure is an important part of the healing process to allow the person to move on,” marriage counselor Wyatt Fisher tells Best Life. “Part of what helps with closure is removing everything that reminds you of your ex, including all pictures of him or her on social media.”
  • It signals that you’re single and ready to mingle. If your Instagram is inundated with photos of you and your ex, it may impede on your ability to get back out there when you’re ready. Some people sanitize to make it clear on their profile that they’re single.

Research contact: @bestlife

Taylor Swift to re-record songs after music catalog is sold to private equity fund for $300M

November 18, 2020

Singer and songwriter Taylor Swift has confirmed a November 16 report that her music catalogue has been sold to a private equity group without her knowledge or consent—or the second time in two years—dashing her hopes of regaining control over her masters after they were controversially acquired by music mogul Scooter Braun last year.

At the time, Swift described Braun’s acquisition of her catalog as her “worst case scenario,” Forbes reports.

Variety, which first reported the story, say the deal is believed to be worth more than $300 million, with Swift confirming that Shamrock Holdings, an investment vehicle for certain members of the Roy E. Disney family, had “bought 100% of my music, videos, and album art” from Braun.

In  statement shared to Twitter and Instagram on Monday, Swift said she had initially welcomed the prospect of working with Shamrock, before discovering that the agreement meant that Braun and his company, Ithaca Holdings, which acquired her catalog last year would “continue to receive many years of future financial reward” from her master recordings, something she “cannot currently entertain.”

“We made this investment because we believe in the immense value and opportunity that comes with her work. We fully respect and support her decision and, while we hoped to formally partner, we also knew this was a possible outcome that we considered,” Shamrock said in a statement. The purchase is the firm’s first major investment in a music catalog.

Swift also shared a letter she wrote to Shamrock Holdings, in which she said she has already begun re-recording her old music—something she acknowledges will “diminish the value” of Shamrock’s investment, and a move she announced she announced last August.

Photo source: @Forbes

‘Tressing’ for success: 2020 Kids Mullet Championships winner crowned

November 11, 2020

With business in the front and party in the back, the results of this election are something we can all agree on. The Kids Mullet Championships has crowned an inaugural winner, announcing that an eight-year-old boy from Texas has the most marvelous mane among the pint-sized competitors, Fox News reports.

Jax recently first prize among babies and boys (ranging in age from one to 14) for his classic “Curly Mullet” tresses, the USA Mullet Championships noted. The contest went viral in September—with over 20,000 votes and 50,000 social media reactions across Facebook and Instagram.

With his victory, the young Texan won a $500 cash prize and gift card package to businesses in Fenton, Michigan, where the contest is headquartered. Second-place winner Noah, 12, from Illinois, and third-place winner Jude, 7, from Colorado, each will receive smaller bundles of cash and some swag, too.

Kevin Begola, president of the USA Mullet Championships, speculated that Texas voters went wild for the third grader’s toothy grin—pushing him to first place on the podium.

“Jax is the man! He is a little guy that has 100% accepted the mullet lifestyle and was rocking the hairstyle well before we did this contest,” Begola told Fox News on Tuesday. “His smile and missing teeth might have put him over the edge.”

Although he’s cool with his overnight fame, Jax endearingly can’t sign autographs “because he doesn’t know cursive yet,” the organizer added.

The USA Mullet Championships began with an adult competition earlier this year, and the kids edition followed soon after. According to Begola, “This contest was just what 2020 needed! It was fun and brought back a lot of memories for people who lived through the ’80s,” he explained. “Life has been pretty hectic around the world for most people this year and the mullet lifestyle really makes people smile.

“When many states shut down, it only meant that haircuts were not happening and we figured it would be a great time to compete for the best mullets in all the land!”

Research contact: @FoxNews

You can now buy Serena Williams’ daughter Olympia’s favorite doll, Qai Qai

October 16, 2020

If you follow tennis pro Serena Williams and Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian on Instagram.then you’ve probably met Qai Qai—their daughter Olympia‘s favorite baby doll.

Now, anyone can have their very own Qai Qai! The doll is available for purchase on Amazon, according to a report by Good Morning America.

“When I was looking for a doll for Olympia, I felt like I was picking out a doll for me too. We can all relate to the sheer joy of playing make-believe and giving our toys their own characters and voices, and it is even sweeter when you can find a doll that looks like you,” Serena Williams told GMA recently. “Our responsibility as parents is to raise our children to be loving, accepting and empathetic to everyone’s experiences. Qai Qai is the platform and brand we created to champion these messages and make people laugh while doing it.”

Qai Qai has over one million followers across social media platforms and goes on all of Olympia’s adventures, including, most recently, the U.S. Open.

“There’s something really special about the relationship between a child and their favorite toy. … We are incredibly excited to be able to bring the same delight we see in her every time she plays with Qai Qai to the homes of children everywhere,” Williams said.

Olympia is rarely seen without Qai Qai and in turn the doll has become somewhat of social media icon. The baby doll’s mission has become to tell uplifting stories, spread humor and share important social messages.

“Qai Qai is no ordinary doll, and we’ve been amazed at the way she’s been able to become a platform to educate and inspire her audience online,” Williams said.

Qai Qai is available exclusively on Amazon for $29.99.

Research contact: @GMA