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Science: Ancient baboon similar to modern descendants; depth-sensing camera works in bright light

Ancient baboon similar to modern descendants

A skull fragment 2 million years old comes from the earliest baboon ever found, a new study reports. The fossil was found in Malapa, a cave in South Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage site where specimens of Australopithecus sediba, an early ancestor of modern humans, were discovered in 2010. The ancient baboon, Papio angusticeps, is the first nonhominin primate found at the site.

The baboon bore a strong resemblance to its modern descendants, said Christopher C. Gilbert, an anthropologist at Hunter College in New York and an author of the study, published in PLOS One.

“You’d be hard pressed to figure out the difference between this fossil and a skull of a living baboon,” he said.

Little is known of the origins of modern baboons. Previous molecular studies suggested that baboons diverged from their closest ancestors about 2 million years ago, and the fossil skull seems to confirm that.

Depth-sensing camera works in bright light

Depth-sensing cameras can detect how far away a person or object is. Though these cameras have broad applications – in self-driving cars and navigation tools for the blind, for instance – they do not work well in bright sunlight. A new imaging technology addresses this shortcoming.

Existing depth-sensing cameras, like Microsoft’s Kinect, rely on an infrared camera that generates a speckled pattern on an object. With simple geometry, the camera uses the pattern to calculate the distance of the subject. But the pattern is not visible to the camera in bright light.

A new imaging technology focuses on gathering only the bits of light that the camera actually needs, according to Kyros Kutulakos, a computer scientist at the University of Toronto.

He and his colleagues used a rolling-shutter camera to detect light only from select points illuminated by a laser.

– New York Times