An apple a day could keep obesity away

Scientists at Washington State University have concluded that nondigestible compounds in apples -- specifically, Granny Smith apples -- may help prevent disorders associated with obesity. The study, thought to be the first to assess these compounds in apple cultivars grown in the Pacific Northwest, appears in October's print edition of the journal Food Chemistry.

"We know that, in general, apples are a good source of these nondigestible compounds but there are differences in varieties," said food scientist Giuliana Noratto, the study's lead researcher. "Results from this study will help consumers to discriminate between apple varieties that can aid in the fight against obesity."

The tart green Granny Smith apples benefit the growth of friendly bacteria in the colon due to their high content of non-digestible compounds, including dietary fiber and polyphenols, and low content of available carbohydrates. Despite being subjected to chewing, stomach acid and digestive enzymes, these compounds remain intact when they reach the colon. Once there, they are fermented by bacteria in the colon, which benefits the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut.

The study showed that Granny Smith apples surpass Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, McIntosh and Red Delicious in the amount of nondigestible compounds they contain.

"The nondigestible compounds in the Granny Smith apples actually changed the proportions of fecal bacteria from obese mice to be similar to that of lean mice," Noratto said.

The discovery could help prevent some of the disorders associated with obesity such as low-grade, chronic inflammation that can lead to diabetes. The balance of bacterial communities in the colon of obese people is disturbed. This results in microbial byproducts that lead to inflammation and influence metabolic disorders associated with obesity, Noratto said.

"What determines the balance of bacteria in our colon is the food we consume," she said.

Re-establishing a healthy balance of bacteria in the colon stabilizes metabolic processes that influence inflammation and the sensation of feeling satisfied, or satiety, she said.

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The above story is based on materials provided by Washington State University . The original article was written by Sylvia Kantor. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Sweat-eating bacteria may improve skin health

Bacteria that metabolize ammonia, a major component of sweat, may improve skin health and some day could be used for the treatment of skin disorders, such as acne or chronic wounds. In a study conducted by AOBiome LLC, human volunteers using the bacteria reported better skin condition and appearance compared with a placebo control group. The researchers presented the study results at the 5th ASM Conference on Beneficial Microbes in Washington, DC.

Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) are ubiquitous in soil and water and are essential components of the nitrogen cycle and environmental nitrification processes. The researchers hypothesized that AOB are uniquely suited for the environment of the human skin because ammonia oxidation products, nitrite and nitric oxide, play important roles in physiological functions of the skin, including inflammation, blood vessel relaxation and wound healing. AOB may also improve the skin microenvironment by driving a lower pH through ammonia consumption.

For the study, the researchers used a strain of Nitrosomonas eutropha isolated from organic soil samples. In the blinded, placebo-controlled, study involving 24 volunteers, one group applied a suspension of the live bacteria on their face and scalp for one week, while a second group used placebo. Both groups were followed for an additional two weeks. Subjects did not use hair products during the first and second week and they returned to their normal routine for the third week.

The AOB users reported qualitative improvements in skin condition compared with no or minimal improvement reported by the control group. Use of a bacterial DNA detection assay demonstrated the presence of AOB in 83-100 percent of skin swabs obtained from AOB users during or immediately after completion of the one-week application period, and in 60 percent of the users on Day 14, but not in any of the placebo control samples. Surprisingly, in this small study, the improvement among the AOB users correlated with the levels of AOB on their skin. Neither group had AOB on their skin at the start of the study. Further analysis suggested potential modulation of the skin microbiota by AOB. Importantly, there were no adverse events associated with the topical application of AOB.

"This study shows that live Nitrosomonas are well tolerated and may hold promise as novel, self-regulating topical delivery agents of nitrite and nitric oxide to the human skin," said Dr. Larry Weiss, AOBiome's Chief Medical Officer. "Our next step is to conduct clinical trials to assess the therapeutic potential of AOB in patients with acne or diabetic ulcers."

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The above story is based on materials provided by American Society for Microbiology . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Plants prepackage beneficial microbes in their seeds

Plants have a symbiotic relationship with certain bacteria. These 'commensal' bacteria help the pants extract nutrients and defend against invaders -- an important step in preventing pathogens from contaminating fruits and vegetables. Now, scientists have discovered that plants may package their commensal bacteria inside of seeds; thus ensuring that sprouting plants are colonized from the beginning. The researchers, from the University of Notre Dame, presented their findings at the 5th ASM Conference on Beneficial Microbes.

Plants play host to a wide variety of bacteria; the plant microbiome. Just as in humans, the plant microbiome is shaped by the types of bacteria that successfully colonize the plant's ecosystem. Most of these bacteria are symbiotic, drawing from and providing for the plant in ways such as nitrogen-fixing and leaf-protection. Pathogenic bacteria may also colonize a plant. Pathogens can include viruses and bacteria that damage the plant itself or bacteria like the Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O104:H4. In 2011, Germany, France and the Netherlands experienced an outbreak of E. coli that was ultimately traced to the consumption of contaminated sprouts, which was thought to be caused by feral pigs in the growing area. Such opportunistic contamination is hard to guard against as most growing takes place in open, outdoor spaces with little opportunity for control.

The hypothesis behind this research is that the best way to defend against pathogenic contamination is with a healthy microbiome colonized by bacteria provide protection from invasive pathogens. Just as with babies, early colonization is crucial to establishing a beneficial microbiome. The researchers, led by Dr. Shaun Lee, looked inside sterilized mung beans and were able to isolate a unique strain of Bacillus pumilus that provides the bean with enhanced microbial protection.

"This was a genuine curiosity that my colleague and I had about whether commensal bacteria could be found in various plant sources, including seed supplies" said Dr. Lee. "The fact that we could isolate and grow a bacterium that was packaged inside a seed was quite surprising."

The researchers first sterilized and tested the outer portion of a sealed, whole seed. When that was determined to be sterile, they sampled and plated the interior of the seeds and placed them in bacterial agar, which they incubated. What they found was the new strain of Bacillus pumilus, a unique, highly motile Gram-positive bacterium capable of colonizing the mung bean plant without causing any harm. Genome sequencing revealed that the isolated B. pumilus contained three unique gene clusters for the production of antimicrobial peptide compounds known as bacteriocins.

Dr. Lee and his colleagues theorize that their findings could have a wide impact, both on our understanding of plants and in creating food-safe antimicrobials. The finding that plant seeds can be pre-colonized may be an important mechanism by which a beneficial plant microbiome is established and sustained. Moreover, the team is now isolating and studying the bacteriocins, which Dr. Lee says "have tremendous potential."

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The above story is based on materials provided by American Society for Microbiology . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

On the trail of the truffle flavor

Truffles, along with caviar, are among the most expensive foods in the world. Because they grow underground, people use trained dogs or pigs to find them. But the distinctive smell of truffles is not only of interest to gourmets. A group of German and French scientists under the direction of the Goethe University Frankfurt have discovered that the smell of white truffles is largely produced by soil bacteria which are trapped inside truffle fruiting bodies.

White truffles from the Piedmont region in Italy can reach 5,000 Euro per kilogram, and black truffles from the Périgord region in Southern France as much as 2,000 Euro per kilogram. Particularly large specimens even fetch prices of up to 50,000 Euro per kilogram at auctions. Connoisseurs search for the precious delicacies near hazelnut trees, oaks and some species of pine. This is because truffles grow in a symbiotic relationship with the trees. For scientists truffles are therefore a model organism to investigate how symbiosis evolved between plants and fungi.

Truffles are also useful to study fungal smell and flavour. Understanding how flavours are created is indeed very important to the food industry. Yeasts and bacteria which make cheese and wine have been researched in depth, but little is known about how the flavour of other organisms, including truffles, is created.

Over the past 10 years, researchers already suspected that micro-organisms trapped inside truffle fruiting bodies contributed to the flavour. "When the genome of the black Perigord truffle was mapped in 2010, we thought that the fungus had sufficient genes to create its flavour on its own," junior professor Richard Splivallo from the Institute for Molecular Life Sciences at the Goethe University explained.

The team made up of German and French scientists studied the white truffle Tuber borchii. It is native to Europe but has been recently introduced in New Zealand and Argentina. The researchers were able to show that bacteria produce a specific class of volatile cyclic sulphur compounds, which make up part of the distinctive truffle smell. Dogs and pigs are able to find truffles underground thanks to the slightly sulphuric smell.

"However, our results cannot be transferred to other types of truffles," Splivallo says, "because the compounds we investigated are only found in the white truffle Tuber borchii." For this reason, in the future they plan to study compounds which are found in the Périgord and Piermont truffles and are common to all types of truffles. "We don't just want to know which part of the truffle flavour is produced by bacteria. We are also interested in how the symbiosis between fungi and microorganisms has evolved and how this benefits both symbiotic partners."

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The above story is based on materials provided by Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Investigating 'underground' habitat of Listeria bacteria

The literature describes Listeria as ubiquitous bacteria with widespread occurrence. Yet they only become a problem for humans and animals when they contaminate food processing facilities, multiply, and enter the food chain in high concentrations. An infection with Listeria monocytogenes can even be fatal for humans or animals with weakened immune systems.

Listeria in soil or water are not dangerous

"Listeria in soil or water represent a relatively low risk to humans," explains study director Beatrix Stessl. "The concentrations are too low. The aim of our study was to ascertain where Listeria occur and which species and genotypes were prevalent there." Martin Wagner, head of the Institute of Milk Hygiene, adds: "This information can help us to better understand the mechanisms through which these bacteria are spread."

Flooding favors Listeria contamination

Over a period from 2007 to 2009, first author Kristina Linke and her colleagues collected nearly 500 soil and 70 water samples from three Austrian regions: the eastern Alps, the Donauauen National Park adjacent to the river Danube, and Lake Neusiedl. The study regions involved natural, non-agricultural areas. Of all samples, 30 percent were detected positive for Listeria. Of these, 6 percent were contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, the only species that is potentially dangerous for both humans and animals. L. monocytogenes was detected especially near the rivers Schwarza and Danube. Particularly high rates of the bacteria in soil and water samples were registered in September 2007 during extensive flooding in the region.

In most regions, the researchers found only Listeria that are non-pathogenic to humans.

Thespecies Listeria ivanovii, which is potentially dangerous for animals, was found mainly in mountainous regions where the bacteria are presumably excreted by wildlife species. The non-pathogenic Listeria seeligeri was most frequently isolated in the region around Lake Neusiedl, which is likely explained by the waterfowl population in this area.

No Listeria were isolated in high-altitude mountain regions. The researchers explain the greater contamination at lower altitudes with the proximity to farms, agricultural land and the urban environment.

Antibiotic-resistant Listeria in soil

Although Listeria that contaminate food are generally not considered to be resistant to antibiotics, Stessl and her team found several Listeria strains in soil samples which resisted treatment with antibiotics. The bacteria have developed resistance. Stessl sees the possible causes as follows: "A number of soil microorganisms, such as fungi, naturally produce antibiotics. Listeria which are constantly exposed to these substances in the soil probably develop resistance. We believe, however, that the development of particularly high-resistant strains of Listeria can be explained by the proximity to agricultural land and the urban environment."

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The above story is based on materials provided by Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Smelly discovery challenges effectiveness of antimicrobial textiles

Anti-odour clothing may not be living up to its promise, and an ALES researcher is saying it could all be a matter of how the product was tested.

In two separate experiments, Human Ecology researcher Rachel McQueen and her team found that some antimicrobial textiles were far more effective at performing their advertised tasks in the lab than in testing on humans. In one experiment, the fabrics were designed to help lower the risk of infection; in the second, the fabric was treated with a silver compound, which can be marketed preventing odour in clothing.

"We aren't necessarily seeing the same results in the lab about antimicrobial activity translating into antimicrobial activity when we're wearing them next to our bodies in real life," she said.

The first experiment analyzed the effectiveness of three different textiles coated in antimicrobials triclosan, a zinc pyrithione derivative and a silver chloride-titanium dioxide compound. After putting the fabric on people's arms under plastic film for 24 hours, the silver-chloride titanium dioxide compound hardly eliminated any bacteria. Overall, they found the in vivo -- tested on humans -- results were not comparable with in vitro -- tested in the lab -- results in how they prevented microorganisms from surviving in the textile.

The second test had similar results, and tested whether polyester textiles treated with bioactive concentrations of an antimicrobial silver chloride compound reduced armpit odour and bacterial populations. Although lab testing showed antimicrobial activity, the treated fabrics did not lower odour or bacterial intensity in in vivo testing.

McQueen said that anything from sweat to the proteins in the human body can disrupt the antimicrobial properties of a fabric.

"In reality, when it goes to the point that it gets put on a textile... it may not have the same level of effectiveness as the ones they studied," she said.

McQueen said these findings highlight the importance of in vivo testing, which is less common than in vitro testing, in textile product development. But, because the textiles appear to be effective at reducing bacteria in the lab, she said they may be advertised as being anti-odourous, although they may not necessarily be so when actually worn.

So, for now, McQueen suggests thinking twice before trusting textile's advertised claims.

"It's just a real spectrum to how effective they may truly be. So I'd probably say, from a consumer's point of view, if you're actually buying something that says it's antimicrobial, it may not be," she said. "I think that's important to consider in relation to a lot of claims made about textiles, that is, to be skeptical about the claims marketers make."

McQueen's research was recently published in the International Journal of Clothing Science and Technology.

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The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alberta . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Thriving as Humans in the New Robotic Era



In a recent study by the Pew Research Internet Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, 1,800 technology experts were asked about the future of man vs. machine in 2025. Will we live harmoniously with robotic technology, or will virtual employees displace humans?

More than half (52%) said they believe that the potential impact of technology will transform the type of work done today and will create new and greater value added roles. In contrast, just under half (48%) said they predict robots will take more jobs from humans than they create, expressing concerns that technology will cause an economic shrinkage in the workforce.

This fear is nothing new. If there were no fear, we would likely not be talking about radical change. When the cotton gin was introduced, it induced panic that it would eliminate jobs. On some farms the machine was set ablaze. We imagine dystopian futures, but throughout history technology has not only provided efficiencies to organizations and provided better products to customers but has also improved the quality of life for employees.

Look at the IT industry’s own industrial revolution. Thirty years ago, database administrators (DBAs) were highly skilled specialists and the only workers who could solve issues such as a blocking lock — two competing queries that block each other. Today, any DBA can remedy a blocking lock. What’s more, we now have “virtual engineers” that handle these kinds of repetitive tasks. Instead of putting out fires, DBAs can tackle more rewarding project-based work such as building new environments and architecting solutions. And as the technology absorbs more of the complexity involved in processes, junior, less skilled engineers can move up to take on database administrator functions that were formerly unattainable.

Increased automation is also supporting growth of business volumes without eradicating margin. In Sweden, Teliasonera’s service provider subsidiary, Cygate was able to increase its number of customers and revenues by 56% over two years without having to expand its delivery team. Most importantly customer satisfaction rose in parallel to achieve a 15% improvement as the team re-scoped roles to place maximum effort on the factors that customers valued most highly. What’s more, with the use of virtual engineers, Cygate’s human engineers have shifted their workload to focus on value creating activities, leading to increased job satisfaction. Technology also enables people to do radically different jobs.

Today’s Mad Men bear little resemblance to their Don Draper forerunners. Digital marketing has created a surge in new tools that capitalize on the capability of mobile and online communication. People have not only developed new skills in order to master those technologies but have invented new processes to reach customers.

Entrepreneurs willing to exploit technology trends have lower barriers to entry than ever before. From the Facebook-sized success stories to the millions of thriving mom and pop stores online, technology has opened up access to huge markets at less cost than ever before.

Without a doubt, robotic and cognitive systems will assume a major role in tomorrow’s economy. Their impact in the workforce will be felt globally and at a more accelerated pace than any previous shifts in technology-led change. We are redefining the role of the human being in the workplace, and our ability to find new jobs is only limited by our imagination.

I believe that technology will create more jobs than it takes away in the medium term, and it will allow employees to have jobs that are more interesting, relevant and satisfying. How quickly we embrace this potential and adapt to exploit new possibilities will determine how long it takes us to define new roles which replace those no longer required.

Ergun Ekici is Vice President of Emerging Technologies at IPsoft.

Facebook Takes Aim at Google With Launch of New Ad Network

Photo: Facebook

Photo: Facebook

Facebook’s long-awaited Google Ad Sense competitor is finally here. It’s called Atlas, and like Ad Sense, it will allow brands to buy ads on Facebook, using the social network’s massive trove of data, and have those ads show up on sites across the web.

Facebook announced the news late Sunday night to coincide with the start of Advertising Week in New York City. For other brands hoping to make headlines at Advertising Week, Facebook’s news will be a tough act to follow. Investors and the media have been waiting for an announcement like this for years.

In January, Facebook took its first steps in this direction launching a network that could serve up ads within mobile apps. But the launch of Atlas symbolizes a deeper commitment to controlling the web’s ads—and an even fiercer fight with Google for that control.

Atlas is not a new platform, per se. Facebook acquired the product from Microsoft last year. But according to a blog post from Erik Johnson, head of Atlas, the team has rebuilt the platform “from the ground up” in the hopes of making it easier for advertisers to follow a consumer, regardless of what type of device she’s using.

In an apparent dig at Google, Johnson writes that the method advertisers have traditionally used to track consumers—cookies—is flawed, because consumers are no longer using one device at all times. “Cookies don’t work on mobile, are becoming less accurate in demographic targeting and can’t easily or accurately measure the customer purchase funnel across browsers and devices or into the offline world,” Johnson writes. He offers “people-based marketing,” that is, marketing based on Facebook’s data, as the solution. It can not only track users between devices, but it can also connect online campaigns to offline sales to determine how effective a given campaign really was.

In the announcement, Facebook said it had already signed a contract with Omnicom to begin serving advertisements for brands like Pepsi and Intel. Instagram, which of course, is owned by Facebook, is also enabled with Atlas. The company noted in its announcement that advertisers who buy ads on Facebook, Atlas, and Instagram will be able to easily compare the results.

It’s worth noting that even Google has been interested in this people-centric strategy. That was likely the thinking behind the launch of Google+, Google’s own social network. If Google+ had been a true success the personal data it offered would have bolstered Google’s search data to perfect its ads. But, Google+ wasn’t the hit Google had hoped for, primarily because it felt like an also-ran candidate to Facebook.

Facebook is different; it’s already some hybrid of social network and advertising platform. With Atlas, Facebook stands a much better chance of beating Google at its own game.

Of course, this new advertising initiative is not likely to please any of Facebook’s already privacy conscious users. Backlash against Facebook’s existing data collection policies is what has been recently fueling the growth of Ello, a Facebook competitor that vows never to sell user data. The more partners Facebook has within its ad network, the more data it will have at its fingertips.

GoPro’s New Cameras Sport Better 4K Features, Low-Light Shooting


Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

Today, Go Pro announced three new cameras at three different price levels: the new flagship Hero4 Black, which can shoot 4K video at a full 30 frames per second, the new Hero4 Silver, which is an updated 1080p camera with a touchscreen display, and a new entry-level Hero camera that costs only $130.

By making more options available, GoPro is hoping to convince a wider range of potential of camera owners—from soccer moms to professional filmmakers—to strap a GoPro onto a helmet, a dog, a guitar, or whatever else might hold the Tic-Tac-box sized camera.

The New Hero 4 Black

At the top end is the Hero4 Black edition. At $500, it’s the most expensive piece of hardware in the new line-up, but also the most serious. It shoots 4K video at 30 frames per second—the previous-generation GoPro Hero3+ Black could also do 4K, but only at 15fps. Dial it back to 1080p, and the GoPro Black can shoot at 120fps, so you can savor the memories of your near-death experience in buttery smooth slow motion. It has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for connecting to a phone or a GoPro remote, and GoPro says its new audio capture system will deliver better quality than the Hero3+ Black—that is, if it’s not wrapped in the waterproof case, in which case it’s still limited to clicks and rumbles.

Hi-Ho Silver

Taking one step down, the $400 Hero 4 Silver maxes out at 1080p resolution at 60fps, but offers something that’s more useful to the average user: a built-in touchscreen display. This makes framing and reviewing shots much easier, where once viewability was only achievable by buying extra accessories or pairing the camera to a phone.

GoPro, Go Cheaper

The newest “cheap” camera from the company is simply called the Hero. It maxes out at 1080p resolution at 30fps, and if you want to shoot in 60fps, you can only do so at 720p resolution. Also, it only shoots 5-megapixel stills. However, it’s cheap—only $130. It works with all of your existing GoPro mounts, remotes, and accessories, and like the other cameras from the company, it’s waterproof and tiny. It would make a great starter camera for a kid, a back-up camera for pros, or just an awesome POV camera for people who can’t spend as much.

The cameras will all be available at the beginning of October. We haven’t extensively tested these new GoPros, but I got some hands on time with the new models at a press event here in San Francisco, and we’ll publish full reviews later.

Better at Night

Perhaps one of the most exciting improvements on both the Hero4 Black and Hero4 Silver GoPros is their performance in low-light situations. It’s something that has seriously limited the previous models. Video settings can drop to 6400 ISO, and for stills, a new setting called Night Photo and Night Lapse can leave the sensor open for up to 30 seconds for long-exposure images. Although a DSLR or decent compact system camera still outperforms the GoPro for handheld photos at night, the GoPro has great potential for stunning long exposure shots when left on a tripod.

Out of the box, the new Heros do their best to automatically adjust their light settings. But for photographers who want more control, a manual mode called ProTune offers the option to manage ISO limits, over- or under-exposure settings, and some white balance choices. You can also dial back the amount of compression you want to apply to the video, so you can capture larger, more detailed files.

The Black and Silver Hero 4 cameras keep the features introduced in the 3+ Black that play some interesting tricks with aspect ratio. On both cameras, you can choose to shoot in either 4:3 for taller and more stabilized footage, or 16:9 for something that’ll immediately look good on a TV; or, there’s an option called “Superview” that shoots in 4:3, then algorithmically stretches the edges out later to 16:9, artificially giving it a wide angle look.


Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

With all these options of choosing the size, shape, speed, and look of photo and video, there’s something like 150 combinations of shooting modes. For that, GoPro had to adjust its user interface a little.

The Black 3+ added a third button on the side to toggle the Wi-Fi on and off. The new Hero 4s turn that button into a setting picker for each mode—video, photo, timelapse, or playback. Now, if you hated the bare, inscrutable interface on previous Hero models, you won’t like this new interface any better: there are just more acronyms and symbols to remember, and the button combos used to get it to switch between capture modes are reminiscent of the Konami code. The touchscreen on the Silver edition helps you figure our where you are in the menus, but it’s not something I’d call immediately intuitive. On the other hand, if you love the fact that you can mash some buttons with motorbike gloves or frozen fingers and get the camera rolling, you can find your way around quickly enough after a couple hours spent of playing with it. One nice thing: the big buttons, retained from the previous model, are much easier to press than those on the first and second GoPro iterations.

To note, the $130 Hero doesn’t have ProTune or any of the advanced low-light features. Those are Hero4-only features. The entry-level Hero is also lacking the new button array. But: $130!

New GoPro Studio Software

Along with the new cameras, GoPro is also releasing an update to its software, GoPro Studio. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should. It’s free, but surprisingly powerful. For instance, it auto-compiles time-lapse photos into a movie file—all you have to do is drag a single frame from the series into the program. It’s got color filters to make your movies as hip as your Instagram photos, or manual controls for everything including speed, exposure, and color balance. The new version will support the new resolutions all the way up to 4K, and add some advanced interpolation capabilities—where new frames are “drawn” between existing frames to smooth out slow motion sequences.

Professional video editors will notice the familiar “in” and “out” keystrokes and timelines borrowed from editing suites like Final Cut Pro. However, the GoPro Studio is ultimately targeted at the amateur film editor. The program includes some templates into which you can drag and drop your footage, making it fast and easy to get something that’s good enough for YouTube. And it’s not limited to just GoPro formats: it takes anything in the mp4 or mov format with h.264 compression.

Once I get a final build of the new software, I’ll post a simple tutorial to show you to edit your GoPro footage using the official tools.

See What’s Buried in the Swiss Bunkers Turned Into Secretive Data Centers

Not all data centers are the same. There are cloud storage mega-centers all over Silicon Valley that take care of our smartphone camera rolls and contacts lists. There are the NSA’s data centers, which do similar things but the permissions are (at least in theory) different.

In his series Deposit, Swiss photographer Yann Mingard reveals another type of data storage facility: the privately owned bunker space within which individuals, companies and even nation-states secure their most precious code, papers, and in some cases, genetic material. These data centers aren’t intended to intercept or analyze data; they’re merely meant to protect the contents from virus, loss and—most of all—from snooping.

Mingard’s exquisite darkened images of data centers from Switzerland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom form the fourth and final chapter of Deposit, a sprawling four-year project which meditates on the anxieties of contemporary life. Deposit delves deep into the real and perceived threats to human survival, and the emerging technologies that promise security.

The photos reveal another type of data storage facility: the privately owned bunker space within which individuals, companies and even nation-states secure their most precious code, papers, and in some cases, genetic material.

Though finely crafted views of these subterranean sites, Mingard’s images are not homage to them. He feels the hyper-secure storage industry is indicative of a widespread desperation to protect what we have as we careen toward uncertain times.

“We’re in a grey zone between the past and the future,” he says. “We have nostalgia for the past, but our efforts looking toward the future and to climate change are ones of anxiety. Between the present and the future are the politics and economics of crisis.”

Mingard is hip to the changes, as his hometown of Neuchâtel is base to one of Switzerland’s largest data-storage companies. The country as a whole leads the secure storage industry. This makes sense for a culture with a reputation for blind neutrality and discretion when dealing with the assets and bank accounts of the world’s minted.

Swiss centers hold the possessions of Russia, Kazahkstan, Qatar and other Arab nations, says Mingard. “But it’s all denied, of course.” Recently, an unnamed Asian government negotiated to store all its digital assets in Mount10, at the data center known as “The Swiss Fort Knox” in Saanen-Gstaad.

As well as digital archives, clients store physical archives. Foreign clients, including Americans, have flooded in to purchase protection. Airstrips are located close by, and glossy brochures promote former military bunkers’ security features.

“It’s pure marketing,” Mingard says. “The employees perform [for clients' visits] and the look must be exciting, like James Bond. The staff wear different uniforms depending on the proclivities of the client—civilian clothes if the client is a controversial political figure.”

The data centers that were set up to pander to the wealthiest individuals were the most difficult to access, says Mingard.

“No one’s working down there. There are no lights on! It’s a cave into which you put seeds each month, and then close the door.”

The darkened look of his images and the carefully negotiated access in Deposit are related. Mingard knew access wouldn’t be easy, and so he had to know exactly what type of shot he wanted before entering. As he had shot specimens against dark backgrounds previously for other parts of the series, he decided to continue the palette with his interior studies of the data centers. It was a practical solution.

“These are bunkers,” he says. “No one’s working down there. There are no lights on! It’s a cave into which you put seeds each month, and then close the door. A specimen is kept in a plastic bag, in an aluminum bag, in a plastic box, in a concrete bunker, under the ground, in minus 30 degrees!”

The shroud of darkness also is a portent to a future of withered biodiversity. All the plants and animal specimens in storage were shot ex-situ, extricated from nature.

“We’re losing our biodiversity. We’ve pretty much conceded that we cannot conserve nature in situ,” says Mingard who is increasingly worried by the involvement of private companies in the preservation of humanity’s shared biological assets.

“If humans collect their own sperm it is their own business, but the collection of crop seeds is in the public interest,” he says before pointing out that of the 1,500 seed vaults around the world many are administered or funded in part by NGO’s such as Rockefeller and Gates Foundations, or corporations like Syngenta, Pioneer, and Monsanto.

Before becoming a photographer, Mingard was a gardener trained at the Ecole de Marcelin. Through his images, he wants us to think about how we deal with nature and its loss, and he wants us to think about our definitions of the natural. The final image in the book (and the final image in this gallery) is a vial containing Shakespeare’s sonnets, a Martin Luther King speech, a jpeg photo and a copy of the 1953 article by Crick and Watson describing the structure of DNA. The information is encoded and stored in synthesized DNA form.

The natural is being reduced to numbers and letters, and so it is natural (pun intended) that Deposit ends inside the data centers.

“Information and code is the currency of the future. It is what drives the past to the present to the future,” says Mingard. “Maybe you and I will be reduced to code and stored? Reduced to virtually nothing. This vial seems empty. You see nothing.”

Data centers are “the end point of everything” says Mingard, but he isn’t trying to be fatalistic about the indexation, archiving and codifying he has witnessed.

“I’m not cynical; I am just looking at the developments,” he says, “I was surprised to see geneticists, scientists, politicians and the public so fearful. People are pessimistic. “