Tech News Feed

Juul faces House investigation over teen e-cigarette use

Engadget - Sun, 2019-06-16 13:33
Juul is facing even more heat over concerns that it's contributing to teen vaping. The House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy has opened an investigation into the "youth e-cigarette epidemic" that could determine if Juul had marketed its...

Why 'Ambient Computing' Is Just A Marketing Buzzword -- For Now

SlashDot - Sun, 2019-06-16 12:34
An anonymous reader quotes Computerworld columnist Mike Elgan: Ambient computing is real. It's the next megatrend in computing.... To interact in an "ambient computing" context means to not care and not even necessarily know where exactly the devices are that you're interacting with. When IoT devices and sensors are all around us, and artificial intelligence can understand human contexts for what's happening and act accordingly and in our interests, then ambient computing will have arrived... As with many technology revolutions, including augmented reality and AI, the buzzword ambient will precede the actual technology by many years. In fact, the marketing buzzword is suddenly here in full force. The actual technologies? Not so much. Instead, we're on the brink of a revolution in what you might call "semi-ambient computing...." Rumors are circulating that Google's next smartphones, the Pixel 4 line, may come with Soli built in. I told you in January about Google's Project Soli, which may be called the "Aware" sensor or feature in the Pixel 4 -- again, according to unconfirmed rumors. Soli or Aware capability means the Pixel 4 may accept in-the-air hand gestures, such as "skip" and "silence" during music playback. The new Google "wave" is a hand gesture. The ability to wave away music with a hand gesture brings the smartphone into the semi-ambient computing era. It basically adds natural hand gestures to natural-language processing.... Google also briefly talked last year about a healthcare assistant called Dr. Liz., which was described by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt as an ambient computing virtual assistant for doctors. We'll see if Google ever ships a Dr. Liz product... Yes, ambient computing is real, and the Next Big Thing, showing up first in business, enterprises and healthcare. But for now, the term ambient computing will be misapplied. It's a buzzword that will be stapled to every semi-ambient computing product and service that comes out over the next few years. The article predicts we'll eventually see ambient computing arriving in cars, grocery stores, smart glasses -- and notes a Microsoft job listing for its "Ambient Computing & Robotics team" describing "the era where computer vision, AI-based cognition, and autonomous electro-mechanicals pervade the workplace." Computerworldd adds that Microsoft "was mocked for its 'Clippy' assistant, which the company released in 1996 as a way to provide friendly help for people using Microsoft Office. In the future, Microsoft may release what will essentially be a Clippy that works, because it will understand human context through AI."

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Target's registers suffered a nationwide outage

Engadget - Sun, 2019-06-16 12:25
Target can't quite escape its technical woes, apparently. The retail giant's registers suffered a roughly two-hour nationwide outage in mid-day on June 15th, preventing customers from making purchases (including in self-checkout lines) right before...

Massive Electrical Failure Cuts Power To Nearly All Of Argentina On Election Day -- and Uruguay

SlashDot - Sun, 2019-06-16 11:34
Iwastheone quotes the BBC: A massive electrical failure has left almost all of Argentina and Uruguay without power, according to a major Argentine electricity provider. Authorities say the cause of the blackout is still unclear. Argentine media said the power cut occurred shortly after 07:00 [03:00 PST, 11:00 BST], causing trains to be halted and failures with traffic signalling. It came as people in parts of Argentina were preparing to go to the polls for local elections. "A massive failure in the electrical interconnection system left all of Argentina and Uruguay without power," electricity supply company Edesur said in a tweet. Alejandra Martinez, a spokeswoman for the company, described the power cut as unprecedented. "This is the first time something like this has happened across the entire country." Argentina's energy secretary, Gustavo Lopetegui, said the cause of the power failure had not yet been determined. The Ministry of Civil Protection estimated that parts of the service could be restored in about seven or eight hours. Edesur said that power had been restored over 75,00 clients in parts of Buenos Aires and local media reported that two airports were operating on generators in the capital. Uruguay's energy company, UTE, said in a series of tweets that power had been restored to coastal areas and to areas north of Rio Negro. The combined population of Argentina and Uruguay is about 48 million people.... Tierra del Fuego in the far south is the only area that remains unaffected because it is not connected to the power grid. "Local media have been showing voters casting their ballots in the dark, with mobile phones being used as lanterns."

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Google Doodle celebrates Dad with dutiful duck on Father's Day - CNET

CNET News - Sun, 2019-06-16 11:15
Interactive Doodle shows us patient parenthood from a feathered friend.

Facebook's Photorealistic Simulator For AI Runs At 10,000 FPS

SlashDot - Sun, 2019-06-16 10:34
malachiorion writes: Facebook just open sourced a simulator for testing and training embodied AI systems -- like virtual robots. They worked with AR/VR researchers to release the simulator along with what they say are the most photorealistic 3D reconstructions of real world places available. [Facebook Reality Labs have named this "the Replica data set".] The crazy part: Because more frames are always better for training computer vision in simulators, it can run at 10,000 FPS! The simulator's ability to hit 10K frames per second prompted an interesting follow-up on the original submission. "It's a totally useless framerate for humans -- just absolute overkill for our brains/eyeballs -- but it's apparently a benefit for AI systems." "As more researchers adopt the platform, we can collectively develop embodied AI techniques more quickly," explains Facebook's blog post, "as well as realize the larger benefits of replacing yesterday's training data sets with active environments that better reflect the world we're preparing machine assistants to operate in." And if you're worried about privacy, Facebook assures readers that "The data used to generate Replica scans was anonymized to remove any personal details (such as family photos) that could identify an individual. The overall reconstruction process was meticulous, with researchers manually filling in the small holes that are inevitably missed during scanning and using a 3D paint tool to apply annotations directly onto meshes."

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The final dispatch from E3 2019

Engadget - Sun, 2019-06-16 10:00
Another E3 is over. The show gave us new consoles -- some powerful, others retro-inspired -- customizable controllers and many, many video games. Final Fantasy VII Remake? Yep. The upcoming Avengers game? Of course. A sequel to the Legend of Ze...

The best soda maker

Engadget - Sun, 2019-06-16 10:00
By Anna Perling, Dorie Chevlen and Jamie Wiebe This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full guid...

Uber's Plan To Deliver McDonald's Hamburgers By Drone

SlashDot - Sun, 2019-06-16 09:34
An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post: The company's new initiative -- a collaborative effort between its Uber Eats and Uber Elevate divisions -- began with tests in San Diego using fast food meals from McDonald's, but could expand to include a local fine-dining restaurant called Juniper and Ivy, the company said. Uber intends to roll out commercial food delivery using drones in the same city this summer, with a fee structure that mimics Uber Eats current pricing, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, which first reported the company's plan... "We've been working closely with the FAA to ensure that we're meeting requirements and prioritizing safety," Uber Elevate's Luke Fischer, the company's head of flight operations, said in a statement. "From there, our goal is to expand Uber Eats drone delivery so we can provide more options to more people at the tap of a button. We believe that Uber is uniquely positioned to take on this challenge as we're able to leverage the Uber Eats network of restaurant partners and delivery partners as well as the aviation experience and technology of Uber Elevate." How will Uber's drone delivery service work? After a restaurant loads a meal into a drone and the robot takes to the air, the company's technology will notify a nearby Uber Eats driver at a designated drop-off location, the company said. The driver will pick up and hand deliver the meal to the customer the same way the service currently operates. But in the future, Uber said, the company would like to land drones atop parked vehicles near delivery locations "through QR code correspondence." Once that happens, the last-mile leg of delivery would be completed by the Uber Eats driver who would hand-deliver the order.

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This week in tech history: Microsoft shows us the Surface

Engadget - Sun, 2019-06-16 08:30
At Engadget, we spend every day looking at how technology will shape the future. But it's also important to look back at how far we've come. That's what This Week in Tech History does. Join us every weekend for a recap of historical tech news, annive...

Theragun, Hypervolt & more: The best percussive therapy massage guns - CNET

CNET News - Sun, 2019-06-16 08:00
These massage guns can help ease sore muscles and speedup recovery.

What is a Theragun? Why you should try this power drill-like self-massager - CNET

CNET News - Sun, 2019-06-16 08:00
Can this massage for elite athletes be the answer to your chronic soreness?

Do Google and Facebook Threaten Our 'Ambient Privacy'?

SlashDot - Sun, 2019-06-16 07:34
This week Pinboard founder Maciej Ceglowski (also a web developer and social critic) asked readers of his blog to consider an emerging threat to ambient privacy. He defines it as "the understanding that there is value in having our everyday interactions with one another remain outside the reach of monitoring, and that the small details of our daily lives should pass by unremembered." Until recently, ambient privacy was a simple fact of life. Recording something for posterity required making special arrangements, and most of our shared experience of the past was filtered through the attenuating haze of human memory. Even police states like East Germany, where one in seven citizens was an informer, were not able to keep tabs on their entire population. Today computers have given us that power. Authoritarian states like China and Saudi Arabia are using this newfound capacity as a tool of social control. Here in the United States, we're using it to show ads. But the infrastructure of total surveillance is everywhere the same, and everywhere being deployed at scale.... Because our laws frame privacy as an individual right, we don't have a mechanism for deciding whether we want to live in a surveillance society. Congress has remained silent on the matter, with both parties content to watch Silicon Valley make up its own rules. The large tech companies point to our willing use of their services as proof that people don't really care about their privacy. But this is like arguing that inmates are happy to be in jail because they use the prison library. Confronted with the reality of a monitored world, people make the rational decision to make the best of it. That is not consent... Our discourse around privacy needs to expand to address foundational questions about the role of automation: To what extent is living in a surveillance-saturated world compatible with pluralism and democracy? What are the consequences of raising a generation of children whose every action feeds into a corporate database? What does it mean to be manipulated from an early age by machine learning algorithms that adaptively learn to shape our behavior? That is not the conversation Facebook or Google want us to have. Their totalizing vision is of a world with no ambient privacy and strong data protections, dominated by the few companies that can manage to hoard information at a planetary scale. They correctly see the new round of privacy laws as a weapon to deploy against smaller rivals, further consolidating their control over the algorithmic panopticon.

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The Outer Worlds and Cyberpunk 2077: Two competing RPG views of the future at E3 2019 - CNET

CNET News - Sun, 2019-06-16 07:00
One is a space western, the other a dystopian techno-thriller. Both feel familiar but only one is part of the Keanuaissance.

Florida's new bill lets driverless cars be tested with minimal restrictions - Roadshow

CNET News - Sun, 2019-06-16 07:00
All companies need is insurance and the ability to remotely monitor the vehicle.

Make your vinyl sound better with these hacks and upgrades - CNET

CNET News - Sun, 2019-06-16 07:00
You've got the turntable. You've got some records. Now what?

Tesla's mystery test car may be a Model S refresh

Engadget - Sun, 2019-06-16 03:47
For the most part, Tesla's Model S has maintained a familiar look since it was introduced in 2012 -- the largest external change was the elimination of the fake grille back in 2016. There might be a refresh looming on the horizon, however. A driver n...

'How Close Are We to Self-Driving Cars, Really?'

SlashDot - Sun, 2019-06-16 03:34
Chris Urmson helped pioneer self-driving car technology at Google before founding Aurora (which sells self-driving car software to automakers, and this week announced a new partnership with Chrysler and a new round of investment by Hyundai). In a new interview, Urmson "says he expects that in about five to 10 years, Americans will start seeing robots cruising down the road in a handful of cities and towns across the country," reports Slate. "It will be about 30 to 50 years, he says, until they're everywhere. " I think within the next five years we'll see small-scale deployment. That'll be a few hundred or a few thousand vehicles. Really this is the, it's Silicon Valley speak, this is the zero-to-one moment of proving that the technology actually works, understanding how customers want to use it, convincing ourselves that -- and when I say ourselves, I mean as a society -- that these are sufficiently safe, that we trust them on the roadway, and that's that first phase... [W]hen the technology actually starts to become scaled, then we can ask the question what have we learned, what are the ways that we can make this a little bit safer, a little bit incrementally more efficient, and that's what I think local and state governments and federal government would invest in infrastructure... The statistic I heard was 30 percent of traffic in San Francisco is people looking for parking. I heard a more alarming statistic that was 80 percent of traffic in Paris was people looking for parking. So imagine you have automated vehicles that take you to a location, you hop out, then it just drives down the block and picks up the next person and takes them where they're going. Suddenly, you've alleviated a massive chunk of the congestion in a city. Similarly, if you look at the floor plan of a city today, somewhere between 30â"40 percent of cities is dedicated to parking and roads. And so again, if you have automated vehicles operating as a transportation service, whether it's private or public transportation networks in the city, you don't need that real estate to be dedicated for parking. That real estate now can be recaptured, and it can be used for park space, it can be used for residential space, yeah, it can be used for mixed residential-commercial office space... Certainly for urban centers, I think it's much more likely that this technology is a shared platform that people get on and get off. It's an even more convenient version of a bus or of a taxi service.

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Security Cameras + AI = Dawn of Non-Stop Robot Surveillance

SlashDot - Sun, 2019-06-16 00:34
AmiMoJo shared this post from one of the ACLU's senior technology policy analysts about what happens when security cameras get AI upgrades: [I]magine that all that video were being watched -- that millions of security guards were monitoring them all 24/7. Imagine this army is made up of guards who don't need to be paid, who never get bored, who never sleep, who never miss a detail, and who have total recall for everything they've seen. Such an army of watchers could scrutinize every person they see for signs of "suspicious" behavior. With unlimited time and attention, they could also record details about all of the people they see -- their clothing, their expressions and emotions, their body language, the people they are with and how they relate to them, and their every activity and motion... The guards won't be human, of course -- they'll be AI agents. Today we're publishing a report on a $3.2 billion industry building a technology known as "video analytics," which is starting to augment surveillance cameras around the world and has the potential to turn them into just that kind of nightmarish army of unblinking watchers.... Many or most of these technologies will be somewhere between unreliable and utterly bogus. Based on experience, however, that often won't stop them from being deployed -- and from hurting innocent people... We are still in the early days of a revolution in computer vision, and we don't know how AI will progress, but we need to keep in mind that progress in artificial intelligence may end up being extremely rapid. We could, in the not-so-distant future, end up living under armies of computerized watchers with intelligence at or near human levels. These AI watchers, if unchecked, are likely to proliferate in American life until they number in the billions, representing an extension of corporate and bureaucratic power into the tendrils of our lives, watching over each of us and constantly shaping our behavior... Policymakers must contend with this technology's enormous power. They should prohibit its use for mass surveillance, narrow its deployments, and create rules to minimize abuse. They argue that the threat is just starting to emerge. "It is as if a great surveillance machine has been growing up around us, but largely dumb and inert -- and is now, in a meaningful sense, 'waking up.'"

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