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Showing posts from January, 2017

Ocado trials fruit-picking robot

Ocado trials fruit-picking robot
By Zoe Kleinman Technology reporter, BBC News January 31, 2017
Online grocer Ocado has shown off a soft robotic hand that can pick fruit and vegetables, without damaging them, in its warehouses.
The firm has an automated warehouse in Andover, Hampshire, where robots select crates containing specific items that make up customer orders.
They are currently brought over to a human team for selection but, in future, the hand could replace them.
Also in development is a humanoid maintenance robot called SecondHands.
It will work alongside a human colleague to maintain the warehouse.
SecondHands, the robot maintenance technician, with its human colleague
The fruit and vegetable picker is part of a five-year research EU-funded collaboration between five European universities and Disney called Soma (Soft Manipulation), said Ocado spokesman Alexandru Voica.
The demonstration device is an early prototype, he said.
"People have tried suction cups, robot hand…

Uber Partners With Daimler in a Step Toward a Driverless Future

Uber Partners With Daimler in a Step Toward a Driverless Future By MIKE ISAAC JAN. 31, 2017
SAN FRANCISCO — Uber is one step closer to its dream of a self-driving future — with a little help from a new partner.
The ride-hailing company announced on Tuesday a partnership with Daimler, under which the German automaker plans to build autonomous vehicles that will operate on Uber’s transportation network.
The move marks the first time a major automaker will provide its own self-driving vehicles — built entirely in-house and without Uber’s help — specifically to operate on the ride-hailing company’s network.
The agreement is not exclusive, and Daimler may produce autonomous cars for Uber’s competitors, while Uber can also bring other automakers onto what it calls its “open platform” for ride hailing. The two companies said they expected Daimler’s self-driving vehicles to reach Uber’s network “in the coming years.”
“Auto manufacturers like Daimler are crucial to our strategy because Uber h…

Facebook Is Trying Everything to Re-Enter China—and It’s Not Working

Facebook Is Trying Everything to Re-Enter China—and It’s Not Working
Since regulators blocked the service in 2009, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has hired well-connected executives, developed censorship tools and taken a ‘smog jog’ in Beijing—but the company has made no visible headway.
By ALYSSA ABKOWITZ in Beijing,  DEEPA SEETHARAMAN in San Francisco and EVA DOU in Wuzhen, China Jan. 30, 2017 10:45 a.m. ET
Facebook Inc.’s chances of getting back into China appeared to take a rare turn for the better when an employee noticed an official posting online: Beijing authorities had granted it a license to open a representative office in two office-tower suites in the capital.
Such permits typically give Western firms an initial China beachhead. This one, which Facebook won in late 2015, could have been a sign Beijing was ready to give the company another chance to connect with China’s roughly 700 million internet users, reopening the market as the social-media giant’s U.S.-growth prospects dimmed.

Tesla’s Battery Revolution Just Reached Critical Mass

Tesla’s Battery Revolution Just Reached Critical Mass
Three new plants in California show how lithium-ion storage is ready to power the grid.
by Tom Randall January 30, 2017, 3:45 AM PST
Tesla Motors Inc. is making a huge bet that millions of small batteries can be strung together to help kick fossil fuels off the grid. The idea is a powerful one—one that’s been used to help justify the company’s $5 billion factory near Reno, Nev.—but batteries have so far only appeared in a handful of true, grid-scale pilot projects.
That changes this week.  
Three massive battery storage plants—built by Tesla, AES Corp., and Altagas Ltd.—are all officially going live in southern California at about the same time. Any one of these projects would have been the largest battery storage facility ever built. Combined, they amount to 15 percent of the battery storage installed planet-wide last year.
Ribbons will be cut and executives will take their bows. But this is a revolution that’s just getting sta…

Hackers Use New Tactic at Austrian Hotel: Locking the Doors

Hackers Use New Tactic at Austrian Hotel: Locking the Doors
By DAN BILEFSKY JAN. 30, 2017
The ransom demand arrived one recent morning by email, after about a dozen guests were locked out of their rooms at the lakeside Alpine hotel in Austria.
The electronic key system at the picturesque Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt had been infiltrated, and the hotel was locked out of its own computer system, leaving guests stranded in the lobby, causing confusion and panic.
“Good morning?” the email began, according to the hotel’s managing director, Christoph Brandstaetter. It went on to demand a ransom of two bitcoins, or about $1,800, and warned that the cost would double if the hotel did not comply with the demand by the end of the day, Jan. 22.
Mr. Brandstaetter said the email included details of a “bitcoin wallet” — the account in which to deposit the money — and ended with the words, “Have a nice day!”
With the 111-year-old hotel brimming with eager skiers, hikers and vacationers, some having…

Robot Baristas Serve Up the Future of Coffee at Cafe X

Robot Baristas Serve Up the Future of Coffee at Cafe X
Automation is eliminating jobs for factory workers and Uber drivers—will your morning fix soon come from a precision caffeine machine? WSJ's Geoffrey A. Fowler tastes the new robot lattes at San Francisco's Cafe X.
By GEOFFREY A. FOWLER  Jan. 30, 2017 8:00 a.m. ET
At San Francisco’s new Cafe X, the barista doesn’t make small talk or sport a hip mustache. But its industrial-strength claw sure knows espresso drinks.
Cafe X is a new breed of coffee shop pushing the boundaries of automation both to make food and to serve it.
It is mesmerizing efficiency. Tap your desired beverage, flavor and artisanal bean on a phone or kiosk screen. That beams the order to the robot, which uses a Mitsubishi six-axis arm to grab a cup, pump in some syrup and pop it in front of one of its coffee-brewing cores, which grind beans and foam milk into an espresso confection. In 22 to 55 seconds, depending on the order, the arm lowers the cup on a h…

Merkel Takes on Starbucks in Bashing Over Unfair Tax Practices

Merkel Takes on Starbucks in Bashing Over Unfair Tax Practices
Chancellor says that Starbucks exploits tax loopholes ‘That’s not right and we have to do something about it’
by Arne Delfs  and Patrick Donahue January 28, 2017, 5:41 AM PST
Chancellor Angela Merkel decried unfair tax advantages for multinational corporations, singling out U.S. coffee chain Starbucks Corp. as a tax rogue that exploits global arrangements at the expense of German chains.
At a meeting of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union in her home district on the Baltic Sea coast, the chancellor sounded off against companies that engage in tax avoidance, hitting a theme that’s been taken up across the political spectrum. Many companies “have managed to pay taxes nowhere in the world,” Merkel said, before laying into the Seattle-based coffee chain.
“Coffee-house operators from Germany have to pay their taxes, while it’s not at all clear with Starbucks whether they pay taxes anywhere,” Merkel told CDU supporters in the n…

Googly-eyed robot beats 'I am not a robot' Captcha test

Googly-eyed robot beats 'I am not a robot' Captcha test
A robotic arm used a stylus pen to circumvent a "I am not a robot" Captcha test. The sarcastic video poked fun at the language used in the security system designed to prevent spam or computer automated extraction of data from websites.Screen capture/Matt Unsworth/YouTube
By Daniel Uria Jan. 27, 2017 at 2:40 PM
Jan. 27 (UPI) -- A mechanical robotic arm managed to circumvent a computer password system meant to deter "robots."
YouTube user Matt Unsworth shared video of the robot, outfitted with a pair of googly eyes, as it used a stylus pen to check an "I am not a robot" Captcha security box.
The tounge-in-cheek video pokes fun at the language used by the security verification system intended to prevent spam or computer automated extraction of data from websites.
The robotic arm slides the stylus up the computer mouse pad before just barely managing to click inside the on-screen check box which …

FBI request for Twitter account data may have overstepped legal guidelines

FBI request for Twitter account data may have overstepped legal guidelines
By Dustin Volz January 27, 2017
WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (Reuters) - The FBI appeared to go beyond the scope of existing legal guidance in seeking certain kinds of internet records from Twitter as recently as last year, legal experts said, citing two warrantless surveillance orders the social media company published on Friday.
Twitter said its disclosures were the first time the company had been allowed to publicly reveal the secretive orders, which were delivered with gag orders when they were issued in 2015 and 2016. Their publication follows similar disclosures in recent months by other major internet companies, including Alphabet's Google and Yahoo.
Each of the two new orders, known as national security letters (NSLs), specifically request a type of data known as electronic communication transaction records, which can include some email header data and browsing history, among other information.
In doing so, …

Media Matters Secretly Working with Facebook to Fight ‘Fake News’

Secretly Working with Facebook to Fight ‘Fake News’
'We've been engaging with Facebook leadership behind the scenes,' left-wing group claims By: Lachlan Markay      January 26, 2017 12:40 pm
Left-wing advocacy group Media Matters for America has been quietly working with social media giant Facebook to combat what the group describes as “propaganda” and “fake news,” internal documents reveal.
Media Matters told current and prospective donors at a retreat in Florida over the weekend that it has been in discussions with Facebook leadership about their policies on inaccurate and partisan news stories on the website that many liberals blame for political losses last year.
“We’ve been engaging with Facebook leadership behind the scenes to share our expertise and offer input on developing meaningful solutions,” the group said in a briefing book obtained by the Washington Free Beacon at the conference.
“Media Matters will serve as their partner,” the group said of its work with F…

Microsoft wins Ireland cloud data-grab case against US Department of Justice

Microsoft wins Ireland cloud data-grab case against US Department of Justice
Court split keeps Microsoft's foreign cloud data out of US government hands - for the time being
By Dave Neal 25 January 2017
Microsoft has won the latest round in its long-running legal battle with the US Department of Justice (DoJ), which is demanding that the company hand over data stored in a Microsoft data centre located in Ireland.
The case relates to a suit the DoJ first filed against Microsoft in 2013 that suggested that because Microsoft is a US company, it had a legal right to request data from it stored in Ireland.
Fearing that a DoJ win would have implications for cloud computing, Microsoft challenged the decision. While the case was initially found in the DoJ's favour, Microsoft appealed and was successful in a decision handed down last year.
The DoJ sought to appeal against that decision but, Reuters is now reporting that the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals court issued a split 4-4 de…

Google has banned 200 publishers since it passed a new policy against fake news

Google has banned 200 publishers since it passed a new policy against fake news
The company routinely weeds out “bad ads.” Now it weeds out more bad ad publishers, too.
BY TESS TOWNSEND  JAN 25, 2017, 9:01AM EST
Google kicked 200 publishers off one of its ad networks in the fourth quarter, partly in response to the proliferation of fake news sites.
The company banned the publishers from its AdSense network, an ad placement service that automatically serves text and display ads on participating sites based on its audience. The ban was part of an update to an existing policy that prohibits sites that mislead users with their content.
Google regularly weeds out advertisers for false or misleading claims, but impersonating news sites became an addition following the rapid rise of fake news, or propaganda sites. After the election, Google was blasted for placing a false story from a fake news site claiming Donald Trump had won the popular vote. (He had 2.8 million fewer votes than Hillary…

Americans distrustful after hacking epidemic: survey

Americans distrustful after hacking epidemic: survey
January 24, 2017
Washington (AFP) - Nearly two-thirds of Americans have experienced some kind of data theft or fraud, leaving many mistrustful of institutions charged with safeguarding their information, a poll showed Wednesday.
The Pew Research Center survey found 41 percent of Americans have encountered fraudulent charges on their credit cards, and 35 percent had sensitive information like an account number compromised.
Smaller percentages said their email or social media accounts had been compromised or that someone had impersonated them in order to file fraudulent tax returns.
Taken together, the survey found 64 percent said they had some form of personal data stolen or compromised.
Following the epidemic of data breaches and hacks, "many Americans lack faith in specific public and private institutions to protect their personal information from bad actors," the study authors wrote.
Those surveyed were concerned about …

Facebook, Snapchat Deals Produce Meager Results for News Outlets

Facebook, Snapchat Deals Produce Meager Results for News Outlets by Gerry Smith January 24, 2017, 9:38 AM PST
Newspapers and other media outlets are struggling to make money from their partnerships with tech giants like Facebook and Snapchat, raising concerns over their business models in a news landscape increasingly dominated by social media platforms.
Some publishers are scaling back on Facebook Inc.’s Instant Articles program, in which they host stories directly on the social-media company’s platform instead of their own websites so they load faster on phones, according to a report by Digital Content Next, a trade group.
Media companies are frustrated that Facebook restricts the number and type of ads in Instant Articles, making it harder for them to make as much money as they can selling ads on their own websites, where they can better target readers, said the group, whose members include the New York Times, the Washington Post and ESPN. Bloomberg News, a unit of Bloomberg LP, i…

Massive networks of fake accounts found on Twitter

Massive networks of fake accounts found on Twitter
The networks of fake accounts can be used to boost followers or post junk messages
January 24, 2017 8 hours ago
Massive collections of fake accounts are lying dormant on Twitter, suggests research.
The largest network ties together more than 350,000 accounts and further work suggests others may be even bigger.
UK researchers accidentally uncovered the lurking networks while probing Twitter to see how people use it.
Some of the accounts have been used to fake follower numbers, send spam and boost interest in trending topics.
Hidden purpose
On Twitter, bots are accounts that are run remotely by someone who automates the messages they send and activities they carry out. Some people pay to get bots to follow their account or to dilute chatter about controversial subjects.
"It is difficult to assess exactly how many Twitter users are bots," said graduate student Juan Echeverria, a computer scientist at UCL, who uncovered the mas…

The biggest barrier to Windows 10 success is still Windows 7

The biggest barrier to Windows 10 success is still Windows 7
The fate of Windows 10 lies in the hands of users that are still deeply in love with Windows 7.
By Steve Ranger | January 22, 2017 -- 23:00 GMT (15:00 PST)
This year's CES saw plenty of shiny new Windows 10 devices on display, from the acrobat Lenovo Yoga through to HP's all-in-one Sprout Pro.
Hardware like this will certainly boost the fortunes of Windows 10. Sleek new designs and form factors, and the rise of two-in-one devices like the Surface Pro that can function both as a PC and a tablet, are giving consumers and businesses a reason to invest in Microsoft's latest operating system.
And Windows 10 has made some decent inroads thus far: it now accounts for somewhere around a quarter of PCs accessing the internet as measured by NetMarketShare.
All data like this needs to be looked at in terms of trends rather than details, of course, but in December 2016 - the most current data available, Windows 7 stood at 4…

China cracks down on unauthorized internet connections

China cracks down on unauthorized internet connections
By Sijia Jiang  Mon Jan 23, 2017 | 5:34am EST
China is reinforcing its censorship of the internet with a campaign to crack down on unauthorized connections, including virtual private network (VPN) services, that allow users to bypass restrictions known as the Great Firewall.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a notice on its website on Sunday that it is launching a nationwide clean-up campaign aimed at internet service provider (ISP), internet data centrer (IDC), and content delivery network (CDN) companies.
It ordered checks for companies operating without government licenses or beyond the scope of licenses.
The ministry said it was forbidden to create or rent communication channels, including VPNs, without governmental approval, to run cross-border operations.
VPNs can be used to gain access to blocked websites.
China has the world's largest population of internet users - now at 731 million people -…

Tesla Motors Bumps Up Electric Mileage On Its Vehicles Again!

Tesla Motors Bumps Up Electric Mileage On Its Vehicles Again!
Published By News Desk at January 22, 2017 07:24 am
Tesla made a huge update on its Design Studio adding options for a 100D version of both the Model S and the Model X that utilize a 100 kWh battery pack to boost the range further
Tesla Motors Inc is aggressively attacking the problem that experts say have so far capped electric vehicle sales for the overall industry to shoot: electric drive range. Electric car fans have shown anxiety over the possibility of their vehicles running out of electric charge before the vehicle hits a charging point, leaving the market for plug-in vehicles still mostly to hybrid vehicles in the past.
Tesla’s advent though, and its two performance vehicles; the Model S and the Model X have changed perceptions drastically with unprecedented electric drive range, enough to ease the ‘range anxiety’ among electric car enthusiasts.
As if the range of Tesla’s cars was still not enough, the company re…