Technology News

US Lawmakers Say AI Deepfakes 'Have the Potential To Disrupt Every Facet of Our Society'

Slashdot - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 20:10
Yesterday, several lawmakers sent a letter to the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, asking him to assess the threat posed to national security by deepfakes -- a new type of AI-assisted video editing that creates realistic results with minimal effort. The Verge reports: The letter says "hyper-realistic digital forgeries" showing "convincing depictions of individuals doing or saying things they never did" could be used for blackmail and misinformation. "As deep fake technology becomes more advanced and more accessible, it could pose a threat to United States public discourse and national security," say the letter's signatories, House representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL). The trio want the intelligence community to produce a report that includes descriptions of when "confirmed or suspected" deepfakes have been produced by foreign individuals (there are no current examples of this), and to suggest potential countermeasures. In a press statement, Curbelo said: "Deep fakes have the potential to disrupt every facet of our society and trigger dangerous international and domestic consequences [...] As with any threat, our Intelligence Community must be prepared to combat deep fakes, be vigilant against them, and stand ready to protect our nation and the American people."

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Drone Startup Airware Is Shutting Down After Raising $118 Million

Slashdot - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 19:30
Drone operating system startup Airware, which has appeared in a number of stories over the years, announced today that it will be shutting down immediately despite having raised $118 million from investors. " The startup ran out of money after trying to manufacture its own hardware that couldn't compete with drone giants like China's DJI," reports TechCrunch. "The company at one point had as many as 140 employees, all of which are now out of a job." From the report: Founded in 2011 by Jonathan Downey, the son of two pilots, Airware first built an autopilot system for programming drones to follow certain routes to collect data. It could help businesses check rooftops for damage, see how much of a raw material was coming out of a mine, or build constantly-updated maps of construction sites. Later it tried to build its own drones before pivoting to consult clients on how to most efficiently apply unmanned aerial vehicles. While flying high, Airware launched its own Commercial Drone Fund for investing in the market in 2015, and acquired 38-person drone analytics startup Redbird in 2016. In this pre-crypto, pre-AI boom, Airware scored a ton of hype from us and others as they tried to prove drones could be more than war machines. But over time, the software that shipped with commercial drone hardware from other manufacturers was good enough to make Airware irrelevant, and a downward spiral of layoffs began over the past two years, culminating in today's shutdown. Demonstrating how sudden the shut down is, Airware opened a Tokyo headquarters alongside an investment and partnership from Mitsubishi just four days ago. As for the employees, they "will get one week's severance, COBRA insurance until November, and payouts for unused paid time off," reports TechCrunch.

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San Francisco Gets Its First Cashierless Store

Slashdot - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 18:50
Last Week, San Francisco got its first completely automated cashierless store, called Standard Market. The store requires users to download their app before they can enter the 1,900-square-foot building. Once they do that, they can enter the store, grab the items they need, and walk out -- all without ever interacting with a cashier. The 27 cameras positioned on the ceiling are supposedly able to identify which items shoppers walk out with. CNBC reports: The start-up behind this operation is Standard Cognition, which has raised $11.2 million in venture capital and formed partnerships with four retail chains around the world. This first market is a prototype to showcase the technology and work on the bugs. The ambitious goal is to add the tech in 100 stores a day (each day!) by 2020. Five of the seven founders came from the Securities and Exchange Commission, where they built artificial intelligence software to detect fraud and trade violations, before starting Standard Cognition in 2017. Now these fraud experts are working to discern something equally complicated: whether I am stealing a snack. The store is very similar to Amazon's cashierless Go market, but differs in that it relies exclusively on the ceiling cameras and AI software to figure out what you're buying. "The goal is to predict, and prevent, shoplifting, because unlike Amazon's Go stores, which have a subway turnstile-like gate for entry and exit, Standard Market has an open door, and the path is clear," reports CNBC. "Once the system decides it has detected potential theft behavior, a store attendant will get a text and walk over for 'a polite conversation,' Standard Cognition's co-founder and chief operating officer, Michael Suswal, said."

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What Cardiologists Think About the Apple Watch's Heart-Tracking Feature

Slashdot - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 18:10
An anonymous reader quotes a report from SFGate: The newest Apple Watch can now flag potential problems with your heartbeat -- a feature that's been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration and that Apple is marking as a major achievement. But some doctors said that including heart-monitoring tools in such a popular consumer product could prompt unnecessary anxiety and medical visits. Physicians say the watch could be good for patients who have irregular heart rhythms but may not realize it. Some people who have atrial fibrillation, the condition for which the watch is screening, don't always have noticeable symptoms. In an ideal situation, someone who doesn't know they have a problem could get a warning from their watch and take that data to their doctor. But there is also concern that widespread use of electrocardiograms without an equally broad education initiative could burden an already taxed health-care system. Heart rhythms naturally vary, meaning that it's likely that Apple Watch or any heart monitor could signal a problem when there isn't one -- and send someone running to the doctor for no reason. "People are scared; their heart scares them," John Mandrola, a cardiologist at Baptist Health in Louisville, said. "That leads to more interaction with the health-care system." An extra visit to your doctor may not sound like a bad thing, but Mandrola said it would potentially lead to another round of tests or even unnecessary treatment if there are other signs that can be misinterpreted. And doctors might wind up facing a crowd of anxious Apple Watch users getting false signals -- something physicians have already had to deal with as fitness trackers that monitor heart rates have become popular.

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Why Can't More Than Four People Have a Conversation at Once?

Slashdot - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 17:30
Apparently, there exists something called the 'dinner party problem' which states that it is difficult to sustain a casual conversation that includes more than four speakers. If a fifth person were to join that conversation, so goes the theory, the conversation would quickly fission into smaller groups. Somebody looked into it, of course. From a story: The question bothered Jaimie Krems, an assistant professor of psychology at Oklahoma State University. Krems had previously studied under Robin Dunbar, the Oxford University evolutionary psychologist who theorized that cohesion in any human social group falls apart once the group reaches 150 -- a figure now known as Dunbar's number. But just as the dynamics of large groups start changing around 150, something also happens to the casual conversations of small groups once they surpass four members. Social psychologists have noted the pattern in group conversations in research stretching back decades. There's evidence that this four-person limit on conversations has been in place for about as long as humans have been having chatting with one another. Shakespeare rarely allowed more than four speaking characters in any scene; ensemble films rarely have more than four actors interacting at once. But why do we max out at four? In a forthcoming paper in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, Krems and Jason Wilkes offer one theory rooted in evolutionary psychology. Pairs (or "dyads," in psychology research parlance) are the essential building blocks of a society. Let's imagine a conversation between four hypothetical humans: you, Chris, Pat, and Taylor. In a four-person conversation, there are six possible pairs of people who can be talking to one another at once. you and Chris, you and Pat, you and Taylor, Chris and Pat, Chris and Taylor, and Pat and Taylor. That's three pairs you're part of, and three pairs you're not. Essentially, you have a role in influencing half of the possible conversations that could be happening in that group. If there are three people in the conversation, there are three possible pairs, only one of which excludes you. If there are five people, there are 10 possible pairs, and the majority -- six -- don't include you, which makes it harder to get your point across.

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Some Linux Gamers Using Wine/DXVK To Play Blizzard's Overwatch Banned

Slashdot - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 16:50
Longtime Slashdot reader DrYak writes: Phoronix is reporting that multiple users who all use Wine and DXVK compatibility layers have seen their Overwatch accounts banned by Blizzard. Previously, Blizzard has stated: "playing on Linux or even a Mac while on an emulated Windows environment is not bannable." But users report on Reddit getting banned simply after testing some rendering options. Tech support has answered that they are escalating the ticket and trying to take a closer look, hoping to avoid this from happening to other Linux users. According to Phoronix, the most common explanation for the bans "is a false-positive from Blizzard's anti-cheat technology having issue with DXVK."

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Almost Half of US Cellphone Calls Will Be Scams By Next Year, Says Report

Slashdot - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 16:10
According to a new report from First Orion, nearly half of the mobile phone calls received in the U.S. next year will be scams. "The percentage of scam calls in U.S. mobile traffic increased from 3.7 percent last year to 29.2 percent this year, and it's predicted to rise to 44.6 percent in 2019, First Orion said in a press release Wednesday," reports CNET. From the report: The most popular method scammers use to try to get people to pick up the phone is called "neighborhood spoofing," where they disguise their numbers with a local prefix so people presume the calls are safe to pick up, First Onion said. Third-party call blocking apps may help protect consumers from known scam numbers, but they can't tell if a scammer hijacks someone's number and uses it for scam calls. "Scammers relentlessly inundate mobile phones with increasingly convincing and scary calls," said Gavin Macomber, senior vice president of marketing at First Orion, in an email statement. "Solving a problem of this magnitude requires a comprehensive, in-network carrier solution that dives deeper than third-party applications ever could by detecting and eliminating unwanted and malicious calls before they reach your phone."

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Nintendo Switch Cloud Save Data Disappears If You Cancel Subscription

Slashdot - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 15:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Nintendo Switch game save data stored in the cloud is only available "as long as you have an active Nintendo Switch Online membership." If you eventually cancel the $20/year subscription, Nintendo is "unable to guarantee that cloud save data will be retained after an extended period of time from when your membership is ended." That wrinkle in Nintendo's plan was not included in the details of yesterday's Nintendo Direct presentation, but it can be found digging through the FAQs and customer support pages on Nintendo's website this morning. On the plus side, Nintendo clarified that you will be able to transfer cloud-based saves between Switch systems just by signing in with your Nintendo account on as many consoles as you want. But Nintendo also said it will continue not allowing local backups of save data to an SD card or other outside storage. UPDATE: It's worth noting that cloud saves on PlayStation systems remain accessible for six months after you cancel a paid PlayStation Plus account, while cloud saves on Xbox Live are offered for free in perpetuity.

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New Apple video details iPhone XS and XS Max in less than a minute

Apple Insider - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 15:09


In a new video, Apple shows all there is to show about its latest flagship iPhone models that were introduced at a special event on Wednesday.
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Apple seeds Shortcuts GM build to developers ahead of release

Apple Insider - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 15:01


Apple on Friday seeded the "Golden Master" build of marquee iOS 12 app Shortcuts to developers via TestFlight ahead of a scheduled launch next week.
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Google Built a Prototype of a Censored Search Engine For China That Links Users' Searches To Their Personal Phone Numbers: The Intercept

Slashdot - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 14:50
Google built a prototype of a censored search engine for China that links users' searches to their personal phone numbers, thus making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people's queries, The Intercept, which first published information about Google's efforts to build a censored search engine in China last month, reported Friday. From the report: The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, was designed for Android devices, and would remove content deemed sensitive by China's ruling Communist Party regime, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. Previously undisclosed details about the plan, obtained by The Intercept on Friday, show that Google compiled a censorship blacklist that included terms such as "human rights," "student protest," and "Nobel Prize" in Mandarin. Leading human rights groups have criticized Dragonfly, saying that it could result in the company "directly contributing to, or [becoming] complicit in, human rights violations." A central concern expressed by the groups is that, beyond the censorship, user data stored by Google on the Chinese mainland could be accessible to Chinese authorities, who routinely target political activists and journalists. Sources familiar with the project said that prototypes of the search engine linked the search app on a user's Android smartphone with their phone number. This means individual people's searches could be easily tracked -- and any user seeking out information banned by the government could potentially be at risk of interrogation or detention if security agencies were to obtain the search records from Google.

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Road Makers Turn To Recycled Plastic For Tougher Surfaces

Slashdot - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 14:10
Recycled plastic is already used to make some products, such as guttering and sewage pipes. Now attention is turning to roads. From a report: On September 11th in Zwolle, a town in the Netherlands, a 30-metre bicycle track made from 70% recycled plastic and the rest from polypropylene was opened [Warning: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. It will be used to test a product called PlasticRoad, which is being developed by two Dutch firms -- KWS, a road builder, and Wavin, a firm that makes plastic piping -- in partnership with Total, a French oil-and-gas firm. PlasticRoad is prefabricated in a factory as modular sections. The sections are then transported to the site and laid end to end on a suitable foundation, such as sand. Because these sections are hollow, internal channels can be incorporated into them for drainage, along with conduits for services such as gas and electricity. For the Zwolle project, sections that were 2.4 metres long and 3 metres wide were used. These were fitted with sensors to measure things such as temperature, flexing and the flow of water through the drainage channels. A second pilot cycleway is being built in the nearby town of Giethoorn. If all goes well, the inventors hope to develop the idea and make the sections entirely from recycled plastic. Paths, car parks and railway platforms could follow. Eventually, sections for use as actual roads are planned. These could contain sensors for traffic monitoring. In time, the circuits in the plastic roads might extend to assisting autonomous vehicles and recharging electric cars wirelessly. Prefabricated plastic roads should last two-to-three times longer than conventional roads and cost less, the companies claim, mainly because construction times would be reduced by almost two-thirds. Anti-slip surfaces could be incorporated, too, including crushed stones which are traditionally used to dress road surfaces. The sections, when replaced, can also be recycled. But engineers will be watching to see how the track stands up to wear and tear and if the hollow structure causes resonance, which would make such a road unduly noisy.

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The Man Behind the EU's Copyright Law is 'Surprised' By What's in the Proposal

Slashdot - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 13:38
Hours after the European Union Parliament voted to approve new controversial copyright laws that will transform how people in Europe and beyond use and profit from the internet, the man behind the legislation, Axel Voss, says he is unaware of what exactly he voted for. From a report: Emanuel Karlsten, a reporter for Sweden's Breakit news site, spoke with Voss, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and the EU's copyright rapporteur, after the vote. Karlsten asked about a last-minute amendment that will bar the filming of sports events. The MEP replied in a recorded conversation, "This was kind of mistake I think by the JURI committee. Someone amended this. No one had been aware of this." European Parliament press officer John Schranz at that point broke in to explain that he was aware of the provision in question, calling it "amendment 76." Schranz said that the amendment doesn't bar individuals from filming sporting events. Rather, "the main target" is online betting companies enticing viewers to their sites with video that they have no right to film. He objected to the fact that the "Greens and others" interpret the provision as having a much wider application. But the MEP Voss admitted, "I didn't know that this was in the proposal so far, so of course I have to deal with it now. I do not consider that the commission and council will have this inside the proposal." Voss added that "because of the time pressure" and general focus on other, more notable aspects of the law, it's possible that the measure was insufficiently scrutinized.

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How dual-SIM works with Apple's iPhone XS & XS Max

Apple Insider - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 13:29


One of the new features of the iPhone XS and XS Max is dual-SIM support, which will let people wield two phone numbers on the same device. Here's how it works in countries where eSIM is available.
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iPhone XS Max, iPhone XS not quite as constrained as the iPhone X was at launch

Apple Insider - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 13:08


if you slept in this morning and didn't get a pre-order of the iPhone XS Max in within minutes of opening, you won't have to wait as long to get your order this year, if Gene Munster's numbers are correct.
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Google-Funded Study Finds Cash Beats Typical Development Aid

Slashdot - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 12:57
Traditional international aid programs typically offer some combination of clean water, livestock, textbooks, and nutritional supplements. A new study funded by Google.org and the US Agency for International Development asks whether the poor would benefit more if they were given cash and free to spend the money as they see fit. Wired: Researchers had two goals: compare an established program to combat childhood malnutrition with giving people the equivalent value ($117 per month) in cash, and compare the cash equivalent to a much larger sum, $532 per month. After a year, results [PDF] released Thursday found that found that neither the established program nor its cash equivalent were able to improve child health, but the large cash transfers significantly improved people's health and financial standing. On the surface, that's not surprising. Of course giving people more than four times as much money gives them access to better nutrition. But the study's co-author Andrew Zeitlin, a professor from Georgetown, says the idea was to provide benchmarks for future programs; it's not unusual for nutritional aid programs to cost $500 or even $800 per month, he says. The traditional malnutrition program, called Gikuriro, was funded by USAID and administered by Catholic Relief Services. It combined help with water, sanitation, and hygiene with training on nutrition, some small livestock and seeds, and guidance on financial habits like saving. The study focused on households with children under the age of 5 and women of reproductive age, with an emphasis on the first 1,000 days of the child's life. The results indicate that Gikuriro helped recipients increase their savings and increased overall health knowledge and vaccination rates in villages, two of the program's goals. However, neither the malnutrition program nor its cash equivalent led to a more diverse diet, or improved child health, as measured by height and weight. The larger cash transfer, on the other hand, led to improvements in food diversity, a drop in child mortality, an increase in household wealth, and improvements in child health measurements, as well as improvements in village vaccination rates.

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'Seven Dirty Words' Restriction Policy Lifted from<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.US Domain Name Registrations

Slashdot - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 12:18
An anonymous reader shares a report: Neustar, the registry operator of the .US domain and NTIA have reversed course, allowing the inclusion of previously restricted "seven dirty words" from future .US domain name registrations. The decision came after EFF and the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School intervened in the cancelation of a domain name containing a restricted word. The domain name -- fucknazis.us -- registered by Mr. Rubin was suspended by Neustar calling it a violation of an NTIA "seven dirty words" policy -- "a phrase with particular First Amendment significance," said EFF. Further reading: EFF: Yes, You Can Name A Website "Fucknazis.us".

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Apple pledges $1M to Red Cross as Hurricane Florence makes landfall

Apple Insider - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 11:55


Apple will be donating $1 million to the American Red Cross to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, which is still pounding the U.S. east coast.
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Your new iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max needs a portable, foldable, or even rollable keyboard

Apple Insider - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 11:34


Those gorgeous big screens mean you're going to be using your phone more -- and it could even become your primary computing device. You need, and your iPhone deserves, a physical keyboard for when you've got serious work to do. AppleInsider surveys the scene.
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AppleInsider giveaway: Enter to win an iPhone XS Max, 3 premium cases and $100 Casetify credit

Apple Insider - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 11:33


AppleInsider is partnering with Casetify to offer readers the chance to win an incredible bundle, including Apple's brand-new iPhone XS Max in gold, three Casetify Impact cases and a $100 Casetify credit to design your own custom cover. The combined value of the prize pack exceeds $1,300 -- enter today for your chance to win.
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