Shut Up and Dance

Just the other day Netflix released season 3 of a popular British television series titled Black Mirror. If you have never watched Black Mirror before it touches on dark themes surrounding modern society in regards to new technology and its consequences. I bring this up because of one particular episode, episode 3, titled “Shut up and Dance”. To make a long story short a boy named Kenny is featured within this episode. One day a hacker gains access to his computer and records Kenny preforming an intimate act, and then uses that footage to blackmail the teenage boy. After watching this segment I thought to myself ” I don’t think this issue is really prominent in today’s world as much as it use to be”.

Well ladies and gentlemen, I was wrong. The National Crime Agency and the National Police Chiefs have recently reported that the number of webcam blackmail incidents have doubled from the 385 reports in 2015, to 846 as of November 2016. exhausted-man-computer-problems-desk-hacking-hackers-malware-frustration-640x0Authorities are now beginning to worry with the rise in cases. Four male suicides this year have been linked to webcam blackmail, to be more exact, “Sextortion”.

According to BBC, Sextortion is described as a form of blackmail where criminals use fake identities to befriend victims online before persuading the to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam. The NCA released figures showing that 95% of victims of sextortion were men or boys ranging from ages 14-82, however men aged between 21-30 hold a high percentage. Roy Sinclair from NCA states that “there was still “huge under-reporting of these kinds of offenses”, due to embarrassment

Sextortion is a serious problem being faced in the U.K. The NCA has offered advice for anyone who is being target by online criminals- Go to the police first, regardless of what you may “think” they will say. They do take these cases serious. Next, do not pay the ransom set by the attacker nor do not attempt to communicate any more with them. Take Screenshots of all messages, and suspend social media accounts to keep record of evidence for your case.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-38150313

http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/sextortion-webcam-blackmail-doubled-in-uk-in-2016/

 

Bus on Stilts

 

China’s overcrowding problem and unmanageable traffic has forced them to reconsider their methods public of transportation.

busonstilts

In trying to come up with a solution, engineer Song Youzhou devised a new concept for China’s highway system. The Straddling bus, not much of a bus at all, operates like a train that moves over the traffic, allowing cars to pass underneath it. Why not build a subway instead? “Subways cost a good deal of money and take a long time to construct,” Youzhou explains. He and his team believe they can cut those costs by 16 percent with their model.

So far only prototypes have been constructed, but the actual size is to be the width of two bus lanes, 4- 4.5 meters high. The Straddling bus is expected to carry 1,400 passengers and travel up to 37 miles per hour.

With full scale testing underway, the company hopes they have discovered a solution “minimizing city congestion by 11.5 million people.” Straddling bus provides efficient and sustainable transportation, allowing commuters an alternative means to get to work.

In order for this project to be worthwhile, the company must convince commuters that this would an optimal means of transportation. By emphasizing that this alternative cuts down on pollution and saves money, they plan to change attitudes towards car ownership.

Although the project has been regarded with much enthusiasm, many engineers remain skeptical. In order to make Youzhou’s dream a reality, there are some technical issues that have yet to be hashed out: height clearances for cars, road junctions, etc. On top of this, bridges, lampposts and road signs will have to be rethought and maybe reconstructed.

Despite technical criticisms the company expects the bus to be fully testable this year.

Does it look cool? absolutely, would I feel safe in it? probably not. I think an important thing to keep in mind is how drivers on the road are going to react to something like this. I would think it would be distracting to drive with something like this hovering your car.

Do we think China is on the right track with sustainable public transportation? Or have they missed the mark?

Downloading has come to Netflix

Netflix has seen significant growth as it continues to be viewed as a disruptive innovation to cable companies. By combining a wide range of shows including hit originals such as “Stranger Things” with a very simple user interface, Netflix seems to be taking steps in the right direction. Although there have been some current issues surrounding a tax on Netflix services, the company is hoping a new feature will overshadow the scrutiny they have started to receive in the past few weeks.

Today, Netflix announced they will release a new feature that allows users to download shows and movies. Since video streaming can make a big dent in a family’s data plan, many users only use the service when connected to WiFi. Downloads allow users to watch the show while their device is on airplane mode. This provides user with more convenience such as watching a show on a plane or in an area with poor reception. An example of the feature is shown in the image below.

netflix offline downloads

As a company with a subscription model, Netflix including downloads to their service could be very important to their long term success. Spotify, a music streaming service, also utilizes a subscription model that allows paying users to stream music as well as download songs for offline listening. It seems that Netflix is adopting a similar approach.

Unfortunately, the offline mode on Netflix will not include every video in its library. One of the main issues people have had with Netflix is the limited library of titles. Some users may be upset if their favorite shows or movies do not have the option for offline viewing. Since Netflix just launched offline viewing, people should give them time to continue to improve the feature by adding more titles. How much time does Netflix have to enhance the feature and allow every title to be viewed offline before users become upset?

http://www.businessinsider.com/netflix-launches-video-downloads-2016-11

E-ink display plus wallet equals “Wonder Wallet”

Thanks to E Ink, virtually anything can be used as a canvas for creative expression these days. We’ve seen it used in shoes, watches and fashion accessories, and it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the idea to integrate it in wallets. That day has finally arrived with the launch of the Wonder Wallet on Kickstarter.

However the real wonder of the wallet, according to the designers of this South Korean startup, lies in its smart functions. Designed to help users minimize the clutter caused by having too manyThe Wonder Wallet's smart functions can display things like maps loyalty cards in their wallets, it lets them store their cards’ barcodes or QR codes digitally. When they enter a place like a café, they can program the wallet to remember the location so that it will automatically display the appropriate membership data on their next visit – though users will have to be connected to their phone over Bluetooth to do so. As the device gains more users, the long-term plan is that people will be able to make use of crowd-shared location data.

Another potentially useful function lies in its lost and found alerts. When the wallet’s Bluetooth connection is activated, users will receive a push notification on their phone if it goes out of range. The wallet will also display a help message and broadcast Bluetooth Low Energy signals to alert other app users in the vicinity of its location. Of course, this assumes that there are other Wonder Wallet users in the area. That said, given the increasing number of devices with integrated GPS trackers, it remains to be seen whether not having a GPS module puts this wallet at a disadvantage.

From my point of view, most of the functions mentioned above seem to be appealing but there are many apps that allow our smart phones to fulfill the same demands. In recent years, smart phones have already been significantly widespread. As a result, the product may not be as popular as expected. In addition, if there are not many people using the wallets, the lost and found function may not work effectively.

http://newatlas.com/e-ink-wonder-wallet/46689/

Artificial Intelligence to the Rescue

Artificial intelligence is taking the current world by storm. Recently, researchers from Google’s AI division DeepMind and the University of Oxford have used it to create the most accurate lip-reading software the world has seen. Scientists trained a neural network to annotate video footage with 46.8 percent accuracy by using hours of TV footage. Compare that to a professional human lip-reader, who was only able to get the right word 12.4 percent of the time.

Using similar techniques, scientists in another study were able to create a lip-reading program called LipNet that achieved 93.4 percent accuracy in tests, compared to 52.3 percent human accuracy.picture

 

 

Although their program was only tested on specially-recorded footage that used volunteers speaking formulaic sentences. While DeepMind’s software was tested on far more challenging footage; transcribing natural, unscripted conversations from BBC politics shows.

More than 5,000 hours of footage from TV shows that included 118,000 difference sentences and some 17,500 unique words was used to train the program. Compare that to LipNet’s test database of video of just 51 unique words.

According to researchers, the program could be used for a number of things, including helping the hearing impaired community, annotating silent films and controlling digital assistants such as Siri.

I think this a great step towards using upcoming technology to not only benefit the technology sector, but the world at hand. I find it important that we use developing things such as artificial intelligence to benefit the human kind and not just tech geeks. I love the fact that this new software can help the hearing impaired community and would love to see new software emerge that can also play a role in resolving health issues.

Link: http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/24/13740798/google-deepmind-ai-lip-reading-tv

Facebook is Becoming a Gaming Console

As if Facebook didn’t have enough power already, they are now taking on the gaming world too. Ultimately, Facebook has just released a brand new feature to their Facebook Messenger app and Facebook app called Instant Games, which allows users to play various games from their news feeds or through instant messaging with one another.

There are currently 17 games available, with more to come. All of the games are based on receiving a high score and beating other’s high scores, not about reaching new levels and traveling through various worlds and dimensions. Some games already included are Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Galaga, Words with Friends, Shuffle Cats Mini, and more.

Facebook’s global games partnerships director, Leo Olebe, said that part of this new feature is bringing back nostalgia for players, by including childhood games we know and love. He also confirmed that Facebook wouldn’t go game crazy again, like back in the Candy Crush games, and not to worry about getting millions of notifications and requests.

Some may say Facebook is even a little late in the gaming world, according the article. Google has Google Play Games, YouTube has YouTube Gaming, and Amazon has Twitch to play games. Facebook is just adding to the list.

In class we talked about gamification, and how many of us now play the majority of games on our mobile devices. Facebook, and all of these companies, are quickly realizing this and jumping on the bandwagon fast.

What I found most interesting, and what is relevant everywhere, is that many social media outlets or applications want to do it all. The niche markets that we once had are disappearing, and now the big power companies are fighting it out to see who can have the most features. This way, consumers will go solely to their application for everything, whether its keeping in touch with friends, playing games, watching videos, and more. My question is – just how much power can they get?

https://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-instant-games-pac-man-space-invaders/

IoT is a security nightmare

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While the Internet of Things is a major advancement for out technological world, it has many flaws-one being security and cyber attacks. In October, a massive cyber attack on Internet infrastructure knocked a large amount of the web offline. Sites including Netflix and Twitter were hacked and unresponsive for millions of Americans and Europeans. This hack was the largest attack in history- powered by hacked webcams and smart devices with sloppy or non-existent security.   The IoT seems to be a threat to security and safety of the web.

However, Google and other tech giants now have a plan to fix it. Recently, the Broadband Technical Advisory Group published a report with recommendations on how to improve security. In this report BITAG said that there are several incidents where some devices have not abided by rudimentary privacy. Devices have been compromised and allowed unauthorized users to perform attacks. Problems range from leaking Wi-Fi passwords to not being update-able. To solve these problems, BITAG have come up with a number of recommendations. These include shipping devices with current software without known vulnerabilities, and that manufacturers should follow practices for encryption. Additionally, the group wants to ensure that the devices continue to work without cloud or internet support, and that devices should be resettable.

While BITAG is not a governing body and cannot force these changes, many have spoken out calling for government action.

Bring home IoT

original-amazon-dash-button-focused-on-household-items

We have talked about the Internet of things and how it can improve the quality of our lives by making the everyday tasks easier. With Amazon Dash Replenishment this is becoming a reality. Dash is a device that partners your home appliances to the Internet in order to place orders for the product it needs to run.

Here’s how it works. The device measures what you’ve run out of by using a tracking sensor or mechanism. It will then reorders the product it needs to operate, by connecting through your cloud or directly to Amazon Dash replenishment. This way, users never have that “run out moment.” Dash could be used for a number of devices including your coffee pot, smoke detector, printer etc.

In order to use DRS, you must create an account with Amazon (LWA) and register an application. After this step is completed, users will be able to intergrade the android app or iOS. Amazon uses a (SNS) simple notification service that sends order updates and status information for our replenishment requests.

Dash seeks to make the product replacement is painless as possible. “Connected devices place orders on your behalf without having to manage addresses, payment instruments or billing systems.” This is a really great deal for Amazon, online shoppers will now buy their cartridges/pods through their website rather than making their purchases elsewhere at (physical stores).

Is this useful or just lazy? I can see the advantages of having a self-filling dishwasher, as someone who does not have access to a car. But where do we draw the line in using a system like this? And by giving in, are we just giving corporations more control over our purchasing power?

https://developer.amazon.com/dash-replenishment-service

Body Heat Powers This Smart Watch

Menlo Park startup has created a smart watch that runs on body heat. While basic, it could usher in a new generation of wearable devices that never need to be charged.

During a demo, Matrix engineering lead Anne Ruminski held the watch to her wrist, causing its black and white screen to boot up within a few moments. Despite being the same size and shape as a Garmin Forerunner smart watch, its abilities—step tracking, calorie counting, and sleep monitoring—are more akin to a FitBit.

The watch powers itself with what’s known as a thermoelectric generator. The temperature gradient causes electrons in the watch to flow, creating an electric current. Ruminski says Matrix’s breakthrough was discovering how to dissipate the resulting heat, which would otherwise ruin the temperature gradient.

The company also benefited from a trend toward less energy-hungry devices. The PowerWatch only gets a tiny amount of power to work with, but it does a relatively large amount of tasks with it. A small backup battery in the watch allows it to store data and the time when it’s not on your wrist.

Matrix is not the first group to build a wearable that runs on body heat. North Carolina State University researchers recently revealed a thermoelectric generator that they believe could be incorporated into shirts and other items of clothing. Other teams are looking into making use of waste heat from sources other than the human body. But there hasn’t been a high-profile thermoelectric wearable to actually make it to market.

Matrix opened $99 pre-orders for the watch Tuesday and plans to ship it in July 2017. Its full retail price will be $160. The company has not yet developed the software for the watch, though Ruminski says the hardware is already complete—as a result, I couldn’t see the watch’s functions beyond simply turning on.

Matrix also plans to apply its thermoelectric approach to other devices. Medical devices, hearing aids, and wearable sensors could also run on body heat. They may be better use cases, too. Smart watch enthusiasts will quickly notice the PowerWatch’s simplicity compared to examples like the Apple Watch. But sensors are a newer category that don’t require a highly interactive screen.

University of Pennsylvania assistant professor of health care management Mitesh Patel notes that about half of people who purchase a wearable device stop wearing it within a few months. Every time you take off a smart watch is an opportunity to stop using it.

“Wearable devices are more likely to help individuals for longer periods if their technology is designed to reduce barriers to engagement such as the need for regular charging,” Patel says.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602874/body-heat-powers-this-smart-watch/

Dragon V2: SpaceX at its best

http://https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yEQrmDoIRO8

So we all know the different spacecrafts (Atlantis, Columbia, endeavor, discovery and enterprise) which were built to build International Space Station and to visit it. But now it’s been a while that those spacecrafts are now left just for inspiration in museums. So what’s next?

Dragon V2. Another breakthrough by SpaceX which is the next generation spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to Earth orbit and beyon. The earlier spacecraft as we know which were used by NASA for apollo or the Soyuz by Russia (presently in use) could carry at most 3 astronauts. These spacecrafts recovery is to happen as a splash in the oceans. This version of capsule by SpaceX can carry 7 aastronauts and could land propulisvely almost anywhere on Earth. It is also reusable by just refueling it. This is going to revolutionize the space travel.

But this was not enough! The earlier capsules used to have so many buttons for astronauts to operate hence making it difficult for a layman to understand. Although this is Rocket Science, so it isn’t meant to be understood by a layman but Dragon V2 has a control panel with all the neccessary inputs and outputs in one small screen and perhaps making it easier for a layman to at least understand what is going on.

I can not stop talking about it so I would suggest you all to watch this video and see how cool technologies can be..