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Facebook to Invest $300 Million in Local News Initiatives

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 21:33
Facebook says it is investing $300 million over the next three years in local news programs, partnerships and other initiatives. The money will go toward reporting grants for local newsrooms, expanding Facebook’s program to help local newsrooms with subscription business models and investing in nonprofits aimed at supporting local news. The move comes at a difficult time for the news industry, which is facing falling profits and print readership. Facebook, like Google, has also been partly blamed for the ongoing decline in newspapers’ share of advertising dollars as people and advertisers have moved online. Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of global news partnerships, acknowledges the company “can’t uninvent the internet,” but says it wants to work with publishers to help them succeed on and off the social network. “The industry is going through a massive transition that has been underway for a long time,” she said. “None of us have quite figured out ultimately what the future of journalism is going to look like but we want to be part of helping find a solution.” Facebook has increased its focus on local news in the past year after starting off 2018 with the announcement that it was generally de-emphasizing news stories and videos in people’s feeds on the social network in favor of posts from their friends. At the same time, though, the company has been cautiously testing out ways to boost local news stories users are interested in and initiatives to support the broader industry. It launched a feature called “Today In” that shows people local news and information , including missing-person alerts, road closures, crime reports and school announcements, expanding it to hundreds of cities around the U.S. and a few in Australia. The push to support local news comes as Facebook, which is based in Menlo Park, California, tries to shake off its reputation as a hotbed for misinformation and elections-meddling. The company says users have been asking to see more local content that is relevant to them, including news stories as well as community information such as road closings during a snowstorm. The $300 million investment includes a $5 million grant to the nonprofit Pulitzer Center to launch “Bringing Stories Home,” a fund that will provide local U.S. newsrooms with reporting grants to support coverage of local issues. There’s also a $2 million investment in Report for America as part of a partnership aiming to place 1,000 journalists in local newsrooms across the country over the next five years. The idea behind the investments, Brown said, is to look “holistically at how a given publisher can define a business model. Facebook can’t be the only answer, the only solution — we don’t want the publisher to be dependent on Facebook.” Fran Wills, CEO of the Local Media Consortium, which is receiving $1 million together with the Local Media Association to help their member newsrooms develop new revenue streams, said she is optimistic the investment will help. “I think they are recognizing that trusted, credible content is of benefit not only to local publishers but to them,” she said.  

Huawei Founder Says Company Would Not Share User Secrets

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 17:39
The founder of network gear and smart phone supplier Huawei Technologies says the tech giant would reject requests from the Chinese government to disclose confidential information about its customers.  Meeting with foreign reporters at Huawei's headquarters, Ren Zhengfei sought Tuesday to allay Western concerns the company is a security risk. Those fears have hampered Huawei's access to global markets for next-generation telecom technology.  Asked how Huawei would respond if Chinese authorities ask for confidential information about foreign customers or their networks, Ren said, "we would definitely say no to such a request.'' The United States, Australia, Japan and some other governments have imposed curbs on use of Huawei technology over concerns the company is a security risk.

Amphibious Robot Thrives in Water and on Land

Sun, 01/13/2019 - 14:50
Nature finds a way, the old saying goes. We see it in how animals fly, crawl, slink, dig and otherwise make their way through the world. Scientists have long recognized the ways in which evolution has perfected movement in the natural world, and mimicked it in their robot designs. Here's the latest, and it's simple and incredibly complicated all at the same time. VOA's Kevin Enochs reports.

Robot Animals Serving as Pets to Dementia Patients

Sun, 01/13/2019 - 14:45
A new form of social therapy is powering-on in the U.S. A group of former toy company employees bought a brand from their ex-employer and started developing robotic household animals that serve as friends and therapy aids to America's growing elderly population. Arash Arabasadi reports.

Foreign-Born Workers Powering Silicon Valley's Startup Success

Sat, 01/12/2019 - 14:15
Home to Apple, Facebook and Google, Silicon Valley is an American economic powerhouse, producing technology companies with global influence. But behind these influential American brands are scores of foreign workers who play a critical role in the Valley's tech workforce. Deana Mitchell reports.

Privacy, Please: Latest Gadgets Want Greater Peek into Lives

Sat, 01/12/2019 - 07:05
The latest gadgets want even greater access to your lives. This week's CES tech show in Las Vegas was a showcase for cameras that can livestream the living room, a bathroom mirror that captures your face to offer beauty tips and a gizmo that tracks the heartbeat of an unborn child. These features can be useful — or at least fun — but they all open the door for companies and people working for them to peek into your private lives. Just this week, The Intercept reported that Ring, a security-camera company owned by Amazon, gave employees access to some customer video footage. You'll have to weigh whether the gadgets are useful enough to give up some privacy. First, you have to trust that companies making these devices are protecting your information and aren't doing more than what they say they're doing with data. Even if a company has your privacy in mind, things can go wrong: Hackers can break in and access sensitive data. Or an ex might retain access to a video feed long after a breakup. “It's not like all these technologies are inherently bad,'' says Franziska Roesner, a University of Washington professor who researches computer security and privacy. But she said the industry is still trying to figure out the right balance between providing useful services and protecting people's privacy in the process Amazon’s video feeds As with other security cameras, Ring's can be mounted outside the front door or inside the home to give you a peek, through an app, of who's there. But the Intercept said the Amazon-owned company was also allowing some high-level engineers in the U.S. to view customers' video feeds, while others in the Ukraine office could view and download any customer video file. In a statement, Ring said some Amazon employees have access to videos that are publicly shared through the company's Neighbors app, which aims to create a network of security cameras in an area. Ring also says employees get additional video from users who consent to such sharing. At CES, Ring announced an internet-connected video doorbell that fits into peepholes for apartment dwellers or college students who can't install one next to their doors. Though it doesn't appear Ring uses facial recognition yet, records show that Amazon recently filed a patent application for a facial-recognition system involving home security cameras. Living room livestream It's one thing to put cameras in our own homes, but Alarm.com wants us to also put them in other people's houses. Alarm's Wellcam is for caretakers to watch from afar and is mostly designed to check in on aging relatives. Someone who lives elsewhere can use a smartphone to “peek in'' anytime, says Steve Chazin, vice president of products.  The notion of placing a camera in someone else's living room might feel icky.  Wellcam says video isn't recorded until someone activates it from a phone and video is deleted as soon as the stream stops. Chazin says such cameras are ``becoming more acceptable because loved ones want to know that the ones they care about are safe.'' Just be sure you trust whom you're giving access to. You can't turn off the camera, unless you unplug it or cover it up with something.  Bathroom cameras  French company CareOS showcased a smart mirror that lets you “try on'' different hairstyles. Facial recognition helps the mirror's camera know which person in a household is there, while augmented-reality technology overlays your actual image with animation on how you might look. CareOS expects hotels and salons to buy the $20,000 Artemis mirror — making it more important that personal data is protected.  “We know we don't want the whole world to know about what's going on in the bathroom,'' co-founder Chloe Szulzinger said. The mirror doesn't need internet to work, she said. Even if it is connected, all data is stored on a local network. The company says it will abide by Europe's stronger privacy rules, which took effect in May, regardless of where a customer lives. Customers can choose to share their information with CareOS, but only after they've explicitly agreed to how it will be used. The same applies for the businesses that buy and install the mirror. Customers can choose to share some information — such as photos of the hair cut they got last time they visited a salon — but the businesses can't access anything stored in user profiles unless users specifically allow them to. Bodily data Some gadgets, meanwhile, are gathering intimate information.  Yo Sperm sells an iPhone attachment that tests and tracks sperm quality. To protect privacy, the company recommends that users turn their phones to airplane mode when using the test. The company says data stays on the phone, within the app, though there's a button for sharing details with a doctor. Owlet, meanwhile, plans to sell a wearable device that sits over a pregnant belly and tracks the heartbeat. The company's privacy policy says personal data gets collected. And you can choose to share heartbeat information with researchers studying stillbirths. Though such data can be useful, Forrester analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo warns that these devices aren't regulated or governed by U.S. privacy law. She warns that companies could potentially sell data to insurance companies who could find, for instance, that someone was drinking caffeine during a pregnancy — potentially raising health risks and hence premiums.

Technology Opening New Worlds for Disabled at CES

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 13:24
Proponents of Big Tech say the march of technology into our daily lives is designed to make our lives easier. For some, it's arguable if a smart refrigerator can actually make life easier. But for the disabled community, technological advances can make a huge difference. Some of that new technology was on display this week at the Consumer Electronics' show. VOA's Kevin Enochs reports.

Robots Walk, Talk, Brew Beer and Take Over CES Tech Show

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 23:09
Robots that walk, talk, brew beer and play pingpong have taken over the CES gadget show in Las Vegas again. Just don’t expect to find one in your home any time soon. Most home robot ventures have failed, in part because they’re so difficult and expensive to design to a level of intelligence that consumers will find useful, says Bilal Zuberi, a robotics-oriented venture capitalist at Lux Capital. But that doesn’t keep companies from trying. “Roboticists, I guess, will never give up their dream to build Rosie,” says Zuberi, referring to the humanoid maid from “The Jetsons.” But there’s some hope for others. Frank Gillett, a tech analyst at Forrester, says robots with more focused missions such as mowing the lawn or delivering cheeseburgers stand a better shot at finding a useful niche. ROBOTS THAT DELIVER There are so many delivery robots at CES that it’s easy to imagine that we’ll all be stumbling over them on the sidewalk — or in the elevator — before long. Zuberi says they’re among the new robot trends with the most promise because the field is drawing on some of the same advances that power self-driving cars. But it’s hard to tell which — if any — will still be around in a few years. Segway Robotics, part of the same company that makes electric rental scooters for Lime, Jump and Bird, is the latest to get into the delivery game with a new machine it calls Loomo. The wheeled office robot can avoid obstacles, board elevators and deliver documents to another floor. A similar office courier called the Holabot was unveiled by Chinese startup Shenzhen Pudu Technology. CEO Felix Zhang says his company already has a track record in China, where its Pudubot robot — which looks like shelves on wheels — navigates busy restaurants as a kind of robotic waiter. Nearly all of these robots use a technology called visual SLAM, short for simultaneous localization and mapping. Most are wheeled, though there are outliers — such as one from German automotive company Continental, which wants to deploy walking robotic dogs to carry packages from self-driving delivery vans to residential front doors. A delivery robot will need both sophisticated autonomy and a focused mission to stand out from the pack, says Saumil Nanavati, head of business development for Robby Technology. His company’s namesake robot travels down sidewalks as a “store on wheels.” The company recently partnered with PepsiCo to deliver snacks around a California university campus. ROBOTS FOR DOGS Does man’s best friend need a robotic pal of its own? Some startups think so. “There’s a big problem with separation anxiety, obesity and depression in pets,” says Bee-oh Kim, a marketing manager for robotics firm Varram. The company’s $99 robot is essentially a moving treat dispenser that motivates pets to chase it around. A herd of the small, dumbbell-shaped robots zoomed around a pen at the show — though there were no canine or feline conference attendees to show how the machines really work. Varram’s robot takes two hours to charge and can run for 10 hours — just enough time to allow a pet’s guilt-ridden human companion to get home from work. ROBOTS ON GRANDPARENT WATCH Samsung is coming out with a robot that can keep its eye on grandparents. The rolling robot can talk and has two digital eyes on a black screen. It’s designed to track the medicines seniors take, measure blood pressure and call 911 if it detects a fall. The company didn’t say when Samsung Bot Care would be available. Samsung says it’s also working on a robot for retail shops and another for testing and purifying the air in homes. ROBOT FRIENDS Lovot is a simple robot with just one aim — to make its owner happy. It can’t carry on long conversations, but it’s still social — approaching people so they can interact, moving around a space to create a digital map, responding to being embraced. Lovot’s horn-shaped antenna — featuring a 360-degree camera — recognizes its surroundings and detects the direction of sound and voices. Lovot is the brainchild of Groove X CEO Kaname Hayashi, who previously worked on SoftBank’s Pepper, a humanoid robot that briefly appeared in a few U.S. shopping malls two years ago. Hayashi wanted to create a real connection between people and robots. “This is just supporting your heart, our motivation,” he says.

At the Consumer Electronics Show, Technology to Help Survive

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 13:51
This week, visitors to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas are getting a look at the latest technology in TVs, computers, smartwatches and drones. But they are also seeing examples of how tech can be used to help people around the world become more resilient. Michelle Quinn reports.

The Future of Auto Tech: Keeping Drivers Safe, and Entertained

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 13:43
The annual Consumer Electronics Show is underway in Las Vegas. The massive exhibition highlights trends and new products that should change the way we live — in some cases as early as next week, and in others, years in the future. VOA's Kevin Enochs looks at a few of the new technologies that will change the way we drive.

Deere Puts Spotlight on High-tech Farming 

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 09:51
It has GPS, lasers, computer vision, and uses machine learning and sensors to be more efficient. This is the new high-tech farm equipment from John Deere, which made its first Consumer Electronics Show appearance this week to highlight the importance of tech in farming.    Deere brought its massive agricultural combine and GPS-guided tractor to the Las Vegas technology event, making the point that farming is more than sticking a finger up in the air to gauge the weather.    The machines are guided by enhanced GPS data that, according to the company, is accurate to 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) — compared with 3 meters (10 feet) for conventional GPS.    As they work the fields, the machines gather data about soil conditions and monitor how corn and other crops are being harvested to reduce waste and improve efficiency.    "We want consumers to understand how food is grown," said Deere marketing executive Deanna Kovar. "Not only is this machine harvesting the grain, it's harvesting the data, which helps farmers make decisions for next year."    Kovar said the extra electronics add about $10,000 to the cost of the combine, which sells for close to $500,000, and that most buyers take the option.    "You can get a savings of about one to three bushels per acre, so it pays for itself very quickly," she said.

Study: Elderly, Conservatives Shared More Facebook Fakery in 2016 

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 07:09
People over 65 and ultraconservatives shared about seven times more fake information masquerading as news on Facebook than younger adults, moderates and super liberals during the 2016 election season, a new study found.    The first major study to look at who is sharing links from debunked sites found that not many people were doing it. On average, only 8.5 percent of those studied — about 1 person out of 12 — shared false information during the 2016 campaign, according to the study in Wednesday's issue of the journal Science Advances. But those doing it tended to be older and more conservative. "For something to be viral, you've got to know who shares it," said study co-author Jonathan Nagler, a politics professor and co-director of the Social Media and Political Participation Lab at New York University.  "Wow, old people are much more likely than young people to do this."    Battling back Facebook and other social media companies were caught off guard in 2016 when Russian agents exploited their platforms to meddle with the U.S. presidential election by spreading fake news, impersonating Americans and running targeted advertisements to try to sway votes. Since then, the companies have thrown millions of dollars and thousands of people into fighting false information.    Researchers at Princeton University and NYU in 2016 interviewed 2,711 people who used Facebook. Of those, nearly half agreed to share all their postings with the professors.   The researchers used three different lists of false information sites — one compiled by BuzzFeed and two others from academic research teams — and counted how often people shared from those sites. Then to double check, they looked at 897 specific articles that had been found false by fact checkers and saw how often those were spread.    All those lists showed similar trends.    When other demographic factors and overall posting tendencies are factored in, the average person older than 65 shared seven times more false information than those between 18 and 29. The seniors shared more than twice as many fake stories as people between 45 and 64 and more than three times that of people in the 30-to-44-year-old range, said lead study author Andrew Guess, a politics professor at Princeton.    The simplest theory for why older people share more false information is a lack of "digital literacy," said study co-author Joshua Tucker, also co-director of the NYU social media political lab. Senior citizens may not tell truth from lies on social networks as easily as others, the researchers said.  Signaling identity   Harvard public policy and communication professor Matthew Baum, who was not part of the study but praised it, said he thought sharing false information was "less about beliefs in the facts of a story than about signaling one's partisan identity." That's why efforts to correct fakery don't really change attitudes and one reason why few people share false information, he said.    When other demographics and posting practices are factored in, people who called themselves very conservative shared the most false information, a bit more than those who identified themselves as conservative. The very conservatives shared misinformation 6.8 times more often than the very liberals and 6.7 times more than moderates. People who called themselves liberals essentially shared no fake stories, Guess said.   Nagler said he was not surprised that conservatives in 2016 shared more fake information, but he and his colleagues said that did not necessarily mean that conservatives are by nature more gullible when it comes to false stories. It could simply reflect that there was much more pro-Donald Trump and anti-Hillary Clinton false information in circulation in 2016 that it drove the numbers for sharing, they said.    However, Baum said in an email that conservatives post more false information because they tend to be more extreme, with less ideological variation than their liberal counterparts and they take their lead from Trump, who "advocates, supports, shares and produces fake news/misinformation on a regular basis."    The researchers looked at differences in gender, race and income but could not find any statistically significant differences in sharing of false information.    Improvements After much criticism, Facebook made changes to fight false information, including de-emphasizing proven false stories in people's feeds so others were less likely to see them. It seems to be working, Guess said. Facebook officials declined to comment.    "I think if we were to run this study again, we might not get the same results," Guess said.    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Deb Roy, a former Twitter chief media scientist, said the problem is that the American news diet is "full of balkanized narratives" with people seeking information that they agree with and calling true news that they don't agree with fake.    "What a mess," Roy said.

With Farms Atop Malls, Singapore Gets Serious About Food Security 

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 05:11
Visitors to Singapore's Orchard Road, the city's main shopping belt, will find fancy malls, trendy department stores, abundant food courts — and a small farm.    Comcrop's 600-square-meter (6,450-square-foot) farm on the roof of one of the malls uses vertical racks and hydroponics to grow leafy greens and herbs such as basil and peppermint that it sells to nearby bars, restaurants and stores.    The farm's small size belies its big ambition: to help improve the city's food security.    Comcrop's Allan Lim, who set up the rooftop farm five years ago, recently opened a 4,000-square-meter farm with a greenhouse on the edge of the city.    He believes high-tech urban farms are the way ahead for the city, where more land cannot be cultivated.    "Agriculture is not seen as a key sector in Singapore. But we import most of our food, so we are very vulnerable to sudden disruptions in supply," Lim said.    "Land, natural resources and low-cost labor used to be the predominant way that countries achieved food security. But we can use technology to solve any deficiencies," he said.    Singapore last year topped the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) Global Food Security Index of 113 countries for the first time, scoring high on measures such as affordability, availability and safety.    Yet, as the country imports more than 90 percent of its food, its food security is susceptible to climate change and natural resource risks, the EIU noted.    With 5.6 million people in an area three-fifths the size of New York City — and with the population estimated to grow to 6.9 million by 2030 — land is at a premium in Singapore.    The country has long reclaimed land from the sea, and plans to move more of its transport, utilities and storage underground to free up space for housing, offices and greenery.    It has also cleared dozens of cemeteries for homes and highways.   Agriculture makes up only about 1 percent of its land area, so better use of space is key, said Samina Raja, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University at Buffalo in New York.    "Urban agriculture is increasingly being recognized as a legitimate land use in cities," she said. "It offers a multitude of benefits, from increased food security and improved nutrition to greening of spaces. But food is seldom a part of urban planning."    Supply shocks Countries across the world are battling the worsening impacts of climate change, water scarcity and population growth to find better ways to feed their people.    Scientists are working on innovations — from gene editing of crops and lab-grown meat to robots and drones — to fundamentally change how food is grown, distributed and eaten.    With more than two-thirds of the world's population forecast to live in cities by 2050, urban agriculture is critical, a study published last year stated.    Urban agriculture currently produces as much as 180 million metric tons of food a year — up to 10 percent of the global output of pulses and vegetables, the study noted.    Additional benefits, such as reduction of the urban heat-island effect, avoided stormwater runoff, nitrogen fixation and energy savings could be worth $160 billion annually, it said.    Countries including China, India, Brazil and Indonesia could benefit significantly from urban agriculture, it said.    "Urban agriculture should not be expected to eliminate food insecurity, but that should not be the only metric," said study co-author Matei Georgescu, a professor of urban planning at Arizona State University.    "It can build social cohesion among residents, improve economic prospects for growers, and have nutritional benefits. In addition, greening cities can help to transition away from traditional concrete jungles," he said.    Singapore was once an agrarian economy that produced nearly all its own food. There were pig farms and durian orchards, and vegetable gardens and chickens in the kampongs, or villages.    But in its push for rapid economic growth after independence in 1965, industrialization took precedence, and most farms were phased out, said Kenny Eng, president of the Kranji Countryside Association, which represents local farmers.   The global food crisis of 2007-08, when prices spiked, causing widespread economic instability and social unrest, may have led the government to rethink its food security strategy to guard against such shocks, Eng said.    "In an age of climate uncertainty and rapid urbanization, there are merits to protecting indigenous agriculture and farmers' livelihoods," he said.    Local production is a core component of the food security road map, according to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore, a state agency that helps farmers upgrade with technical know-how, research and overseas study tours.    Given its land constraints, AVA has also been looking to unlock more spaces, including underutilized or alternative spaces, and harness technological innovations to "grow more with less," a spokeswoman said by email.    Intrinsic value A visit to the Kranji countryside, just a 45-minute drive from the city's bustling downtown, and where dozens of farms are located, offers a view of the old and the new.    Livestock farms and organic vegetable plots sit alongside vertical farms and climate-controlled greenhouses.    Yet many longtime farmers are fearful of the future, as the government pushes for upgrades and plans to relocate more than 60 farms by 2021 to return land to the military.    Many farms might be forced to shut down, said Chelsea Wan, a second-generation farmer who runs Jurong Frog Farm.    "It's getting tougher because leases are shorter, it's harder to hire workers, and it's expensive to invest in new technologies," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.    "We support the government's effort to increase productivity through technology, but we feel sidelined," she said.    Wan is a member of the Kranji Countryside Association, which has tried to spur local interest in farming by welcoming farmers' markets, study tours, homestays and weddings.    Small peri-urban farms at the edge of the city, like those in Kranji, are not just necessary for food security, Eng said.    "The countryside is an inalienable part of our heritage and nation-building, and the farms have an intrinsic value for education, conservation, the community and tourism," he said.    At the rooftop farm on Orchard Road, Lim looks on as brisk, elderly Singaporeans, whom he has hired to get around the worker shortage, harvest, sort and pack the day's output.    "It's not a competition between urban farms and landed farms; it's a question of relevance," he said. "You have to ask: What works best in a city like Singapore?" 

Experimental App Might Spot Drug Overdoses in Time to Help

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 04:37
Too often people die of an opioid overdose because no one is around to notice they're in trouble. Now scientists are creating a smartphone app that beams sound waves to measure breathing — and summon help if it stops. The app is still experimental. But in a novel test, the Second Chance app detected early signs of overdose in the critical minutes after people injected heroin or other illegal drugs, researchers reported Wednesday. One question is whether most drug users would pull out their phone and switch on an app before shooting up. The University of Washington research team contends it could offer a much-needed tool for people who haven't yet found addiction treatment. "They're not trying to kill themselves — they're addicted to these drugs. They have an incentive to be safe," said Shyamnath Gollakota, an engineering and computer science associate professor whose lab turns regular cellphones into temporary sonar devices. But an emergency room physician who regularly cares for overdose patients wonders how many people would try such a device. "This is an innovative way to attack the problem," said Dr. Zachary Dezman of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who wasn't involved in the research. Still, "I don't know if many folks who use substances are going to have the forethought to prepare," he added. More than 47,000 people in the U.S. died of opioid overdoses in 2017. The drugs suppress breathing but a medicine called naloxone can save victims — if it reaches them in time. Usually, that means someone has to witness the collapse. Dr. Jacob Sunshine, a University of Washington anesthesiologist, notes that people have died with a relative in the next room unaware they were in trouble. How it works The research team settled on cellphones as potential overdose monitors because just about everyone owns one. They designed an app that measures how someone's chest rises and falls to see if they're slipping into the slow, shallow breaths of an overdose or stop breathing completely. How? The software converts the phone's built-in speaker and microphone to send out inaudible sound waves and record how they bounce back. Analyzing the signals shows specific breathing patterns. It won't work inside a pocket, and people would have to stay within 3 feet. The researchers are in the process of making the app capable of dialing for help if a possible overdose is detected. Testing the device They put the experimental gadget to the test at North America's first supervised injection site in Vancouver, British Columbia, where people are allowed to bring in illegal drugs and inject themselves under medical supervision in case of overdose. Study participants agreed to have doctoral student Rajalakshmi Nandakumar place the app-running cellphone nearby during their regularly monitored visit. The software correctly identified breathing problems that could signal an overdose — seven or fewer breaths a minute, or pauses in breathing — 90 percent of the time, the researchers found. Most were near-misses; two of the 94 study participants had to be resuscitated. For a bigger test, the researchers next turned to people who don't abuse drugs but were about to receive anesthesia for elective surgery. Rendering someone unconscious for an operation mimics how an overdose shuts down breathing. Measuring 30 seconds of slowed or absent breathing as those patients went under, the app correctly predicted 19 of 20 simulated overdoses, the researchers reported. The one missed case was a patient breathing slightly faster than the app's cutoff. The findings were reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The researchers have patented the invention and plan to seek Food and Drug Administration approval.

CES: Transportation Secretary Skips Show Amid Government Shutdown

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 00:43
The CES 2019 gadget show is revving up in Las Vegas. Here are the latest findings and observations from Associated Press reporters on the ground. THIS SHOW WON’T GO ON The Trump administration has some ideas about the future of commercial drones and self-driving technology, but it won’t be sharing them at CES this week amid an ongoing partial government shutdown. CES organizers say U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has canceled a planned Wednesday keynote address at the Las Vegas tech conference. Her decision to skip the event came several days after Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and several other scheduled federal government speakers told CES they wouldn’t be coming because of the shutdown. Chao had planned to speak about U.S. policies affecting drones and self-driving vehicles. FRESH BREAD, NO BAKER That smell wafting through the CES show? Freshly baked bread. Wilkinson Baking Co. unveiled a 22-square-foot machine that can bake 10 loaves of bread every hour — no baker needed. But a human is needed to dump the ingredients into the machine, which then mixes them, forms the dough and starts baking. Someone also needs to slice the bread, although the company says it’s working on a way for the machines to do that, too. The BreadBot, as it’s called, is being pitched to supermarkets as a way to deliver fresh bread to shoppers who are increasingly worried about the ingredients in their foods. The machine is covered in glass, so customers can watch bread get made. They then select the loaf they want on a touch screen, sort of like a vending machine. Three local supermarkets are already testing it. The company says a couple of big chains have agreed to try it out soon, but it won’t say which. SMART BRA Is your bra dumb? An underwear company is pitching a solution to an age-old problem for women: finding a bra that actually fits. In the past, women could get help from an expert human in finding their right size. A simple measuring tape wouldn’t do, as it doesn’t reflect other factors such as the shape of a woman’s breasts. But these old-school “bra fitters” are hard to find these days. To address that, a company called Soma has added some circuits to a brassiere and connected it to an app. The Soma Innofit has four lines of circuitry hooked up to a circuit board in the back, which then connects to an app via Bluetooth. The smart $59 bra then recommends a bra — from Soma’s line, of course. The smart bra isn’t meant for regular wearing, though it could be used again if sizes change because of pregnancy or other factors. The company says people who don’t want to buy one can use it at a Soma store. CASH FOR KIDS How do you teach children the value of money when there is no cash around? Pigzbe is offering an electronic cash device with a digital currency called Wollo. It connects to an app that explains how money is earned and spent. Parents can set tasks that children complete to receive Wollo currency. Trouble comes when your kid tries to spend Wollo at a store. The currency needs to be connected to a card to spend as real money in the real world. And to get Pigzbe, parents also have to fork out some real money — $99.

Norway Considering Whether to Exclude Huawei from Building 5G Network

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 23:35
Norway is considering whether to join other western nations in excluding China's Huawei Technologies from building part of the Nordic country's new 5G telecommunications infrastructure, its justice minister said on Wednesday. The Norwegian government is currently discussing measures to reduce potential vulnerabilities in its telecoms industry ahead of the upgrade. State-controlled operator Telenor, which has 173 million subscribers across eight countries in Europe and Asia, signed its first major contract with Huawei in 2009, a deal that helped pave way for the Chinese firm's global expansion. Telenor and competitor Telia currently use 4G Huawei equipment in Norway and are testing equipment from the Chinese company in their experimental 5G networks. "We share the same concerns as the United States and Britain and that is espionage on private and state actors in Norway," Justice Minister Tor Mikkel Wara told Reuters on the sidelines of a business conference. "This question is high priority ... we want to have this in place before we build the next round of the telecom network." Asked whether there could be actions taken against Huawei specifically, Wara said: "Yes, we are considering the steps taken in other countries, that is part of it - the steps taken in the United States and Britain." Huawei said its equipment was secure. "Our customers in Norway have strong security requirements of us and they manage the risk in their operations in a good way," said Tore Orderloekken, Cyber Security Officer at Huawei Norway. "We will continue to be open and transparent and offer extended testing and verification of our equipment to prove that we can deliver secure products in the 5G network in Norway," he told Reuters. In August, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a bill that barred the U.S. government from using Huawei equipment and is mulling an executive order that would also bar U.S. companies from doing so. It is also calling on its allies not to use Huawei equipment when building 5G networks. In Britain, telecoms operator BT is removing Huawei equipment from the core of its existing 3G and 4G mobile operations and will not use the Chinese company for central parts of the next network. Telenor said it was taking security seriously. "Norway has had full control over critical infrastructure for many, many years and we in Telenor take it very seriously," Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke told Reuters.

Global Certainty of Future Cyberattacks Growing

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 23:07
Cyberattacks on elections, public infrastructure and national security are increasingly being seen as the new normal, according to a global survey on cybersecurity. And in some of the world's largest economies, people think their governments are not prepared. The survey of more than 27,000 people across 26 countries conducted by the Pew Research Center found less than half of the respondents, 47 percent, believed their countries are ready to handle a major cyber incident. A median of 74 percent thought it was likely national security information would be accessed.  Sixty-nine percent said they expected public infrastructure to be damaged. And 61 percent expected cyberattacks targeting their country's elections. Israel and Russia ranked as among the most confident populations, with more than two-thirds of survey-takers in those countries saying their governments are prepared for a major cyber incident. The three sub-Saharan African countries in the survey — Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa — were generally optimistic, with more than half of those polled saying their nations were prepared for a cyber incident. Brazil and Argentina were the least confident, with just nine percent of Argentineans responding their government was prepared. In key economies such as Germany and Japan, more than half of the respondents expressed concern they were ill-prepared to deal with cyberattacks. United States The Pew survey found expectations for cyberattacks ran highest in the United States, where there have been more than 100 major cyber incidents since 2006. Almost 80 percent of U.S. respondents expected damage to public infrastructure, breaches of national security information and elections tampering. But while more Americans than not say the country is prepared for cyberattacks, 53 percent to 43 percent, feelings on cyber preparedness changed depending on political affiliation. More than 60 percent of Republicans thought the United States is prepared for cyberattacks as opposed to 47 percent of Democrats. Politics, age The Pew survey detected similar trends in many of the other countries in the survey. In Russia, for example, about 75 percent of those who support President Vladimir Putin are optimistic about handling a cyberattack, compared to 61 percent of non-Putin supporters. The level of concern about cyberattacks also varied according to age. In many of the Western countries surveyed, Pew found older people were likely to be more concerned than younger people. In Sweden, for example, 82 percent of those aged 50 or older feared a cyberattack on infrastructure, compared with 53 percent of those aged 18 to 29. The Pew survey was conducted in-person or via telephone between May 14 and August 12, 2018. The 26 countries surveyed are: United States, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Britain, Russia, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, South Korea, Israel, Tunisia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

CES 2019: Google Brings a Disney-Like Ride to Tech Show

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 14:14
The CES 2019 gadget show opened its doors Tuesday, with tech companies from giants to tiny startups showing off their latest products and services. In recent years, CES's influence has declined as Apple, Google and other major companies throw their own events to launch new wares. Still, more than 180,000 people from about 150 countries are expected to attend. The sprawling event spans 11 official venues, plus scores of unofficial ones throughout Las Vegas. The four-day show in Las Vegas opened after two days of media previews.  Here are the latest findings and observations from Associated Press reporters on the ground. Cutting through the babel Google has transformed CES into a Disney-like theme park - complete with singing animatronic macarons - to showcase new features of its voice-enabled digital assistant. This includes an "interpreter mode'' that enables some of Google's smart home devices to work as a translator. It's being piloted at a hotel concierge desk near the Las Vegas tech conference and rolls out to consumer devices in several weeks.  Voice assistants are getting pretty good at translating speech into text, but it's a thornier challenge in artificial intelligence to enable real-time translation across different languages. Google's new feature expands upon real-time translation services it's rolled out to Android phones and headphones over the past year. This is the second year that Google Assistant had made a huge splash at CES in an effort to outbid Amazon's Alexa as the voice assistant of choice.  Google this year has an amusement park ride that resembles Disney's ``It's a Small World,'' though on a roller-coaster-like train at slow speeds. Talking and singing characters showcase Google's various voice-assistant features as visitors ride along. Google isn't the only CES exhibitor promising the next generation of instant translation. Chinese AI firm iFlytek has been showing of its translation apps and devices that are already popular among Chinese travelers. And at least two startups, New York-based Waverly Labs and China-based TimeKettle, are promoting their earbuds that work as in-ear translation devices. Bring that umbrella IBM is expanding its side job as the world's meteorologist. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty used a keynote address Tuesday to unveil a new global forecasting system that promises more accurate local weather reports in places that never had them before. The computing giant owns The Weather Company, which runs popular weather services including weather.com and the Weather Channel and Weather Underground apps (though not the Weather Channel television network). Those apps provide precise and constantly updating forecasts in places like the U.S. and parts of Europe and Japan, but not in most of the world. IBM says its new forecasting model relies in part on "crowd-sourced'' data - barometric pressure readings from millions of smartphones and sensor readings from passing airplanes.  Weather Company CEO Cameron Clayton says the new system is intended to aid IBM's business providing critical weather data to airlines, energy firms and other industries. But he says it will also have societal benefits, such as helping small farmers in India or parts of Africa yield better crops.  IBM may have trouble persuading some users to agree to transmit atmospheric data to IBM after the city of Los Angeles sued last week to stop the Weather Channel's data-collection practices. The lawsuit alleges that the company uses location information not just to personalize weather but also to track users' every step and profit off that information. The company has denied any impropriety with sharing location data collected from users, saying it does disclose what it does. Samsung wants to bring robots home Up next for Samsung: a robot that can keep its eye on grandma and grandpa. The rolling robot, which talks and has two digital eyes on a black screen, can track medicines they take, measure blood pressure and call 911 if it detects a fall. The company didn't not say when Samsung Bot Care would be available, but brought the robot out on stage Monday at a presentation at CES. Samsung also said it is working on a robot for stores and another for testing and purifying the air in homes. Samsung also unveiled TVs, appliances and other high-tech gizmos - but not a foldable phone it hinted at in November. But a startup called Royole did. The Royole FlexPai smartphone was first shown in November but the California-based company has more details. The phone will have a 7.8-inch display that can be folded like a wallet, priced at more than $1,300. Star delight Sony brought some star power to CES with a visit from musician Pharrell Williams, straight from trip to Anguilla. The star of hit songs such as "Happy'' came to talk about a mostly secret project that he and Sony are supposedly undertaking. But in the end, it was clearly an attempt by Sony to sprinkle some stardust on launches for TVs and other products. "I was a little bit worried that he was still on holiday, but he is here,'' Sony Music head Rob Stringer told the crowd.

Vietnam Says Facebook Violated Controversial Cybersecurity Law

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 12:15
Facebook has violated Vietnam's new cybersecurity law by allowing users to post anti-government comments on the platform, state media said on Wednesday, days after the controversial legislation took effect in the communist-ruled country. Despite economic reforms and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam's Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate dissent. "Facebook had reportedly not responded to a request to remove fan pages provoking activities against the state," the official Vietnam News Agency said, citing the Ministry of Information and Communication. Facebook did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment. The ministry said Facebook also allowed personal accounts to upload posts containing "slanderous" content, anti-government sentiment and defamation of individuals and organizations, the agency added. "This content had been found to seriously violate Vietnam's Law on cybersecurity" and government regulations on the management, provision and use of internet services, it quoted the ministry as saying. Global technology companies and rights groups have earlier said the cybersecurity law, which took effect on Jan. 1 and includes requirements for technology firms to set up local offices and store data locally, could undermine development and stifle innovation in Vietnam. Company officials have privately expressed concerns that the new law could make it easier for the authorities to seize customer data and expose local employees to arrest. Facebook had refused to provide information on "fraudulent accounts" to Vietnamese security agencies, the agency said in Wednesday's report. The information ministry is also considering taxing Facebook for advertising revenue from the platform. The report cited a market research company as saying $235 million was spent on advertising on Facebook in Vietnam in 2018, but that Facebook was ignoring its tax obligations there. In November, Vietnam said it wanted half of social media users on domestic social networks by 2020 and plans to prevent "toxic information" on Facebook and Google.

The Latest Drone Technology Helps Keep an Oyster Farm Thriving

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 11:42
As marine farming grows worldwide, there is an urgent need to study the effects—both positive and negative—on the local ecosystems. Deana Mitchell visits Tomales Bay in Northern California where researchers are using the latest drone technology to investigate.

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