XRDS: News Archive 2019
BLUE ORIGIN PLANS TO LAUNCH A BOOSTER THAT HAS LAUNCHED FIVE TIMES
December 13, 2019 — Blue Origin, a sub-orbital spaceflight services company founded by Jeff Bezos, is scheduled to launch it's New Shepard rocket from the company's West Texas launch facility. The launch involves a reusable booster that was previousl launched five times; this current launch will be the booster's sixth flight. Blue Origin aims to deliver several scientific experiments and thousands of postcards from children to space with this launch. Read more here.
AI POWERED ROBOT LAUNCHED TO ISS
December 12, 2019 — The Crew Interactive Mobile Companion 2 (CIMON 2), an AI-powered spherical droid, was recently launched aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket en route to the International Space Station(ISS). The robot is equipped with microphones and cameras to help astronauts conduct scientific experiments and help mitigate groupthink. CIMON 2 relies on algorithms developed by IBM to recognize the emotions of crew members onboard the ISS. Read more here.
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION PROBING FACEBOOK'S ACQUISITIONS
August 12, 2019 — According to a Wall Street Journal report, the United States Federal Trade Commission(FTC) is probing whether Facebook bought technology-based startups like WhatsApp and Instagram to prevent them from becoming a threat. Facebook has acknowledged that the FTC had opened an antitrust investigation against them in June. Facebook has purchased nearly 90 companies since 2003. Their shares fell 0.77% following the publication of the Wall Street Journal report. Read more here.
FACEBOOK WORKING WITH ACADEMIA TO ALLOW USERS TO TYPE WITH THEIR BRAINS
August 11, 2019 — Facebook has been working with many universities including the University of California in San Francisco to study if electrodes implanted in the brain could help decode speech from brainwaves in real-time. A study with epilepsy patients showed that impulses detected by electrodes in the brain could be converted instantly to words or phrases by analyzing brain activity. The study used a set of predetermined questions with a limited set of answers to illustrate the brain-computer interface. Facebook had first presented the idea of a noninvasive device to detect brainwaves and convert them into words at a rate of 100 words per minute at their 2017 developer conference, F8. Read more here.
WHISTLEBLOWER CLAIMS APPLE CONTRACTORS HEAR CONFIDENTIAL DETAILS FROM SIRI
August 5, 2019 — Contractors working on quality control for Apple's Siri voice assistant regularly hear confidential details about users, according to a whistleblower working for the firm. Contractors grade Siri's responses on a variety of factors, such as whether the activation of the voice assistant was deliberate or accidental. However, this is not explicitly disclosed by Apple in its privacy documentation. According to Apple, user requests are not associated with the user's Apple ID and that less than 1% of daily Siri activations are used for grading. Read more here.
LINKEDIN SECURITY BUG ALLOWS MAN TO POST AN OFFICIAL-LOOKING JOB OPENING FOR GOOGLE CEOLINKEDIN SECURITY BUG ALLOWS MAN TO POST AN OFFICIAL-LOOKING JOB OPENING FOR GOOGLE CEO
July 30, 2019 — Michel Rijnders, a recruiter, discovered a security loophole that allowed him to post job openings for CEOs of LinkedIn and Google on LinkedIn without any association or permission. Posting a job opening usually requires a premium subscription, but Michel was able to post it for free. LinkedIn later responded by removing the post and stating that they were working to resolve the issue. Read more here.
MIT BUILDS BOAT ROBOTS THAT CAN SELF-ASSEMBLE TO BUILD BRIDGES
June 17, 2019 — Researchers at MIT have built a new autonomous robot boat prototype that can collaborate and self-assemble to create new structures. The Roboats, as the researchers call them, can also act as autonomous water taxis. Each roboat is equipped with sub-aquatic thrusters, GPS, cameras, and a central processing unit. Read more here.
NEW MACHINE LEARNING TECHNIQUE REDUCES MULTIMEDIA FILE SIZE
June 14, 2019 — Researchers have developed a new machine learning technique that can reduce the size of multimedia files and restore them without losing much quality or information. The iterative refinement algorithm uses a recurrent neural network to compress and restore data. The images restored by the new algorithm had better quality than a compression system designed by Google. Read more here.
RESEARCHERS BUILD A HUMMINGBIRD ROBOT
May 23, 2019 — Researchers at Purdue University have built a flying robot that mimics the behavior of a hummingbird. The robot uses machine learning to learn the real bird's various techniques. The robot can't see but can sense surfaces when it touches them. The ability to sense surfaces allows the robot to create a map of its surrounding, which could help the robot to detect specific objects in the dark. Read more here.
SAN FRANCISCO BANS USE OF FACIAL RECOGNITION TECH BY THE AUTHORITIES
May 20, 2019 — San Francisco has banned the use of facial recognition technology by police and other agencies. The city's police used the technology to identify suspects involved in criminal activities. San Francisco is the first major American city to place such a ban. The first vote approved the ban by an 8-to-1 majority, an obligatory second vote will be held in coming weeks. Multiple cities and states across the US are considering such bans. Read more here.
RESEARCHERS BUILD MOST PRODUCTIVE SOLAR-POWERED HYDROGEN GENERATOR
May 10, 2019 — Researchers have developed a 5-centimeter-square hydrogen generator that runs on solar energy. The device splits oxygen and hydrogen in a water-based electrolyte to generate clean-burning hydrogen gas. It was able to generate about 47 liters of hydrogen over six sunlit hours in laboratory tests. Read more here.
APPLE PATENTS IN-DISPLAY FINGERPRINT THAT COULD RECORD HEALTH VITALS
May 8, 2019 — The US Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple a patent titled "Methods of biometric imaging of input surfaces." The patent describes an imaging system that uses an acoustic transducer to convert electrical signals into mechanical energy and vice versa. The acoustic imaging system can be used to map a biometric of something like a fingerprint. The system will allow authentication, not just via fingerprints, but even through the user's palm, ear, cheek or face. The technology is described to be capable of recording vitals of a person like heart and respiration rates. Read more here.
NASA'S INSIGHT LANDER DETECTS MARSQUAKE
April 29, 2019 — NASA's Insight lander has detected a faint tremble on Mar's surface. The 'marsquake' detected by Insight is the first to be detected on a planetary body other than Earth or the Moon. The quake could be caused by a meteorite crash or seismic activity inside Mars. Read more here.
SCIENTISTS SIMULATE GEOMAGNETIC ANOMALIES
April 27, 2019 — Scientists at l’Institut de physique du globe de Paris (CNRS/IPGP/IGN/Université de Paris) have successfully created a computer model for rapid and intense anomalies in the Earth's magnetic field. The model was created with the help of supercomputers. It simulates the physical conditions of the Earth's core. Researchers were able to reproduce the succession of events leading the intense changes in the geomagnetic field. The model used by researchers could help geophysicists study the physical properties of the Earth's core and inner mantle. Read more here.
RESEARCHERS DEVELOP A TECHNIQUE THAT REDUCES AI TRAINING TIME BY 60 PERCENT
April 15, 2019 — Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a technique that reduces training time for deep learning networks by more than 60 percent. The technique, called Adaptive Deep Reuse, can cut down on training time by up to 69 percent without accuracy loss. It reduces learning time by identifying similarities in data points and applying the same filtering results across those data points. Read more here.
ASTRONOMERS CAPTURE THE FIRST PICTURE OF A BLACK HOLE
April 12, 2019 — A worldwide network of telescopes called the Event Horizon Telescope captured the first-ever image of a supermassive black hole. The black hole is located in the M87 galaxy, which is 500 million trillion km away from Earth. The black hole has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. The appearance of the black hole's shadow in the image aligns with the predictions of Einstein's general theory of relativity. Watch the National Science Foundation's conference here.
GOOGLE MAPS LETS USERS PLAY SNAKE ON APRIL FOOL'S DAY
April 3, 2019 — Google added a customized version of the classic game Snakes in the Google Maps app for April Fool's Day. The game is available for Android and iOS users. The game will remain available for the rest of the week. Read more here.
APPLE CANCELS AIRPOWER
April 2, 2019 — Apple canceled its AirPower project citing difficulty in meeting its own standards. AirPower was originally announced in 2017. Reports suggest that the AirPower devices would get too hot due to the close proximity of the 3D charging coils. Apple said in a statement they still believe the future is wireless and the company is committed to pushing the wireless experience forward. Read more here.
VOLVO'S CARE KEY WILL ALLOW SETTING OF SPEED LIMITS ON CARS
March 26, 2019 — Volvo announced that starting with the model year 2021, all new cars will come with a "Care Key." This will allow owners to set a speed limit attached to the key. The top speed of newer cars will also be capped at 112 miles per hour or 180 kilometers per hour. The company also plans to use cameras and sensors to detect drunk and distracted driving. Read more here.
YOUTUBE STRUGGLED TO SHUT DOWN NEW ZEALAND SHOOTING VIDEO
March 25, 2019 — A video of the attack on two mosques in New Zealand, recorded by the alleged perpetrator, was uploaded across social media websites including YouTube on the day of the attack. YouTube engaged a team, internally known as "incident commanders," to prevent the spreading of this footage on the website. The team removed tens of thousands of videos identified as a repackaged version of the original footage. YouTube also disabled several search functions and used an automated flagging system to remove these videos. However, newer clips were altered in a way that outsmarted the detection systems. The videos were being uploaded as fast as one upload per second in the hours following the shooting. YoutTube's chief product officer acknowledged that while the situation was mostly brought under control in about 24 hours, the broader challenges were far from resolved. Read more here.
CHICAGO'S COOLER SCREENS DEVELOPS REFRIGERATOR DISPLAYS WITH A FACIAL-PROFILING SYSTEM
March 16, 2019 — A Chicago based company named "Cooler Screens" has developed a facial-profiling system that consists of refrigerator displays with cameras. The LCD screens on the refrigerators display images of items inside along with animated ads. The facial-profiling system uses images from the camera to gather information about the buyer and decides which ads to show. The cameras also detect the products the customer is looking at on the screen. Read more here.
21 LEADING UNIVERSITIES FORM 'PUBLIC INTEREST TECHNOLOGY UNIVERSITY NETWORK'
March 14, 2019 — The leading universities in the US, including Arizona State University, City University of New York, Harvard University, Howard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, have announced the formation of a new organization called the "Public Interest Technology University Network." The objective of the new network is to train the next generation of professionals to develop, regulate and use technology for the public good. The organization aims to cultivate public interest and consideration in academic disciplines like computer science, law, and sociology. Read more here.
IBM ACHIEVES BEST EVER PERFORMANCE IN A QUANTUM COMPUTER
March 10, 2019 — IBM has achieved the best ever performance on a recently unveiled 20-qubit quantum computer called the IBM Q System One. The performance of the computer was measured using the Quantum Volume metric that accounts for gate and measurement errors, device cross talk, and circuit software compile efficiency. According to IBM, the results mean performance has doubled every year since 2017. Read more here.
SPACEX'S CREW DRAGON SUCCESSFULLY DOCKS TO THE ISS
March 5, 2019 — SpaceX's Crew Dragon autonomously docked on the port of ISS. The Crew Dragon was launched on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The capsule used a series of lasers, sensors, and software to accomplish the docking maneuver. The docking was a critical part of the capsule's ongoing test flight. Read more here.
SCIENTISTS CALL FOR A BAN ON DEVELOPMENT OF AI DRIVEN WEAPONS
February 24, 2019 — Scientists at the American Association for Advancement of Science meeting are pressing for an international treaty to ban development of weapons controlled by artificial intelligence(AI). 89 non-governmental organizations from 50 countries have started a Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Scientists and experts argue that autonomous weapons may fail in unpredictable ways and kill unintended targets like innocent civilians. Read more here.
NASA ENDS OPPORTUNITY ROVER MISSION ON MARS
February 22, 2019 — NASA has decided to conclude its 15-year long Opportunity rover mission on Mars. The rover stopped communicating with Earth following a massive dust storm in June 2018. Since then, NASA sent over a thousand commands to the rover trying to restore contact. On February 12, 2019, the space agency sent a last command attempting to restore communication and revive the rover, but the rover did not respond. Initially, the mission was supposed to last 90 Martian days, but the rover surpassed all expectations and the mission lasted for 15 years in which the rover traveled more than 28 miles. The rover's final resting spot on Mars is in a valley named Perseverance Valley. Read more here.
INSTAGRAM BUG AFFECTING FOLLOWER COUNTS
February 17, 2019 — A new bug is affecting follower counts on Instagram, the Facebook-owned social networking platform. Users who noticed the bug assumed that the fall in follower counts was the result of Instagram's effort at removing inactive and fake accounts, but Instagram later confirmed that it was a bug. A recent Twitter bug also led to incorrect Like counts on tweets. Read more here.
RUSSIA CONSIDERING BRIEF DISCONNECTION FROM THE INTERNET
February 16, 2019 — Russia is considering whether to briefly disconnect from the global Internet as part of its cyber-defense test. During the test, the data of Russian citizens and organizations will stay within Russia rather than being routed internationally. The test is expected to happen before April. Russia has also introduced a draft law in its parliament that requires Russia's Internet Service Providers to ensure that the country's network can operate even if foreign powers attempt to isolate the country online. Read more here.
SCIENTIFIC PUBLISHING ADOPTING BLOCKCHAIN
February 9, 2019 — ScienceMatters, an open-access publishing platform, is developing a peer-review process based on blockchain. A blockchain is a public, tamper-proof, and distributed database. A number of new scientific tools are offering blockchain simple ways to manage collaborations, establish precedence, and publish early results. ScienceMatters plans to use blockchain to promote transparency. It is adopting a triple-blind peer-review process called Eureka, which is powered by Ethereum, a popular blockchain platform. Read more here.
APPLE TO ISSUE UPDATE FIXING FACETIME PRIVACY BUG
February 7, 2019 — Apple said that it has fixed the bug that allowed users to hear the audio of a person they were calling before the person answered the call. The company had turned off the FaceTime group chat feature as its engineers worked to fix the issue. The issue has been fixed on Apple's servers and will be turned on for users soon. Read more here.
APPLE'S AIRPODS 2 TO SUPPORT HANDS-FREE SIRI VOICE COMMANDS
January 30, 2019 — Apple's next AirPods will support 'Hey Siri' voice commands. The recently released iOS 12.2 beta includes a setup interface for 'Hey Siri' commands on AirPods. According to some reports, the newer AirPods will also come with health-monitoring features, noise cancellation, water resistance, and extended wireless range. Read more here.
FACEBOOK TO INTEGRATE WHATSAPP, INSTAGRAM, AND MESSENGER
January 29, 2019 — Facebook plans to integrate its messaging services on WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger. All three services will be linked such that messages can travel between the different services. Facebook has already started to work on the integration, and it is expected to be completed by the end of 2019 or early 2020. Read more here.
FIRST PLANT ON MOON DEAD
January 26, 2019 — The cotton plants, grown by China's Chang'e 4 lander on the Moon, have died. The Chinse space agency had managed to grow cotton sprouts inside a container as a part of the lunar mini-biosphere experiment aboard the lander. The plants were grown in a container that was specifically designed to maintain humidity, air, water and nutrient levels for plant growth. After about 213 hours since the experiment begun, the plants died as they were not able to survive the freezing temperatures on the lunar surface. Read more here.
SAN DIEGO'S SMART STREETLIGHT NETWORK BEGINS DATA GATHERING
January 23, 2019 — San Diego has been rolling out a network of smart streetlights since early 2018. The city has already set up 2,000 sensor-laden streetlights that are designed to capture images, sounds, and pedestrian and traffic data. The collected data will be used to improve city design and traffic flow management. Officials are also exploring possibilities such as using the streetlights to locate gunshots, track airport noise, or monitor air quality. Read more here.
RESEARCHERS DEVELOP POCKET-SIZED FOOD SCANNER
January 11, 2019 — Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, the System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB, the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV, the Deggendorf Institute of Technology and the Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences have developed a prototype of a pocket-sized food scanner that enables estimation of food shelf life. The scanner uses small and low-cast near-infrared sensors to measure the ripeness of the food and identify its composition. But, the scanner can only evaluate the quality of homogenous foods. Read more here.
GERMAN POLITICIANS' DATA LEAKED
January 8, 2019 — In a massive data leak, personal data and documents of German public figures, including Chancellor Angela Merkel's, have been published online. According to the German government, the breach was a result of wrongful use of log-in information on online accounts and no government computer system was compromised. The data was published on a Twitter account and included addresses, personal letters, and copies of identity cards. Read more here.