Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for April 25th, 2017

Waymo trials free self-driving taxi service in Phoenix

Posted by kenmay on April - 25 - 2017

Enlarge / One of the earliest self-driving trial families pose with Waymo’s minivan. (credit: Waymo) Waymo—Alphabet’s self-driving car division—is launching a “trial” of a self-driving taxi service in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area. The Google spinoff’s fleet of self-driving cars is descending on Phoenix and offering free rides to anyone in its “early rider program,” which is currently accepting new members . The taxi service is not totally “self-driving.” Waymo notes that “as part of this early trial, there will be a test driver in each vehicle monitoring the rides at all times.” While the car will handle most of the driving duties, a driver will ensure nothing goes wrong if the car runs into a situation it can’t handle. While the trial will offer free rides to Phoenix residents, it will also serve as a research program for Waymo. The company’s blog post say it wants to “learn things like where people want to go in a self-driving car, how they communicate with our vehicles, and what information and controls they want to see inside.” To handle the load of a city-wide taxi service, Waymo is building 500 more of its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans , bring the total minivan fleet to 600. The minivans represent the latest in Waymo’s technology. In a recent talk at the North American International Auto Show, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said the vehicles would be the launch platform for Waymo’s “full-stack approach,” which combined Waymo’s software with a ” fully integrated hardware suite ” that is “all designed and built, from the ground up, by Waymo.” Most self-driving car programs stick to developing software using Velodyne’s LiDAR hardware . Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The technology of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek looked so far forward it could almost have been used as a visual aide to Arthur C. Clarke’s third law: technology so advanced, it’s indistinguishable from magic. Despite the fictional technological magic of transporters, replicators and warp drive, Qualcomm saw enough potential in the show’s medical tricorder to challenge the world to build one . Now, the Tricorder XPrize finally has a winner in Final Frontier Medical Devices’ DxtER. The result isn’t so much an all-in-one scanner as collection of noninvasive medical-diagnosis gadgets. Even so, its creators claim the DxtER package is better than Star Trek’s fictional tricorder. That isn’t to say that DxtER does more than the show’s magical medical scanner — unlike Star Trek’s tricorder, the winning XPrize entry is actually a small collection of specialized and smart medical devices that interact with the user’s tablet. This includes a compact spirometer that can measure the strength of a patient’s lungs, a Mono test kit, medical-grade heartrate and respiration monitors, and devices like the DxtER Orb, which doubles as a thermometer and stethoscope. These devices can’t scan patients at a microscopic level like Star Trek’s device, but Basil Leaf technology co-founder George Harris says it improves on the show’s tricorder in one key area: It’s designed for patients to use themselves. “One of the things about the tricorder in the show is that it always needed a doctor to interpret the results, ” Harris told Engadget, explaining that DxtER’s companion app helps users understand the medical data DxtER collects. “Our tricorder has the doctor built-in, so it’s both the tricorder and Dr. McCoy together.” He’s not wrong, both from a practical and narrative perspective — characters on Star Trek often didn’t fully understand what a medical scan meant unless the doctor explained it to them. Likewise, the average patient can’t accurately diagnose herself even if she has access to a wealth of medical knowledge. Just ask any hypochondriac with a WebMD addiction. Giving consumers the ability to diagnose themselves at home sounds nice, but it’s bigger than that. Harris says Basil Leaf and Final Frontier Medical Devices are working to make sure every component of the DxtER tricorder kit is FDA-approved — meaning results compiled in the kit’s app could be used by doctors with no need to rerun the same tests at the hospital. “You can take those results and take them to the ER or to your physician or whoever’s helping you, and they can build off those results, ” Harris explained. “They don’t have to start back at square one — they can jump off at that point and move on with their health care.” A consumer version is still probably years away, but Harris says the group is using the $2.5 million it received from winning the XPrize competition to help fund a 500-patient clinical trial, a key step to getting the suite of gadgets approved for use in the US and putting a “Dr. McCoy” in every home that wants one. But Harris is careful to point out that the device isn’t designed to replace a visit to the doctor’s office. “We’re not trying to replace physicians, ” he says. “We’re trying to help you, the consumer, understand their health care and also help those physicians make better decisions for those consumers.”

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50 armed men in camou flak jackets driving armored cars cordoned off the roads leading to a transportation company’s office in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay (a “smugglers’ haven in the border region with Brazil and Argentina”), blew the entire face of the building up with demolition equipment, stole an estimated $40M and escaped by motorboat up the Panama River. (more…)

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Bridgestone’s Non-Pneumatic Bicycle Tires

Posted by kenmay on April - 25 - 2017

Remember Ron Arad’s bicycle designed with sprung-steel wheels ? Arad’s crazy idea worked, though no bicycle manufacturer pursued the concept. In the years since, however, non-pneumatic tire designs have slowly become a reality for ATV s and John Deere mowers , and now Bridgestone reckons they might work for bicycles too. Previously Bridgestone had developed non-pneumatic tire concepts for four-wheeled vehicles, but this month they’ve announced they’re porting their ” Air Free Concept ” over to two-wheelers. The “Air Free Concept” is a technology that eliminates the need for tires to be inflated with air to support the weight, using a unique structure of spokes stretching along the inner sides of tires. In addition, the resins that are used in the spokes and rubbers help realize more efficient use of resources. Bridgestone Corporation and Bridgestone Cycle adapted the “Air Free Concept” to develop bicycle tires without punctures. The high flexibility for design granted by resin has also enabled proposals of next-generation bicycles which have never been seen before. Regarding that last sentence, we’re curious to see what these proposals are, but the company has opted not to include any information on them. If you were designing a bicycle meant to incorporate these tires, what would you do differently? Lastly I’ll say: Vandalism still being a problem here in New York, if you had one of these in Manhattan I think you’d never not find someone had stuffed garbage in between those spokes. The bright orange is just crying out for someone to mess with it.

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Chain mail was an essential tool for medieval warriors hoping to avoid a quick (or slow) death by a sword. But NASA engineers hope a similar material , with a few modern upgrades, could prove to be just as useful for spacecraft and astronauts looking to survive the rigors of outer space. Read more…

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Enlarge (credit: Enesse Bhé ) Antivirus provider Webroot is causing a world of trouble for customers. A signature update just nuked hundreds of benign files needed to run Microsoft Windows, as well as apps that run on top of the operating system. Social media sites ignited on late Monday afternoon with customers reporting that servers and computers alike stopped working as a result of the mishap. The admin and security pundit who goes by the Twitter handle SwiftOnSecurity told Ars that, at the company he or she worked for, the false positive quarantined “several hundred” files used by Windows Insider Preview. Hundreds of “line of business” apps, such as those that track patient appointments or manage office equipment, suffered the same fate. Webroot was also flagging Facebook as a phishing site. As this post was going live, Webroot’s cloud-based system for issuing commands to clients was unable to revert the quarantined files. Officials have yet to confirm they would be able to revert all the bad determinations. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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HipChat resets all passwords after hackers break in

Posted by kenmay on April - 25 - 2017

Today, Hipchat alerted its users that someone broke into one of its servers through a vulnerability in a third-party library. The chat service saw no evidence that other Atlassian systems or products like Jira or Trello were affected, but they’re forcing every user to reset their HipChat-connected account password as a precaution. According to the service’s blog post , the attacker might have gotten access to user information (including name, email and hashed password) of anyone using HipChat.com. There’s been no sign that over 99 percent of users’ messages or room content was compromised, though the attacker could have accessed that portion’s metadata. A small fraction (.05 percent) of instances might have been wide open to the hacker, who would have been able to see correspondence and content. Fortunately, no evidence has suggested that the attacker has accessed anyone’s financial or credit card information. “While HipChat Server uses the same third-party library, it is typically deployed in a way that minimizes the risk of this type of attack, ” the blog post said, but the service will roll a security update out for Hipchat Server just to be sure. Source: HipChat

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