Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for August 21st, 2017

An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch: Microsoft announced today that its conversational speech recognition system has reached a 5.1% error rate, its lowest so far. This surpasses the 5.9% error rate reached last year by a group of researchers from Microsoft Artificial Intelligence and Research and puts its accuracy on par with professional human transcribers who have advantages like the ability to listen to text several times. Both studies transcribed recordings from the Switchboard corpus, a collection of about 2, 400 telephone conversations that have been used by researchers to test speech recognition systems since the early 1990s. The new study was performed by a group of researchers at Microsoft AI and Research with the goal of achieving the same level of accuracy as a group of human transcribers who were able to listen to what they were transcribing several times, access its conversational context and work with other transcribers. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Replacement screens can be used to hijack your phone

Posted by kenmay on August - 21 - 2017

A new study has shown that one of the most common fixes to a stock smartphone ailment can be used to steal your data, and compromise your device. In the newly published paper, researchers from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev reveal how a replacement screen can easily be altered to override your mobile. By embedding a malicious integrated chip within a third-party touchscreen, the research team were able to manipulate the communications system on a Huawei Nexus 6P and LG G Pad 7.0. This essentially allowed them to record keyboard inputs, snap pictures of the user and forward them via email, install apps, and direct the user to phishing websites. A second class of attack also saw them exploit vulnerabilities in the handset’s operating system kernel. Scariest of all, the researchers claim these hazardous screens can be made to look identical to the real thing — meaning even handset technicians may not be able to distinguish the difference. Furthermore, the entire process is file-less, allowing it to go undetected by anti-virus software. This type of low-cost attack is known as the “chip-in-the-middle” scenario. To carry out their malicious tasks, the researchers used an Arduino platform running on an ATmega328 micro-controller module. They also used an STM32L432 micro-controller, adding that most other micro-controllers could also do the job. They then used a hot air blower to separate the touchscreen controller from the main assembly boards, in order to access its copper pads. Next, they soldered a copper wire to attach their chips to the device. Although this set-up looks far from inconspicuous, the team claims a little more effort could easily hide the altered part within a reassembled device. It’s not just Android phones that are at risk either. The paper also indicates that iPhones could fall prey to the same types of attacks. Source: Yossi Oren

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Earlier this year, we didn’t expect much from Intel’s upcoming eighth-generation Core processors. But at Computex in May, the company surprised us all by revealing they’ll be 30 percent faster than last year’s chips. That alone would have been notable, but now Intel is making an even bolder claim: They’re actually 40 percent speedier. At least, that’s the case for one of its laptop chips when running through the Sysmark benchmark. And when it comes to five-year-old computers — the kind Intel expects the majority of consumers to upgrade from — they’re twice as fast at productivity tasks. So how did Intel manage this feat? For the first time, it managed to cram four CPU cores into its U-series chips, which have typically been intended for ultraportable laptops and hybrid devices. To go quad-core with the company’s previous chips, you’d have to step up to its H-series CPUs, which are designed for more performance-focused notebooks. Additionally, Intel managed to squeeze another 500MHz of Turbo Boost performance into the chips, allowing them to reach speeds up to 4.2GHz. Whereas last year’s seventh-generation CPUs were focused on improving 4K performance, the upcoming offerings will feature far more raw performance. The eighth-generation Core family for ultraportables ranges from the i5-8250U, with speeds between 1.6GHz and 3.4GHz, and the i7-8650U, clocking from 1.9GHz to 4.2GHz. They’re all quad-core chips, but as usual, you can expect better performance from the i7 lineup. As for other notable stats, Intel claims the 8250U can encode a 4K video 14.7 times faster than a five-year-old PC running a comparable chip. In real-world terms, the eighth-gen chip converted the 4K clip in three minutes, compared to 45 minutes with its third-gen sibling. Unsurprisingly, then, the older your computer is, the bigger performance jump you’ll notice. Despite having more power under the hood, Intel says the new CPUs won’t be a step backwards when it comes to battery life. Unfortunately, there’s nothing really pushing battery life forward either. Its current benchmarks indicate that laptops running these chips should feature around 10 hours of battery life when playing 4K video. That’s pretty much the same as before. To be fair, though, last year’s chips also reclaimed some battery life with more efficient 4K performance. Intel is basically following through with its typical game plan: Release a new batch of chips for ultraportables, and then ramp things up on the desktop end. With quad-core performance, we might finally be able to see ultraportable notebooks that can go toe to toe with last year’s beefier machines. And the company continues to look ahead as well. During a private briefing, I got a chance to see a few device prototypes that looked nothing like PCs we have today. I can’t say much about them, but overall, they made it clear that Intel isn’t just planning to coast on traditional PCs forever. You can expect the first batch of laptops with eighth-generation Intel CPUs in September. Desktop models will follow later in the fall. Looking ahead even further into next year, the company expects to release its first 10-nanometer chips as part of this generation as well.

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Watch hard candies get made on a candy press from 1871

Posted by kenmay on August - 21 - 2017

Producing hard candy in bulk still required a lot of skill in Victorian times, as Lofty Pursuits demonstrated by making cinnamon hearts on this hard candy press from 1871. (moreā€¦)

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Prisma hopes to market its AI photo filtering tech

Posted by kenmay on August - 21 - 2017

Prisma’s machine learning photography app may not be as hot as it was in 2016 , but that doesn’t mean it’s going away. If the developer has its way, you’ll see its technology in many places before long. The company tells The Verge that it’s shifting its focus from just its in-house app to marketing numerous computer vision tools based on its AI technology, ranging from object recognition to face mapping and detecting the foreground in an image. In theory, you’d see Prisma’s clever processing find its way into your next phone or a favorite social photography app. The Prisma app is staying put, to be clear — it has 5 million to 10 million monthly users, which is no mean feat for a small startup. It just won’t be the sole focus. There’s no mention of initial customers, but Facebook likely isn’t in the running given that it already riffed on the photo filtering concept soon after Prisma became popular. Not that Prisma is averse to dealing with its erstwhile rival. Co-founder Alexey Moiseenkov visited Facebook in 2016, and other founder Aram Airapetyan said it “doesn’t matter” who Prisma works with, so long as it can pursue its technology. Don’t be surprised if its technology is interesting enough that a larger company eventually decides that it eventually needs to snap up all of Prisma, rather than paying for a toolkit. Source: Prisma Labs

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