News Roundup: March 13

Here’s a fresh roundup of some of the latest tech hardware news for your perusal.

Autonomous and connected vehicles

California permits for autonomous testing more than double (Financial Times)
The Golden State granted autonomous vehicle testing permits to two new companies, bringing the total number of companies licensed to test to 27, which is more than double from the previous year. 77 of a total of 180 permitted cars are in Waymo’s fleet.

Uber’s head of AI Labs steps down (Venture Beat)
Just four months after its AI Lab was created, Uber’s Gary Marcus has stepped down as its head.

Uber gets California permit for autonomous vehicle testing and promises to stop greyballing (NBC)
After having one of its autonomous cars run six red lights and its A.V. testing program shut down in California because it failed to get proper permits, Uber has finally filed in California for permits, paving the way for re-entry into the state. It also stated its promise to cease its internal “greyballing” system it used to evade law enforcement and state regulators.

Chinese-backed NIO to bring autonomous car to U.S. by 2020 (Fortune)
NIO premiered its concept autonomous vehicle NIO EVE at SXSW and announced it would be bringing an autonomous electric car to the U.S. market by 2020. It will be collaborating with Mobileye, Nvidia and NXP Semiconductors. The company said the vehicle would be able to handle all driving in most conditions including if the drive is unresponsive.

Volkswagen unveils its first concept car autonomous vehicle (Ars Technica)
Volkswagen unveiled its first fully autonomous vehicle, naming it Sedric. The company says they plan to have it have level 5 autonomy with no human driver required, no steering wheel, no pedals, no conventional cockpit controls or instruments and controlled only by voice command. The company says it wants to be the market leader in e-mobility by 2018 and will launch 20 more electric vehicles by 2020.

In case you need a refresher on what the levels of A.V. autonomy mean, Tech Republic has a good breakdown of the scale originally created by Society of Automotive Engineers and adopted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


VR’s capapctiy to increase empathy
Upload write on how the immersiviness of VR have the potential to help inrease users’ empahty and looks at some of the ways humanitarian organizations have already begun to use the medium to help others understand real-world issues.

Playstation VR game The Persistence offers new take on social interaction for VR (Engadget)
Stimulating social interaction with a medium that lends itself towards solo play is an often-discussed topic in the industry. The Persistence offers a new possibility by letting VR players and their non-headsetted friends play together, offering a mobile companion app that lets nearby friends see the game map so they can guide the VR player to safety and items, or as is beloved gamer custom, troll them to death.

Lingering design issues VR games still grappling with (
Daniel Starkey writes about some of the lingering issues facing VR following the Virtual Reality Developers Conference, including enough game design that has enough movement to be engaging without making people nauseous or disoriented.

Smart Living

Smart homes used in court (Tech Crunch)
Tech Crunch takes a deeper-dive analysis of some of the legal issues surrounding smart home devices in connection with one of the first legal test cases of smart home devices, the murder trial involving Amazon’s Alexa data. Amazon recently relinquished the data to the court after the defendant gave his permission to release it.

Nest developing at least three new home devices (Business Insider)
Nest will be updating and expanding its product range, including a new home-security alarm system with window and door sensors, a key fob for controlling alarms and a smart doorbell with a camera, a new leaf for the company following its acquisition by Alphabet and CEO Tony Fadell’s resignation.

Panasonic displays smart home prototype devices at SXSW (Tech Hive)
Panasonic showed show attendees prototype products including a dry-cleaning machine, TV media player and home-fermenting machine.

Smart home device companies weigh voice-control versus text control (The Express Tribune)
Some smart home device producers are turning to Singapore firm, Unified Inbox, for text-controlled home devices as a less disruptive way for users to control their products.

Robotics & drones

Amazon shows off its delivery drone at SXSW (NBC News)
Amazon did its first public showing of its delivery drone, but kept its feet firmly planted on the ground, thus preventing it from being almost smushed in a landing dock door.

Tufts laboratory explores the concept of trust in robots (Tech Crunch)
The Human Robot Interaction Laboratory examines the moral implications of trust, exploring if robots should trust humans and how to prevent operator abuse.

Israel Defense Forces to begin trial run of drones (Haaretz)
The Force’s Sky Riders unit will begin testing unmanned drones unmanned aerial vehicles for intelligence gathering. They’re expected to be able to fly for up to six hours and have sophisticated photographic equipment.

Ireland will use drones to combat illegal dumping (Irish Times)
Ireland will be giving €650,000 to state agencies and communities to combat illegal dumping, part of which for purchase of drones to monitor and capture aerial images of dumpers.


Wearables know that you’re sick before you do (Tech Radar)
Engineers at Stanford University and Veterans Affairs Palo Alto tested seven wearable devices. They were able to detect illness in three participants and even detected Lyme disease before a participant showed symptoms or was formally diagnosed. The research team was able to create an algorithm that identified possible illness based on heart rate spikes.

Levi debuts new connected smart jacket at SXSW (The Verge)
In collaboration with Project Jacquard, Levi debuted a smart jean jacket targeted for bicyclists and bikers that allows wearers to get map updates or change a song track with taps and swipes on the sleeve. The jacket will be sold in the U.S. in the Fall, retailing at $350.

IoT and Big Data

Internet of things devices developer Borqs International Holdings has closed a $10-million round of funding (Economic Times)The internet of things device developer recently closed a new round of funding with Qualcomm and Accel Partners as new investors. Borqs has now raised approximately $50 million in venture funding.

Online Trust Alliance Launches IoT Security Campaign (E-Commerce Times)
During National Consumer Protection Week, the Online Trust Alliance released a report advocating for businesses, consumers and government to work towards protection of IoT devices to ensure they’re not weaponized.

Privacy & Security

WikiLeaks TV hack protection
Following the revelations of CIA’s Weeping Angel hack that allows for remote surveillance via Samsung TV, Wired offers an article on how to tell if your TV’s been compromised and ABC News offers a Q&A on protecting yourself.

White House report finds cybersecurity gaps at federal agencies(The Star Online)
reported 30,899 “cyber incidents” in fiscal 2016 that led to the “compromise of information or system functionality”, 16 of which were categorized as major incidences likely to result in harming national security, public confidence, civil liberties, foreign relations or the economy.


Samsung officially closes Harman acquisition (Tech Portal)
After talks starting last November, Samsung closed its $8 billion acquisition of audio tech company Harman International Industries, with plans to “accelerate growth and extend their global market leadership in automotive, smart audio, and connected technologies.”

VR technology spurs new attention on 3D audio (The Verge)
The Verge takes a look at the history and development at 3D audio and how VR is now seeking to utilize 3D audio systems to provide users a more immersive experience.

Audio hardware sales were up 28 percent in the fourth quarter (Home Theater Review)
According to a report by Futuresource Consulting, audio hardware sales increased 28 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the same period last year. The home audio and headphone product sectors showed the most growth, with much growth driven by wireless voice-controlled speakers like the Amazon Echo, while Hi-fi systems, loudspeakers, separates and soundbars showed slowing sales.

Medical Technology

Hong Kong hospitals opening up to VR technology in treatment (Healthcare Innovation)
Hong Kong hospitals are considering the implementation of VR for pain relief therapy, cognitive rehabilitation, patient monitoring and professional training.

CoolBitX raises $500,000 to expand its blockchain security into medical industry and other sectors (Coin Desk)
The Bitcoin hardware wallet maker hopes to expand its blockchain security into other areas including for use in IoT devices and the medical industry as a means of identity verification and payment. The company says its security system could potentially be used to help prevent insurance fraud.

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