News Roundup: March 7

A new week, a new roundup of notable startup hardware coverage to keep yourself informed.

Autonomous and connected vehicles

Uber developed “Greyball” internal software to avoid regulation (The New York Times) and its Vice President of product and growth resigns under shadow of questionable conduct allegations (Recode)
In yet two more negative developments for Uber, The New York Times reports that it developed internal software to help it evade authorities and operate in prohibited areas around the world. Its Vice President of Product and Growth Ed Baker resigned as members of the panel investigating sexual assault harassment allegations in the company received reports he’d engaged in questionable conduct with an intern.

These are but the latest issues in Uber’s scandal-filled past few months, including a #DeleteUber social media campaign,a lawsuit over stolen IP by Google’s Waymo, revelations its autonomous car blew through six red lights in California, allegations from a previous employee of fostering a culture of sexual harassment, the firing of its Vice President of Engineering for undisclosed sexual harassment claims and unearthed video of CEO Travis Kalanick yelling at a driver. As Wired puts it, “Uber’s Massive Crap Pile Develops its Own Gravity

Massachusetts senate considers twin bills taxing driverless ridesharing cars without passengers
In an effort to keep the roadways clear, one representative and one senator introduced bills in Massachusetts proposing a $.025 per mile tax on driverless ridesharing cars to ensure they don’t unnecessarily clog public roads. The bills also require driverless cars to have a failure-alert system, undergo regular and constant software updates, be zero-emission, be marketed as autonomous cars and have a panic button.

The bills have echoes of the SAVE Act, which was introduced in five states that would require autonomous cars networks operating on their roads to be owned by automakers.

Engineer ship jumping shows how the current autonomous vehicle environment and conflicts have been shaped (The San Francisco Chronicle)
The Chronicle offers a succinct, informative run-down of key engineers involved in efforts to design the best self-driving cars, illustrating the insular nature of the Silicon Valley and some contributing factors to Google’s Waymo lawsuit with Uber.

Self-Driving Car Engineer Family Tree. Photo credit: The San Francisco Chronicle.

The impact of social and psychological influence on innovation and smart cars (NPR Hidden Brain)
On a podcast discussing the impact of social influence, NPR’s Hidden Brain touches on the impact of social influence on innovation and getting people to embrace a device when it defies norms and is ahead of its time. Jonah Berger, marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses the invention of the first cars.

“When they first came out, they were very scary. People had never seen a non-horse-driven carriage. Imagine this thing sort of almost like a ghost rolling down the street by itself, no horse pulling it, no person pulling it. People in rural areas called it the devil’s work and, you know, banned it from town. And so people were trying to figure out, well, how do we get this thing adopted? It obviously saved costs in a certain way. There was a huge amount of manure on the streets so, you know, getting rid of horses was good in some ways, they could travel further…And so going back to the automobile, this inventor came up with a really interesting idea to solve this problem…he came out with this innovation called the Horsey Horseless which is essentially taking a fake horse head and putting it on the front of an automobile. And you look at this thing and you say, why would a fake horse head be anywhere near useful in helping people adopt an automobile? But what it did is it made the different feel more familiar, made it feel more similar, right?

It was just a fake horse head, but it made it look like these vehicles that people are used to already. It made horses feel more comfortable when this thing pulled up next to them at the stop sign or the stop light of the day, if it were. It made people feel more familiar with the difference. And so this idea of optimal distinctive is really important. Not so different – if it’s so different, people are scared. They don’t want to adopt it. It’s scary, it’s new, it’s, you know, why do I want to do this thing? Same if it’s too similar. But in the middle and it’s just right. In the middle it’s optimally distinct and much more likely to catch on.”

Berger and host Shankar Vedantam go on to discuss how autonomous vehicles could be made more mentally appealing for those who still hold reservations about driverless cars.


Lessons from VR/AR Demos (Venture Beat)
Venturebeat writes about its experiences with conducting 100 VR and AR technology and demos for consumers, finding that the quality of the VR experience needs to be enhanced and firmware and software updates made less cumbersome for it to be embraced by consumers on a large scale. Corporations and markets in Asia however are quickly embracing the new medium.

Brendan Iribe predicts more consumers will embrace AR before VR (Daily News Journal)
At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Oculus PC/VR chief Iribe predicted that more consumers will embrae AR before VR but that over time as headsets and sensors become smaller allowing for closed headsets with embedded cameras creating a more realistic depiction of surrounding environments.

IMAX opens first VR Center in Beverly Hills (CNET)
IMAX opened its first VR Center where people can strap on VR headsets and haptic feedback peripherals and do single-player and head-to-head multiplayer competition with games based on films including Star Wars and John Wick. IMAX plans to open five other centers this year in current IMAX locations, including two in New York, one in Los Angeles, one in England and one in China.

Smart Living

Kentucky-hosted hackathon produces smoke detector detector to prevent large vacant home fires (CNET)
After having several vacant homes catch on fire from vagrant or criminal activity and spread to cause substantial property damage, Kentucky hosted a hackathon to come up with a technological solution. The result was the Completely Autonomous Solar-Powered Event Responder(CASPER). Wireless and powered by the sun, CASPER is programmed to detect the frequency of a smoke detector alarm going off and sends text messages to relevant authorities notifying them of potential fires. The city is now testing the devices in eight government-owned properties and hopes to place 200 units in vacant homes following the test. Developers hope to expand its capabilities, alerting officials of breaking glass or animal noises.

Affordable starter kits for converting your home into a smart home (CNET) and a gallery of the latest smart home kitchen devices (CNET)
CNET offers a run-down of the more affordable home kits on the market for consumers to begin converting their homes into smart homes (including devices from some of the companies mentioned in our blog).

Robotics & drones

DJI Drone maker launches M200 series of drone that can warn of potential collision risk with planes or helicopters (BBC)
DJI’s new drone series, created for industrial design tasks like inspecting power lines and mapping construction sites, uses ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance broadcast) receivers to detect broadcasts from nearby manned flights. However, it’s no guarantee, as some planes don’t use ADS-B yet and the boradcasts aren’t required at the lower altitudes where many drones tend to fly.

MIT uses EEG monitor to create brain-driven robot control system (MIT News)
The college’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Boston University created a system using an electroencephalography monitor that allows robots to classify a user’s brainwaves and detect if its user notices an error it makes. The system requires training humans to think in a systematized way that computers can recognize, so seamless mind-reading robots who do your bidding instantaneously are still a ways off.

Hong Kong police to use 3D printers to reconstruct crime scenes(Southern China Morning Post)
Hong Kong police plan to use 3D printers to build to-scale crime scene models for use by courts.

England’s Chancellor sets aside 500 million pounds for robotic innovation
Philip Hammond is setting aside 500 million pounds to dedicate to innovation in robotic, artificial intelligenc and electric vehicles to ensure Britain is able to compete globally following Brexit, hoping to spur job creation and foreign investment.


Smart watches and fitness tracker shipments grow 25 percent (CNET)
A new report issued Thursday by International Data Corporation shows that reports of wearables’ death may have been greatly exaggerated, with shipments of smartwatches and fitness trackers growing 25 percent to 102.4 million devices in the past year. Fitbit led the pack of wearable producers,
selling more wearables than Apple and Samsung combined and representing 23 percent of market shipments. The second runner up? Chinese company Xiaomi at 15.4 percent marketshare of shipments.

Wearables being embraced by the travel industry (Southern China Morning Post)
Southern China Morning Post takes a look at some of the ways the travel industry is utilizing wearable technology, including Carnival using wrist wearables to act as tickets, room keys, charge cards and personal concierges and higher-end hotels allowing guests to use smart watches as room keys.

Launch of smart condom (Fortune)
Much of the tech world has been tittering about the launch of the i.Con, a ring worn at the base of a condom to measure the amount of calories a user is burning, their session duration, girth, speed and number of thrusts and number of positions used.

Report by the Consumer Technology Association finds physicians growing more accepting of using wearable device data (Information Management)
The report, Wearable Health and Fitness Technology in U.S. Medical Care, predicts that bby 2020, a majority of U.S. physicians will accept and use patient-generated data from devices such as wearables. Two of the biggest obstacles it finds to the use of wearables in a clinical setting include their lack of integration into the Electronic Health Record systems and the accuracy of current devices on the market.

IoT and Big Data

IoT takeaways from the Mobile World Conference (Business Insider)
Business Insider covers three key takeaways from MWC, including that high data transmission capabilities and low latency will be key to IoT device spread, smart features that focus on vehicle functions of smart cars have room for expansion and corporate partnerships will be key for organizations navigating the IoT landscape.

Developer support necessary for IoT feature expansion, with greater use of Linux containers and avoidance of the cloud (Venture Beat)
Andreas Stavropoulos writes that developers will need to expand beyond static subscription services and offer more robust features, but it will require providing developers more support. He predicts a rise in Linux container-based architectures for IoT and that nodes will connect to edge or intermediate points instead of the cloud for enhanced security.

IoT hacking and Ransomware threats converge (Dark Reading)
Dark Reading explores the possibilities of IoT Ransomware attacks on smart homes and businesses, discussing steps consumers can take to evaluate IoT devices for security.

Privacy & Security

Eye-opening security tech at MWC (Reuters)
Iris scanners see greater deployment at MWC, with Samsung and Apple reporting they’ll use the more secure technology in their soon to be released in their upcoming devices. The devices are more secure the fingerprint scanners and hint toward the tech industry’s increasing embrace of more sophisticated biometric security.

Consumer Reports to start grading products on data security and privacy(PC World)
Consumer Reports will begin evaluating products on their security and privacy protections for consumers, creating a set of evaluation standards with the help of three digital consumer protection groups. The publication said that while government have struggled to implement guidelines, they believe that well-informed consumers can push for improvement.

“Consumer pressure and choices can change the marketplace…When consumers vote with their wallets and their clicks, we’ve seen that companies pay attention” the publication said.

Study finds a large percentage of businesses have experiences an IoT security breach (Aruba)
The Internet of Things: Today and Tomorrow study by Aruba (owned by Hewlett Packard) surveyed 3,100 IT and business decision makers across 20 countries and found 84 percent reported their organizations had experiences an IoT-related security breach. Those surveyed cited security and outside attacks as a major barrier to them adopting IoT to a greater extent.


Audio startup Dappler sues Bose for trademark infringement (Business Insider)
Dappler is suing Bose, alleging the company explored a potential partnership with them to obtain information about its audio tech and future plans, using information obtained in meetings with them to create a competing product (Bose’s Hearphones). It also alleges the product’s name, appearance and marketing also infringe on its Here Buds trademark.

Samsung adds AKG audio tech to tablets (USwitch
Samsung’s new tablet, the Galaxy Tab S3 will have quad stereo-sound speakers tuned by AKG that the company says will produce quality, distortion-free sound and adjust automatically depending on the device’s orientation.

Medical Technology

EU to launch new Medical Device Regulation in May (EU Observer)
The EU will implement new medical device regulations requiring manufacturers to give more information about devices and making it easier to trace and recall faulty products.

Remote Patient Monitoring technology could cut health costs (The Fiscal Times)
The Fiscal Times discusses the potential of remote medical monitoring technology to improve patient care while cutting costs in the U.S. medical system, especially for care of the elderly which will soon be a major presence in the American health system.

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