News Roundup: April 25

Venture capitalists show reluctance toward new VR/AR investment, Bose is accused of spying on headphone owners, the Hajime worm continues to burrow into net-connected smart devices, a wearable seeks to reduce couple conflict, Lyrebird unveils algorithms that can clone a voice in a minute and more in this week’s news roundup.

Autonomous and connected vehicles

Uber used fingerprinting on phone users, tried to skirt Apple prohibitions (The Verge)
Uber engaged in the act of fingerprinting, where it was able to identify individual phones even after the app had been deleted from the phone or the phone had been reset. Apple prohibits the practice, but Uber continued to engage in it and geofenced Apple headquarters in an attempt to evade detection. Apple still discovered the activity and CEO Tim Cook confronted Travis Kalanick and told him Uber would be removed from the app store.

Baidu to share autonomous vehicle technology (PC World)
Baidu will offer a vehicle platform, hardware platform, software platform and cloud data services and will open source code for obstacle perception, trajectory planning, vehicle control, vehicle operating systems and a set of testing tools in an effort to encourage self-driving vehicle developers to share a common platform and collaborate.

Singapore explores autonomous vehicles to improve public transportation (eGov Innovation)
LTA partnered with ST Kinetics this month to start a three and a half year project to develop and test autonomous buses. AV technologies will be integrated into two 40-seat electric buses to serve fixed and scheduled services. The buses will have WiFi and 4G connectivity, GPS and sensors for precise positioning, perception sensors to provide 2D and 3D maps for obstacle avoidance and radar and sonar systems to detect vehicles and pedestrians.


Investment in VR and AR startups declined (Crunchbase)
Venture capitalists are showing a diminished interest in VR and AR investment compared to last year, according to a report by Crunchbase, with the number of funding rounds and investments both down in the first quarter of 2017. According to its data, a total of 26 companies with AR or VR-focused businesses raised a disclosed funding round in the first quarter of this year, with the firms raising just over $200 million in Q1 2017 compared to 29 companies in Q1 2016 raising just over $1 billion. Q1 2017 also marks the lowest quarterly number of total financings in over a year, according to the report. Crunchbase speculates that the mixed results of VR (Facebook’s high-priced Oculus struggling while cheaper headset options PlayStation VR and Samsung Gear VR have been doing well) in combination with the lack of companies exiting the market has made VCs hold off on further investment.

New Google Earth VR feature lets users fly over any location and view it in 3D using VR (Economic Times)
VR users will be able to type the address or name of a location and hover over it while viewing it in 3D realism. Google Earth has also created a list of 27 preset locations available on Google Earth VR, including Neuschwanstein Castle, Table Mountain and the Perito Moreno Glacier.

Facebook leans heavily toward AR (Polygon)
Oculus Research’s chief scientist Michael Abrash said that while VR has great immersive potential, he and Facebook’s leadership believe that Augmented Reality has greater potential because it is able to be accessible anywhere and allows for greater interaction between people compared to VR.

Smart Living

University of Kansas School of Architecture associate professor designs smart house that can monitor health (Digital Trends)
Using two grants totaling $51,000, Associate Professor Joe Colistra and his fifth year students will build part of a home embedded with sensors to collect the biometric data of its residents. Among the data they plan to collect to help with health monitoring: heel strikes and gait, bathroom trips, hydration and waste production, sleep, falls, moles, lesions, or the effects of a stroke. They plan to finish by the end of the school year, with results presented in June. launches Smart Living Store (News18) launched a smart living store to act as a one-stop-shop for all smart devices across various product categories.

Systems, apps, and devices leading to home automation (Business Insider)
a new report from BI Intelligence examining the overall state of the U.S. smart home market found that voice control is becoming a key remote interface within the home, the price of smart home devices is still too high and consumer demand is stagnant and The U.S. smart home market is only now entering the mass market phase of consumer adoption.

New movie by James Wan about smart home killing off attackers (Variety)
James Wan, previous director of films including Saw and the Conjuring, will direct a movie about a smart house protecting a family under witness protection by killing off attempted assassins. On the opposite end of the spectrum, CNET explores malevolent smart homes in media.

Robotics & drones

Predictive intelligence in robots improves based on experience (Wired)
Comparing robots to babies, Wired looks at the progress of predictive intelligence and how it gradually improves based on experience and AI begins to learn what information to seek out and pay attention to.

Is a robot tax an innovation penalty? (Tech Crunch)
Tech Crunch explores how a robot could be defined for taxation purposes and if a tax on robots would ultimately be a tax on innovation.

AI tool picks up makers’ racist and sexist biases (The Guardian)
An artificial intelligence tool that has revolutionized computers’ ability to interpret language has been shown to exhibit striking gender and racial biases, according to a new report, picking up on ingrained biases concealed within patterns of language use. However, some researchers believe AI could be used to help in recognizing and address it.


Alphabet releases long-term health wearable Study Watch (Tech Crunch)
Operational as a functional watch, Study Watch is designed sturdy with long-term battery life to gather vital signs and readings including electrocardiogram (ECG), heart rate, electrodermal activity and inertial movements. It will be used to gather biometrics for the Personalized Parkinson’s Project and contribute to the 2014 and ongoing Baseline study looking at 175 participants to create a picture of what a healthy human should be.

Researchers use wearables to predict when couples start arguing (Ubergizmo)
Researchers at the University of Southern California used wearables to detect the body temperature, heart activity and sweat of romantic partners in combination with logs recording their feelings about their partner every hour. After the initial data collection, researchers were able to use machine learning to detect moments of conflict with up to 86 percent accuracy. The researchers plan to create a model that can detect conflict up to five minutes before they occur, potentially allowing for preventative action and increased emotional health.

Wearable seeks to relieve menstrual pain, PMS and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (Digital Trends)
Aika Black-T has developed an adjustable wearable that sends far infrared (FIR) waves to a woman’s uterus alleviating pain, with a battery life of three to five hours per charge.

IoT and Big Data

Report finds executives are struggling to implement IoT technology (Supply Chain Drive)
A joint study by The CMO Council, BPI Network, Penton, Nerdery and The IoT Institute found that while executives know the benefits of IoT, especially in regards to supply chains, only 7 percent of those surveyed had a strategy planned and ready. Sixty one percent of executives said the main obstacle for implementing IoT systems is a shortage of talent.

Germany threatens $26,500 fines for undestroyed My Friend Cayla dolls (Consumerist)
When it was discovered connected toy Cayla dolls had Bluetooth vulnerabilities that enabled eavesdropping, Germany’s Federal Network Agency instructed parents to destroy the device in February. It’s now issued further instructions, requiring owners to fill out a destruction certificate that must be signed by a waste-management company and sent back to the agency as proof. Under German telecommunication laws, those who don’t comply with Federal Network Agency directives could face a fine up to $26,500 and two years in prison.

Worm seeks out vulnerable smart devices (BBC)
The Hajime worm is seeking out poorly protected smart gadgets on the net. It was first discovered in October 2016 and had been hunting down IoT devices with security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by the Mirai worm. The worm now only regularly displays a message from the worm’s author on the internal interface of compromised devices informing them of it device’s vulnerability. Security experts say while its actions are currently benign, it could be used for malicious activity or installing back doors onto devices.


Bose headphones accused in lawsuit of spying on listeners (NBC News)
A new class-action lawsuit claims Bose has been tracking and distributing customers’ data without telling them, with its app connecting users’ entire listening history with third-party data mining companies. The lawsuit alleges Bose broke federal and state laws including the Federal Wiretap Act, the Illinois Eavesdropping Statute and consumer fraud and invasion of privacy laws. It also does not disclose the data collection in its privacy policy or elsewhere, the filing attorney claims.

Lyrebird claims it can recreate any voice using just one minute of sample audio (The Verge)
Canadian AI startup Lyrebird unveiled a set of algorithms that can clone anyone’s voice by listening to one minute of audio. The company says the audio can be used for audio books readings by famous voices, connected devices, speech synthesis for people with disabilities and animation movies or for video game studios.

Sennheiser and Samsung will bring Ambeo 3D audio tech to Android (Sound Guys)
Sennheiser plans to bring audio-recording Ambeo Earbuds to Samsung after initially announcing them as iPhone exclusive at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show.

Medical Technology

Medical equipment supplier makes $24 billion deal with medical technology company (Business Insider)
U.S. medical equipment supplier Becton Dickinson and Co. will acquire C R Bard Inc. in a $24 billion cash-and-stock deal, two years after Becton Dickinson acquired CareFusion Corp for $12 billion. It is the latest in a string of deals in the medical technology sector as manufacturers turn to acquisitions to boost profit margins.

For A German Medical Device Startup The Road To Being Acquired Went Through Houston (Forbes)
Adhesys, a four-year-old German-based medical device company that produces polyurethane-based medical adhesives that can be used to help seal surface wounds and in wet environments, was recently acquired by 1.4 billion euro pharmaceutical company Grunenthal Gmbh.

Russian electronics company working on medical technology to accelerates healing of combat injuries (TASS)
Roselektronika has started a research project that aims to develop medical equipment that can accelerate the healing of battlefield wounds at three times the current rate, using vacuum-assisted closure and instillation therapy to
maintain negative pressure on the wound for long durations, eliminating daily bandaging.

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