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Robotics

Boston Dynamics Reveals Handle, A Robot That Is 6 Feet Tall, Lifts 100 Pounds, and Jumps Up To 4 Feet (popularmechanics.com) 46

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Popular Mechanics: Back at the beginning of February, a leaked video showed the newest creation from Boston Dynamics -- a wheeled humanoid robot called "Handle." Now the secretive maker of amazing robots has released the full introduction video, revealing some of Handle's brand new tricks. The wheeled bot can travel up to 9 mph, and as you can see in the video, it has no trouble rolling over some light off-road terrain such as patches of grass and flights of stairs. The bot stands 6.5 feet tall when fully extended, though it often crouches to turn or balance. Batteries power the robot's electric and hydraulic actuators, allowing it to crouch down, make sharp turns, and lift objects that weigh at least 100 pounds. Handle has enough battery juice to travel about 15 miles on one charge. Oh and one more thing, this rolling bot can leap four feet into the air.
Android

LG Unveils G6 Android Nougat Smartphone With a Compact 5.7-Inch QHD+ 18:9 Display (hothardware.com) 75

MojoKid writes: LG recently unveiled the new G6 smartphone, going completely back to the drawing board versus its predecessor -- the not so well-received G5. In its place is a very compact aluminum unibody design and a large 5.7-inch QHD+ display with a 2880x1440 resolution. That display is the main focal point of the G6, and it has a rather unorthodox 18:9 screen ratio, which LG says allows that smartphone to better fit in your hand. LG also notes that the aspect ratio is being adopted as a universal format from the likes of film studios and content providers like Netflix. Its thin bezel also gives the LG G6 an 80 percent screen-to-body ratio. The handset is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor along with 4GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage and a microSD slot, which can accommodate up to an additional 2TB of storage. LG also outfitted the G6 with dual 13-megapixel rear cameras: a wide angle (F2.4 / 125 degree) shooter and a standard camera (F1.8 / 71 degree) with optical image stabilization. The LG G6 launches next month and will be available in Ice Platinum, Mystic White, Astro Black color options. Pricing is TBD. Some other specs include a non-removable 3,300 mAh battery, USB-C connectivity, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, fingerprint sensor and an IP68 water and dust resistance rating. It's also the first non-Google smartphone to come pre-loaded with the Google Assistant. How do you think the LG G6 compares to what we currently know about the soon-to-be-launched Samsung Galaxy S8?
Communications

Battle of the Carriers: T-Mobile's New Promotion Offers Three Unlimited Data Lines For $100 (theverge.com) 33

A battle is raging between telecommunications giants and the public is benefiting from it. In response to T-Mobile's "One" unlimited data plan announced in August, Verizon introduced unlimited data plans of their own a couple of weeks ago. This caused a ripple effect as Sprint and AT&T unveiled new unlimited data plans that same week, both of which have their own restrictions and pricing. The battle appears to show no signs of slowing as the carriers are continuing their efforts to win consumers over. Today, AT&T undercut Verizon and T-Mobile with newer unlimited data plans. The "Unlimited Choice" plan is the cheaper of the two new plans, featuring unlimited data at a maximum speed of 3 megabits per second, standard definition, and no mobile hotspot for $60 per month. While it's lower than T-Mobile's $70 plan and Verizon's $80 option, it may not be as generous as T-Mobile's latest promotion. The company just announced a new promotion after AT&T's announcement that offers three unlimited data lines for $100. The Verge reports: In its continuing efforts to attract more sign-ups, T-Mobile's latest promotion offers an additional line for free for accounts with two or more lines. The offer works whether you want to add an extra phone line or a line for wearables or tablets. The deal is available for current and new customers -- the amount of data available to the free line will match up with whatever your current plan is for the other lines. If your plan does not have the same amount of data between devices, the free line will get whatever's the lowest of the bunch. Just two weeks ago, the company updated its T-Mobile One plan to include unlimited data for $100 a month between two lines. CEO John Legere said the free line promotion also applies this new plan. If you are confused about the four carriers' recent announcements, you are not alone. We have included related links below to help you make sense of each carrier's plans.
AI

Supersmart Robots Will Outnumber Humans Within 30 Years, Says SoftBank CEO (fortune.com) 205

Computers running artificial intelligence programs will exceed human intelligence within three decades, Masayoshi Son, founder of the Japanese technology and telecommunications conglomerate SoftBank Group, said on Monday. From a report on Fortune: "I really believe this," Son told a large audience at the Mobile World Congress, the telecom industry's annual conference in Barcelona. A computer will have the IQ equal to 1,000 times the average human by that point, he said. Even clothing like a pair of sneakers will have more computing power that a person, Son joked. "We will be less than our shoes," he said, to laughter. Asked if the rise of the computer could be dangerous for humankind, Son said that would be up to how people react. "I believe this artificial intelligence is going to be our partner," he said. "If we misuse it, it will be a risk. If we use it right, it can be our partner."
Sony

Sony Launches Phone With World's First 4K HDR Screen; Nokia Brings Back the 3310 Handset (wired.com) 75

Rumors were true. Nokia did launch its 3310 handset at MWC. It's been almost 17 years since the 3310 first came out. In that time the Nokia brand has been bought, sold, and stripped for parts. From a report on Wired: The 3310 is still very much a feature phone. It has a web browser, but only barely -- it's a dumbed-down version of Opera, basically there for emergency tweeting. It exists for you to make phone calls, send texts the way you did a decade ago (T9 FTW!), and play Snake. The 3310 weighs less than three ounces, and its battery lasts an absurd 31 days in standby time, or up to 22 hours of talk time. The new 3310 has a camera, for one thing, a 2-megapixel shooter. It also has a 2.4-inch, 240x320 screen, which is hilariously small and low-res but still a huge improvement over the original. It is priced at 49 Euros ($51). Also at the event, Sony announced that it is not done with putting a 4K screen on smartphones. From a report on The Verge: The XZ Premium has the world's first 4K HDR (2,160 x 3,840, High Dynamic Range) display in a smartphone. Sony has the latest and best Qualcomm chip while others are still offering the Snapdragon 820 and 821, but the Xperia XZ Premium won't be out until late spring or just ahead of the summer. Hell, the demo units shown off ahead of MWC weren't running anywhere close to final software -- so Sony is pre-announcing its new flagship device by a long margin. Other notable features include water resistance, rated to IP65 and IP68, a thinner profile at 7.9mm, and MicroSD storage expandability. The phone's battery is a reasonable 3,230mAh, and there's a fingerprint sensor integrated into the side-mounted power button as usual.
Intel

Intel Reacts To AMD Ryzen Apparently Cutting Prices On Core i7 And i5 Processors (hothardware.com) 209

Less than a week after AMD announced the first line up of Ryzen processors, Intel is apparently fighting back by dropping the price of several of its processors. Rob Williams, writing for HotHardware: So, what we're seeing now are a bunch of Intel processors dropping in price, perhaps as a bit of a preemptive strike against AMD's chips shipping later this week -- though admittedly it's still a bit too early to tell. Over at Amazon, the prices have been slower to fall, but we'd highly recommend that you keep an eye on the following pages, if you are looking for a good deal this week. So far, at Micro Center we've seen the beefy six-core Intel Core i7-6850K (3.60GHz) drop from $700 to $550, and the i7-6800K (3.40GHz) drop down to $360, from $500. Also, some mid-range chips are receiving price cuts as well. Those include the i7-6700K, a 4.0GHz chip dropping from $400 to $260, and the i7-6600K, a 3.50GHz quad-core part dropping from $270 to $180. Even Intel's latest and greatest Kaby Lake-based i7-7700K has experienced a drop, from $380 to $299, with places like Amazon and NewEgg retailing for $349.
Hardware Hacking

Open Source Car-Hacking Tool Successfully Crowdfunded (kickstarter.com) 54

An anonymous reader writes: Two geeks are crowdfunding an open source car hacking tool that will allow builders to experiment with diagnostics, telematics, security, and prototyping. "Cars have become complicated and expensive to work with," they explain on a Kickstarter page. "Macchina wants to use open source hardware to help break down these barriers and get people tinkering with their cars again." After years developing a beta prototype, they announced a tiny plug-and-play device/development platform (that can also be hardwired under the hood) on an Arduino Due board with a 32-bit ARM microcontroller. They almost immediately reached their $25,000 funding goal, and with 24 days left to go they've already raised $41,672, and they're now also selling t-shirts to benefit the EFF's "Right to Repair" activism.

Challenging "the closed, unpublished nature of modern-day car computers," their M2 device ships with protocols and libraries "to work with any car that isn't older than Google." With catchy slogans like "root your ride" and "the future is open," they're hoping to build a car-hacking developer community, and they're already touting the involvement of Craig Smith, the author of the Car Hacker's Handbook from No Starch Press.

"The one thing that all car hobbyists can agree on is that playing with cars isn't cheap," argues the campaign page. "Open source hardware is the answer!"
Education

Arizona Bill Would Make Students In Grades 4-12 Participate Once In An Hour of Code (azpbs.org) 142

theodp writes: Christopher Silavong of Cronkite News reports: "A bill, introduced by [Arizona State] Sen. John Kavanagh [R-Fountain Hills] would mandate that public and charter schools provide one hour of coding instruction once between grades 4 to 12. Kavanagh said it's critical for students to learn the language -- even if it's only one session -- so they can better compete for jobs in today's world. However, some legislators don't believe a state mandate is the right approach. Senate Bill 1136 has passed the Senate, and it's headed to the House of Representatives. Kavanagh said he was skeptical about coding and its role in the future. But he changed his mind after learning that major technology companies were having trouble finding domestic coders and talking with his son, who works at a tech company." According to the Bill, the instruction can "be offered by either a nationally recognized nonprofit organization [an accompanying Fact Sheet mentions tech-backed Code.org] that is devoted to expanding access to computer science or by an entity with expertise in providing instruction to pupils on interactive computer instruction that is aligned to the academic standards."
The Courts

Appeals Court: You Have the Right To Film the Police (arstechnica.com) 176

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A divided federal appeals court is ruling for the First Amendment, saying the public has a right to film the police. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in upholding the bulk of a lower court's decision against an activist who was conducting what he called a "First Amendment audit" outside a Texas police station, noted that this right is not absolute and is not applicable everywhere. The facts of the dispute are simple. Phillip Turner was 25 in September 2015 when he decided to go outside the Fort Worth police department to test officers' knowledge of the right to film the police. While filming, he was arrested for failing to identify himself to the police. Officers handcuffed and briefly held Turner before releasing him without charges. Turner sued, alleging violations of his Fourth Amendment right against unlawful arrest and detention and his First Amendment right of speech. The 2-1 decision Thursday by Judge Jacques Wiener is among a slew of rulings on the topic, and it provides fresh legal backing for the so-called YouTube society where people are constantly using their mobile phones to film themselves and the police. A dissenting appellate judge on the case -- Edith Brown Clement -- wrote Turner was not unlawfully arrested and that the majority opinion from the Texas-based appeals court jumped the gun to declare a First Amendment right here because one "is not clearly established."
The Courts

ZeniMax Files Injunction To Stop Oculus From Selling VR Headsets (gamespot.com) 77

ZeniMax, the parent company of Fallout and Skyrim developer Bethesda, has filed for an injunction against virtual-reality company Oculus over the recent stolen technology case. The company had accused Oculus of stealing VR-related code, and was subsequently awarded $500 million by a Dallas court earlier this month. ZeniMax has now filed additional papers against Oculus, requesting that Oculus' products using the stolen code be removed from sale. GameSpot reports: Specifically, ZeniMax is seeking to block sales of its mobile and PC developer kits, as well as technology allowing the integration of Oculus Rift with development engines Unreal and Unity, reports Law360. If the injunction isn't granted, ZeniMax wants a share of "revenues derived from products incorporating its intellectual properties," suggesting a 20 percent cut for at least 10 years. ZeniMax argues the previous settlement of $500 million is "insufficient incentive for [Oculus] to cease infringing." Oculus, meanwhile, says that "ZeniMax's motion does not change the fact that the [original] verdict was legally flawed and factually unwarranted. We look forward to filing our own motion to set aside the jury's verdict and, if necessary, filing an appeal that will allow us to put this litigation behind us," the virtual reality company stated.
Displays

Slashdot Asks: Are Curved TVs Worth It? (cnet.com) 176

New submitter cherishjoo shares a report written by David Katzmaier via CNET: When the first curved TVs appeared more than three years ago I asked whether they were a gimmick. As a TV reviewer I had to give the curve a fighting chance, however, so I took a curved Samsung home to live with my family for awhile, in addition to subjecting it to a full CNET review. In the end, I answered my own question with the headline "Great picture quality, but the curved screen is a flat-out gimmick." Since then most of the video geeks I know, including just about everybody I hear from on Twitter, Facebook and article comments, pooh-poohs curved TV screens as a useless distraction. A curved TV takes the traditional flat screen and bends it along a gentle arc. The edges end up a bit closer, ostensibly providing a slight wraparound effect. Curved TV makers, citing huge curved screens like IMAX, call their sets more "immersive" than their flat counterparts, but in my experience that claim doesn't hold water at in-home (as opposed to theatrical) screen sizes and viewing distances. The only real image-quality benefit I saw to the curve was a reduction in reflections in some cases. That benefit wasn't worth the slight geometric distortions introduced by the curve, not to mention its awkwardness when hung on the wall. That said, the curve doesn't ruin an otherwise good picture. In TVs, assuming similar prices, curved vs. flat boils down to a choice of aesthetics. As Katzmaier mentioned, curved TVs have been on the market for several years now, and while manufacturers continue to produce them, the verdict on whether or not the pros outweigh the cons is still murky. Here's our question for you: Are curved televisions worth the inflated price tag? If you are in the market for a new TV, does the fact that the display is curved entice you or steer you away?
Data Storage

Toshiba Plans To Ship a 1TB Flash Chip To Manufacturers This Spring (computerworld.com) 25

Lucas123 writes: Toshiba has begun shipping samples of its third-generation 3D NAND memory product, a chip with 64 stacked flash cells that it said will enable a 1TB chip shipping later this spring. The new flash memory product has 65% greater capacity than the previous generation technology, which used 48 layers of NAND flash cells. The chip will be used in data centers and consumer SSD products. The technology announcement comes even as suitors are eyeing buying a majority share of the company's memory business. Along with a previous report about Western Digital, Foxxcon, SK Hynix and Micron Technology have now also thrown their hats in the ring to purchase a majority share in Toshiba's memory spin-off, according to a new report in the Nikkei's Asian Review.
Android

LG's Latest Battery Is Also a Phone (engadget.com) 89

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: The problem with having a smartphone that you want to use all the damn time is that you'll spend a big chunk of your day wedded to an outlet. LG believes that nobody should have to suffer such an indignity, and has launched the X power2 as a remedy. The smartphone is designed to operate for an entire weekend on a single charge thanks to the 4,500mAh battery tucked inside. It'll also recharge nice and quick, too, taking just two hours to go from flat all the way back up to 100 percent. Unfortunately, like the first-generation LG X power phone, the capacious battery is the only noteworthy thing about it. The 5.5-inch display has a HD resolution, and is using an off-brand 1.5Ghz octa-core chip that we're guessing is made by MediaTek. In addition, there's either 1.5GB or 2GB RAM paired with 16GB storage, which will hardly pull up any trees when most flagships are packing twice that amount.
AMD

Samsung's First Exynos 9 Chip is Faster, Uses Less Power, and Supports Gigabit LTE 39

Samsung is taking a big step forward on both processing and LTE speeds with its next mobile system on a chip. From a report on The Verge: The chip, called the Exynos 9 Series 8895, is supposed to perform 27 percent faster than its predecessor and consume 40 percent less power. It's also Samsung's first to support gigabit LTE, offering much faster speeds on networks that support it. The big gains come from Samsung shifting over to a 10nm process for this chip series, allowing it to make a more efficient processor. That means Samsung is following right behind Qualcomm on the move from a 14nm process to a 10nm process. Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon SoC, the 835, also uses a 10nm process and supposed includes speed improvements and a 25 percent power reduction. The Exynos 8895 has an octa-core processor, and its GPU is supposed to include graphics improvements for 4K VR and gaming. Samsung says the processor supports video recording at 120FPS 4K and cameras with a resolution up to 28MP.
Bug

New iOS Update Fixes Unexpected Shutdown Issue On iPhone 6, iPhone 6s (techcrunch.com) 48

Matthew Panzarino, writing for TechCrunch: Over the past couple of iPhone versions users have complained of "unexpected" shutdowns of their devices. Some iPhone 6, 6S, 6 Plus and 6S Plus devices could basically go dark unexpectedly, forcing a user to have to plug them into an outlet to get them to power back on. Apple has been working on this very annoying bug and it says it has come up with a fix of sorts that should mitigate the problem on a majority of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s devices. The fix is actually already on your iPhone if you have installed iOS 10.2.1 -- something that around 50 percent of iOS users have already done. After letting the fix simmer on customer devices, Apple now has statistics to share on how it has improved the issue, citing 80 percent reduction on iPhone 6s and 70 percent reduction on iPhone 6 devices.
The Courts

Founder of India's $4 Smartphone Firm Arrested on Allegations of Fraud (reuters.com) 25

Remember the $4 smartphone from India? Yeah, things haven't really materialized. Reuters reports: The founder of an Indian tech firm that shot to prominence by offering a $4 smartphone has been arrested on allegations of fraud, after a handset dealer accused the company of not refunding him for an unfulfilled order, the police said. Mohit Goel, the founder of Ringing Bells, was arrested Thursday afternoon in Uttar Pradesh and will be produced in court later on Friday, said Rahul Srivastav, a police spokesman from the northern Indian state. Goel and his company made headlines last year with the "Freedom" smartphone, which was priced at 251 rupees ($3.77), attracting strong demand but also widespread scepticism and scrutiny from regulators even in price-conscious India, where cheap smartphones are big sellers. The founder was arrested after a dealer said he had paid 3 million Indian rupees for an order of handsets but had received only a fraction of the order. He further said some of the phones received were defective, according to the police.
Google

Alphabet's Waymo Sues Uber For Allegedly Stealing Self-Driving Secrets (bloomberg.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: It took Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo seven years to design and build a laser-scanning system to guide its self-driving cars. Uber Technologies Inc. allegedly did it in nine months. Waymo claims in a lawsuit filed Thursday that was possible because a former employee stole the designs and technology and started a new company. Waymo accuses several employees of Otto, a self-driving startup Uber acquired in August for $680 million, of lifting technical information from Google's autonomous car project. The "calculated theft" of Alphabet's technology earned Otto's employees more than $500 million, according to the complaint in San Francisco federal court. The claims in Thursday's case include unfair competition, patent infringement and trade secret misappropriation. Waymo was inadvertently copied on an e-mail from one of its vendors, which had an attachment showing an Uber lidar circuit board that had a "striking resemblance" to Waymo's design, according to the complaint. Anthony Levandowski, a former manager at Waymo, in December 2015 downloaded more than 14,000 proprietary and confidential files, including the lidar circuit board designs, according to the complaint. He also allegedly created a domain name for his new company and confided in some of his Waymo colleagues of plans to "replicate" its technology for a competitor. Levandowski left Waymo in January 2016 and went on in May to form Otto LLC, which planned to develop hardware and software for autonomous vehicles.
Wikipedia

Study Reveals Bot-On-Bot Editing Wars Raging On Wikipedia's Pages (theguardian.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A new study from computer scientists has found that the online encyclopedia is a battleground where silent wars have raged for years. Since Wikipedia launched in 2001, its millions of articles have been ranged over by software robots, or simply "bots," that are built to mend errors, add links to other pages, and perform other basic housekeeping tasks. In the early days, the bots were so rare they worked in isolation. But over time, the number deployed on the encyclopedia exploded with unexpected consequences. The more the bots came into contact with one another, the more they became locked in combat, undoing each other's edits and changing the links they had added to other pages. Some conflicts only ended when one or other bot was taken out of action. The findings emerged from a study that looked at bot-on-bot conflict in the first ten years of Wikipedia's existence. The researchers at Oxford and the Alan Turing Institute in London examined the editing histories of pages in 13 different language editions and recorded when bots undid other bots' changes. While some conflicts mirrored those found in society, such as the best names to use for contested territories, others were more intriguing. Describing their research in a paper entitled Even Good Bots Fight in the journal Plos One, the scientists reveal that among the most contested articles were pages on former president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, the Arabic language, Niels Bohr and Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of the most intense battles played out between Xqbot and Darknessbot which fought over 3,629 different articles between 2009 and 2010. Over the period, Xqbot undid more than 2,000 edits made by Darknessbot, with Darknessbot retaliating by undoing more than 1,700 of Xqbot's changes. The two clashed over pages on all sorts of topics, from Alexander of Greece and Banqiao district in Taiwan to Aston Villa football club.
Iphone

Cellebrite Can Now Unlock Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus (cyberscoop.com) 103

Patrick O'Neill writes: A year after the battle between the FBI and Apple over unlocking an iPhone 5c used by a shooter in the San Bernardino terrorist attack, smartphone cracking company Cellebrite announced it can now unlock the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus for customers at rates ranging from $1,500 to $250,000. The company's newest products also extract and analyze data from a wide range of popular apps including all of the most popular secure messengers around. From the Cyberscoop report: "Cellebrite's ability to break into the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus comes in their latest line of product releases. The newest Cellebrite product, UFED 6.0, boasts dozens of new and improved features including the ability to extract data from 51 Samsung Android devices including the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, the latest flagship models for Android's most popular brand, as well as the new high-end Google Pixel Android devices."
Businesses

Tech Breakthroughs Take a Backseat in Upcoming Apple iPhone Launch (reuters.com) 114

Stephen Nellis, reporting for Reuters: The new iPhone is expected to include new features such as high-resolution displays, wireless charging and 3-D sensors. Rather than representing major breakthroughs, however, most of the innovations have been available in competing phones for several years. Apple's relatively slow adoption of new features both reflects and reinforces the fact smartphone customers are holding onto their phones longer. Timothy Arcuri, an analyst at Cowen & Co, believes upwards of 40 percent of iPhones on the market are more than two years old, a historical high. That is a big reason why investors have driven Apple shares to an all-time high. There is pent-up demand for a new iPhone, even if it does not offer breakthrough technologies. It is not clear whether Apple deliberately held off on packing some of the new features into the current iPhone 7, which has been criticized for a lack of differentiation from its predecessor. Still, the development and roll-out of the anniversary iPhone suggest Apple's product strategy is driven less by technological innovation than by consumer upgrade cycles and Apple's own business and marketing needs.

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