Tag Archives: Gadget Reviews

Facebook: German bill isn’t ‘suitable’ to fight hate speech

Facebook’s response to the proposed legislation was first reported by German news outlet WirtschaftsWoche and later confirmed to Engadget by a spokesperson for the company. Back in 2015, Facebook, Twitter, Google all pledged to Germany that they would remove criminal forms of hate speech within 24 hours. According to the local government, those commitments haven’t always gone according to plan.

Late last year, Facebook drew the ire of the German government when it took longer to delete posts and the page of a hate group targeting Jewish people and their businesses. In March, Germany said Facebook and Twitter were still failing to remove the content in a timely fashion. Facebook disputed the Justice Ministry findings saying its numbers showed higher removal rates. The company also pledged to put more staff behind the effort, including 700 people in Berlin before the end of 2017.

In its statement this week, Facebook explains that while it typically shares similar view on hate speech and fake news and federal governments, Germany’s proposed legislation won’t do much to help fix the problem. Why? The company says the law would encourage it and others to remove content that might not be illegal to avoid risking such hefty fines.

“The draft law provides an incentive to delete content that is not clearly illegal when social networks face such a disproportionate threat of fines,” a Facebook spokesperson says in a statement to Engadget. “It would have the effect of transferring responsibility for complex legal decisions from public authorities to private companies.”

Facebook also says that “several legal experts” noted that the proposal violates the German constitution and doesn’t comply with EU law. As you might expect, the company says it’s willing to work with local governments and the general public on a better solution. If we had to guess, that would include something that doesn’t carry such a big financial penalty for companies that are trying to balance clamping down on hate speech and fake news with freedom of speech on their various platforms.

Just last week, the EU approved its own proposal to fight hate speech on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. That piece of legislation still has to be approved by the European Parliament before it becomes law, but if it does, the ruling would allow social networks to block videos that promote hate speech or terrorism. However, those regulations only apply to archived footage, not live streams. On top of having the attention of legislators around the world, Facebook is also dealing with the massive problem of violent acts being broadcast live on its site.

Here’s the full statement on Germany’s proposed hate speech legislation from Facebook:

“In its statement on the Network Enforcement Act (GER: Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, NetzDG), Facebook outlines the main reasons why the NetzDG is not suitable to combat hate speech and false news. Generally, Facebook shares the federal government’s concern regarding hate speech and false news online. At the same time, Facebook understands its own responsibility and welcomes political efforts to combat these challenges.

However, the draft law is not the right way to achieve these political goals. The draft law provides an incentive to delete content that is not clearly illegal when social networks face such a disproportionate threat of fines. It would have the effect of transferring responsibility for complex legal decisions from public authorities to private companies. And several legal experts have assessed the draft law as being against the German constitution and non-compliant with EU law. Facebook is committed to working in partnership with governments and civil society on solutions that will make this draft law unnecessary.”

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/05/29/facebook-responds-germany-proposed-hate-speech-bill/

Pacemakers are far more vulnerable to hacking than we thought

Manufacturers are supposed to control programmers’ distribution, but the researchers themselves got their test devices from the auction website for as little as $500 to as much as $3,000. In addition to those issues, the team has found that doctors’ monitoring systems don’t require log-in names and passwords when pacemakers connect to them. They even found unencrypted patients’ data stored in the tools, including SSNs, names, phone numbers and medical conditions.

That said, Matthew Green, an Assistant Professor for Computer Science at Johns Hopkins, noted that doctors are adamant not to let security systems block patient care. He said that requiring passwords would merely lead to a “post-it note on the device listing the password,” so every doctors’ staff member can access the data they need. Green also called attention to some dubious parts of the study, particularly the lack of emphasis on the team’s most alarming finding that third-party programmers can remotely access pacemakers:

Despite the points Green raised, it’s still true that various security researchers have been warning manufacturers about pacemakers’ and other cardiac devices’ vulnerabilities for years. Unfortunately, it sounds like very few listened: a separate study by security firm Ponemon Institute LLC found that only 17 percent of manufacturers took steps to secure their products. While we’ve yet to hear about an incident that has led to a patient’s death, it’s still ideal to make cardiac devices more secure as cyberattacks become more common, elaborate and sophisticated.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/05/29/pacemakers-8000-bugs-vulnerable-to-hacking/

Zepp phone apps use AI to study your basketball shots

You may know Zepp for sports tracking sensors you can slap on your baseball bat or soccer ball, but its latest tracking involves little more than your phone and a good view of the action. Its game recording and training apps (Android, iOS) are adding a dash of AI technology (namely, computer vision) to analyze your baseball swings, golf swings and basketball shots. If your three-pointer throwing needs work, you just need to point your phone’s camera at the court and start capturing. You can share the videos and performance data with others, too, in case you need to prove your skills to recruiters.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/05/28/zepp-sports-visual-computing/

Sana’s smart sleep goggles for insomniacs will be out in 2018

Richard Hanbury, the company’s chief, worked on the technology as a solution to his chronic pain issues that make it hard to go to sleep. It was put to the test when Bertrand Piccard relied on the technology to make sure he had enough rest when he piloted the Solar Impulse on a round-the-world journey last year. He could only nap three hours a day divided in 20-minute blocks and needed the extra help to make the most of each. At the moment, Sana Health is testing the device on athletes in need of restful nights while traveling.

Sana Sleep isn’t just for pilots and athletes, though: it’s for everyone who’s having trouble going to bed. Now that the company has successfully closed a $1.3 million round of seed funding, it’ll start working towards mass production. Hanbury says you’ll be able to buy the mask by the second quarter of 2018 at the earliest, and it will set you back $400.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/05/28/sanas-smart-sleep-goggles-2018-release/

Mind-controlled bionic hand can help stroke patients move again

The cap picks up on the user’s intention to open or close the paralyzed hand, the computer it’s attached to amplifies those signals and the Ipsihand follows those commands. So, how does the technology work? It’s based on what David Bundy, the lead author of the team’s paper published in the journal Stroke, discovered a decade ago. See, the parts of the brain that control movements are located on the other side of the limbs you want to move. If, say, you want to close your left hand, it’s the right part of your brain that does the work. That also means that a stroke survivor who can’t control his left arm and leg sustained damage on the the right side of his brain.

Bundy and neurosurgery professor Eric Leuthardt, however, found out that the electric signals that indicate movement first appear on the side of the limb you want to move. Those signals are responsible for activating the other side of your brain, which causes the actual movement. In stroke patients, the initial signals get lost in the ether, since the part it’s trying to activate doesn’t work anymore. That’s where Ipsihand comes in.

Out of 13 subjects, 10 were able to finish 12 weeks of testing, picking up blocks and building towers, fitting tubes around smaller tubes and moving their hands to their mouths. Their scores improved by an average of 6.2 points on a 57-point scale. It doesn’t sound like much, but as Leuthardt said, it could be “the difference between being unable to put on their pants by themselves and being able to do so.”

During those tests, the team found that patients improved based on how well the system read the signals from their brains. The more the researchers improve its capability to pick up signals, the better Ipsihand will be at helping survivors move their hands again.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/05/27/mind-controlled-ipsihand-stroke-rehab/

‘Fallen London’ and the secret to writing an infinite gothic game

Fallen London debuted as a free browser game in 2009, though back then it was called Echo Bazaar. It’s still available in browser form, but it’s also on iOS and Android, and it’s spawned a successful spinoff mobile franchise starting with Sunless Sea. Just this week, Failbetter announced it would place renewed focus on Fallen London, tying up some of its stories and systems.

Fallen London is a deep choose-your-own-adventure game with no moving pictures to guide players into new worlds. Instead, it’s text-based, allowing fans to decide how they’ll react to certain scenarios while they wander around a Victorian version of London that was pulled into an underground dimension by a swarm of bats.

Fallen London blends Lovecraftian monsters with the eloquence of Poe and a dark sense of wit that’s entirely unique to the game world. Here’s a taste of its tone, courtesy of Gardiner:

There’s a scene in a story called The Gift where the player ventures under the royal palace and learns what’s become of Queen Victoria’s children. The player ends up disguised as a servant at a banquet. They’ve been instructed to keep their back to it, and under no circumstances to turn around.

There’s a mirror in front of them. And in the mirror, fine lords and ladies are eating an elegant dinner. But the sounds you hear behind you are very different. Slobbering. Cracking bones. The thud of wet meat on the table. The mirror is lying. Three times we ask the player if they want to turn around, and warn that the consequences will be terrible. It’s entirely their choice. And because they’re our players, they generally turn. Bless them.

Gardiner is the narrative director on Fallen London, but he isn’t putting this deliciously grotesque universe together himself. The entire project is the brainchild of Alexis Kennedy, an acclaimed video-game writer and designer who’s helping build the new Dragon Age. Kennedy founded Failbetter in 2010, as Fallen London was gaining a sizable cult following, and over the following years, he tended to the game’s story alongside a small team of writers and fans-turned-employees. He left Failbetter in 2016 on good terms, placing Fallen London in Gardiner’s hands.

“His were very big shoes to fill,” Gardiner says. “Failbetter was his baby, and he was involved in every aspect of it. Even when his duties meant he didn’t have much time to write content, Alexis was always the arbiter and guardian of Fallen London‘s lore and tone. Maintaining that tone has been a crucial priority for us, and I was concerned about it. I’d been head writer for a while, so the team wasn’t left without a lead experienced in writing for Fallen London. And, fortunately, Alexis left us a game consisting of hundreds of thousands of words of stories, which is as comprehensive an authority as you can get.”

Today, the Fallen London team maintains a living document of every event and arc in the game, constantly growing it as new activities are introduced. The doc is streamlined, containing only basic, businesslike information about any particular event — and still, it’s 131 pages long.

“Every time we write a new story, we add to it, like the ever-expanding occult tome of a very well-organized sorcerer who believes highlighters and Post-It notes are true magic,” Gardiner says.

If necessary, writers can also dive directly into the game’s back end and search for specific text or mechanical elements, though given the size of the story, this is a laborious process.

“Increasingly, we rely on the expertise of the writers,” Gardiner says. “Each writer tends to become an authority on different parts of the lore.”

There are four writers working on Fallen London, including Gardiner, plus an analyst and a handful of freelancers who chip in as needed. They operate in a multistep editing loop that ensures each piece of the story fits into the overall Fallen London universe (and that it’s as eerie, romantic or disturbing as possible).

This week, Failbetter announced its renewed focus on Fallen London. The game has been on the back burner for a while as developers worked on Sunless Sea and its sequel, Sunless Skies. Some of the mechanics and stories have languished in the meantime, and Gardiner says it’s simply time to dust off the cobwebs and dive back into the Echo Bazaar.

Throughout 2017, the Fallen London team promises to continue a few storylines, such as “The Cheery Man” and “Last Constable,” “The Dilmun Club, A Return to the Empress’ Court and the Light Fingers ambition. This is on top of the game’s expected stories and events, including the next mayoral election, a large-scale affair where players chose the leader of Fallen London. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Failbetter is improving its own writing tools.

“Everyone’s been in the role at least a year, and our process is well-established and polished,” Gardiner says, noting that the team has expanded to include freelancers like Emily Short. “Failbetter has grown in all other areas, too — tech, analytics, art, production. We’re now in a place where we’re able to commit dedicated resource to some things that otherwise would have missed out to higher-priority tasks.”

Besides, Failbetter wants to reward veteran players who have been clamoring for these updates for a long while. “We’ve always seen this content as an unpaid debt, and it’s time to pay it off,” he says.

Fallen London never sleeps. Since its inception in 2009, it’s continued to evolve, gathering new stories, items, characters and creeps under the city’s yellowed gas lamps. Kennedy, Gardiner and Failbetter have written more than 1.5 million words for Fallen London so far, and they’re nowhere near done.

Fallen London is the story of a city, and a city doesn’t stop,” Gardiner says. “There are definitely stories that will conclude, but London won’t. Some players will feel a natural stopping point when some stories — like the ambitions that drove them to London — are at an end, but the game won’t force them to leave. We want players to spend as much time in Fallen London as they choose. And if they want to leave and come back, that’s fine too. We’ll always make you welcome, Delicious Friend.”

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/05/27/fallen-london-gothic-horror-game-interview-writing/