Information Technology


Law of attraction: Particle robot proves many hands do light work

ZDNet

In physics, particles are small localized objects with physical characteristics like mass or volume. From those humble ingredients, our virtually limitless universe is built. So it seems it was a mix of humility and pride that prompted researchers at MIT, Columbia, Cornell, and Harvard to name the robots in their novel new cooperative robotic system "particles." The concept, presented in an article in the journal Nature, is that a cooperative system of small robots might be able to do complex work, even if no single component in the system is computationally complex. It's the theory at the heart of a branch of automation called swarm robotics.


"Particle robot" works as a cluster of simple units

MIT News

Taking a cue from biological cells, researchers from MIT, Columbia University, and elsewhere have developed computationally simple robots that connect in large groups to move around, transport objects, and complete other tasks. This so-called "particle robotics" system -- based on a project by MIT, Columbia Engineering, Cornell University, and Harvard University researchers -- comprises many individual disc-shaped units, which the researchers call "particles." The particles are loosely connected by magnets around their perimeters, and each unit can only do two things: expand and contract. That motion, when carefully timed, allows the individual particles to push and pull one another in coordinated movement. On-board sensors enable the cluster to gravitate toward light sources.


Apple's launch week continues as new AirPods arrive with wireless charging case, 'Hey Siri' support

PCWorld

If Apple's strategy this week is to build excitement for next week's "Show time" event, then it's doing a bang-up job. Following Monday's iPads and Tuesday's iMacs, Apple updated another popular product today with the launch of the second-generation AirPods that bring a new chip, new features, a new case, and more convenience. The new AirPods look exactly like the first-generation model, but include several key enhancements. The biggest is the addition of a new H1 chip, which Apple says was "developed specifically for headphones, delivers performance efficiencies, faster connect times, more talk time and the convenience of hands-free'Hey Siri.'" That means you no longer need to tap your ear to get Siri's attention.


Google to start offering alternative browsers and search engines to Android users in the EU

Mashable

Android users in the EU will soon be offered a choice of browsers and alternative search engines on their devices, Google announced on Tuesday. The announcement is unsurprising, given the European Commission (EC) slapped Google with a record $5 billion fine in July 2018 for stifling browser and search engine competition in the EU. SEE ALSO: Google's Emma Haruka Iwao breaks Pi world record In a blog post, Google's SVP of Global Affairs Kent Walker said the company will "do more to ensure that Android phone owners know about the wide choice of browsers and search engines available to download to their phones." Specifically, owners of both existing and new Android devices will be asked which browser and search apps they want to use. Walker points out that Android users have "always been able to install any search engine or browser," but there's a difference between having Google's search engine and Chrome browser pre-installed as default and just letting users find alternatives on their own, and actively providing customers with a choice.


Please stop listing tech products as 'men's accessories'

Mashable

We search for great deals on tech gear all day, so we were excited to find an awesome sale price on Google WiFi mesh routers at Nordstrom -- that is until we noticed that it was listed as a "men's accessory." Google WiFi's breadcrumbs read: Home / Men / Accessories / All Men's Accessories After scouring the list of women's accessories, Google WiFi was nowhere to be found. What we did find were watches, jewelry, bags, and a handful of headphones. In addition to Google WiFi, Nordstrom includes a Google Home base, Nest security camera, and the Ring video doorbell in the men's accessories category. Again, from what we can tell, none of these appear in the women's section.


Apple announces new AirPods with longer talk time, hands-free Siri, and wireless charging case

Mashable

New AirPods are here at last. On Wednesday, Apple announced its second-generation AirPods. The new wireless earbuds look identical to the old model, but come with a new H1 chip to achieve up to 50 percent longer talk time on a given charge, and enable hands-free "Hey Siri" voice controls. With the H1 chip, the new AirPods get up to 5 hours of listening time and up to 3 hours of talk time (up from 2 hours on the first-gen AirPods). The new chip also enables 2x faster audio connection when switching between Apple devices (i.e.


This AI predicts online trolling before it happens

Mashable

How do you keep online trolls in check? Dr. Srijan Kumar, a post-doctoral research fellow in computer science at Stanford University, is developing an AI that predicts online conflict. His research uses data science and machine learning to promote healthy online interactions and curb deception, misbehavior, and disinformation. His work is currently deployed inside Indian e-commerce platform Flipkart, which uses it to spot fake reviewers. We spoke to Dr. Kumar ahead of a lecture on healthy online interactions at USC.


'We apologise for the inconvenience': How MySpace deleted everything uploaded to site between 2003 and 2015

The Independent

Once the most popular website on the planet, MySpace saw its dawdling decline come crashing to a conclusion on Monday, after it admitted that 50 million songs from 14 million artists over 12 years had been wiped from its platform. MySpace may have lost its battle with Facebook to be the world's most popular social network years ago – with Mark Zuckerberg's creation now holding a near-monopoly over its rivals – but MySpace had since pivoted to be a place for musicians to share and promote their work. It helped launch a generation of performers, including Lily Allen and the Arctic Monkeys, but MySpace has now told its users that any music saved to its site between 2003 and 2015 would be impossible to recover. We'll tell you what's true. You can form your own view.


Germany Risks U.S. Backlash If It Hires Chinese Company Huawei For 5G Tech

NPR

Tomorrow, Germany begins auctioning frequencies to build 5G mobile networks. It is both a highly technical event and the center of a geopolitical storm. Like much of Europe, Germany is squeezed between its economic ties to China and its longtime alliance with the U.S. NPR's Joanna Kakissis reports from Berlin. COMPUTER-GENERATED VOICE: To keep your estimated arrival time... JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: 5G will not just allow you to download movies in seconds on your smartphone. Since it's supposed to be up to 1,000 times faster than current mobile speeds, it can handle communication for self-driving cars, for example.


Coders' Primal Urge to Kill Inefficiency--Everywhere

WIRED

Shelley Chang was working as a business analyst for a computer company in 2010 when she met Jason Ho through some mutual friends. Ho was tall and slender with a sly smile, and they hit it off right away. A computer programmer, Ho ran his own company from San Francisco. He also loved to travel. Less than a month after they met, Ho surprised Chang by buying a plane ticket to meet her in Taiwan, where she'd temporarily relocated.