Collaborating Authors

Amazon's new shopping 'wand' isn't as magical as it sounds


You probably know all about Amazon's Dash buttons, the little physical buttons that you can press to re-order more of a specific item. Because who can be bothered spending more than the time it takes to press a button on buying toilet paper? The Amazon Dash that you see in the photo above is not to be confused with the Dash buttons. The new Dash... umm, wand is a revamped version of the Dash wand that was previously only available for use with Amazon Fresh items. Never heard of the Dash wand?

Opinion Facial recognition could make us safer -- and less free


IT IS something of an American tourist tradition to gaze through the iron fences around the White House lawn, but citizens think little about how government might be gazing back. A pilot program by the Secret Service to test the use of facial recognition in and around 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. should prompt everyone, and especially Congress, to start paying attention. The Department of Homeland Security published details recently on its plans to scan feeds from existing cameras in the executive complex and run them through recognition software. This is slightly less scary than it sounds: The cameras will capture people in adjacent public spaces, but only consenting Secret Service employees will be in the program database -- so, barring false positives, faces of passersby that do not match participants' photos will not be stored. More concerning is the potential for future misuse of the technology.

Amazon acquires image recognition oriented start-up


Late last year e-commerce giant, Amazon, added another emerging firm to its list of acquisitions, keeping this information relatively low profile until Bloomberg reported on the move this week. The company in question is Orbeus, which focuses its operations on creating artificial intelligence that is capable of determining what items and objects are present in a picture or photo. This kind of image recognition means that computers are capable of perceiving the world in a similar way to humans and could have obvious applications in terms of safe shopping online. While the takeover has not been officially confirmed, sources claim that it was completed in the autumn of 2015, according to Business Insider. And with recent reports of Amazon working towards introducing selfie-based payment authentication, imaging is clearly an area in which it holds a significant interest.

Amazon Echo voice-controlled smart speaker comes to UK and Germany


Amazon is to start selling its voice controlled speaker the Amazon Echo in the UK and Germany. Amazon Echo is a cylindrical, voice-controlled speaker which also increasingly functions as a smart home digital assistant. Triggered by someone saying the name Alexa (or Amazon, or Echo) it can play music you ask for from services like Amazon Music and Spotify, or play audio books from Audible. When it detects the wake word, Echo's light ring turns blue and begins streaming the request to the cloud: the spoken request is sent to Amazon Web Services to process it and respond, using a neural network-based speech recognition system to recognise what is being asked for. The device can respond to questions such as "Alexa, will it rain tomorrow?",

Amazon's delivery drivers now have to verify their identity with selfies


Amazon is now using facial recognition to verify its delivery drivers' identities. Specifically, the change applies to people who drive for Amazon Flex, the retail giant's program that allows contract workers to deliver Amazon packages using their own cars. Now, Amazon will start verifying their identities using a combination of selfies and facial recognition. The new development was reported by The Verge after the Amazon Flex app began notifying drivers they needed to start taking selfies in the app. Amazon has said the change is meant to reduce fraud and ensure only people authorized to deliver packages are able to access Amazon Flex.