Boston Herald



Boston Dynamics' latest scary robot opens doors for its friends

Boston Herald

When the robots decide to become your overlords, what defensive measures are you hoping to deploy? If your answer is "doors," then you're unfortunately fresh out of luck. Boston Dynamics, the nightmare factory that was for a time one of Alphabet's more ill-advised properties, has once again released footage of a new robot that can do things robots aren't supposed to be able to do. This time it's a video of a robot called SpotMini (the BigDog maker loves canine references) using a claw-like arm (where the head should be) to open and hold open a door, for the benefit of another robot that would like to pass through it. What's not clear is how much the robot's actions are being externally controlled, or whether some sort of automated cooperation between the robots is at play here. Boston Dynamics has for the last half-year been owned by the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank sftby, but for the preceding three-and-a-half years it was Google's property. At the time, Google googl wanted to make robots that it could offer to enterprise customers in the manufacturing and retail spaces. Super-flexible, autonomous robots hold great potential here. However, Google also had to deal with the uncomfortable optics resulting from the fact that Boston Dynamics was a defense contractor--meaning Google itself became a defense contractor with the purchase. The tech giant started trying to offload Boston Dynamics in 2016, as it wasn't giving Alphabet products that wouldn't end up on the battlefield. SoftBank snapped the company up, along with Alphabet's Schaft robotics business, in mid-2017. "Smart robotics are going to be a key driver of the next stage of the information revolution," said SoftBank chair Masayoshi Son at the time.


Uber to pay $245 million to settle Waymo's theft allegations

Boston Herald

Uber is paying $245 million to Google's self-driving car spinoff to end a legal brawl that aired out allegations of a sinister scheme that tore apart the once-friendly companies. The surprise settlement announced Friday came as lawyers for Uber and Waymo, a company hatched from Google, prepared to ...


What reviewers are saying about Apple HomePod

Boston Herald

Apple's Internet-connected HomePod speaker goes on sale Feb. 9, and the reviews are now pouring in. The tech giant announced the HomePod speaker last summer, and originally planned to release it in December. However, Apple aapl then delayed the HomePod's debut, reportedly to modify its software. N...


Apple's HomePod faces a challenge the company is totally unfamiliar with

Boston Herald

"Hey Siri, why should I buy a HomePod?" If you were to ask that question a few months ago, the answer may have been more clear. When Apple unveiled its $349 Siri-equipped HomePod speaker in June, it was poised to fill a big hole in the smart speaker market. While the Amazon Echo and Google Home wer...


A raucous Google-Uber fight is finally heading to trial

Boston Herald

A Google-bred pioneer in self-driving cars and Uber's beleaguered ride-hailing service are colliding in a courtroom showdown revolving around allegations of deceit, betrayal, espionage and a high-tech heist that tore apart one-time allies. The trial opening Monday in San Francisco federal court comes nearly a year after Google spin-off Waymo sued Uber, accusing it of ripping off key pieces of its self-driving car technology in 2016. Uber paid $680 million for a startup run by Anthony Levandowski, one of the top engineers in a robotic vehicle project that Google began in 2009 and later spun out into Waymo. Google was also an early investor in Uber, a relationship that later soured. Its parent company Alphabet also owns Waymo.


Don't want to bother with cat litter? Japan offers robots

Boston Herald

Japan, home of the "kawaii" cult of cute, has always had a soft spot for companion robots, in contrast to the more industrial or mechanical types used for assembly lines, surgeries and military missions. The Associated Press spent some time recently with three relatively affordable home robots from Japanese makers that target the elderly, kids and hard-working salarymen pressed for time. Unlike real children or pets, they have off switches and don't need constant attention, dog food or cat litter. Toyota Motor Corp.'s Kirobo Mini is small enough to fit in your hand and looks like a child clad in a space outfit. It's apt to repeat phrases like, "I missed that; can you say that again?" and "Hmmmmm ....." Its name combines the word for "hope," or "kibo," and "robot."


Apple poised to expand into speaker market with HomePod

Boston Herald

Apple is finally ready to launch its attempt to compete with the internet-connected speakers made by Amazon and Google with the release of its long-awaited HomePod. Pre-orders for the HomePod will begin Friday in the U.S, U.K. and Australia, two weeks before the speaker goes on sale in stores for $349. Apple had intended to release the HomePod last month during the holiday shopping season, but delayed its debut to refine the product. Both Amazon's Echo and Google's Home speakers have been expanding their reach into people's homes since Apple announced the HomePod last June. Amazon and Google also are selling their speakers for substantially less, with streamlined versions of their devices available for below $50.


The most talked about tech at CES wasn't on display

Boston Herald

Each January when nearly two hundred thousand attendees descend upon Las Vegas for CES, the world's largest tech pilgrimage can overwhelm the senses with a myriad of sights and sounds emanating from 2.6 million square feet of new gadgets designed to delight savvy consumers. One can count on televisions to be bigger and thinner, appliances to be smarter, and personal computers to be faster. In all these categories, the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show's four thousand exhibitors did not disappoint. With 70- and 80- inch HDTVs so 2017, the largest screen display was a new modular 146" video wall that is perfect for any home with a blank nine-foot wide wall. Don't have a lot of space?


Lifelike robots made in Hong Kong meant to win over humans

Boston Herald

David Hanson envisions a future in which AI-powered robots evolve to become "super-intelligent genius machines" that might help solve some of mankind's most challenging problems. If only it were as simple as that. The Texas-born former sculptor at Walt Disney Imagineering and his Hong Kong-based startup Hanson Robotics are combining artificial intelligence with southern China's expertise in toy design, electronics and manufacturing to craft humanoid "social robots" with faces designed to be lifelike and appealing enough to win trust from humans who interact with them. Hanson, 49, is perhaps best known as the creator of Sophia, a talk show-going robot partly modeled on Audrey Hepburn that he calls his "masterpiece." Akin to an animated mannequin, she seems as much a product of his background in theatrics as an example of advanced technology.