The Guardian


Not so white, male and straight: the video games industry is changing

The Guardian

The old stereotype of video game players as spotty, socially isolated boys in basements is finally disappearing after decades, but the popular image of game developers is enduring. They are imagined to be white and beardy, with glasses and a probable fondness for sci-fi and fantasy, and this is hardly unjustified. Cast an eye over the development floor of pretty much any major game developer in the western world and there's an undeniable homogeneity. The same can be said about video games industry executives. Whether clean-shaven or bearded, besuited or smart-casual, creative or corporate, they are almost universally white and male.


My smart car rental was a breeze – until I got trapped in the woods

The Guardian

On Saturday morning, I used an app on my phone to unlock a vehicle from Gig, a car sharing startup, and set off for a Valentine's Day weekend trip to northern California with my partner. By late Sunday afternoon, we were sitting on the side of a remote highway, a software issue on our smart car rendering it unusable. It was getting dark, we had no way of getting home, and I was contemplating the limits of the sharing economy and the ultimate costs of convenience. Gig is a company that rents a fleet of hybrid Toyota Priuses and electric Chevrolet Bolts in the Bay Area and Sacramento to 65,000 users, according to a spokesman for the company. It is part of a growing field of car-sharing services – including Zipcar, the now-defunct Share Now, and recently Uber and Lyft – that allow users to rent standardized vehicles on the go.


Scientists build robot snake that could help in disaster response

The Guardian

A robot snake has been developed by scientists in the race to advance the abilities of search and rescue machines. It is hoped that the robots may some day help to explore inaccessible terrain, such as rubble after an earthquake. Scientists observed how snakes moved and used this information to make a robot that can climb large steps in a nimble and stable fashion. Chen Li, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins University in the US and a senior author of the research, said: "We look to these creepy creatures for movement inspiration because they're already so adept at stably scaling obstacles in their day-to-day lives. Hopefully our robot can learn how to bob and weave across surfaces just like snakes."


AI systems claiming to 'read' emotions pose discrimination risks

The Guardian

Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems that companies claim can "read" facial expressions is based on outdated science and risks being unreliable and discriminatory, one of the world's leading experts on the psychology of emotion has warned. Lisa Feldman Barrett, professor of psychology at Northeastern University, said that such technologies appear to disregard a growing body of evidence undermining the notion that the basic facial expressions are universal across cultures. As a result, such technologies – some of which are already being deployed in real-world settings – run the risk of being unreliable or discriminatory, she said. "I don't know how companies can continue to justify what they're doing when it's really clear what the evidence is," she said. "There are some companies that just continue to claim things that can't possibly be true."


Table Manners review – fun and frustrations of the dating game

The Guardian

Ten minutes into my date with Taylor and I've spilled the champagne, smashed four glasses and slapped his cheek with uncooked lobster. The table is a blazing inferno (my attempt to light our votive candle was suboptimal). While I fumble with the fire extinguisher, Taylor stares at his phone, arms folded, and purses his lips. Moments like these transform Table Manners from a physics-based dating simulator into something approaching hilarious Mr Bean fan fiction. Table Manners borrows the idea Bossa popularised with Surgeon Simulator by challenging players to complete a series of dexterous tasks via purposefully janky controls.


No, Clearview AI's creepy plan to spy on us is not 'free speech' Jake Laperruque

The Guardian

Law enforcement agencies around the world are enthusiastically adopting the services of Clearview AI, a tech company whose powerful software scrapes several billion open-source images for the purposes of facial recognition. As the company confronts mounting criticism over its disturbing surveillance practices, its CEO, Hoan Ton-That, is rolling out an audacious new defense: he claims that Clearview's practices are protected by the first amendment. Ton-That's upside-down views of civil liberties are, it seems, just as Orwellian as his company's surveillance apparatus. Fortunately he is dead wrong. The constitution does not shield Clearview AI from accountability.


Amazon Echo Buds review: Alexa in your ear with Bose noise reduction

The Guardian

Amazon's first attempt at a set of true wireless earbuds gets a lot right, with Bose active noise reduction technology and hands-free Alexa. At £119.99, the Echo Buds undercut rivals, some of which cost more than twice as much. Their design is generic: large, kidney-shaped with a glossy touch panel on the outside and a standard silicone eartip on the inside. The eartip supports the earbud with the majority of the rest of the body sitting outside the ear. But the earbuds are large and heavy at 7.6g each, meaning they sit proud of your ear.


Robots steady breast cancer surgeon's hands in first human trial

The Guardian

Doctors have used a robot to perform extremely delicate surgical operations on breast cancer patients in the first human trial of the technology. Eight women had the robot-assisted procedure at Maastricht University Medical Center, in the Netherlands, to alleviate a common complication of breast cancer surgery. The robot helped a specialist surgeon divert thread-like lymphatic vessels, as narrow as 0.3mm, around scar tissue in the patients' armpits, and connect them to nearby blood vessels. The operation, which requires immense care and precision, is offered to some breast cancer patients to reduce swelling in the arms that builds up when the lymphatic system cannot drain properly. Because the vessels are so small, surgeons need exceptionally steady hands to perform the operation well.


Amazon wants to question Trump over loss of $10bn 'war cloud' contract

The Guardian

Amazon wants Donald Trump to submit to questioning over the tech company's losing bid for a $10bn military contract. The Pentagon awarded the cloud computing project to Microsoft in October. Amazon later sued, arguing that Trump's interference and bias against the company harmed Amazon's chances. Amazon was considered an early frontrunner for a project that Pentagon officials have described as critical to advancing the US military's technological advantage over adversaries. The project, known as Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or Jedi, will store and process vast amounts of classified data, allowing the US military to improve communications with soldiers on the battlefield and use artificial intelligence to speed up its war planning and fighting capabilities.


US charges four Chinese army members over giant Equifax hacking breach

The Guardian

The United States has charged four Chinese military hackers in the 2017 breach of the Equifax credit reporting agency that affected nearly 150 million US citizens, William Barr, the attorney general, said on Monday. "This was a deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people," Barr said about one of the largest data breaches in US history. The indictment charges four members of the Chinese Liberation Army. "This data has economic value," Barr said, "and these thefts can feed China's development of artificial intelligence tools." The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.