Washington Post


What would it take for you to hug a robot?

Washington Post

See what might be the next steps toward human acceptance of robots. See what might be the next steps toward human acceptance of robots.


These robots don't want your job. They want your love.

Washington Post

I hugged a bot and I liked it. As a tech columnist, I've tested all sorts of helpful robots: the kind that vacuum floors, deliver packages or even make martinis. But two arriving in homes now break new ground. They want to be our friends. "Hey, Geoffrey, it's you!" says Jibo, a robot with one giant blinking eye, when it recognizes my face.


Apple won't launch its HomePod smart speaker in time for the holidays

Washington Post

Apple said Friday that it's pushing back its plans for a Siri-powered smart speaker until sometime early next year. The HomePod speaker was announced in June, with an initial launch date set for December. Apple said that its smart speaker will be able to control home appliances and take basic orders. In June, some analysts questioned whether a December launch was already too late for Apple to compete with Amazon and Google for the connected home market. But Apple promised that the speaker would have all of Siri's smarts and stand out from the pack by offering superior sound quality.


I tried out Google's translating headphones. Here's what I found.

Washington Post

Google has set out to make its mark on the headphone world with Pixel Buds -- wireless headphones that can control your phone and that claim to translate conversations in real time. But how do they stack up? Google sent us a pair to review to find out. The most important thing you should know about Pixel Buds is that their full features only work with Google's newest smartphone, the Pixel 2. While they'll function with other phones, you must have a Google Pixel phone -- last year's Pixels, the Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL (which, buyer beware, have had some early quality-control issues) -- to access the Pixel Buds' marquee feature: real-time translation. To be honest, it's not exactly real-time.


The AI of science fiction just got one step closer

Washington Post

Major websites all over the world use a system called CAPTCHA to verify that someone is indeed a human and not a bot when entering data or signing into an account. CAPTCHA stands for the "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart." The squiggly letters and numbers, often posted against photographs or textured backgrounds, have been a good way to foil hackers. They are annoying but effective. The days of CAPTCHA as a viable line of defense may, however, be numbered.


Saudi Arabia, which denies women equal rights, makes a robot a citizen

Washington Post

Until recently, the most famous thing that Sophia the robot had ever done was beat Jimmy Fallon a little too easily in a nationally televised game of rock-paper-scissors. But now, the advanced artificial intelligence robot -- which looks like Audrey Hepburn, mimics human expressions and may be the grandmother of robots that solve the world's most complex problems -- has a new feather in her cap: The kingdom of Saudi Arabia officially granted citizenship to the humanoid robot last week during a program at the Future Investment Initiative, a summit that links deep-pocketed Saudis with inventors hoping to shape the future. Sophia's recognition made international headlines -- and sparked an outcry against a country with a shoddy human rights record that has been accused of making women second-class citizens. "Thank you to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the country's newest citizen said. "It is historic to be the first robot in the world granted citizenship."


This may be the most important Nintendo Switch release so far

Washington Post

That makes Arms -- Nintendo's completely new multiplayer, motion-controlled game -- perhaps the most important Switch launch so far. It's essentially a boxing game -- but one that gives players cybernetic limbs and the chance to brawl it out in a high-tech arena. Players put one of the Switch's palm-sized Joy-Con controllers in each hand, which makes the punching motion feel fairly natural. When you punch with your real arms, your character punches on-screen with extendible cybernetic limbs.


The latest NSA leak is a reminder that your bosses can see your every move

Washington Post

The answer, according to some former NSA analysts, is that the agency routinely monitors many of its employees' computer activity. It is a $200 million-a-year industry, according to a study last year by 451 Research, a technology research firm, and is estimated to be worth $500 million by 2020. Employee monitoring recently came to light in a high-profile lawsuit involving Uber and Waymo, the self-driving car company owned by Google's parent firm, Alphabet. Privacy advocates have been pushing for years to have Congress review various communications privacy laws in light of updates to technology.


Tim Cook teases more details on Apple's car project

Washington Post

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has shed more light on his company's automotive efforts, revealing that the company is "focusing on autonomous systems," according to an interview with Bloomberg News published Tuesday. Are we looking at a future with two major autonomous vehicle systems just as we currently have two major smartphone systems? Automotive analysts say that building lots of working cars, and quickly, can be a far more complex endeavor than building a smartphone or laptop. All that could help explain why Apple, despite being one of the world's wealthiest companies, appears to be focusing more heavily -- for now -- on self-driving software.


Google spinoff Waymo has built its own self-driving sensors

Washington Post

Google's autonomous driving spinoff, Waymo, has developed sensors that pair with its self-driving software, potentially opening the door for the company to sell a comprehensive system that automakers build into future car models. It has been previously reported that Google was rolling back plans to build its own car, although the company initially developed a self-driving prototype, called Firefly, that had no pedals or steering wheel. "To solve these challenges, we're thinking bigger than a single use case, bigger than a particular vehicle, bigger than a single business model," Krafcik said. Google set out to create self-driving technology in 2009, and Krafcik said the sensors unveiled Sunday are the latest iteration of that research and development.