Aug 21

Contractors working for Microsoft have listened to audio of Xbox users speaking in their homes in order to improve the console’s voice command features, Motherboard has learned. From a report: The audio was supposed to be captured following a voice command like “Xbox” or “Hey Cortana,” but contractors said that recordings were sometimes triggered and recorded by mistake. The news is the latest in a string of revelations that show contractors working on behalf of Microsoft listen to audio captured by several of its products. Motherboard previously reported that human contractors were listening to some Skype calls as well as audio recorded by Cortana, Microsoft’s Siri-like virtual assistant.

“Xbox commands came up first as a bit of an outlier and then became about half of what we did before becoming most of what we did,” one former contractor who worked on behalf of Microsoft told Motherboard. Motherboard granted multiple sources in this story anonymity as they had signed non-disclosure agreements. The former contractor said they worked on Xbox audio data from 2014 to 2015, before Cortana was implemented into the console in 2016. When it launched in November 2013, the Xbox One had the capability to be controlled via voice commands with the Kinect system.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

full article

Aug 21

An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report about Japan’s virtual YouTubers or VTubers that act as live performers, corporate PR officials and even surrogate children. From The Wall Street Journal: Ryosei Takehisa, 24 years old, doesn’t have any children — unless you count an animated character with elfin ears called Mikuriya Kuon. In live appearances on YouTube, the kimono-clad Kuon character, voiced by an actor hired by Mr. Takehisa, dispenses advice about the latest video games and plays rock-paper-scissors with her fans. The creator says he considers Kuon his “real daughter” even though she “resides within pixels.” While others may compete for fame or page views, “for me, I’m totally satisfied just with the fact that she was born and is continuing to live life in good health,” says Mr. Takehisa. Digital avatars with human traits have long carved out a role on social media, on Instagram in particular. Japan, as it often does, has taken the idea and run with it, with its virtual characters now estimated to number more than 3,000.

Technology allows Kuon and her peers to have more direct engagement with fans — and sometimes a family-like relationship with their own creators. The characters, known as virtual YouTubers or VTubers because many are active on YouTube, sing and dance at live performances and answer questions on webcasts. VTubers are so embedded in Japanese culture that one of them serves as a face of the Japanese government’s tourism campaign. Another presented earnings results for game-site operator Gree Inc. in August last year, informing investors that “we will aggressively invest in strengthening our three earnings pillars.” “VTubers are an evolution in Japan’s long tradition of manga and anime, giving real-time interactivity to the sort of characters earlier depicted in comic books and on television screens,” the report says. “The next step could be artificial intelligence to allow the VTubers to sing, dance and be mischievous without any backstage human help.”

Sony is trying to further extend one of their latest pop sensations, a VTuber called Kaguya Luna, by building on its virtual-reality technology. “It has already staged concerts by Luna that fans view through a VR headset,” reports The WSJ. “Next the company is looking into haptic technology — which can convey vibrations and force — to allow fans to get up close and personal with Luna.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

full article

Aug 19

As fake and illegitimate texts proliferate online, books are becoming a form of misinformation. The author of “1984″ would not be surprised. From a report: In George Orwell’s “1984,” the classics of literature are rewritten into Newspeak, a revision and reduction of the language meant to make bad thoughts literally unthinkable. “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words,” one true believer exults. Now some of the writer’s own words are getting reworked in Amazon’s vast virtual bookstore, a place where copyright laws hold remarkably little sway. Orwell’s reputation may be secure, but his sentences are not. Over the last few weeks I got a close-up view of this process when I bought a dozen fake and illegitimate Orwell books from Amazon. Some of them were printed in India, where the writer is in the public domain, and sold to me in the United States, where he is under copyright. Others were straightforward counterfeits, like the edition of his memoir “Down and Out in Paris and London” that was edited for high school students. The author’s estate said it did not give permission for the book, printed by Amazon’s self-publishing subsidiary. Some counterfeiters are going as far as to claim Orwell’s classics as their own property, copyrighting them with their own names.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

full article

Aug 18

Long-time Slashdot reader shanen writes:
Imagine you had a perfect chair for using your computer. Also a perfect chair for watching TV. And a chair for listening to music, a chair for reading, a chair for napping, a work chair that keeps you awake, and a perfect chair for dinner. Also a massage chair and a diagnostic chair that checks your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. Is your house full of chairs yet? Wait! what about your spouse’s perfect chairs? Need a bigger house?

What if you had one chair that could be all nine of those chairs? What if you could teach the super-smart modular chair to be more chairs, too? That’s what I want, plus the voodoo chair controller to manipulate and teach the slightly deformable triangular modules (in two or three sizes) that would form all of the virtual chairs for the current real chair.

Anyway, this story ticks me off because I sent that idea to a couple of companies, including IKEA. I’m still waiting. Not holding my breath.

That article shows Ikea promising a new “smart homes” unit — but with no mention of investments in wondrous smart chair technologies.

So the original submission ends by asking how we can bring about such a smart chair revolution?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

full article

Aug 16

Apple has filed a lawsuit against Corellium, accusing the software company of illegally selling virtual copies of iOS under the guise of helping discover security flaws. “Apple said the software company Corellium has copied the operating system, graphical user interface and other aspects of the devices without permission, and wants a federal judge to stop the violations,” reports Bloomberg. From the report: Apple said it supports “good-faith security research,” offering a $1 million “bug bounty” for anyone who discovers flaws in its system and gives custom versions of the iPhone to “legitimate” researchers. Corellium, the iPhone maker said, goes further than that. “Although Corellium paints itself as providing a research tool for those trying to discover security vulnerabilities and other flaws in Apple’s software, Corellium’s true goal is profiting off its blatant infringement,” Apple said in the complaint. “Far from assisting in fixing vulnerabilities, Corellium encourages its users to sell any discovered information on the open market to the highest bidder.”

Corellium creates copies of the Apple iOS, and says that it’s all to help white-hat hackers discover security flaws. Instead, according to Apple, any information is sold to people who can then exploit those flaws. Corellium, in a posting dated July 4 on its website, said it “respects the intellectual property rights of others and expects its users to do the same.” Corellium’s products allow the creation of a virtual Apple device, according to the suit. It copies new versions of Apple works as soon as they are announced, and doesn’t require users to disclose flaws to Apple, the Cupertino, California-based company said in the complaint. Apple also wants a court order forcing Corellium to notify its customers that they are in violation of Apple’s rights, destruction of any products using Apple copyrights, and cash compensation.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

full article

Aug 15

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: British Airways announced that it is testing out virtual reality headsets for the rest of this year on flights between London’s Heathrow and New York City’s John F. Kennedy airport. The airline is tapping SkyLights for the VR eyewear headsets that will be available for its first-class passengers. The AlloSky hardware can present 3D views even when the viewer is lying flat. As far as programming, British Airways will have options. The VR headsets will offer visual entertainment in 2D, 3D, or 360-degree formats. The airline will also provide more therapeutic programs to help people who have a fear of flying. These VR experiences include guided meditation and sound therapy. This marks the first time British Airways is bringing virtual reality onto its aircrafts. The company also used SkyLights’ hardware at its ticket counters in Heathrow to show passengers the experience of its first-class travel in an effort to encourage upgrades.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

full article

Aug 15

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Apple, Google, Amazon, and most recently Facebook have been found hiring human workers to transcribe audio captured by their own products. Motherboard found Microsoft does the same for some Skype calls, and is still doing so despite other companies suspending their reliance on contractors. A cache of leaked documents obtained by Motherboard gives insight into what the human contractors behind the development of tech giants’ artificial intelligence services are actually doing: laborious, repetitive tasks that are designed to improve the automated interpretation of human speech. This means tasks tech giants have promised are completed by virtual assistants and artificial intelligence are trained by the monotonous work of people.

The work is magnified by the large footprint of speech recognition tools: Microsoft’s Cortana product, similar to Apple’s Siri, is implemented in Windows 10 machines and Xbox One consoles, and is also available as on iOS, Android, and smart speakers. The instruction manuals on classifying this sort of data go on for hundreds of pages, with a dizzying number of options for contractors to follow to classify data, or punctuation style guides they’re told to follow. The contractor said they are expected to work on around 200 pieces of data an hour, and noted they’ve heard personal and sensitive information in Cortana recordings. A document obtained by Motherboard corroborates that for some work contractors need to complete at least 200 tasks an hour. The pay for this work varies. One contract obtained by Motherboard shows pay at $12 an hour, with the possibility of contractors being able to reach $13 an hour as a bonus. A contract for a different task shows $14 an hour, with a potential bonus of $15 an hour. A Microsoft spokesperson told Motherboard in an emailed statement, “We’re always looking to improve transparency and help customers make more informed choices. Our disclosures have been clear that we use customer content from Cortana and Skype Translator to improve these products, we engage third party expertise to assist in this process, and we take steps to de-identify this content to protect people’s privacy.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

full article

Aug 14

The fingerprints of over 1 million people, as well as facial recognition information, unencrypted usernames and passwords, and personal information of employees, was discovered on a publicly accessible database for a company used by the likes of the UK Metropolitan police, defence contractors and banks, The Guardian reported Wednesday. From the report: Suprema is the security company responsible for the web-based Biostar 2 biometrics lock system that allows centralised control for access to secure facilities like warehouses or office buildings. Biostar 2 uses fingerprints and facial recognition as part of its means of identifying people attempting to gain access to buildings. Last month, Suprema announced its Biostar 2 platform was integrated into another access control system — AEOS. AEOS is used by 5,700 organisations in 83 countries, including governments, banks and the UK Metropolitan police. The Israeli security researchers Noam Rotem and Ran Locar working with vpnmentor, a service that reviews virtual private network services, have been running a side project to scans ports looking for familiar IP blocks, and then use these blocks to find holes in companies’ systems that could potentially lead to data breaches. In a search last week, the researchers found Biostar 2’s database was unprotected and mostly unencrypted. They were able to search the database by manipulating the URL search criteria in Elasticsearch to gain access to data.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

full article

Aug 12

InfoWorld’s Matt Asay argues we’re in (or near) “the golden age of open source.”

Here and there an open source company might struggle to make a buck, but as a community of communities, open source has never been healthier. There are a few good indicators for this.

The first is that the clouds — yes, all of them — are open sourcing essential building blocks that expose their operations. Google rightly gets credit for moving first on this with projects like Kubernetes and TensorFlow, but the others have followed suit. For example, Microsoft Azure released Azure Functions, which “extends the existing Azure application platform with capabilities to implement code triggered by events occurring in virtually any Azure or third-party service as well as on-premises systems….” More recently, AWS released Firecracker, a lightweight, open source virtualization technology for running multi-tenant container workloads that emerged from AWS’ serverless products (Lambda and Fargate). In a textbook example of how open source is supposed to work, Firecracker was derived from the Google-spawned crosvm but then spawned its own upgrade in the form of Weave Ignite, which made Firecracker much easier to manage.

These are just a few examples of the interesting open source projects emerging from the public clouds. (Across the ocean, Alibaba has been open sourcing its chip architecture, among other things.) More remains to be done, but these offer hope that the public clouds come not to bury open source, but rather to raise it…

it’s not hard to believe that the more companies get serious about becoming software companies, the more they’re going to encourage their developers to get involved in the open source communities upon which they depend… [I]t’s not just the upstarts. Old-school enterprises like Home Depot host code on GitHub, while financial services companies like Capital One go even further, sponsoring open source events to help foster community around their proliferating projects…. So, again, not everybody is doing it. Not yet. But far more organizations are involved in open source today than were back in 2008… Such involvement is happening both at the elite level (public clouds) and in more mainstream ways, ushering in a golden era of open source.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

full article

Aug 07

All three major console manufacturers — Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony — have agreed to require games with paid loot boxes to include the chances of winning randomized in-game items from them, the Entertainment Software Association announced Wednesday. From a report: Michael Warnecke, the ESA’s chief counsel of tech policy, made the announcement during a workshop on loot boxes hosted by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. “I’m pleased to announce this morning that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have indicated to ESA a commitment to new platform policies with respect to the use of paid loot boxes in games that are developed for their platforms,” Warnecke said. “Specifically, this would apply to new games and game updates that add loot box features, and it would require the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of obtaining randomized virtual items in games that are available on their platforms.” Warnecke said that in addition to the major console manufacturers, “many of the leading video game publishers” who are members of the ESA, the trade body that represents the gaming industry, will “implement a similar approach.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

full article

«     |     ?     |     »