By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department
Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Google's Assistant were meant to be controlled by live human voices, but all three AI assistants are susceptible to hidden commands undetectable to the human ear, researchers in China and the United States have discovered. From a report: The New York Times reports today that the assistants can be controlled using subsonic commands hidden in radio music, YouTube videos, or even white noise played over speakers, a potentially huge security risk for users. According to the report, the assistants can be made to dial phone numbers, launch websites, make purchases, and access smart home accessories -- such as door locks -- at the same time as human listeners are perceiving anything from completely different spoken text to recordings of music. In some cases, assistants can be instructed to take pictures or send text messages, receiving commands from up to 25 feet away through a building's open windows. Researchers at Berkeley said that they can modestly alter audio files "to cancel out the sound that the speech recognition system was supposed to hear and replace it with a sound that would be transcribed differently by machines while being nearly undetectable to the human ear."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's their-point-of-view department
The most talked-about product from Google's developer conference earlier this week -- Duplex -- has drawn concerns from many. At the conference Google previewed Duplex, an experimental service that lets its voice-based digital assistant make phone calls and write emails. In a demonstration on stage, the Google Assistant spoke with a hair salon receptionist, mimicking the "ums" and "hmms" pauses of human speech. In another demo, it chatted with a restaurant employee to book a table. But outside Google's circles, people are worried; and Google appears to be aware of the concerns. From a report: "Horrifying," Zeynep Tufekci, a professor and frequent tech company critic, wrote on Twitter about Duplex. "Silicon Valley is ethically lost, rudderless and has not learned a thing." As in previous years, the company unveiled a feature before it was ready. Google is still debating how to unleash it, and how human to make the technology, several employees said during the conference. That debate touches on a far bigger dilemma for Google: As the company races to build uncanny, human-like intelligence, it is wary of any missteps that cause people to lose trust in using its services. Scott Huffman, an executive on Google's Assistant team, said the response to Duplex was mixed. Some people were blown away by the technical demos, while others were concerned about the implications. Huffman said he understands the concerns. Although he doesn't endorse one proposed solution to the creepy factor: Giving it an obviously robotic voice when it calls. "People will probably hang up," he said. [...] Another Google employee working on the assistant seemed to disagree. "We don't want to pretend to be a human," designer Ryan Germick said when discussing the digital assistant at a developer session earlier on Wednesday. Germick did agree, however, that Google's aim was to make the assistant human enough to keep users engaged. The unspoken goal: Keep users asking questions and sharing information with the company -- which can use that to collect more data to improve its answers and services.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's reckoning-is-here department
Young professionals in China are pushing back against employers who expect them to work around the clock, saying no to the decades old "rule of 996" -- working from 9am to 9pm six days a week. From a report: At the forefront are millennials who are often better educated, more aware of their rights and more interested in finding something fulfilling than the previous generation. And as only children (China's one-child policy wasn't eased until 2015), they are also outspoken and pampered. "In my experience young people, especially the post-90s generation, are reluctant to work overtime -- they are more self-centered," says labour rights expert Li Jupeng, one of many who have observed some millennials challenging the 996 concept. The relative affluence of their parents and grandparents is part of the reason. China's rapid economic transformation has given rise to a sizeable middle class, with almost 70% of the country's urban population making between $9,000 and $34,000 annually in 2012. In 2000, that figure was just 4%. As only children, millennials are receiving a lot of support from their families -- including a financial safety net should their careers not go as planned. Although their options for pushing back are limited, some are no longer willing to put in long hours for a meagre paycheck.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department
An anonymous reader writes: The source code behind a police breathalyzer widely used in multiple states -- and millions of drunk driving arrests -- is under fire. It's the latest case of technology and the real world colliding -- one that revolves around source code, calibration of equipment, two researchers and legal maneuvering, state law enforcement agencies, and Draeger, the breathalyzer's manufacturer. This most recent skirmish began a decade ago when Washington state police sought to replace its aging fleet of breathalyzers. When the Washington police opened solicitations, the only bidder, Draeger, a German medical technology maker, won the contract to sell its flagship device, the Alcotest 9510, across the state. But defense attorneys have long believed the breathalyzer is faulty. Jason Lantz, a Washington-based defense lawyer, enlisted a software engineer and a security researcher to examine its source code. The two experts wrote in a preliminary report that they found flaws capable of producing incorrect breath test results. The defense hailed the results as a breakthrough, believing the findings could cast doubt on countless drunk-driving prosecutions.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-tools department
Ars Technica's Eric Berger reports of how dramatic increases in computer power have helped improve the accuracy of hurricane forecasts: Based upon new data from the National Hurricane Center for hurricanes based in the Atlantic basin, the average track error for a five-day forecast fell to 155 nautical miles in 2017. That is, the location predicted by the hurricane center for a given storm was just 155 nautical miles away from the actual position of the storm five days later. What is incredible about this is that, back in 1998, this was the average error for a two-day track forecast. In fact, the annual "verification" report released Wednesday shows that for the hyperactive 2017 Atlantic hurricane season -- which included the devastating hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria -- the National Hurricane Center set records for track forecasts at all time periods: 12-hour, 24-hour, and two-, three-, four- and five-day forecasts.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's heads-up department
Yesterday at its I/O developer conference, Google debuted "Duplex," an AI system for accomplishing real world tasks over the phone. "To show off its capabilities, CEO Sundar Pichai played two recordings of Google Assistant running Duplex, scheduling a hair appointment and a dinner reservation," reports Quartz. "In each, the person picking up the phone didn't seem to realize they were talking to a computer." Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein argues that the new system should come with some sort of warning to let the other person on the line know that they are talking with a computer: With no exceptions so far, the sense of these reactions has confirmed what I suspected -- that people are just fine with talking to automated systems so long as they are aware of the fact that they are not talking to another person. They react viscerally and negatively to the concept of machine-based systems that have the effect (whether intended or not) of fooling them into believing that a human is at the other end of the line. To use the vernacular: "Don't try to con me, bro!" Luckily, there's a relatively simple way to fix this problem at this early stage -- well before it becomes a big issue impacting many lives.
I believe that all production environment calls (essentially, calls not being made for internal test purposes) from Google's Duplex system should be required by Google to include an initial verbal warning to the called party that they have been called by an automated system, not by a human being -- the exact wording of that announcement to be determined.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's testing-in-progress department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Just over six months after President Trump announced the creation of a program meant to spur the development of drone trials around the country, the Department of Transportation has announced the first 10 winners. Among those selected, three state transportation agencies, two US cities, and two universities will work with private companies like FedEx and CNN on trials that will see drones used for tasks like package delivery, journalism, healthcare, and more.
Formally known as the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot, the program encourages U.S. cities and states to partner with companies on drone trials that expand how the aircraft are used around the country. This includes, in some cases, allowing drones to fly over crowds, beyond the pilot's line of sight, and at night -- situations that are usually prohibited unless the person flying obtains an official waiver from the FAA. The goal with the program is to accelerate potential commercial applications for drone use. One of the 10 selections is Florida's Lee County Mosquito Control District. The small government agency will use drones to help control mosquito populations by searching for hard-to-find pockets of larvae at a faster rate than inspectors can on foot, while also reducing the risk of being bitten. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will work on flying drones beyond a pilot's line of sight as part of a partnership with CNN. Furthermore, North Carolina's DOT was selected to test the food drone delivery service, Tennessee's Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority was chosen to test deliveries in partnership with FedEx, and the City of Reno, Nevada was picked to work with Flirtey, a company focused on using drones to deliver medical supplies.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's alternative-methods department
States are reportedly turning to nitrogen gas to carry out the death penalty. "Oklahoma, Alabama and Mississippi have authorized nitrogen for executions and are developing protocols to use it, which represents a leap into the unknown," reports The New York Times. "There is no scientific data on executing people with nitrogen, leading some experts to question whether states, in trying to solve old problems, may create new ones." Slashdot reader schwit1 shares an excerpt from a report via The New York Times: What little is known about human death by nitrogen comes from industrial and medical accidents and its use in suicide. In accidents, when people have been exposed to high levels of nitrogen and little air in an enclosed space, they have died quickly. In some cases co-workers who rushed in to rescue them also collapsed and died. Nitrogen itself is not poisonous, but someone who inhales it, with no air, will pass out quickly, probably in less than a minute, and die soon after -- from lack of oxygen. The same is true of other physiologically inert gases, including helium and argon, which kill only by replacing oxygen.
Death from nitrogen is thought to be painless. It should prevent the condition that causes feelings of suffocation: the buildup of carbon dioxide from not being able to exhale. Humans are highly sensitive to carbon dioxide -- too much brings on the panicky feeling of not being able to breathe. Somewhat surprisingly, the lack of oxygen doesn't trigger that same reflex. Someone breathing pure nitrogen can still exhale carbon dioxide and therefore should not have the sensation of smothering.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's laying-down-the-law department
Apple has been removing some apps that share location data with third parties and informing developers that their app violates two parts of the App Store Review Guidelines. "The company informs developers via email that 'upon re-evaluation,' their application is in violation of sections 5.1.1 and 5.1.2 of the App Store Review Guidelines, which pertain to transmitting user location data and user awareness of data collection," reports 9to5Mac. From the report: Apple explains that developers must remove any code, frameworks, or SDKs that relate to the violation before their app can be resubmitted to the App Store. Apple's crackdown on these applications comes amid a growing industry shift due to General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, in the European Union. While Apple has always been a privacy-focused company, it is seemingly looking to ensure that developers take the same care of user data.
In the instances we've seen, the apps in question don't do enough to inform users about what happens with their data. In addition to simply asking for permission, Apple appears to want developers to explain what the data is used for and how it is shared. Furthermore, the company is cracking down on instances where the data is used for purposes unrelated to improving the user experience.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's setting-precedence department
California regulators said on Wednesday they have unanimously approved a historic plan that will require most new homes in the state have rooftop solar panels that turn sunlight into electricity starting in 2020. From a report: Most new homes built after Jan. 1, 2020, will be required to include solar systems as part of energy-efficiency standards adopted Wednesday by the California Energy Commission. While that's a boost for the solar industry, critics warned that it will also drive up the cost of buying a house by almost $10,000. The move underscores how rooftop solar, once a luxury reserved for wealthy, green-leaning homeowners, is becoming a mainstream energy source, with California -- the nation's largest solar market -- paving the way. The Golden State has long been at the vanguard of progressive energy policies, from setting energy-efficiency standards for appliances to instituting an economy-wide program to curb greenhouse gases. The housing mandate is part of Governor Jerry Brown's effort to slash carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030, and offers up a playbook for other states to follow.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's numbers-don't-lie department
Subscription music service Tidal has been accused of faking the streaming numbers for Kanye West and Beyonce. "Kanye West's 'The Life of Pablo,' which was the first album to go platinum primarily from streaming, and Beyonce's platinum record 'Lemonade' were released exclusively on Tidal for periods in 2016," reports Quartz. "By placing their albums on the fledgling platform, which was relaunched in 2015, both artists risked losing big paychecks." From the report: West's album was said to have been streamed 250 million times in the first 10 days on the service. And Beyonce's record was reportedly played 306 million times in 15 days. While it's not hard to believe Bey and Yeezy could hit those numbers, they rang false to some, as Tidal said it had 3 million members then. However, according to an in-depth investigation by Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv (DN), Tidal has reportedly manipulated those streaming numbers, to potentially make the company appear more profitable or increase royalty payments to the artists at the expense of others on the service. This is something Tidal vigorously denies and says the DN report is part of a "smear campaign."
< article continued at Slashdot's numbers-don't-lie department
>Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's shiny-and-new department
At its developer conference yesterday, Google announced third-generation TPUs (Tensor Processing Units) for AI and machine learning, which are eight times more powerful than the Google TPU 2.0 pods with up to 100 petaflops in performance. They're so power-hungry that they require water cooling -- something previous TPUs haven't required. ExtremeTech reports: So what do we know about TPU 3.0? Not much -- but we can make a few educated guesses. According to Google's own documentation, TPU 1.0 was built on a 28nm process node at TSMC, clocked at 700MHz, and consumed 40W of power. Each TPU PCB connected via PCIe 3.0 x16. TPU 2.0 made some significant changes. Unlike TPU v1, which could only handle 8-bit integer operations, Google added support for single-precision floats in TPU v2 and added 8GB of HBM memory to each TPU to improve performance. A TPU cluster consists of 180 TFLOPS of total computational power, 64GB of HBM memory, and 2,400GB/s of memory bandwidth in total (the last thrown in purely of the purposes of making PC enthusiasts moan with envy).
No word yet on other advanced capabilities of the processors, and they are supposedly still for Google's own use, rather than wider adoption. Pichai claims TPU v3 can handle 100 PFLOPS, but that has to be the clustered variant, unless Google is also rolling out a new tentative project we'll call "Google Stellar-Equivalent Thermal Density." We would've expected to hear about it, if that was the case. As more companies flock to the AI / ML banner, expect to see more firms throwing their hats into this proverbial ring.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: An update Google rolled out for its popular Chrome browser this weekend helps prevent those annoying auto-playing video ads on many websites from disturbing your day with unwanted sound as well. But that update is causing consternation for many Web-based game developers who are finding that the change completely breaks the audio in their online work. The technical details behind the problem involve the way Chrome handles WebAudio objects, which are now automatically paused when a webpage starts up, stymying auto-playing ads. To get around this, Web-based games now have to actively restart that pre-loaded audio object when the player makes an action to start the game, even if that audio wasn't autoplaying beforehand. "The standard doesn't require you to do this, so no one would have thought to do this before today," developer Andi McClure told Ars Technica. "With Chrome's new autoplay policies, developers shouldn't assume that audio can be played before a user gesture," Google told The Daily Dot in a statement. "With gaming in Chrome, this may affect Web Audio. We have shared details on what developers can do to address this, and the design for the policy was published last year."Read Replies (0)