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Robotics

Killer Robots Will Only Exist If We Are Stupid Enough To Let Them (theguardian.com) 141

Heritype quotes the Guardian's science correspondent: The idea of killer robots rising up and destroying humans is a Hollywood fantasy and a distraction from the more pressing dilemmas that intelligent machines present to society, according to one of Britain's most influential computer scientists. Sir Nigel Shadbolt, professor of computer science at the University of Oxford, predicts that AI will bring overwhelming benefits to humanity, revolutionising cancer diagnosis and treatment, and transforming education and the workplace. If problems arise, he said, it will not be because sentient machines have unexpectedly gone rogue in a Terminator-like scenario.

"The danger is clearly not that robots will decide to put us away and have a robot revolution," he said. "If there [are] killer robots, it will be because we've been stupid enough to give it the instructions or software for it to do that without having a human in the loop deciding...."

However, Prof Shadbolt is optimistic about the social and economic impact of emerging technologies such as machine learning, in which computer programmes learn tasks by looking for patterns in huge datasets. "I don't see it destroying jobs grim reaper style," he said. "People are really inventive at creating new things for humans to do for which will pay them a wage. Leisure, travel, social care, cultural heritage, even reality TV shows. People want people around them and interacting with them."

AT&T

Time Warner Deal Aftermath: AT&T Is About To Give Free TV To Its Wireless Customers (cnbc.com) 51

AT&T completed its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner yesterday and we're already starting to see some exclusive deals offered to its customers. CNBC reports that the company "will be launching a 'very, very skinny bundle' of television programming free to its mobile customers." From the report: "We will be launching, and you're going to hear more about this next week, a product called 'AT&T Watch TV,'" Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "It will be the Turner content. It will not have sports. It'll be entertainment-centered." AT&T's unlimited wireless customers will get the service for free, Stephenson said, "or you can buy it for $15 a month on any platform." The service will be ad-supported, and AT&T will be ramping up an advertising platform, he said. He added that the company expects in coming weeks to make smaller acquisitions to enable those ad efforts. CNBC is also reporting that Time Warner is changing its name to WarnerMedia, and Turner Broadcasting CEO John Martin is departing the company.
Social Networks

Turkey Bans Periscope (stockholmcf.org) 87

stikves writes: According to online reports, a recent court order has banned Periscope across Turkey. The cited reason is the alleged violation of copyrights of a local company named "Periskop." This adds to the list of online services no longer available in Turkey, including Wikipedia, PayPal and WordPress, among others. While access from Turkey to the domain periscope.tv and to the Twitter account "periscopeco" is banned, users can still access Periscope services under the name Scope TR and Twitter account "scopetr." Lawyers from Twitter, Apple and Google requested rejection of the case, "saying it was impossible for a company like Twitter, operating in the U.S., to be aware of the existence of the same brand name in Turkey," reports Stockholm Center for Freedom.
Television

The Internet Is Finally Going To Be Bigger Than TV Worldwide (qz.com) 60

According to estimates from media agency Zenith, next year, for the first time, people will spend more time using the internet than watching TV. People will spend an average of 170.6 minutes a day, or nearly three hours, using the internet in 2019. That's a tad more than the 170.3 minutes they're expected to spend watching TV. Quartz reports: Zenith measured media by how they are transmitted or distributed, such as broadcasts via TV signals and newspapers in print. Watching videos on the web through platforms like Netflix and YouTube, or reading a newspaper's website, counted as internet consumption. Nearly one-quarter of all media consumption across the globe will be through mobile this year, up from 5% in 2011. The average person will spend a total of about eight hours per day consuming media in its many forms this year, Zenith forecasts.

In some parts of the world, TV will remain on top -- for now. Zenith forecasted media consumption through 2020 and did not expect the internet to overtake TV in Europe, Latin America, and the whole of North America in that time. In the U.S., it was projected to surpass TV in the U.S. in two years.

Businesses

Judge Rules AT&T Can Acquire Time Warner (wsj.com) 172

A federal judge said Tuesday that AT&T's $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner is legal, clearing the path for a deal that gives the pay-TV provider ownership of cable channels such as HBO and CNN as well as film studio Warner Bros. From a report: U.S. District Judge Richard Leon announced his decision in a packed courtroom, ruling that antitrust enforcers at the Justice Department had not proven their case against the merger. The decision, in one of the biggest antitrust cases in decades, is a milestone victory for AT&T as it looks to reposition itself in a rapidly evolving media landscape. Its deal for Time Warner, valued at roughly $80 billion, has been pending since October 2016. The acquisition means AT&T will be the nation's top pay-TV distributor, through its ownership of DirecTV, as well as the owner of some of the country's most sought-after channels: Time Warner's Turner networks -- including CNN, TBS and TNT -- as well as HBO, the most popular U.S. premium network.
Television

Next Year, People Will Spend More Time Online Than They Will Watching TV. That's a First. (recode.net) 74

Rani Molla, writing for Recode: It's finally happening: Next year, people around the world will spend more time online than they do watching TV, according to new data from measurement company Zenith. In 2019, people are expected to spend an average of 170.6 minutes each day on online activities like watching videos on YouTube, sharing photos on Facebook and shopping on Amazon. They'll spend slightly less time -- 170.3 minutes -- watching TV. The global transition from TV to internet as the main entertainment medium was a long time coming, but it also happened faster than expected. Last year, Zenith predicted that TV would still be more popular in 2019 but has since revised its estimates.
Cloud

EA, Touting 'Profound Impact' of Streaming and Subscription, Announces Origin Access Premier (gamesindustry.biz) 73

EA CEO Andrew Wilson announced that the game publisher is making a big move into cloud gaming. The company is also planning to launch a new version of its Origin Access subscription service on PC called Origin Access Premiere that will introduce games like Madden, FIFA, and more the same day they launch at retail. From a report: During the publisher's E3 2018 press conference, CEO Andrew Wilson descried the combination of streaming and subscription as "the greatest disruption" to the world of entertainment of the past five years. He pointed to how this business model for movies, TV and books has changed those markets, and believes this combination will have "a profound impact" on the games industry in the years to come. Wilson's comments echoed those of his CFO Blake Jorgensen, who said back in November that a combination of live services, such as FIFA Ultimate Team, and subscriptions will lead to "uncapped" monetisation of its players over the longest possible period of time.

In its latest financials, EA revealed that 40% of its revenue last year came from live services, while full game downloads and physical game sales are dropping. Wilson reminded conference attendees of the publisher's recent acquisition of GameFly's Israel-based cloud gaming team, predicting a future where players can enjoy high-end games on any device anywhere with an internet connection. While there are tech demos for EA's streaming service out there, Wilson stressed that it's "not quite ready for full market primetime," but pitched it as a "promise of what we hope to bring you in the future." In the meantime, Electronic Arts took the opportunity to announce a new subscription system that shows the publisher continuing to push towards a service-based economy for video games. Origin Access Premier is a new addition to the firm's PC-based games service: a premium subscription that gives players access to even more titles.

Medicine

University Seeks Volunteers For 'Hotel Influenza' (fortune.com) 51

The National Institutes of Health is paying a St. Louis university to study the effectiveness of flu vaccines. An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: The university wants volunteers to live in "hotel influenza," where they'd be either given a vaccine or a placebo, be exposed to the flu, and be quarantined for 10 days in the Extended Stay Research Unit. Compensation for such an experiment is around $3,500 (for time and travel), according to a SLU release... "In a traditional flu study, we vaccinate people and see if their immune systems respond by creating antibodies that fight flu," Dr. Hoff said in a release. "In a human challenge study, we vaccinate people, then deliberately challenge their bodies by exposing them to flu to see if they get sick"...

The 24 volunteers living in the "hotel influenza" would have private rooms and bathrooms, common areas with with chairs and TVs, along with exercise equipment, and catered meals in a dining room. They will be observed, "have blood and lung tests and nose swabs to see if they are infected with flu and shedding the virus." If they come down with the flu, they won't be able to leave until they've tested negative for the virus for two days. Nurses would be available around the clock.

One St. Louis newspaper jokes that it will either be a "sickathon" -- or "an indoor vacation complete with catered meals, TV, internet, a gym and views of the Arch".
Piracy

'Pirates' Tend To Be the Biggest Buyers of Legal Content, Study Shows (vice.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: According to a paywalled survey of 1,000 UK residents by anti-piracy outfit MUSO first spotted by Torrent Freak, 60 percent of those surveyed admitted that they had illegally streamed or downloaded music, film, or TV shows sometime in the past. But the study also showed that 83 percent of those questioned try to find the content they are looking for through above board services before trying anything else. And while the study found that 86 percent of survey takers subscribe to a streaming subscription service like Netflix, that total jumped to 91 percent among those that admit to piracy. The survey found that the top reason that users pirate is the content they were looking for wasn't legally available (34 percent) was too cumbersome or difficult to access (34 percent), or wasn't affordable (35 percent). "The entertainment industry tends to envisage piracy audiences as a criminal element, and writes them off as money lost -- but they are wrong to do so," MUSO executive Paul Briley said of the study's findings. "The reality is that the majority of people who have gone through the effort of finding and accessing such unlicensed content are, first and foremost, fans -- fans who are more often than not trying to get content legally if they can," Briley added.
Operating Systems

tvOS 12 Brings Dolby Atmos Support, Zero Sign-In, and TV App Improvements (macworld.com) 47

If you're using an Apple TV as your main streaming box, you will be happy to know several big improvements are coming to the platform. Macworld reports of what's new in tvOS 12: With tvOS 12, Dolby Atmos comes to the Apple TV 4K. All you need for full 3D immersive audio is an Atmos-supporting sound bar or receiver. This makes Apple TV 4K the only streaming media box to be certified for both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.

One of the best features of tvOS 11 is called Single Sign-on. You add your TV provider's login information to your Apple TV device. If an app supports Single Sign-on, you can log in with your TV provider with just a few taps. It's a big step forward, but still a little bit of a pain. With tvOS 12, Apple makes the whole process totally seamless with Zero Sign-on. Here's how it works: If your TV provider is your Internet provider (a very common occurrence here in the United States), and your Apple TV is connected to the Internet through that provider, you sign in automatically to any Apple TV app your provider gives you access to. Just launch the app, and you're signed in, no passwords or configuration needed at all.

Apple's breathtaking 4K video screensavers, called "Aerials," is one of those minor delights that Apple TV 4K users can't get enough of. In tvOS 12, they get better. You can tap the remote to see the location at which the Aerial was filmed. A new set of Aerials is the star of the show, however. Called "Earth," these are stunning videos from space, taken by astronauts at the International Space Station.
Furthermore, the TV app will provide live content from select TV providers; Charter Spectrum will support the app with live channels and content later this year. Apple is also now allowing third-party home control systems' remotes to control your Apple TV (including Siri).
Crime

Uber Driver Kills His Passenger (washingtonpost.com) 231

An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post: An Uber driver in Denver killed his passenger early Friday morning, telling a witness he had fired several times in self-defense, police said... Police say Michael Andre Hancock shot Hyun Kim, 45, with a semiautomatic pistol during a confrontation at 2:47 a.m. Friday, according to a partially redacted probable-cause affidavit provided to The Washington Post... Hancock does not have a criminal record in the state, the Denver Post reported. An Uber official said Hancock has been driving with the popular ride-hailing app for three years. His father, also named Michael Hancock, told KDVR-TV he had a permit to carry a concealed handgun. Putnam, the police spokeswoman, said she was unsure if that had been confirmed.

Company policy says riders and drivers cannot carry firearms in vehicles while using the ride-sharing app. Some states have regulations that override that prohibition, but in Colorado, which allows guns in vehicles to protect lives and property, the regulation for Uber users still applies, Uber spokeswoman Carly DeBeikes told The Post in a statement. Uber, rocked by allegations of inadequate screening and abuse among its drivers and corporate leaders, said Hancock's access to the app was removed

Uber was fined $8.9 million by Colorado regulators last year "for allowing 57 people with past criminal or motor vehicle offenses to drive for the company," reports the Denver Post. They note that in some cases Uber's drivers only had revoked or suspended licenses, while "a similar investigation of smaller competitor Lyft found no violations."
Television

When Did TV Watching Peak? (theatlantic.com) 178

An anonymous reader writes: With Netflix and Amazon Prime, Facebook Video and YouTube, it's tempting to imagine that the tech industry destroyed TV. The world is more than 25 years into the web era, after all, more than half of American households have had home Internet for 15 years, and the current smartphone paradigm began more than a decade ago. But no. Americans still watch an absolutely astounding amount of traditional television.

In fact, television viewing didn't peak until 2009-2010, when the average American household watched 8 hours and 55 minutes of TV per day. And the '00s saw the greatest growth in TV viewing time of any decade since Nielsen began keeping track in 1949-1950: Americans watched 1 hour and 23 minutes more television at the end of the decade than at the beginning. Run the numbers and you'll find that 32 percent of the increase in viewing time from the birth of television to its peak occurred in the first years of the 21st century.

Over the last 8 years, all the new, non-TV things -- Facebook, phones, YouTube, Netflix -- have only cut about an hour per day from the dizzying amount of TV that the average household watches. Americans are still watching more than 7 hours and 50 minutes per household per day.

Businesses

FCC Asks Amazon and eBay To Stop Selling Fake Pay TV Boxes (techcrunch.com) 62

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and eBay CEO Devin Wenig asking their companies to help remove the listings for fake pay TV boxes from their respective websites. From a report: These boxes often falsely bear the FCC logo, the letter informed, and are used to perpetuate "intellectual property theft and consumer fraud." With the rise in cord cutting, a number of consumers have found it's just as easy to use an app like Kodi on a cheap streaming media device to gain access to content â" like TV shows and movies -- that they would otherwise miss out on by dropping their pay TV subscription. As an added perk, various software add-ons enable consumers to stream movies still in the theaters, too. It's an easier way to access pirated content than visiting The Pirate Bay and downloading torrent files.
Businesses

All Major ISPs Have Declined In Customer Satisfaction, Says Study (dslreports.com) 85

The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index survey finds that Verizon FiOS has been rated the highest in customer satisfaction with a score of 70 out of 100. But, as DSLReports notes, that's nothing to write home about since that score was a one point decline from one year earlier. Furthermore, the industry average was 64 points, which is not only a decline from last year but lower than most of the other industries the group tracks. From the report: According to the ACSI, high prices and poor customer service continues to plague an U.S. broadband industry with some very obvious competitive shortcomings. "According to users, most aspects of ISPs are getting worse," the ACSI said. "Courtesy and helpfulness of staff has waned to 76 and in-store service is slower (74). Bills are more difficult to understand (-3 percent to 71), and customers aren't happy with the variety of plans available (-3 percent to 64)." Not a single ISP tracked by the firm saw an improvement in customer satisfaction scores.

The worst of the worst according to the ACSI is Mediacom, which saw a 9% plummet year over year to a score of 53, which is lower than most airlines, banks, and even the IRS according to the report. Charter Spectrum and Suddenlink also saw 8% declines in satisfaction year over year, and despite repeated claims that customer service is now its top priority, Comcast saw zero improvement in broadband satisfaction and a slight decline in pay TV satisfaction.

AI

Microsoft Also Has An AI Bot That Makes Phone Calls To Humans (theverge.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: At an AI event in London today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella showed off the company's Xiaoice (pronounced "SHAO-ICE") social chat bot. Microsoft has been testing Xiaoice in China, and Nadella revealed the bot has 500 million "friends" and more than 16 channels for Chinese users to interact with it through WeChat and other popular messaging services. Microsoft has turned Xiaoice, which is Chinese for "little Bing," into a friendly bot that has convinced some of its users that the bot is a friend or a human being. "Xiaoice has her own TV show, it writes poetry, and it does many interesting things," reveals Nadella. "It's a bit of a celebrity."

While most of Xiaoice's interactions have been in text conversations, Microsoft has started allowing the chat bot to call people on their phones. It's not exactly the same as Google Duplex, which uses the Assistant to make calls on your behalf, but instead it holds a phone conversation with you. "One of the things we started doing earlier this year is having full duplex conversations," explains Nadella. "So now Xiaoice can be conversing with you in WeChat and stop and call you. Then you can just talk to it using voice." (The term "full duplex" here refers to a conversation where both participants can speak at the same time; it's not a reference to Google's product, which was named after the same jargon.)

Businesses

Twitter Is Killing Several of Its TV Apps, Too (techcrunch.com) 29

Twitter is shutting down its TV apps on Roku, Android TV and Xbox starting on May 24, the company announced this morning. From a report: The news of the apps' closure comes at a time when Twitter is now trying to steer its users to its first-party mobile apps and its desktop website by killing off apps used by a minority of its user base -- like the Twitter for Mac app it shut down earlier this year. And more recently, it has attempted to kill off popular third-party Mac apps with a series of unfriendly API changes.

It's unclear why this has become Twitter's agenda. While it can be a burden for a company to support a broader ecosystem of apps where some only have a niche audience, in some cases those "niche" users are also the most influential and heavy users. And arguably, anyone launching Twitter's app on their TV must be a die-hard user -- because who is really watching that much Twitter on their TV?

United States

40 Cellphone-Tracking Devices Discovered Throughout Washington (nbcwashington.com) 62

The investigative news "I-Team" of a local TV station in Washington D.C. drove around with "a leading mobile security expert" -- and discovered dozens of StingRay devices mimicking cellphone towers to track phone and intercept calls in Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Washington, D.C. An anonymous reader quotes their report: The I-Team found them in high-profile areas like outside the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue and while driving across the 14th Street bridge into Crystal City... The I-Team's test phones detected 40 potential locations where the spy devices could be operating, while driving around for just a few hours. "I suppose if you spent more time you'd find even more," said D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh. "I have bad news for the public: Our privacy isn't what it once was..."

The good news is about half the devices the I-Team found were likely law enforcement investigating crimes or our government using the devices defensively to identify certain cellphone numbers as they approach important locations, said Aaron Turner, a leading mobile security expert... The I-Team got picked up [by StingRay devices] twice off of International Drive, right near the Chinese and Israeli embassies, then got another two hits along Massachusetts Avenue near Romania and Turkey... The phones appeared to remain connected to a fake tower the longest, right near the Russian Embassy.

StringRay devices are also being used in at least 25 states by police departments, according to the ACLU. The devices were authorized by the FCC back in 2011 for "federal, state, local public safety and law enforcement officials only" (and requiring coordination with the FBI).

But back in April the Associated Press reported that "For the first time, the U.S. government has publicly acknowledged the existence in Washington of what appear to be rogue devices that foreign spies and criminals could be using to track individual cellphones and intercept calls and messages... More sophisticated versions can eavesdrop on calls by forcing phones to step down to older, unencrypted 2G wireless technology. Some attempt to plant malware."
Android

With Steam Link App, Your Smartphone Can Be An Imperfect Gaming Monitor (arstechnica.com) 47

Ars Technica's Kyle Orland shares his experience with Valve's recently announced Steam Link app, which lets users play games running on a PC via a tablet, mobile phone, or Apple TV on the same network. The app launches today for Android 5.0+ devices; iOS support is "pending further review from Apple." From the report: Valve isn't kidding when it says a Wi-Fi router in the 5Ghz band is required for wireless streaming. I first tested iPad streaming on the low-end 2.4Ghz router provided with my Verizon FiOS subscription (an Actiontec MI424WR), with a wired Ethernet connection to my Windows gaming rig on the other end. The Steam Link network test warned me that "your network may not work well with Steam Link," thanks to 1- to 2-percent frame loss and about 15ms of "network variance," depending on when I tested. Even graphically simple games like The Binding of Isaac ran at an unplayably slowed-down rate on this connection, with frequent dropped inputs to boot.

Switching over to a 5GHz tri-band router (The Netgear Nighthawk X6, to be precise), the same network test reported a "fantastic" connection that "look[s] like it will work well with Steam." On this router, remotely played games ran incredibly smoothly at the iPad's full 1080p resolution, with total round-trip display latency ranging anywhere from 50 to 150ms, according to Steam Link's reports (and one-way "input lag" of less than 1ms). At that level of delay, playing felt practically indistinguishable from playing directly on the computer, with no noticeable gameplay impact even on quick-response titles like Cuphead.

The Almighty Buck

Comcast Charges $90 Install Fee At Homes That Already Have Comcast Installed (arstechnica.com) 141

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Based on our tests, signing up for standalone Internet or TV service on Comcast.com often requires payment of a $59.99 or $89.99 installation fee, depending on where you live. (The fee was $60 in two Massachusetts suburbs and $90 at homes in Houston, Texas, and Seattle, Washington.) In cases where the $60 or $90 fee is charged, the fee is required whether you purchase your own modem or rent one from Comcast for another $11 a month.

The installation fee might be charged even if the home you're buying service at has existing Comcast service, and even if you order Internet speeds lower than those purchased by the current occupant. That means the fee is charged even when Comcast doesn't have to make any upgrades at the house or apartment you're moving into. Internet speed makes no difference, as the fee may be charged whether you purchase 15Mbps downloads or gigabit service. You can avoid the installation fee by purchasing certain bundles that include both TV and Internet, but the fee is often mandatory if you buy only TV service or broadband individually. The $60 or $90 fee is also charged when you buy phone service only or a "double-play" package of phone service and broadband.

Piracy

The Brazen Bootlegging of a Multibillion-Dollar Sports Network (nytimes.com) 63

What do you do when your multibillion dollar sports network has been stolen? For the last several days, executives at Qatar's beIN Sports, which functions as the ESPN of the Middle East, have been pondering the same question. For the last several months, live coverage of beIN Sports feed is being broadcast on nearly a dozen beoutQ channels, a bootlegging operation seemingly based in Saudi Arabia, whose roots lie in the bitter political dispute between Qatar and a coalition of countries led by its largest neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. From a report: The coalition countries have subjected Qatar to a punishing blockade over the past year. Those countries last year accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and criticized its relationship with Iran, an ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. They enacted an embargo, cut off diplomatic ties and set up the blockade of the energy-rich emirate, closing Qatar's access to many of the region's ports and much of its airspace. Qatar has denied the allegations and has claimed it has assisted the United States in its war on terrorism.

Now, one month before the start of the World Cup, the world's most-watched sporting event and beIN's signature property, the audacious piracy operation is positioned to illicitly deliver the tournament's 64 games to much of the Middle East. Qatar, despite abundant resources, has been powerless to stop it. Decoder boxes embossed with the beoutQ logo have for months been available across Saudi Arabia and are now for sale in other Arab-speaking countries. A one-year subscription costs $100. A Bangladeshi worker reached by phone at Sharif Electronics in Jeddah this week said his shop has been selling the boxes for three months. "Many people buy them," he said.

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