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Robotics

'Octobot' Is The World's First Soft-Bodied Robot (sciencemag.org) 25

sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Researchers have created the first completely soft-bodied robot, dubbed the 'octobot.' The palm-sized machine's exterior is made of silicone. And whereas other soft robots have had at least a few hard parts, such as batteries or wires, the octobot uses a small reservoir of hydrogen peroxide as fuel. The basic design can be scaled up or down, increasing or decreasing fuel capacity depending on the robot's job. As the field of soft robotics advances, the scientists envision these robots being used for marine search and rescue, oceanic temperature sensing, and military surveillance. The report adds: "When the hydrogen peroxide washes over flecks of platinum embedded within the octobot, the resulting chemical reaction produces gas that inflates and flexes the robot's arms. As described online today in Nature, the gas flows through a series of 3D-printed pneumatic chambers that link the octobot's eight arms; their flexing propels it through water."
HP

NASA's Outsourced Computer People Are Even Worse Than You Might Expect (arstechnica.com) 225

Eric berger, writing for ArsTechnica: As part of a plan to help NASA "modernize" its desktop and laptop computers, the space agency signed a $2.5 billion services contract with HP Enterprise Services in 2011. According to HP (now HPE), part of the Agency Consolidated End-User Service (ACES) program the computing company would "modernize NASA's entire end-user infrastructure by delivering a full range of personal computing services and devices to more than 60,000 users." HPE also said the program would "allow (NASA) employees to more easily collaborate in a secure computing environment." The services contract, alas, hasn't gone quite as well as one might have hoped. This week Federal News Radio reported that HPE is doing such a poor job that NASA's chief information officer, Renee Wynn, could no longer accept the security risks associated with the contract. Wynn, therefore, did not sign off on the authority to operate (ATO) for systems and tools.A spokesperson for NASA said: "NASA continues to work with HPE to remediate vulnerabilities. As required by NASA policy, system owners must accomplish this remediation within a specified period of time. For those vulnerabilities that cannot be fully remediated within the established time frame, a Plan of Actions and Milestones (POAM) must be developed, approved, and tracked to closure."
Microsoft

Microsoft Details Its 24-Core 'Holographic Processor' Used In HoloLens (pcworld.com) 108

The processor powering Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality headset has been a mystery -- until now. During the annual Hot Chips conference in Cupertino, California, Microsoft revealed some juicy details about the secretive chip. PCWorld reports: "The HoloLens' HPU is a custom 28nm coprocessor designed by TSMC, The Register reports. The chip packs 24 Tensilica digital signal processor (DSP) cores. As opposed to more general-purpose CPU cores, DSPs are a specialized technology designed for rapidly processing data flowing in from the world -- a no doubt invaluable asset while rendering augmented reality environments in real time. Microsoft's HPU also contains roughly 65 million logic gates, 8MB of SDRAM, and 1GB of traditional DDR3 RAM. It draws less than 10W of power, and features PCIe and standard serial interfaces. The HPU's dedicated hardware is up to 200 times faster than performing the same calculations via software on the less-specialized 14nm Intel Cherry Trail CPU. Microsoft added custom instructions to the DSP cores that allow the HPU to churn through HoloLens-specific tasks even faster, The Register reports. The HPU can perform roughly 1 trillion calculations per second, and the data it passes to the CPU requires little additional processing."
PlayStation (Games)

Sony Tries To Remove News Articles About PlayStation 4 Slim Leak From The Internet (techdirt.com) 80

Sony is expected to announce two new PlayStation 4 consoles at a scheduled event on September 7th in New York City, but as that date nears more leaks of the consoles have emerged. The most recent leak appears to show the upcoming PlayStation 4 Slim, which Sony is trying to remove from the internet by taking down news articles from social media accounts about the leak. Erik Kain via @erikkain on Twitter tweeted (Tweet no longer exists): "Sony issued a takedown and had this post removed from my Facebook page: https://t.co/fIjP0buTdY (Warning: may be paywalled)." Techdirt reports: "[The Forbes post] references the work Eurogamer did in visiting the leaker of the image to confirm the console is for real (it is), as well as generating its own image and even video of the console working for its story on the leak. But if you go today to the Eurogamer post about the leak, the video has been replaced by the following update. UPDATE, 7.30pm: Upon taking legal advice, we have removed the video previously referenced in this article. Left unsaid is whether or not any contact had been made by Sony with Eurogamer, thus prompting this 'legal advice,' but one can imagine that being the case, particularly given Sony's threats to social media users sharing images and reporting of Sony leaks and, more to the point, threats against any media that might report on those leaks."
Patents

US Trade Judge Clears Fitbit of Stealing Jawbone's Trade Secrets (reuters.com) 13

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Fitbit did not steal rival Jawbone's trade secrets, a U.S. International Trade Commission judge ruled on Tuesday, dashing Jawbone's hopes of securing an import ban against Fitbit's wearable fitness tracking devices. The judge, Dee Lord, said that there had been no violation of the Tariff Act, which gives the commission the power to block products that infringe U.S. intellectual property, because "no party has been shown to have misappropriated any trade secret." The ruling means Jawbone comes away with nothing from a complaint it filed with the trade agency in July 2015, accusing Fitbit of infringing six patents and poaching employees who took with them confidential data about Jawbone's business, such as plans, supply chains and technical details. Jawbone first sued Fitbit last year over trade secret violations in California state court, where the case is still pending. The companies, both based in San Francisco, are also litigating over patents in federal court.
Cellphones

Samsung Plans To Sell Refurbished High-End Smartphones In 2017 (reuters.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd plans to launch a program to sell refurbished used versions of its premium smartphones as early as next year, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The world's top smartphone maker will refurbish high-end phones returned to the company by users who signed up for one-year upgrade programs in markets such as South Korea and the United States. Samsung would then re-sell these phones at a lower price, the person said, declining to be identified as the plan was not yet public. The person declined to say how big a discount the refurbished phones would be sold at, which markets the phones would be sold in or how many refurbished devices Samsung could sell. It was not clear to what extent the phones would be altered, but refurbished phones typically are fitted with parts such as a new casing or battery. Refurbished phones could help vendors such as Samsung boost their presence in emerging markets such as India, where high-end devices costing $800 or so are beyond most buyers. Samsung's refurbishment program, details of which the person said could be finalized as early as 2017, could help the firm generate revenue from dated high-end smartphones returned by users upgrading to newer versions.
Power

New Mexico Nuclear Accident Ranks Among the Costliest In US History (latimes.com) 309

mdsolar quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: When a drum containing radioactive waste blew up in an underground nuclear dump in New Mexico two years ago, the Energy Department rushed to quell concerns in the Carlsbad desert community and quickly reported progress on resuming operations. The early federal statements gave no hint that the blast had caused massive long-term damage to the dump, a facility crucial to the nuclear weapons cleanup program that spans the nation, or that it would jeopardize the Energy Department's credibility in dealing with the tricky problem of radioactive waste. But the explosion ranks among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history, according to a Times analysis. The long-term cost of the mishap could top $2 billion, an amount roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. The Feb. 14, 2014, accident is also complicating cleanup programs at about a dozen current and former nuclear weapons sites across the U.S. Thousands of tons of radioactive waste that were headed for the dump are backed up in Idaho, Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere, state officials said in interviews. "The direct cost of the cleanup is now $640 million, based on a contract modification made last month with Nuclear Waste Partnership that increased the cost from $1.3 billion to nearly $2 billion," reports Los Angeles Times. "The cost-plus contract leaves open the possibility of even higher costs as repairs continue. And it does not include the complete replacement of the contaminated ventilation system or any future costs of operating the mine longer than originally planned."
Television

North Korea Unveils Netflix-Like Streaming Service Called 'Manbang' (bbc.com) 160

North Korea has unveiled a set-top box that offers video-on demand services similar to Netflix. The service is called Manbang, which translates to "everywhere" in Korean, and allows consumers to stream documentaries about Kim Jong Un and other "educational" programs, as well as five live TV channels. "If a viewer wants to watch, for instance, an animal movie and sends a request to the equipment, it will show the relevant video to the viewer [...] this is two-way communications," according to NK News. It reportedly works by plugging the set-top box into an internet modem, then connecting an HDMI cable from the cable box to the TV. A very small number of North Koreans will actually be able to use the device as "only a few thousand [...] have access to the state-sanctioned internet, in a nation of 25 million people," reports New York Daily News.
Crime

Turkish Journalist Jailed For Terrorism Was Framed, Forensic Report Shows (vice.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Turkish investigative journalist Baris Pehlivan spent 19 months in jail, accused of terrorism based on documents found on his work computer. But when digital forensics experts examined his PC, they discovered that those files were put there by someone who removed the hard drive from the case, copied the documents, and then reinstalled the hard drive. The attackers also attempted to control the journalist's machine remotely, trying to infect it using malicious email attachments and thumb drives. Among the viruses detected in his computer was an extremely rare trojan called Ahtapot, in one of the only times it's been seen in the wild. Pehlivan went to jail in February of 2011, along with six of his colleagues, after electronic evidence seized during a police raid in 2011 appeared to connect all of them to Ergenekon, an alleged armed group accused of terrorism in Turkey. A paper recently published by computer expert Mark Spencer in Digital Forensics Magazine sheds light into the case after several other reports have acknowledged the presence of malware. Spencer said no other forensics expert noticed the Ahtapot trojan in the OdaTV case, nor has determined accurately how those documents showed up on the journalist's computer. However, almost all the reports have concluded that the incriminating files were planted. "We are not guilty," Baris Pehlivan told Andrada Fiscutean via Motherboard. "The files were put into our computers by a virus and by [attackers] entering the OdaTV office secretly. None of us has seen those documents before the prosecutor showed them to us." (OdaTV is the website Pehlivan works for and "has been critical of the government and the Gulen Movement, which was accused by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan of orchestrating the recent attempted coup.") In regard to the report, senior security consultant at F-Secure, Taneli Kaivola, says, "Yes, [the report] takes an impressive level of conviction to locally attack a computer four times, and remotely attack it seven times [between January 1, 2011, and February 11, 2011], as well as a certain level of technical skill to set up the infrastructure for those attacks, which included document forgery and date and time manipulation."
NES (Games)

Aluminum NES Maker Announces Smaller, Cheaper Analogue Nt Mini (polygon.com) 76

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Polygon: Analogue, the company behind the aluminum NES known as the Analogue Nt, is releasing a smaller, less expensive version of its console this January. Known as the Analogue Nt mini, the new version of the long-sold out hardware will be 20 percent smaller and carry a lower price: $449. The original Analogue Nt was priced at $499, but its tinier successor will outclass the original model with a better offering, the company says. The mini will comes with RGB and HDMI output (1080p/720p/480p) built in. The console will include a wireless 8Bitdo NES30 controller and Retro Receiver -- compatible with PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Wii and Wii U Pro Controllers -- as part of the package. In addition, the Nt mini will support over 2,000 NES, Famicom and Famicom Disk System games.
Businesses

Interviews: Ask Raspberry Pi Founder and CEO Eben Upton a Question 132

It's been roughly five years since we last interviewed the founder and CEO of Raspberry Pi (Trading) Ltd., Eben Upton. Eben currently serves as a technical director and ASIC architect for Broadcom. He founded the Raspberry Pi Foundation in 2009 to develop and market a $25 microcomputer for education. He has also founded two successful mobile games and middleware companies, Ideaworks 3d Ltd. and Podfun Ltd., and served a Director of Studies for computer science at St. John's College, Cambridge. Ebon has agreed to take some time out of his busy schedule and answer some of your questions.

You may ask Eben as many questions as you'd like, but please, one per comment. We'll pick the very best questions and forward them to Eben Upton himself. (Feel free to leave your suggestions for who Slashdot should interview next.)

Go on, don't be shy!
Android

Apple, Samsung Capture All Of Industry's Smartphone Profits (zdnet.com) 161

Continuing to operate on razor thin margins, smartphone manufacturers other than Samsung and Apple are bleeding money. Apple accounted for 75 percent of the smartphone's profits in the second quarter this year, down from 90 percent a year ago, according to Canaccord Genuity. Samsung, which has reported strong sales thanks to its Galaxy S7 series of smartphones, accounted for more than 30 percent of the industry, the research added. ZDNet reports: While this tale could revolve around Apple vs. Samsung the larger question is this: Why would any company want to make smartphones? Let's get real. All the profits go to Apple (high end) or Samsung (high end and scale). The rest of the players in the market don't make money and get disrupted by whatever vendor is flavor of the month? Remember that Xiaomi was supposed to be the next big thing in China and elsewhere, but is now being disrupted by Oppo and Vivo. A quarter from now Oppo and Vivo will be thumped by some smartphone manufacturer we haven't heard of yet.
Intel

Intel Demos Kaby Lake 7th Gen Core Series Running Overwatch At IDF (hothardware.com) 55

Reader MojoKid writes: Intel unveiled a number of new product innovations out at IDF last week, but the company also stuck to its core product march by teasing its next gen Core series processor. Kaby Lake is the follow-up product to current, 6th Generation Skylake-based Core processors. With Kaby Lake, Intel is adding native support for USB 3.1 Gen 2, along with a more powerful graphics architecture for improved 3D performance and 4K video processing. Kaby Lake will also bring with it native HDCP 2.2 support and hardware acceleration for HEVC Main10/10-bit and VP9 10-bit video decoding. To drive some of those points home, Intel showed off Overwatch running on a next-gen Dell XPS 13 built around a 7th Gen ULV Core i5 processor, in addition to a HP notebook smoothly playing back 4K HDR video. Kaby Lake 7th Generation Core-based products should start arriving to market in the fall.
Robotics

Intel Demos A New Robotics Controller Running Ubuntu (hackerboards.com) 20

Intel demoed their new robotics compute module this week. Scheduled for release in 2017, it's equipped with various sensors, including a depth-sensing camera, and it runs Ubuntu on a quad-core Atom. Slashdot reader DeviceGuru writes: Designed for researchers, makers, and robotics developers, the device is a self contained, candy-bar sized compute module ready to pop into a robot. It's augmented with a WiFi hotspot, Bluetooth, GPS, and IR, as well as proximity, motion, barometric pressure sensors. There's also a snap-on battery.

The device is preinstalled with Ubuntu 14.04 with Robot Operating System (ROS) Indigo, and can act as a supervisory processor to, say, an Arduino subsystem that controls a robot's low-level functions. Intel demoed a Euclid driven robot running an obstacle avoidance and follow-me tasks, including during CEO Brian Krzanich's keynote (YouTube video).

Intel says they'll also release instructions on how to create an accompanying robot with a 3D printer. This plug-and-play robotics module is a proof-of-concept device -- the article includes some nice pictures -- but it already supports programming in Node.js (and other high-level languages), and has a web UI that lets you monitor performance in real-time and watch the raw camera feeds.
Biotech

Can Cow Backpacks Reduce Global Methane Emissions? (bloomberg.com) 189

Slashdot reader schwit1 shares an article from Bloomberg which argues "It's time to have a conversation about flatulent cows." "Enteric fermentation," or livestock's digestive process, accounts for 22 percent of all U.S. methane emissions, and the manure they produce makes up eight percent more, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency... Methane, like carbon, is a greenhouse gas, but methane's global warming impact per molecule is 25 times greater than carbon's, according to the EPA.
Cargill has tried capturing some of the methane released from cow manure by using domed lagoons, while researchers at Danone yogurt discovered they could reduce methane emissions up to 30% by feeding cows a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (mostly from flax seed). But now Argentina researchers are testing plastic "methane backpacks" which they strap on to the back of cows, and according to the article "have been able to extract 300 liters of methane a day, enough to power a car or refrigerator."
Displays

MIT Announces VR and AR Hackathon (uploadvr.com) 12

Calling it "A weekend that transforms the future of immersive technologies," MIT's Media Lab is hosting a big Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality hackathon. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes this report from UploadVR: Game jams, hackathons, and meetups are more popular than ever in the budding VR and AR communities...to focus on creativity and functionality, rather than getting bogged down by polishing and prepping something for launch.

The MIT Media Lab is officially announcing its backing of the appropriately titled Reality, Virtually Hackathon. The hackathon is organized by a multitude of VR/AR experts, developers, industry executives, and MIT students, alumni, and Ph.D. candidates and will take place at the MIT campus.

Sponsors include Microsoft and the AT&T Developer Program, and applications for the hackathon are due by Wednesday, September 7, 2016. I'm wondering if any Slashdot readers have tried writing (or using) VR apps.
Robotics

'We're Just Rentals': Uber Drivers Ask Where They Fit In a Self-Driving Future (theguardian.com) 365

Bloomberg reported on Thursday about Uber's plan to bring its first fleet of self-driving cars to Pittsburgh as soon as this month, a move that has since been confirmed by the cab-hailing company. Amid the announcement, Uber drivers are disappointed at Uber, wondering what the future of the company lies for them. The Guardian reports:"Wo-o-o-o-w," 60-year old Uber driver Cynthia Ingram said. "We all knew it was coming. I just didn't expect it this soon." For Ingram, autonomous Ubers are an unwelcome threat to her livelihood. "I kind of figured it would be a couple more years down the line before it was really implemented and I'll be retired by then," she said. A paralegal with 30 years experience, Ingram began driving for Uber and Lyft in June 2015 when she lost her job. She said that she loves driving for Uber, though she has struggled to make ends meet. Rob Judge, 41, was also concerned with the announcement. "It feels like we're just rentals. We're kind of like placeholders until the technology comes out." A longtime customer service representative, Judge began driving for Uber three months ago to make money while he looks for other work. "For me personally, this isn't a long term stop," he added. "But for a lot of other people that I've connected with, this is their only means."
Businesses

SolarCity Plans To Release New 'Solar Roof' Product Next Year (computerworld.com) 160

An anonymous reader writes: SolarCity, the American provider of energy services recently purchased by Tesla Motors for $2.6 billion, is planning to produce a new "solar roof" product next year. Computerworld reports: "Five million roofs are replaced each year in the U.S., so instead of simply swapping out old shingles with new ones, why not turn the whole roof into a solar power generator that's integrated with your home's electrical utility? That is SolarCity's plan for a new product it expects to begin producing next year, according to statements made during the company's second-quarter earnings call last week. During the call, SolarCity Chief Technology Officer Peter Rive alluded to a new product that would be produced at the soon to open Buffalo, N.Y., solar panel manufacturing facility. Then SolarCity co-founder and Chairman Elon Musk interjected and said the product would be a solar roof, 'as opposed to a [solar] module on a roof.' The solar roof also has the advantage that it doesn't 'cannibalize' any existing SolarCity product, such as solar panels installed atop roofs, Musk said." "If your roof is nearing end of life, you definitely don't want to put solar panels on it because you're going to have to replace the roof," Musk said. "So there's a huge market segment that's kind of inaccessible to SolarCity. So, why not have a solar roof that's better in many other ways as well," he continued. "We don't want to turn over all our cards right now, but I think people are going to be really excited about what they'll see."
Power

America's First Offshore Wind Farm In Pictures (businessinsider.com) 219

Last week, an anonymous Slashdot reader submitted a story from the Associated Press, detailing the United States' first offshore wind farm that is set to open off the cost of Rhode Island this fall. Business Insider issued a report today with some additional specifications and stunning pictures of the Block Island Wind Farm: "GE and Deepwater Wind, a developer of offshore turbines, are installing five massive wind turbines in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They will make up the first offshore wind farm in North America, called the Block Island Wind Farm. Over the past several weeks, the teams have worked to install the turbines 30 miles off the cost of Rhode Island, and are expected to finish by the end of August 2016. The farm will be fully operational by November 2016." Fun fact: GE's offshore wind farm has turbines that are twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty. You can view the slideshow of images here.
AI

RealDoll CEO Aims To Make Its Sex Dolls Love You Back Via AI App (mirror.co.uk) 200

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mirror.co.uk: Matt McMullen, CEO of RealDoll, revealed the next step in making the high-end sex toys will be to give them artificial intelligence to replicate humans more closely than ever. "We are building an AI system which can either be connected to a robotic doll OR experienced in a VR environment," he revealed as part of an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit. "I think it will allow for an option that never existed before, and for some, may represent a happiness they [users] never thought they could have. We are designing the AI to be fun and engaging, more than focusing on whether it can fool you into thinking it's a person," he said. He later added, when someone asked if dolls will ever love us back: "I hope that we can at least simulate that," McMullen responded. "That's the goal." In addition to AI and VR, Teledildonics are coming to the sex industry as well. "Teledildonics is technology for remote sex where tactile sensations are communicated over a data link between the participants -- with Siri, Alexa, Cortana and other AI software," reports Mirror.co.uk. The company is "putting the finishing touches" on its AI app, with plans to release it within the next six months. Oh, and it's also working on releasing a RealDoll with a robotic head by the end of 2017 to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

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