Nvidia and Bosch team up on self-driving car AI supercomputer

Nvidia’s new partner in bringing AI-powered self-driving tech to the masses definitely has the experience needed to go truly mass-market – it’s Bosch, leading tier one auto industry supplier. Bosch will build an AI supercomputer designed for use in vehicles using Nvidia tech, which means Nvidia now has a partner that works as a tier one supplier to all major car maker in the world.

It’s only the latest partner for Nvidia’s AI-powered self-driving car tech, which also include automakers like Audi and Mercedes-Benz, but it’s the one that could potentially have the most impact in terms of giving Nvidia reach and influence across the industry. Bosch, the german company whose product portfolio ranges from home appliance, to infotainment solutions, to virtually everything in between.

This is the kind of strategic tie-up that lets both partners do what they do best – Nvidia can focus on developing the core AI supercomputing tech, and Bosch can provide relationships and sales operations that offer true scale and reach.

 Nvidia’s deep learning model does not depend on specific rules being coded for each individual situation; instead, it provides the systems with a number of examples from human behavior, and then the AI can determine on its own what to do in specific scenarios. The mid-step implementation of this tech is Nvidia’s AI co-pilot, which will allow the vehicle to work with a human driver to understand where their attention is directed and provide warnings about undetected hazards, as well as read a driver’s lips and use audio cues to understand commands regardless of the in-vehicle noise environment.

Bosch’s super computer will use Nvidia’s Drive PX line with Xavier architecture, which is the world’s first single-chip processor that can manage Level 4 autonomous driving capabilities.

Carbon moves into high-volume manufacturing with SpeedCell system, and bigger 3D printers

Additive manufacturing startup Carbon is on a mission to help manufacturers and designers cut their costs, waste less energy and materials while speeding up the time it takes to get from concept to product on the market. The company, which has raised $221 million in venture capital, is firing up a new service aimed at contract manufacturers, and other high volume manufacturing businesses, called SpeedCell, which includes an industrial sized version of its 3D printer and software that enables the use fleets of internet-connected Carbon 3D machines.

According to Carbon CEO and cofounder Joseph M. DeSimone, customer and partner requests from the likes of the BMW Group, GE, Sculpteo, The Technology House and others, pushed Carbon to develop machines for mass-production. “Once you have a real part that doesn’t look like a 3d-printed part, but has a smooth surface finish and the right mechanical properties, then what happens is people want lots of those parts,” he said.

Earlier, Carbon’s M1 3D printers became famous in tech and manufacturing for a couple of reasons. For one, they work with resins and “continuous liquid interface printing” technology, meaning they form objects with the same kind of strength you’d see in traditional thermoplastics. Secondly, they print ultra-fast when compared to peers. And finally, they are available on a subscription basis so smaller manufacturers and industrial design studios can afford them, and don’t have to worry about paying for equipment upgrades when new versions are released.

 The new M2 printers from Carbon, which are part of its SpeedCell system, have twice the build-area and therefore build volume of the M1 printer. That means users can make more parts per run or bigger parts than they previously could with Carbon. The M2’s were also designed to interface with robots, which are increasingly being added to factory operations. “You could have a fleet of printers serviced by robot-mechanics,” DeSimone said. And the M2 printers have expansion ports allowing Carbon users to plug in new that can add capabilities to the printers down the line.

With the launch of SpeedCell, Carbon is also taking the wraps off something called the Smart Part Washer. This machine helps users move freshly printed parts into a washer where they can be serialized, and data-scanned. This means manufacturers can automatically keep a record of which printer, day and location made a particular object, which resin was used and more. The washer will Carbon’s service particularly useful for the creation of medical products, and other items that require careful tracking of their provenance to satisfy safety regulations.

A Link to the Past

I chalked this up to the usual pre-release silliness; how could a brand-new game be anything like something released in 1986? It turns out I’d underestimated both Nintendo’s candor (understandable) and the timelessness of the first Zelda’s design. This leads to a strange paradox: That Breath of the Wild is so like its ancient ancestor makes it both the most Nintendo game in a long time and the least Nintendo game in a long time. Perhaps, after years of limping, the company has once more found its stride.

The similarities are striking. In both games, you begin in a rocky, forested wilderness with nothing but the clothes on your back and hardly any idea what you are to do. In a cave near your place of rebirth (in the original, it’s where you’d appear if you’d die; in BotW, it’s where you are literally reborn) you find a friendly old man by a fire who sends you on your way (he doesn’t give you a sword, but he does give you an important item later, and advises you on finding a weapon).

Armed thus in the most scanty fashion, you charge forth into the unmapped wilderness, where monsters swarm, countless secrets hide in the landscape, and a nebulously articulated quest beckons you forth from biome to biome and dungeon to dungeon.

One could say some of these things about a number of Zelda games, of course, but Breath of the Wild takes these parallels much further than any other.

zeldaoverworldmapq1bgThink back, if you can, to the time you first played the original Zelda. Remember how enormous the world felt, and how every screen seemed to hold potential.

How many bombs did you waste scouring the mountains for hidden rooms? How many times did you leave and re-enter a screen to try your Blue Candle on every suspicious tree? How proud were you when your painstaking searches of the graveyard revealed (in addition to dozens of ghosts) the resting place of the Master Sword? The world was so big you could barely wrap your head around it, and the feeling of discovery and triumph whenever you proved your worth in it was real.

Yet today’s game market is full of enormous open worlds that fail to elicit similar feelings; despite high production values, they often have the feeling of dolled-up checklists.

Breath of the Wild, however, successfully conveys that feeling of inviting grandeur.

Part of that is the lack of any impelling narrative, which allows you to appreciate the world at your own pace. Oh yes, you’re the legendary hero and you need to stop Ganon. That part hasn’t changed. But the game doesn’t constrain you into a series of quests.

 In the original Zelda, your starting screen has three exits. None is the correct one. It doesn’t tell you, “head north and look for the first dungeon!” You are free to wander, to encounter enemies you have no chance of beating, places and items you can’t reach and experience the controls and rules of the world for yourself, on your own time, in your own way. It’s like this again in Breath of the Wild.

Once you complete the initial handful of temples awarding you the core abilities and paraglider, you are free to go anywhere in the wide world — you’re encouraged, in fact, to just strike out in literally any direction from the central plateau on which you had hitherto been stranded.

switch-2270013And once you do, you find that the world is interesting not just for the waypoints you’ll be hitting — towers and shrines, mostly — but for the world itself. Hyrule is sculpted with such care that not a single prominence or declivity marks the land that does not invite you to visit it. I have had to stop myself from marking up my map with symbols — oh, that looks like a path that leads into that canyon. Oh, I think I saw something between those cliffs. Oh, if I get up there I can probably glide to the island in the middle of that lake. Wait, where was I going again? It doesn’t matter. You’re going where you’re going, and if you’re supposed to be somewhere, you’ll get there eventually.

zelda_1But all the time you are gently being taught: the flora and fauna around you, critical to (among other things) crafting dishes and elixirs that will save your life later. The habits of enemies, which have their own little lives and cycles. The limits of your own endurance — can you climb that? Not while it’s slippery with rain, but mark it and come back when it’s sunny. The formal and informal tricks of combat — well-timed dodges and parries can put powerful foes off balance, but why bother when you know that, in this storm, they’ll be struck by lightning before long because they’re using a metal sword and you’re using a wood spear? Usually nothing is explained to you until after you try it. After a few hours have passed, you’ve become an expert in the world, and all without cumbrous tutorials or invasive fairies whispering tips in your ear.

And all the time you are steadily growing more powerful: you likely dispatched your first Bokoblin with a straight-up stick picked up from the ground. But it had a better stick, which you took (every enemy drops the weapon it holds — why should it be otherwise?), and used to venture further. As you wend your winding way toward the outskirts of the map, you encounter more powerful enemies wielding deadlier tools and guarding more precious treasure. Every dungeon you encounter yields an orb, four of which you can spend toward increasing your heart count or stamina. By the time you get to your first real destination, you’re stronger by far than when you set out, and all you’ve been doing is exploring and solving puzzles.

zelda_2What a treat this natural, almost unnoticeable progression is after the artificial skill trees and ability points so common these days! Yet you are never wanting for challenges. Frequently enemies appear that can strike you down with one hit, or puzzles and locations that baffle you. You are always looking forward to overcoming something, finding something, figuring something out.

This is what we’ve been missing; This is why we trust Nintendo even through years with hardly a bone thrown to the fans of old. This sense of trusting the player to figure everything out, making the game world consistent, tough and fair, and keeping in all things a healthy feeling of fun. It’s a game, after all. In the end it should come as no surprise that the first Zelda and the latest Zelda are in many ways the best; both are Nintendo in its purest form, game design that is instinctual, inimitable and perhaps timeless.

Breath of the Wild is, more than anything, natural. In a time of unprecedented artificiality, that’s about the highest compliment I can give. Play it.

Uber will apply for a self-driving test permit in California

Uber is now in the process of getting a permit from the California DMV to resume testing its self-driving vehicles on public state roads. Uber started testing its self-driving Volvo XC90 SUVs in San Francisco last year – but the state DMV ultimately opposed the tests since Uber had not applied for its autonomous testing permit prior to beginning service.

While Uber took its test fleet of XC90s on the road to nearby Arizona, where Governor Doug Ducey and regulators welcomed them with open arms – the company said at the time that it was committed to California, and reiterated that position in a statement provided by a spokesperson to TechCrunch today:

These cars are legally registered and are being driven manually. We are taking steps to complete our application to apply for a DMV testing permit. As we said in December, Uber remains 100 percent committed to California.

As Uber notes, the self-driving vehicles made a return to SF streets recently – but they aren’t employed in picking up passengers. Instead, they’re being used to map the city for improvements to local maps for autonomous driving and other navigation purposes. Uber self-driving sedans have been spotted on streets in SF since the ban by local residents, but the company also now says two of its Volvos have had their registrations reinstated by the DMV, following their revocation last year.

Uber hasn’t yet applied for the permit, as implied in the statement, and first reported by The Mercury News. But the DMV tells the Mercury that it’s working with Uber on the application process, and the company does intend to go forward.

Despite that, its views on the legality of its tests and requirements regarding self-driving testing haven’t changed – Uber’s original reasoning for not applying for the permit was that it didn’t require this special permission under the letter of the law. Still, it now appears focused on the pragmatic task of redeploying its test vehicles regardless of its position on legality, something that makes a lot of sense given the wealth of other challenges the company is currently facing.

ZTE is set to announce its 5G-compatible ‘Gigabit’ LTE smartphone at MWC 2017

While we are still trying to move to 4G network, Chinese network tech giant ZTE has announced that the company will will be unveiling one the first gigabit LTE smartphone. The launch will take place at the Mobile World Congress ( MWC ) in Barcelona later this month.

“The ZTE Gigabit phone will revolutionize connectivity with a new standard of download speeds, 1Gbps, bringing a qualitative leap to a new world of mobile experience by making 360-degree panoramic VR video, instant Cloud storage, entertainment upgrades and fast cache of ultra Hi-Fi music and movies possible,” the company said in a statement on Friday.
The first devices to have the gigabit LTE support were showcased 2016, when Qualcomm joined with Netgear, Telstra, and Ericsson. In the beginning of this year, the widely known chip maker Qualcomm announced that its gigabit LTE supporting X16 modem will be baked in its next flagship chipset Snapdragon 835.
The company has not unveiled any other detail about the upcoming device yet, but it will be interesting to see what comes ahead. No doubt, ZTE will set a milestone by bringing one of the first smartphone with gigabit LTE that supports such insane speed.
Related: ZTE Blade A2 Plus vs ASUS Zenfone 3S Max: Which one should you go for?
ZTE will be showcasing some other devices at the MWC, including a range of devices adding up to company’s well known Blade series. It will also come up with the updated version of the “Axon 7” with Google’s Daydream and latest Android 7.0 Nougat.

Hacker takes out dark web hosting service using well-known exploit

A hacker is proving that sites on the dark web, shrouded in anonymity, can easily be compromised.   img 20170203 161836

On Friday, the unnamed hacker began dumping a sizable database stolen from Freedom Hosting II onto the internet, potentially exposing its users.

The hosting service, Freedom Hosting II, was known for operating thousands of sites that were accessible through the Tor browser; the “dark web” is essentially the encrypted network comprising Tor servers and browsers. But on Friday, the service appeared to be down. Its main landing page was replaced with a message saying that it had been hacked.

Allegedly, Freedom Hosting II had been hosting child pornography sites, though its anonymous operator claimed to have a zero-tolerance policy toward such content, according to the hacker behind the breach.

“What we found while searching through your server is more than 50% child porn…” the hacker wrote in the message left on the site. “Moreover, you host many scam sites, some of which are evidently run by yourself to cover hosting expenses.”

In an email to the IDG News Service, the hacker explained how the breach came about. “I just recently read an article about a well-known exploit that some hosting providers fell victims of many years ago,” the person said.

Freedom Hosting II worked as a free service that allowed anyone to sign up and create a site on the dark web. However, starting on Jan. 30, the hacker gained access to its web server, using a 20-step method.

screen shot 2017 02 06 at 9.44.57 amMichael Kan
The method the hacker claims to have used.

The hack essentially involved starting a new site on Freedom Hosting II and creating a link to gain access to the service’s root directory. This allowed the hacker to browse the entire server.

“I was just curious at first,” the person said. “I had reading permissions to everything the web server could get access to just by creating a symlink to.”

After coming across child porn sites, the hacker decided to take over Freedom Hosting II by altering its configuration file to trigger a password reset.

“Once I found out what they were hosting, I just wanted to shut them down,” said the hacker, who’s also been circulating what he stole through a torrent file.

The dump includes 74GB of files and a 2.3GB database from the service, the hacker claims.

“The IP of the server has been leaked, which potentially could reveal the admin’s identity,” the hacker added.

Chris Monteiro, a cybercrime researcher based in the U.K., has been looking through the data dump, which he said appears to be real. The information includes the sites that Freedom Hosting II had been operating, along with the admin credentials to access them.

The dump also appears to contain a client database, meaning that anyone who used Freedom Hosting II might be exposed, Monteiro said.

“We’re going to see emails, usernames, all of which can be used by law enforcement for prosecution of people,” he said.

In addition, the dump contains forum posts from users mentioning sex with minors, the sale of hacked internet accounts, and files that reference botnets and online scamming.

Freedom Hosting II was the largest shared hosting service on the dark web, Monteiro said. It was specifically designed for users who wanted anonymous hosting, but who lacked the know-how to set it up, he said.

However, many of the sites hosted by the service were probably small. “I doubt we’ll find any large sites operating child porn,” he said of the data dump.

According to the hacker’s message, Freedom Hosting II was responsible for 10,613 sites. However, the database dump indicates that a vast majority of those sites had only a few dozen or hundreds of user visits.

Troy Hunt, a data breach expert, said in a tweet that he noticed the database dump contained 381,000 email addresses.

“Law enforcement will absolutely have this data, it’s very public. It also obviously has many real email addresses in it,” he tweeted.

Privacy researcher Sarah Jamie Lewis has also been researching Freedom Hosting II. In October, she wrote that the service had been hosting sites that sold counterfeit documents and stolen credit card numbers, in addition to those that operated as personal blogs and web forums.

Beware! Malware distributors are switching to less suspicious file types

After aggressively using JavaScript email attachments to distribute malware for the past year, attackers are now switching to less suspicious file types to trick users.LNK and SVG file types are abused to distribute malware.

Last week, researchers from the Microsoft Malware Protection Center warned about a new wave of spam emails that carried malicious .LNK files inside ZIP archives. Those files had malicious PowerShell scripts attached to them.

PowerShell is a scripting language for automating Windows system administration tasks. It has been abused to download malware in the past and there are even malware programs written entirely in PowerShell.

In the recent campaign seen by Microsoft, the malicious LNK files contained a PowerShell script that downloaded and installed the Kovter click fraud trojan. The same technique has been used in the past to distribute the Locky ransomware.

On Thursday researchers from Intel Security warned that PowerShell can also be used in so-called fileless attacks, where the malicious code is launched directly into memory and nothing is saved to disk for endpoint security products to detect.

“You may think that you are protected from fileless malware because your PowerShell execution policies are set to ‘Restricted’ so that scripts can’t run,” the Intel Security researchers said in a blog post. “However, attackers can easily bypass these policies.”

Another file type used to distribute malware in recent months has been SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics). While many people correctly associate .SVG files with images, it’s a little-known fact that such files can actually contain JavaScript.

Attackers have been using SVG files to execute obfuscated JavaScript when users open what they believe to be images inside their browsers. These obfuscated scripts are used to launch malicious file downloads, incident responders from the SANS Internet Storm Center warned in a recent report.

Google plans to block JavaScript file attachments in Gmail starting February 13, regardless of whether they’re attached directly or within archive files like ZIP. Such restrictions from email providers will likely force cybercriminals to find alternative file formats that allows hiding malicious code.

Banning LNK or JS file attachments is easy, because it’s rare for people to send such files via email. However, banning SVG might prove impractical since it’s a widely used image format.

You can now make smart gadgets and IoT devices that use Bluetooth 5

In a few months, Bluetooth 5 will finally arrive in smartphones and tablets. But you can already test the technology on developer boards being shipped by hardware makers.launchxl cc2640r2 launchxl cc2640r2

Bluetooth 5 is a major step ahead for the venerable technology, which was introduced in 1999 to hook up devices wirelessly. It is two times faster than predecessor Bluetooth 4.2, has four times longer range, and boasts cool new connectivity features.

It can transfer data at speeds of up to 2Mbps (bits per second) and has a realistic range of 120 meters. The range could be even longer in a clear line of sight, the standards setting organization Bluetooth Special Interest Group said.

That’s good news for those who pair mobile devices or PCs to peripherals like wireless speakers. There will be fewer connection drops.

A Bluetooth device will also transmit data from one device to many, a feature that will be beneficial in smart homes. For example, if a surveillance system detects a thief, it could use Bluetooth 5 to simultaneously activate the safety light and the alarm system.

The new wireless standard can also broadcast richer data, like location information and URLs. That could be useful in retail stores or even self-driving cars, which transfer navigation data.

Bluetooth 5 will reach devices in two to six months, the Bluetooth SIG said in December. Some of the first devices could be smartphones and tablets with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chips, which has Bluetooth 5 in the chipset.

But you can start testing Bluetooth 5 with wireless boards now shipping. The boards will be particularly handy for tinkerers prototyping gadgets or developing internet of things devices for automation or industrial settings.

Wireless boards like Particle and Espressif Systems—which primarily use Wi-Fi—are extremely popular, but other boards with Bluetooth 5 functionality are available or are coming soon.

If you’re developing prototype gadgets, Abelon Systems’ Internet of Things Reference Platform will offer a range of wireless connectivity technology, including support for Bluetooth 5. It will also support ZigBee and the emerging low-bandwidth IoT connectivity technologies like SIGFOX or LoRaWAN. On-board sensors include an accelerometer, gyrometer, and magnetometer, but other sensors could be attached through interfaces. It has the popular I2C and UART connector interfaces. It will ship later this year, and the price wasn’t immediately available.

Nordic’s nRF52840 Preview Development Kit, which is priced between US$40 and $50, is a development board on which small electronics can be developed. The board is compatible with Arduino Uno Revision 3, a popular electronics development environment. It has a 64Mhz Cortex-M4F processor, 1MB of integrated flash storage, and 256KB of RAM. It supports ARM Mbed, a cloud-based development platform. It also has an NFC interface and a wide number of connectors. It also has a USB 2.0 interface.

Texas Instruments was one of the first to jump on the Bluetooth 5 bandwagon, and its $29 Launchpad Board wireless development kit is designed to test Bluetooth 5 applications in IoT settings. The board will be upgradeable to Bluetooth 5 when the full firmware stack is released. It has a 48Mhz ARM Cortex-M3 processor and a set of inputs to connect sensors. It is available on TI’s website.

TV maker Vizio pays $2.2M to settle complaint that it spied on users

Popular smart TV maker Vizio will pay US $2.2 million to settle complaints that it violated customers’ privacy by continuously monitoring their viewing habits without their knowledge.TV maker Vizio will pay $2.2 million to resolve a privacy complaint.

Beginning in February 2014, the California TV maker tracked what TV shows customers were watching on 11 million TV sets sold in the U.S., the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General said in a complaint, released Monday.

Vizio smart TVs captured “second-by-second” information about video displayed, including video from consumer cable service, broadband, set-top boxes, DVDs, over-the-air broadcasts, and streaming devices, according to the complaint.

A stipulated federal court order requires Vizio to prominently disclose and obtain consent for its data collection and sharing practices, and it prohibits the company from misrepresenting the privacy and confidentiality of consumer information it collects. The order also requires Vizio to delete data collected before March 1, 2016.

The settlement will set a new standard for “best industry privacy practices” for smart TVs and other home devices, Vizio said in a statement. Vizio’s data collection program “never paired viewing data with personally identifiable information such as name or contact information,” Jerry Huang, the company’s general counsel, added in the statement.

The FTC’s complaint “made clear that all smart TV makers should get people’s consent before collecting and sharing television viewing information and Vizio now is leading the way,” Huang added.

Vizio added specific demographic information to the viewing data it collected, including gender, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and household value, the agencies alleged. Vizio sold this information to third parties, who used it for purposes such as targeting advertising to consumers across devices, according to the complaint.

Vizio touted its “Smart Interactivity” feature that “enables program offers and suggestions,” but the company failed to inform consumers that the settings also enabled the collection of consumers’ viewing data, the agencies alleged. The data collection was unfair and deceptive, in violation of U.S. and New Jersey consumer protection laws, the agencies said.

Abut $1.5 million of the settlement will go to the FTC and $1 million to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, with $300,000 suspended.

Smart TVs from Samsung and LG Electronics have also been accused of monitoring their users in recent years.

This story was updated to include Vizio’s comments in the fifth to seventh paragraphs.

Microsoft’s Email Insights finally adds some useful search smarts to Outlook

Email Insights, a new experimental app from the Microsoft Garage, is the answer to a problem Google’s Gmail solved more than a decade ago: how to search Outlook and find exactly what you want.email insights search

Google’s Gmail gained enormous traction in part because it allowed a quick, convenient way to search emails. Today, you can search Outlook, but it arranges the results in order with no real preference given to what might be most relevant.

Email Insights works with both your Microsoft Outlook desktop application as well as Gmail, and attempts to bring the three most relevant results to the top of your inbox via an “intent pane.” The tool also provides contextual autocomplete, spelling correction and a fuzzy name search that will pull up the name of a contact, even if you’re not entirely sure how to spell it.

email insights intent pane

The “intent pane” within Email Insights brings up relevant search results to the top of your inbox.

Users can open tabs within Email Insights to perform multiple searches. The search box can also be used to fire off a quick, one-line email to a contact, or even set up a quick meeting—functions that are becoming more common in the notifications window within smartphones.

If you’d like, you can even “detach” the Email Insights toolbar from Outlook itself and drag it down to your taskbar, Microsoft said.

 Let’s face it: Gmail is still easier to use than Outlook, at least where everyday email searches are concerned. If Email Insights proves as useful as it sounds, maybe Outlook will incorporate it into a future release. The problem, though, is that this app is being published via Microsoft Garage, Microsoft’s online home for app experiments. If you like Email Insights, encourage others to download it, too. Otherwise, Microsoft could kill it, as it recently did with Cache, its erstwhile Google Keep killer.