#402 Feb 23 2015 – Tech Toys of Tomorrow

This week’s headline story: Tech Toys of Tomorrow

BarbieThis week, ComputerWorld’s Mike Elgan, editorialized on New York’s Toy Fair 2015 which took place last week. Apparently Mike learned about some new toys that are of some concern.

The new Hello Barbie doll, includes a Siri like service that allows children to chat with Barbie. The toy uses the local wi-fi network to route questions to a server run by a company called ToyTalk, which then provides a response for Barbie to say. The ToyTalk system will also email the recordings of their child’s conversations to parents. Parents can also set limits on allowable topics of conversation. Mike fears that Hello Barbie is preparing children for a world of pervasive surveillance, where their most intimate communication will be uploaded to a central server somewhere, processed by remote servers, then used by an all-knowing authority to monitor and control them.

Another toy, fashioned as a green dinosaur with a big blue button on its belly, allows children to ask any question and get an immediate answer. Similar to Hello Barbie, this toy sends questions to the cloud, but in this case the answer comes from IBM’s Jeopardy-winning Watson artificial intelligence supercomputer system. Called CogniToys, from a startup called Elemental Path, these toys plays educational games with kids designed to boost their vocabularies, spelling, math skills and geography knowledge. Here the concern is that CogniToys are preparing kids for a post technological-singularity world where knowledge is obsolete — something that exists in the cloud, rather than in one’s own mind and based on one’s own experiences.

in other tech news…

  • White House Names DJ Patil as the First US Chief Data Scientist [Wired]It’s finally official: The White House has named DJ Patil its first ever Chief Data Scientist and Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Data Policy. Patil—who has worked inside several big-name Silicon Valley operations, including LinkedIn, eBay, PayPal, Skype, and venture capital firm Greylock Partners—will now act as an evangelist for new applications of big data across all areas of government, with a particular focus on healthcare.
  • Microsoft, Google Beat Humans at Image Recognition [Eetimes]You can add another activity to the list of things that computers are better than people at: Image Recognition. Microsoft has beat the human benchmark of 5.1% errors with a 4.94% error grabbing neural network, and Google announced it had one-upped Microsoft by 0.04 at the ImageNet Large Scale Visual Recognition Challenge.
  • Google to roll out after-school coding classes for 100K New York City school kids [Ny Daily News]Google is partnering with New York City, as part of de Blasio’s $10 million Tech Talent Pipeline initiative launched last May, to provide all kids enrolled in 857 after-school programs across the five boroughs with CS First, a program that teaches youngsters how to code.

in Information Security News…

  • HP to Award Big Money to Winners of Pwn2Own Browser Hacking Challenge [eWeek]The Pwn2Own Browser Hacking Challenge is just around the corner and HP has announced this year’s prizes. A total of $270,000 in prize money will be awarded for hacking Google’s Chrome browser, Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 11, Mozilla Firefox, Adobe Reader or Adobe Flash and Apple Safari.
  • To Combat Fraud, Visa Wants To Track Your Smartphone [NewsFactor]The payment processing company Visa will roll out a new feature this spring that will allow its cardholders to inform their banks where they are automatically, using the location function found in nearly every smartphone. Having your bank and Visa know where you are at all times may sound a little like “Big Brother.” But privacy experts are actually applauding the feature, saying that, if used correctly, it could protect cardholders and cut down on credit card fraud.
  • Can Lenovo Brand Recover from Superfish Malware Scandal? [NewsFactor]Lenovo, has angered customers by selling notebook computers with malware preloaded. Lenovo Customers have been reporting a program installed on their PCs called Superfish that automatically displays advertisements in the name of helping consumers find products online. Security experts say that Superfish is designed to intercept all encrypted connections and leaves the door open for spies, like those from the U.S. National Security Agency, to hack into PCs through man-in-the-middle attacks.

and in Tech Industry news…

and finally,

  • Google Glass Out, Sony SmartEyeglass In [NewsFactor]One has to wonder at this product release strategy. Just as Google suspends sales of its Glass smart eyewear due to issues of privacy, Sony jumps in to take its place with the release of a developer’s edition of SmartEyeglass. SmartEyeglass is similar in function to Google Glass except is heftier, wired to a separate controller device that resembles a hockey puck, and priced 50 percent lower than Glass.

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