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July 8, 2017

Weekly rewind: Vinyl records worth more than your car, Prime Day prep, AI rights

by John_A

A lot can happen in a week when it comes to tech. The constant onslaught of news makes it nigh impossible for mere mortals with real lives to keep track of everything. That’s why we’ve compiled a quick and dirty list of this week’s top 10 tech stories, from how to make the most out of Prime Day to how we ought to feel about sex robots — it’s all here.

Microsoft’s Steven Bathiche redefined the PC, and he wants to do it again

Microsoft is on a good run. Over the past half-decade, it has released a popular new desktop operating system, built multiple award-winning PCs that’ve pushed the industry forward, and established itself as a leader in exciting new fields, including augmented reality and artificial intelligence.

It’s easy to imagine this turn-around as a victory for Windows 10, Surface, Azure, or CEO Satya Nadella, who took the reins in 2014 — and such congratulations would not be misplaced. Yet the story of Microsoft’s comeback isn’t just about stock prices and executive appointments. Equal credit can be given to the company’s tradition of innovative research — conducted by scientists like Steven Bathiche.

Read: Microsoft’s Steven Bathiche redefined the PC, and he wants to do it again

To understand America’s Jeep obsession, you’ve gotta get muddy

Nissan is about to give the all-electric Leaf a full makeover. It’s about time, too; the current, first-generation Nissan Leaf has been on the market since the end of 2010, and it’s getting a little bit long in the tooth. Its replacement won’t break cover for another few months, but the Japanese company is giving us an early look at some of its headline-grabbing tech features. Over the weekend, Nissan USA tweeted a teaser image of its new Leaf, then added a background image showing the car’s entire front end (which has since been removed). The image is our best look yet at the redesigned EV.

The next Leaf will finally usher in Nissan’s suite of semi-autonomous driving features, a sign that the once-expensive technology is trickling down to more affordable models. Named ProPilot Assist, the software relies on sensors and cameras to help control acceleration, braking, and steering. It only works on the highway, particularly in dense traffic, and its job is merely to keep the car in its lane. Don’t expect it to change lanes on its own like the systems built by Mercedes-Benz and Tesla.

Read: To understand America’s Jeep obsession, you’ve gotta get muddy

New report explores the good, the bad, and the ugly about sex robots

“There are absolutely some benefits to the technology but, like everything else, there is a balance,” Aimee van Wynsberghe, assistant professor in ethics and technology at the Technical University of Delft and FRR co-director, said in a statement. “You have to strike a balance between lack of regulation — so we have all different uses and personifications of children and women as sexual objects — or you have overregulation and you stifle the technology. You have to find the way to balance so you really can harness the good.”

Read: New report explores the good, the bad, and the ugly about sex robots

Kirio smart homes don’t just alert you to problems, they can fix them

A couple years ago, Franck Rougier’s kids started waking up with headaches. His family had recently moved from New York to Seattle, into one of the U.S.’s only passive homes. “It was a complicated home,” Rougier told Digital Trends. “It had a lot of tech in there.” Despite his background in mechanical engineering, Rougier hadn’t fully figured out how to properly ventilate the energy-efficient, air-tight house, and CO2 was getting trapped in the bedrooms. Instead of manually working the ventilation system, he looked for an automated solution. He struck out. “Even the builder had never lived in a passive house,” he said.

Instead, Rougier built his own, which would eventually become Kirio, a built-in home automation system that controls everything from lights to heating and cooling to the water tank. And it’s not just for passive homes.

There are countless smart-home hubs homeowners can buy, but Kirio gets installed before you buy your home, while it’s being built. It can control both what builder would put in — air conditioning, lighting, water, and so on, and the homeowner’s favorite gadgets — Nest thermostats, Alexa speakers, and smart locks, for example. “As long as something has a serial or diagnostic port, we can control it,” said Kirio’s CEO, Rob Green. The benefit is that instead of having your third-party sensor alert you there’s a leak, Kirio gets the message and sends another one out to shut off the water.

Read: Kirio smart homes don’t just alert you to problems, they can fix them

Top 5 cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb suffers major data breach

It’s easy to get a bit discouraged lately when it comes to securing our personal data. There are so many different methods being used by cyber criminals to get access to our data that it is tempting to just give up on the notion of keeping our information to ourselves. Cybercriminals use a variety of electronic means to break into systems, whether it is our own PCs or those maintained by the hundreds of companies with which we do business. Sometimes, it is the combination that does the trick — a breach in an individual’s PC serves as a gateway to organizational data and results in our information making its way into the wild. Such seems to be the case in an attack on the Bithumb cryptocurrency exchange.

The news comes via Hot for Security, based on information from some local reports in Seoul, Korea where the attack occurred. Apparently, a Bithumb employee’s PC was compromised and customer information including mobile phone and email addresses were stolen. The breach occurred on June 29 and around 30,000 customers were affected.

Read: Top 5 cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb suffers major data breach

Up your ‘gram game: how to get more Instagram followers

In the digital age, the thirst for followers (and elusive likes) is very real. However, outside of our social circles, it can be difficult to add followers in order to promote our brand or simply stroke our egos. That said, there are plenty of easy ways to gain more Instagram followers. You may not garner as many likes as Selena Gomez anytime soon, but these helpful tips should bring your page to a broader audience. And don’t worry about all of these new people perusing the posts you’d like to keep private: The new Favorites feature allows you to share certain posts with only a selective group of friends. Read on to find out how to get more followers on Instagram.

Read: Up your ‘gram game: how to get more Instagram followers

I, Alexa: Should we give artificial intelligence human rights?

Douglas Adams’ second Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, tells the story of a futuristic smart elevator called the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Happy Vertical People Transporter. This artificially intelligent elevator works by predicting the future, so it can appear on the right floor to pick you up even before you know you want to get on — thereby “eliminating all the tedious chatting, relaxing, and making friends that people were previously forced to do whilst waiting for elevators.”

The ethics question, Adams explains, comes when the intelligent elevator becomes bored of going up and down all day, and instead decides to experiment with moving from side to side as a “sort of existential protest.”

Read: I, Alexa: Should we give artificial intelligence human rights?

These drool-worthy albums are among the most expensive vinyl records on Earth

As more and more listeners embrace the vinyl resurgence, vinyl fans around the world are increasingly on the hunt for the coolest wax to spin on their newly acquired analog hi-fis. We’d all love to find that hidden first pressing of Sgt. Peppers at the local record shop. But the rarest, most expensive vinyl records in the world aren’t for playing — unless you’re just that baller. Worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in some cases, the world’s most sought after records aren’t just antiques or even works of art, they’re tangible time stamps of rock ‘n roll history, each with its own story to tell.

To tell those stories we’ve compiled a list of some of the most expensive and drool-worthy vinyl records on the planet. And while none of us will likely get our paws on any of these gems, a vinyl fan can dream. So follow us below for the rarest, strangest, and just plain coolest cuts ever pressed. While you’re at it, be sure to check out our vinyl tips on everything from how to buy and store your first vinyl collection, to which are the best record players and phono preamps to nab so you can build a killer turntable setup of your own.

Read: These drool-worthy albums are among the most expensive vinyl records on Earth

Prime Day starts today if you’re an Amazon Prime member and an Alexa user

Prime Day is fast approaching, and this time, Amazon really, really wants you to get in on the action. And it’s attempting to entice you with, what else, Alexa. The handy virtual assistant is not only good at helping you pay your bills, but can help you spend money, too. On Wednesday, July 5, the Seattle-based retail giant announced that Alexa has more than 100 exclusive deals available to Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Amazon Tap, Fire TV, or compatible Fire tablet owners.

And those choosing to take advantage of Prime Day (which, by the way, isn’t until July 10) will have access to certain deals two hours before everyone else. So if you’re looking for a reason to buy an Amazon Alexa-enabled device, the promise of spending even more money in the near future may be the motivation you need.

Read: Prime Day starts today if you’re an Amazon Prime member and an Alexa user




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