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Engadget giveaway: Win an Anki Cozmo robot and Overdrive racing set!

When the holiday season rolls around, it’s always a good excuse to get in a little play time. Picking up a few items for yourself or guaranteeing second-hand fun after you gift them is a win-win scenario. This week, smart-gadget maker Anki has passed along some top “toys” for two lucky readers. There’s a liquid-metal Cozmo Collector’s edition robot, which can be an entertaining companion as well as a platform to limber up your coding skills. When you’re feeling a bit brawnier and competitive, there’s the Fast & Furious Edition Anki Overdrive racing set. Just connect your mobile device (iOS / Android) to control one of these special edition vehicles, each with special tools, tricks and tactics available to help battle the competition. Anki has provided both a Cozmo Collector’s Edition robot and Fast & Furious Edition Overdrive racing set for two winners. Just head down to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to three chances at winning a set of smart Anki products.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. Comments are no longer accepted as valid methods of entry. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, though we may offer them as opportunities for extra entries. Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given to third parties.
  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec), 18 or older! Sorry, we don’t make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so direct your anger at our lawyers and contest laws if you have to be mad.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. Two (2) winners will each receive one (1) Cozmo Collector’s Edition robot and one (1) Fast & Furious Edition Overdrive racing set (approximately $350 value).
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes your real name and a contact email. We do not track any of this information for marketing or third-party purposes.
  • This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. Engadget and AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
  • The full list of rules, in all of its legalese glory, can be found here.
  • Entries can be submitted until December 20th at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!

London police will use AI to look for child porn on seized devices

Around this time last year, Interpol revealed it was using an AI system to track down child porn on P2P networks in the global hunt for predators. Tech firms like Google and Microsoft have been using their own tools in the fight against child exploitation for years, too. Now, the UK’s Metropolitan Police say they want AI recognition software of their own that’s capable of identifying images and video of abuse on confiscated devices like smartphone and computers.

Currently, the Met’s image recognition software can detect guns, drugs and money while scanning hardware for evidence, but struggles to make accurate calls on nudity. In the next “two to three” years, though, the force wants a more sophisticated AI tool. Not only should this help with investigation load — the digital forensics department processed 53,000 devices last year — but spare officers from some of the psychological trauma that comes with looking at images of child abuse day-in, day-out.

The Met police is also looking to move all the information it holds from its London-based data centre to a commercial cloud provider, such as Google or Amazon. Regarding security, the Met’s head of digital and electronics forensics told The Telegraph these companies are actually better positioned to safeguard this data since they have the resources to invest in the latest server armour. As you might imagine, there are many legal issues that could get in the way of the Met moving sensitive images off-site. It’s merely a plan at this point, though, so who knows what special arrangements the Met and cloud providers may come up with in the future.

Source: The Telegraph


Facebook will alert you when someone posts your photo, tagged or not

Facebook has launched new tools powered by its facial recognition tech — the same one that suggests friends to tag in photos. To start with, it has beefed up the alternative text feature it rolled out last year, which describes a photo’s contents for people using a screen reader. For instance, the original version of the tool would describe a friend’s photo with the words “may contain: tree, sky, sea.” The enhanced version will include those and the names of people who could be in the photo even if they aren’t tagged. Facebook’s facial recognition can be pretty hit and miss, but the names can give visually impaired users a fuller view of the picture.

The platform will also start notifying users when its face recognition tech recognizes them in pictures (again) even if they’re not tagged, unless they’re not part of the audience. Finally, it will start sending out notifications when someone else uploads users’ photos as profile pictures. Facebook hopes this last tool can help prevent scammers from using other people’s identities, especially for those who use the platform to conduct business.

To make things simpler, the social network will roll out a single on/off switch for all these features. Unfortunate for those who only really like one of them, but great for those don’t want to deal with tweaking their settings. The switch will roll out worldwide the next few days, except in Canada and Europe where Facebook doesn’t have facial recognition on offer. It will automatically be set to “off” for users who’ve disabled tagging, but it can easily be switched on anytime.

Source: Facebook


UPS is Tesla’s latest electric semi-truck customer

UPS has placed the largest Tesla semi-truck order to date, reserving 125 of the trucks. Since unveiling the electric vehicles last month, Tesla has received quite a few orders from major companies. PepsiCo has ordered 100, Anheuser-Busch ordered 40 and Walmart, DHL and Loblaws have reserved Tesla Semis as well. While not every company that has announced a Tesla Semi order has said how many they’ve reserved, the total number of trucks ordered to date appears to be in the range of 420.

UPS said that the all-electric semi-trucks will help them reach a number of their energy goals. The company is working to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 12 percent within the next seven years and by 2020 it wants 25 percent of its newly purchased vehicles to be advanced technology or run on alternative fuel. UPS already has over 8,500 alternative fuel or advanced technology vehicles in its fleet including all-electric, hybrid, ethanol, compressed natural gas, hydraulic hybrid, liquefied natural gas, propane and renewable natural gas vehicles. In total, the company has around 108,000 package cars, vans, tractors and motorcycles on the road. Therefore, moving more towards electric vehicles stands to have a major environmental impact.

Tesla plans to begin producing its trucks by 2019.

Via: Reuters

Source: UPS


Facebook brings its social VR ‘Spaces’ to the HTC Vive

Earlier this year, Facebook unveiled Spaces, its inaugural attempt at bringing the social network to VR. And, seeing as Facebook also owns Oculus, it’s no surprise that Spaces was a Rift-exclusive at launch. But, just as Facebook is on every platform and device imaginable, the plan for Spaces was always to have it spread far and wide as well. That’s why starting today, Facebook is making Spaces available for the HTC Vive, marking the first time the app is going cross-platform.

According to Facebook, the Vive app will have the same features as the Rift version. You’ll be able to create your avatar, go on virtual photo tours, broadcast live, view videos in 360-degrees, create art, play games and, yes, take virtual selfies. And yes, it’ll be cross-platform, so users can hang out in Spaces on matter what VR headset they’re using.

Which is important, because Vive is only the beginning. Facebook plans on making Spaces compatible with pretty much every VR headset out there, which could include devices from the likes of Google, Microsoft and maybe even Sony. In the meantime, Vive users can head on over to starting today to see if they want to partake in Facebook’s vision of the future.


Caavo’s voice-enabled universal remote ships February 14th

The Caavo universal TV control system, which is aimed at simplifying home TV setups through machine vision, is set to ship on February 14th, The Verge reports. Initially planned to ship last June, the $399 system boasts the ability to control and navigate up to eight devices — say, for example, a Roku, an Apple TV, a DVR and an Xbox One — removing the need for a bunch of different remotes, for the most part. It even offers voice control so you can say, “Watch Bob’s Burgers,” and it will start playing it through one of your streaming devices. You can also set the system to play certain services, like Hulu, on a specific device, like your Fire TV.

There are a few downsides to Caavo. One, it doesn’t support HDR, though that could change in the future. And two, it costs $399, which is outside of what many are willing to pay for convenience. However, the company says that the first round of Caavo systems — 5,000 units — are all expected to sell out. And next year the team is looking to produce a less expensive unit with fewer ports as well as a soundbar. “This is the first expression of what we can do, and it’s a high-end expression,” Caavo CTO Ashish Aggarwal told The Verge. “Our plans aren’t so big this year. The next goal is people with fewer than eight devices. But first we have to make sure it works.”

Via: The Verge


Facebook introduces new tools to fight online harassment

Facebook has been rightfully criticized for how it has handled (or not handled) harassment and abuse in the past. But today, the company announced a couple of new tools aimed at fighting online harassment and giving users more control over who can interact with them.

First, when someone blocks an account on Facebook, the harasser can often just make a new account and continue to go after the person who blocked their original one. Now, that should be a little more difficult because the site will use a number of different signals including IP addresses to recognize new accounts from previously blocked individuals and prevent them from messaging or sending a friend request to the person who blocked them.

Secondly, users will now be able to ignore a conversation in their messages, which will move it to the Filtered Messages folder. Users can then read the conversation without the sender having seen that they’ve done so. This is a tool that groups working with survivors of domestic violence have said would be quite useful as it would allow people to monitor any ongoing risks of abuse and deter offline harassment stemming from blocking an abuser on Facebook. This feature is now available for one-on-one conversations and Facebook says it will be rolling it out to group messages soon.

Social networks haven’t consistently done well when it comes to preventing online abuse. Among the recent missteps that have occured include Twitter’s decision to leave Rob Kardashian’s account active after he posted revenge porn, multiple video streams of violence being posted on Facebook and Facebook’s suspensions of Shaun King’s and Ijeoma Oluo’s accounts after they posted images of online harassment that they had received. In Oluo’s case, she said there wasn’t even an option to report the abuse she was receiving through the Facebook app and when she did report the harassment, Facebook didn’t do anything about it.

There have been recent attempts to rectify the growing online harassment problem, though there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Facebook has worked to stop ads targeted at racists and given parents more tools to prevent online bullying. Twitter has updated its anti-abuse measures a few times this year, though it has a very big problem with not enforcing rules in a consistent manner.

The new features Facebook launched today are good steps in the fight against online abuse and hopefully 2018 will see quite a few more.

Source: Facebook


Facebook and Microsoft disabled slew of North Korean cyber threats

If you ask the White House, North Korea’s WannaCry attack was just the tip of the iceberg. Homeland security adviser Tom Bossert reported that Facebook and Microsoft disabled a range of North Korean online threats in the past week. Facebook removed accounts and “stopped the operational execution” of ongoing attacks, while Microsoft patched existing attacks that went beyond WannaCry. Details of just what those attacks were aren’t available.

Facebook has confirmed its role. A spokesman told Reuters that it had deleted accounts associated with the Lazarus Group, the hacking team associated with WannaCry and other campaigns, and had notified users who’d had contact with those accounts. It recommended additional security measures in case they might be victims. Microsoft didn’t initially comment on Bossert’s statements.

Without more targeted accusations or political actions, the revelations don’t accomplish much more than fueling the administration’s existing arguments that North Korea is running out of time to mend its ways. We certainly wouldn’t expect North Korea to change course. However, it does illustrate how comprehensive North Korea’s hacking campaign really is. On top of this, it shows how major tech companies like Facebook and Microsoft are effectively being drafted into a wider political conflict — in many cases, they’re first line of defense against North Korean hacks that could prove devastating.

Source: Reuters


Twitch launches a live-streaming reality show

The reality TV genre has pretty much got all bases covered — there’s even a TV show featuring people… watching TV — but now live-gaming is making its way into the fold with Stream On, by Twitch Studios. The brand’s first-ever game show features creators who have made it as far as Twitch’s Partnership program but still need a boost to make streaming a full-time career. The show pits them against one another Hunger Games-style in a series of challenges, for the grand prize of $5,000 a month for a year.

Stream On will take place across multiple channels as contestants compete throughout the week from their home streaming setups, with the action punctuated by a weekly recap and elimination show from Twitch Studios. Viewers in Twitch chat will have their say in who stays and who goes, with the ultimate victor being the individual deemed best at entertaining and leading a gaming community. Twitch is currently looking for participants, so if you’re a Partner and think you’ve got what it takes (and reside in the US, UK or Canada), apply today to be in the with chance of making live-streaming history (or at least winning a sweet cash prize).


Chrome will block the most annoying ads starting February 15th

Back in June, Google announced that Chrome would start automatically blocking annoying internet ads in early 2018. You know the culprits — ads that autoplay sound, force you to wait several seconds before the page loads, and otherwise ruin your browsing experience. But now we know when this will go into effect. On February 15th, Chrome will begin blocking these noxious ads.

As VentureBeat points out, this is date isn’t tied to the release of a particular Chrome version: Chrome 64 comes out January 23rd and Chrome 65 is scheduled for March 6th. In that case, Google will likely turn on the ad blocker remotely, though it’s unclear if that applies to every instance of the browser.

Google first vowed to block these ads after joining the Coalition for Better Ads, which spotlights these types of bad advertisements in its Better Ads Standards. By cutting the most annoying offenders out, the Coalition hopes that users will stop employing ad blockers, which stop all ads from loading, thus crippling advertisement-centric revenue models.

Per Google’s developer blog post, on February 15th Chrome will remove all ads from sites that continually violate the Better Ads Standards for more than 30 days. Affected site owners can submit their site for re-review after the violations have been fixed.

Via: VentureBeat

Source: Google developer blog

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