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September 29, 2019 - Episode 539 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Apple's phones can be broken, Microsoft's streaming can be tested, and Google's news results can't be previewed.

Science Experiments in Tech - Episode 206 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch discusses a pair of interesting science experiments that have been conducted by Tom's Hardware over the past few weeks. The first involves the publication's favorite tech gadgets: the Raspberry Pi. The site has done a lot of projects using the board, but this one was unique. Rather than building something with it, they waterproofed it and used it completely submerged underwater. The result is accomplished by dipping the board into a bath of a chemical called CorrosionX. This chemical is incredibly toxic and should be used with care.

From a usefulness perspective, this project probably doesn't rank high for most consumers. However, there are some real-world applications. Raspberry Pi boards are used in a lot of robotic applications, and robots can get themselves into potentially damaging situations, completely outside of their control. Even if the case is already waterproof, adding this process on top of the case can protect the board in the event the case is damaged. Think of a product like a Roomba where the electronics could be protected from moisture even if the body is damaged.

The second experiment, which will be published this week, involved AMD, Intel, and pancakes. It's common knowledge that a computer CPU gets hot, and the chips have been used to cook before, but Tom's Hardware decided to test which manufacturer cooks better. They used comparable processors, one from Intel and one from AMD, and removed their processor fans. Adding thermal compound to a skillet, they placed it over the processor and ran a test to kick the processor to 100%. While both have similar operating temperatures, the Intel processor continued to run through the heat while the AMD Threadripper turned off for protection.

Again, the usefulness of the test is probably pretty low, but it is an interesting experiment. From a results perspective, it's important to know that an Intel processor will continue to run without proper heat dissipation. If you're building a computer and need it to keep running in extreme heat, potentially to the detriment of the hardware, Intel would be a good choice. If you're looking for a system with a strong self-preservation instinct, AMD might be the better choice.

Coinbask makes investing in cryptocurrencies easier and safer (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

It's hard to believe that it's been a decade since the original whitepaper describing Bitcoin was first released. In the last ten years, the technology has grown from a concept to a global household name. However, the adoption of cryptocurrency technology in the mainstream has been somewhere between slow and non-existent. While there are many reasons why this is the case, the two primary issues involve ease of use and breadth of choices. Coinbask is working to address both of these issues.

First, there are a lot of coins available on the market. How do you choose which ones to buy? If you want to buy a variety to diversify your portfolio, how do you do it and how do you manage the whole collection? That is the point of the basket aspect of Coinbask. By purchasing a tokenized basket of currency, you get the ability to invest in a collection of coins. A more diverse portfolio can mean you can absorb the loss of a volatile coin's price fluctuation.

Second, interacting with cryptocurrency isn't easy. Each platform can require a separate wallet, making the management of a diverse portfolio difficult. With Coinbask, you only need a single wallet to buy and sell a basket. Plus, the process of buying and selling is peer-to-peer, meaning you don't have to wait for hours or days for a transaction to complete. It also means that the process is more secure because you don't have to move your coins from a private wallet to a public wallet, through an exchange to sell, only to be reversed on the other side.

Coinbask is currently in early access and the company is looking for testers. If you want more information on the platform, or want to sign up for early access, head over to the website.

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BinoViz is building technology to expand the reach of human vision (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

Vision is a tricky thing. We usually think of it as a constant, where everyone sees the same thing the same way. However, the reality of vision is that many people see things differently. One of the biggest differences is caused by color blindness, which causes people to not be able to distinguish between two colors. Red-green color blindness alone is present in 1 in 12 males. Despite this high percentage of the problem, we still use color as a primary part of daily life. BinoViz is building technology to help people who see colors differently differentiate colors.

The company has developed the first Binocular Video Tone Mapping (BVTM) framework, which takes advantage of the way the brain fuses paired images into a single visual. By using this technology, which is similar to how movies produce a modern 3D visual, they can extend the range of color that is perceivable. For those with color issues, it can produce a different contrast to the colors that are presented, allowing them to determine the difference between red and green, or blue and green, and the colors produced by combining them with others. For those who see colors normally, it does not negatively impact the visual.

The company is starting with the entertainment industry, as it affords the most opportunity to apply color technology. Nowhere else do we see as many varying colors in such a short period, and nowhere does color have such a huge impact. Think of the movie Avatar, which revolves around blue people on a green planet. For someone who cannot distinguish blue from green, the movie didn't get exciting until everything caught fire, introducing red. But, by introducing a new level of contrast, even these people can enjoy the film.

To learn more about BinoViz, check out their website.

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A new iPhone jailbreak is unpatchable on all affected devices

It is not unusual for companies to discover software vulnerabilities. The thing that makes software great is that it can be patched if an issue is discovered so that the issue can be mitigated. However, a hardware-level vulnerability is far less common and even harder to repair. This is the situation that Apple has found itself in, as a hardware-level vulnerability has been discovered and actively exploited in a wide range of iPhones.

Devices sporting the Apple A5 through A11 processors, meaning the iPhone 4S through the iPhone X and a variety of iPads, are vulnerable to this issue, dubbed checkm8. The issue involves the devices' bootloader, which is the mobile equivalent of a desktop computer's BIOS. Unlike a BIOS, an Apple bootloader is not able to be updated, which means that the exploit is permanent and unfixable. This means that it exists in the wild on these devices forever.

The issue was reported and exploited by Twitter user axi0mX, along with an open-source project to take advantage of the exploit. While the majority of the issues are simply going to annoy Apple, some of them are legitimate problems. On the casual side, iPhones are now able to run operating systems other than Apple's iOS, including Android. Through this new feature, d potentially breathe new life into older devices. For example, the iPhone 4S maxes out at iOS 9, but the hardware could potentially support far newer Android builds especially Android Go.

On the negative side, however, is the potential for security issues. With access to the bootloader, it is possible that some personal data on the device could be vulnerable. Of course, this means that the hacker would require physical access to the device, but it is still possible. The need to have access to the device could potentially reignite a mostly dead market of stolen phones.

EMOTAI is using biofeedback to improve competitive videogaming (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

Over the past few years, the technology behind brain tracking has gotten better. As the tech has improved, the usage has gone from toys and gimmicks to real-world problem-solving. We have seen drones controlled by thoughts and we've seen dream and mood analysis technology come to market. Now, the technology is being applied to videogame performance by tracking response during gameplay, thanks to EMOTAI.

This team of biomedical engineers came together to use biofeedback to analyze and improve performance for professional and semi-pro competitive gamers. Using a headband with 5 sensors and screen scraping on the videogame, the company can determine the gamer's mental state during each phase of gameplay. By combining this data with artificial intelligence, the system is also able to make determinations to help improve your state during those situations.

The prototype that Carolina Amorim, the CEO of EMOTAI, brought with her is similar to the hardware that will come to market next year, with one major difference. Heart rate is being moved from an ear clip to the forehead so that the device does not add any additional issues to your gameplay. With an ear clip, it could get in the way of headphones, which are essential to competitive gameplay.

While the technology is currently being applied to videogames, the company is aware that it could be adapted to other areas as well. Some of the industries that have been interested in their technology have been professional sports and racing. Bringing the tech to new industries would require a new set of AI training, but it is on the roadmap for the future.

If you are interested in getting your hands on the EMOTAI headband, they will be offering a preorder opportunity with hardware set to launch in 2020. To get more information or to sign up for notifications about the preorder process, head over to their website.

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Assister is making software assistants easier and safer for all (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

For software developers today, if they want to integrate an assistant into their products, they either have to rely on a third-party service, integrate with a general-purpose solution like Siri or Cortana, or limit themselves to the low value add features like FAQs and basic questions. But most developers want more capability - they want the strength of a full-featured system, with the nuance of their software. That is where Assister comes into play.

This system is designed to help software developers implement a natural language assistant into their products without having to spend the incredible amount of time and resources to build the technology themselves. What that means is that they can allow their users to ask questions or, more interestingly, pose complex challenges, in the same way they would ask another person. Imagine if your bank allowed you to ask the app, "How much money have I spent on tacos this month?" instead of looking at a list and filtering by transaction type. Or how about being able to ask Facebook messenger, "When was the last time I talked with Michele?" rather than trying to find her on your conversation list. All of this and more is possible through Assister.

Most importantly, this technology can live within the company's platform. This means that there is no need to transfer data between systems. If the bank were to integrate that question into Siri, it would require them to give Apple the answer to the question to display on your screen. By keeping everything housed within the platform, developers no longer have to share critical information with third parties, protecting your privacy and theirs.

For more information about Assister, or to get a demo of the platform, check out the company's website.

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Healthy Dining is a world-wide app for plant-based restaurants (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

People that live on a plant-based diet have special needs. They require an environment that is restrictive in that they cannot have any cross-contamination of certain foods. Some do not eat any dairy or animal by-products or any foods that animals are involved in, in ay way, such as honey being produced by bees. This can be incredibly difficult when dining out especially in a new and unfamiliar area. That's where Healthy Dining becomes your friend.

This app provides a location-based curated list of plant-based restaurants that allows you to eat out safely and not have to worry about your restrictions and cross-contamination. In addition to being able to find the ideal places to eat, Healthy Dining allows you to find others who, like you, want to share meals and dining experiences. You create a profile from which others can see and it brings together new friends who have a common bond. In this app, you can view the menu options of the restaurants, and see what specials they have to offer as well as read any reviews posted. The location is chosen by the city, state or zip code.

Restaurants cannot be vegan- or vegetarian-friendly or simply offer vegan and vegetarian options; the entire menu must comply with vegan or vegetarian standards. Ebony McCormick, founder and CEO of Healthy Dining, has individually verified each restaurant on the platform for compliance. For Ebony, part of her research is reaching out to restaurants to make sure not only does the food that is served follow her requirements but the facility itself also has to. There are currently 1500 restaurants available to review and the number is growing.

The app is currently available for $1.99 to download and to allow more profiles to view, it is $1.99 per month. For more information go to her website.

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AT&T claims that customers must arbitrate over sold location data

For many years, wireless carriers have included a clause in their wireless contracts that requires subscribers to waive their right to sue for damages and, instead, agree to arbitration. This option has not often been enforced, because the legal standing on force arbitration is sticky, to say the least. A case that landed in the California Supreme Court in 2017 ended with a ruling that stated,

an arbitration agreement that waives the right to seek the statutory remedy of public injunctive relief in any forum is contrary to California public policy and therefore unenforceable.

This situation has created a legal for AT&T, who is currently trying to enforce the arbitration clause in a case that surrounds location data. The company has been sued by a group of people who are upset that AT&T sold users' real-time location data. The case is a class-action, representing the whole of AT&T subscribers by a subset represented by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) attorneys. The EFF argues that the forced arbitration clause is invalid because of the California Supreme Court ruling, while AT&T has filed a motion to compel arbitration, claiming that the ruling is invalid.

The issue at the heart of the case is an important on. AT&T sold location data for subscribers through two location data aggregators: LocationSmart and Zumigo. The company has ended the practice, but not before violating the privacy and potentially the safety of their subscribers. According to the lawsuit,

Despite vowing to its customers that it does not "sell [their" class="UpStreamLink"> Personal Information to anyone for any purpose," AT&T has been selling its customers' real-time location data to credit agencies, bail bondsmen, and countless other third parties without the required customer consent and any legal authority. AT&T's practice is an egregious and dangerous breach of Plaintiffs' and all AT&T customers' privacy, as well as a violation of state and federal law.

It seems that AT&T knows that the only way for them to avoid a major legal embarrassment is to avoid the lawsuit in the first place. Unfortunately for them, and luckily for customers, there is little chance the arbitration clause will be nullified.

LISA is a robotic lifeguard designed to save lives in the water (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

While it may not be at the forefront of most of our minds, drowning is a huge problem. Every 60 seconds, someone in the world dies from drowning. Children are particularly at risk because they have less self-awareness, spatial awareness, and life experience to prevent a dangerous situation and to alleviate one that has already begun. Because of this ever-present danger, a new robot from Health Sonics has entered the scene, and her name is LISA.

LISA is a truly life-saving robot, intended to help prevent this high number of deaths. She accomplishes this in a couple of steps. The first is through detection and alert. This works similarly to other detection machines, recognizing the signs of a struggle and alerting an outside party, such as a parent or emergency services.

While this is a good feature, it is not unique. Where LISA sets herself apart from other detection systems is that she can actively come to the rescue of the person in trouble. While LISA is alerting the outside world to trouble, she is also able to swim to the person in need and bring them back to the surface of the water. She does this by wrapping herself around the person and holding them above the surface.

In addition to the feature of maintaining the drowning person above the water, LISA also monitors vital signs. This is helpful for the people who come to the rescue, whether it be a family member or emergency services. This could be an essential piece of the puzzle for helping to make sure that the rescue is a success.

LISA is available for pre-order now and is designed to work in both private, public, and commercial pool environments. For more information about LISA, or to pre-order your LISA, check out the company's website.

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