<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Tech News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/tech http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Thu, 26 Nov 2015 21:07:26 -0800 Thu, 26 Nov 2015 21:07:26 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[New Voice for Mass. Teen]]> Thu, 26 Nov 2015 08:17:44 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/Max+Plansky+112515.jpg

We all have unique voices - with their pitches and their tones, they belong to us.

But for Max Plansky, a Massachusetts teen who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant, the voice he uses is not his own.

"I have 'Perfect Pete' on my device because it was the only American male voice on my device," Max said. "I chose it, but there were not many choices."

It's the voice used by many who are non-verbal - and for Max, it's not him.

"I think my voice sounds like my dad's voice," he said.

But Vocal ID, a new technology, is changing that. Founder Rupal Patel has created a way to make a voice just for Max.

"In the case of someone like Max, he never spoke," said Patel. "So it's sort of what he would have sounded like had he been able to control his tongue and lips and so on."

But Max can make a vowel sound - in this case, "ah."

"There are three 'ahs' that he was able to produce in a row for us, which you can hear," said Geoff Meltzner, the director of research and technology for Vocal ID.

"We're taking that sample and mixing it with a matched donor that we find from our database," said Patel. "The matched donor has to be matched in age, in gender, in acoustic quality, and then we bring those two together."

Patel says Max will have his new voice before Christmas of this year - it's a gift both he and father, never thought they'd have.

"It's very emotional. Thank God he can say 'daddy' and some other words," said Michael Plansky. "But for him then to be able to carry on other conversations, and it be in his voice, we just anticipate that we're going to be able to get away from yes-no questions and actually have conversations."

"I do think I will like the way my new voice sounds more," said Max.

Students in Max's hometown are helping out - Danvers High School held a voice drive to contribute to Vocal ID's database.

Students donated about five hours of their weekend to record sentences which will be broken down into sounds to create someone's new voice.

"I love helping people out," said senior Madison Mucci. "Just the thought of changing someone's life is amazing."

Changing someone's life one sentence at a time is a goal that Patel says will be achieved. Her company is growing, and so is the donor database.

This year, Max will be one of the first with a new voice - a trailblazer for what she hopes will, one day, be the norm.

"We wouldn't give a little girl the prosthetic limb of a grown man, so why would we give her the same prosthetic voice? That's exactly what we're doing," said Patel. "There are little girls around the world that are using voices like the Stephen Hawking voice."

So what does she hope for Max?

"I hope he engages more fully in conversations," she said. "I hope he seeks out more communication partners. I hope he seeks out more opportunities to express who he is.

And that's exactly what Max is hoping for, too.

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Jeff Bezos' Space Company Successfully Lands a Rocket]]> Tue, 24 Nov 2015 12:56:43 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Blue-Orgin1.jpg

Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos’ space transportation company successfully landed a suborbital rocket on Monday after launching it earlier that day.

The New Shepard rocket poked the border where earth’s atmosphere gives way to space, at an altitude of 62 miles. Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin, recalled the rocket back to earth where it safely landed at its West Texas launch site.

The reusable rocket is designed to carry six passengers and Monday’s feat is one giant leap for the company’s goal to commission commercial space trips. Bezos told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that he expects that Blue Origin will be involved in commercial space operations within "a couple of years."

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook's Zuckerberg Announces Two Months Paternity Leave]]> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 17:16:36 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Priscilla-Chan-Mark-Zuckerberg.jpg

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg announced that he will take a two-month paternity leave.

"Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, outcomes are better for the children and families," he wrote on his Facebook page on Friday. "At Facebook we offer our US employees up to 4 months of paid maternity or paternity leave which they can take throughout the year."

Zuckerberg revealed in July that he and wife Priscilla Chan, who are expecting a baby girl, previously had three miscarriages.

"In our ultrasound, she even gave me a thumbs up 'like' with her hand," he wrote, "so I'm already convinced she takes after me."

Photo Credit: Facebook/file
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<![CDATA[Woman Named Isis Had FB Account Deactivated]]> Wed, 18 Nov 2015 15:10:05 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/isis_2_768540d655e86cf3ed6c65bdb249dc06.nbcnews-ux-600-480.jpg

Facebook said an error in how fake or offensive accounts are reported led to a woman's social media account being suspended.

Her name is Isis.

"Why would you disable my personal account? MY REAL NAME IS ISIS ANCHALEE," she complained Tuesday in a tweet directed at Facebook. Over the next day, she expressed further frustration over the process of getting the account reinstated — though eventually things returned to normal, after she sent over a scan of her passport to prove her identity.

It's not like Isis Anchalee was an unknown on social media. She is the female engineer who started the #ILookLikeAnEngineer viral hashtag campaign earlier this year to challenge bias and sexism in the tech field.

In a statement sent Wednesday to NBC News, Facebook offered an explanation for the account suspension: "This was an error made as part of a fake account reporting process and we're sorry for the trouble it caused."

Photo Credit: Isis Anchalee / Twitter]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook Enables 'Safety Check' for Paris Attacks]]> Sat, 14 Nov 2015 13:52:26 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/paris-AP_254892328086.jpg

Worried friends and family turned to social media to see if loved ones were caught up in the barrage of attacks in Paris that forced the area into a state of emergency. Others used social networks to show solidarity with France.

Knowing the frantic concern people were feeling for those in the city, Facebook enabled its safety check feature, its CEO said Friday.

Facebook users in Paris can mark themselves as safe, and the app notifies their friends on the site. The feature also allows friends who have made contact with the person to mark him or her as safe.

"My thoughts are with everyone in Paris tonight. Violence like this has no place in any city or country in the world," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on Friday announcing the change.

On Saturday, the social network launched a feature that would apply a French flag filter to a user's profile picture, so Facebook users can show solidarity with victim's of the terrorist attack with a red, white and blue profile pic. "We stand together. ‪#‎JeSuisParis‬," Facebook wrote in the post introducing the feature.

The Safety Check feature is typically used during natural disasters like September's Chilean earthquake

At least 129 people died Friday in shootings and explosions at multiple sites throughout Paris, French officials said. Eighty-nine people were killed inside the Bataclan concert hall alone, where Southern California band Eagles of Death Metal was playing a sold-out show.

Americans were among the 352 wounded, the State Department said. French President Francois Hollande vowed a "merciless" response against the perpetrators, as ISIS claimed responsibility.

Eight attackers targeted at least six locations in the French capital, authorities said. Police said they killed one of the terrorists and the others blew themselves up.

Many in Paris posted to their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profiles to spread the word that they were not among those killed or wounded in the devastating attacks.

San Diego resident Caroline Farwell said she let her loved ones know she was OK through the social medium What'sApp.

As she and her friends walked along the Paris streets Friday evening, they heard about the attacks and ran into the lobby of a nearby hotel.

They waited there until it was safe enough for them to return to their rented apartment, she said.

"We're just sitting here trying to get new information. They don't have a TV in the lobby. The Internet is down. They won't let us use an access code," Farwell said. "So we're kind of just waiting for people that we know to call us or tell us or email us that the police reports are to stay inside."

Despite the terrifying experience, Farwell said everyone around her is doing a good job of staying calm.

Around the world, social media has been flooded with offerings of love, support, thoughts and prayers for everyone touched by the violence.

People in the U.S. looking to contact their friends and loved ones in France are also getting some help from Verizon. The company is offering free calling from the U.S. to France for it's customers through the weekend.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Protect That Boarding Pass]]> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 05:30:59 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/protect-borading-pass.jpg Millions of Americans will take a flight somewhere this holiday season, and they'll each have boarding passes, either traditional paper ones or ones sent to mobile devices. Security experts warn sharing images of those passes could put you at risk.]]> <![CDATA[Google Self-Driving Car Pulled Over by Police]]> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 11:56:38 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Google+Car+Pulled+Over.JPG

When a Northern California police officer pulled over a slow moving car Thursday, he wasn't greeted by a driver.

That's because he pulled over one of Google's Autonomous Vehicles.

The Google car was going 24 mph in a 35 mph zone, which caused traffic to back up, according to the Mountain View Police blog

The officer asked the vehicle's operators how they were choosing speeds and informed them of the congestion. 

"Bet humans don’t get pulled over for that too often," the Google Self-Driving Car Project group said on a Google+ post. 

Google's self-driving cars are allowed to operate on roadways with speed limits at 35 mph, according to police. California law requires that autonomous vehicles to have a driver in the vehicle with the ability to immediately take control at all times. The company put out a statement on Thursday to explain its cars do not operate over 25 mph for safety reasons.

"We want (our cars) to feel friendly and approachable, rather than zooming scarily through neighborhood streets," the Google Self-Driving Car Project group said.

Google is proud to say that they have never been ticketed to date after 1.2 million miles of autonomous driving. Had the officer decided to issue a citation, Mountain View Police Department spokesman Sgt. Saul Jaeger says the person in the position to be in control of the car would have been ticketed.

Photo Credit: Zandr Milewski
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<![CDATA[Scientists Working to Fly Glider to Edge of Space]]> Wed, 11 Nov 2015 08:49:55 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Perlan-2-glider-san-diego.jpg

Scientists are working on perfecting a pressurized glider that will attempt to fly to the edge of space next year, higher than any glider has ever been before. 

The Perlan 2 glider, a pressurized sailplane designed to ride air currents, is spending the week in San Diego's Sabre Springs as ATA Engineering, where San Diego scientists are running tests on the glider. 

Chief Pilot Jim Payne, a San Diego resident, hopes to sail the plane to new heights and break the world record of 55,822 feet, held by the late Steve Fossett. Come next year, Payne hopes to soar up to 90,000 feet --- and he says he can't wait.  

"We, of course as adventurers, wanna see how high we can fly," Payne said. "The airplane is unique, no one's built a pressurized sailplane that's been successful, so we'll learn about pressurization systems and airplanes."

The glider first took flight in Oregon, where the plane was built. Testing will continue in Nevada next spring before it heads to Argentina for the winter, where it will attempt sailing up to the edge of space. In between then, the glider will take small journeys as tests to prepare for their journey to reach 90,000 feet. 

The strong winds in the polar vortex will create updrafts that can propel the glider up to 90,000 feet. 

"It is near space," said Ralph Billhart, the Vice President of Testing at ATA Engineering. "It's in the same altitude range as some of the other passenger vehicles are being developed for now."

Payne said that at that level, he and his co-pilot will also be able to observe the ozone layer and polar vortex. They will be taking ozone and aerosol samples which will help scientists study climate change, ozone depletion and how to fly in the atmosphere on Mars. The goal of the flight is multi-faceted. 

The flight will be a dream come true for Payne. When he was at the Air Force Academy in the 1970s, Payne wrote a paper on how to fly a glider at high altitudes. 

He hopes this journey will inspire other young students to want to study engineering and aviation. 

"There’s still a lot of things out there we don’t know about and it would be great if we could inspire some folks to study engineering," Payne said. "If you look at the future, we’re going to need many more engineers."

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[FCC Can't Stop Google, Facebook From Tracking Online Usage]]> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 18:33:28 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-109439725.jpg

The Federal Communications Commission said Friday that it can't force Internet companies like Google, Facebook and ad providers from tracking users online. The commission had been petitioned by the privacy advocacy group Consumer Watchdog to make the "Do Not Track" setting in many browsers illegal to ignore.

Though the FCC enacted strong Net Neutrality rules earlier this year, which also provide consumer protections, it explained in a written decision that enforcing "Do Not Track" falls outside its jurisdiction.

"The Commission has been unequivocal in declaring that it has no intent to regulate edge providers," reads the order. Edge providers are companies like Microsoft and Twitter that provide Internet-related services but not actual Internet connections. "We therefore find that the Consumer Watchdog Petition plainly does not warrant consideration by the Commission."

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Tetra images RF]]>
<![CDATA[Keyless Car Starts Endanger Drivers, Lawsuit Alleges]]> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 15:55:51 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/090110+keyless+car.jpg

Joel Pitt misses his father, especially on game day.

“You know, if I’m sitting in the stands. Just not having him there,” he said.

He aches for the time his daughter won’t have with her grandfather.

“She’s excelling in school in a really phenomenal way that he would have appreciated,” he said.

Dr. Harry Pitt died four years ago. The 80-year-old retired school superintendent was still entering weightlifting competitions, golfing and traveling. His sons insist he had a lot of life left in him.

“I think my dad is up there saying ‘Please don't let this happen to someone else,” said Jeff Pitt, Joel’s brother.

In December 2011, Harry Pitt came home, parked in his garage and accidentally left the car running all night long.

“Went to bed and didn’t wake up,” Jeff Pitt recalled.

Harry Pitt died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Colorless, odorless toxic fumes were rising from the garage to the bedroom two floors above throughout the night because of the car that was left turned on.

It is an accident his sons say never should have happened.

“It’s completely senseless,” said Jeff Pitt.

Harry Pitt drove a car with a keyless ignition.

“Millions of Americans are driving automobiles that have a deadly safety defect, and they don’t know it,” said attorney Martis Alex, who filed a class-action lawsuit against ten automakers of keyless ignition vehicles.

The lawsuit accuses them of false advertising and deceptive practices.

"They represented that the cars were safe. The cars are not safe," Alex said.

Long time auto safety advocate Sean Kane consulted on the lawsuit.

“What we’re seeing here is really an inherent design flaw,” Kane said.

Kane said manufacturers failed to take human behavior into consideration.

Drivers expect if they exit the car with their key, the engine is off. That’s how traditional keys work.
But keyless ignition vehicles generally keep running, even if the key has walked away.

Further complicating the problem is the trend of quiet engines.

Kane, founder and president of Safety Research and Strategies, said this combination has made it far too easy to walk away from a running car.

The lawsuit demanded carmakers install an auto-off feature to kill the engine if the car idles for an extended period.

“If they can put auto-off on your interior lights to save you an inconvenience, why can’t we put auto-off on the engine to save your life?” Alex asked. “It is a simple software fix.”

She compares it to the Chevy Volt recall from earlier this year

“It took about 30 minutes per car to install the auto-off, and dealers were reimbursed by less than $5 a fix,” she said.

Some say carmakers are not to blame, and argue that if a driver is responsible enough to drive, then he or she should be responsible enough to turn off the car.

“You know, the driver absolutely has a responsibility, but when you look at a design, and you see people continuing to make an error. You have a problem with your design. It’s not so much with the human,” Kane countered.

“Anecdotally, virtually every owner of a keyless ignition car that we’ve had any contact with has indicated they’ve left their car running one place or another,” Kane said.

The lawsuit cited 13 deaths nationwide, but in the weeks since it was filed Alex said she has learned of another fatality.

”How many more deaths are we waiting for?,” Alex asked.

NBC4 reached out to all the carmakers named in the lawsuit.

Most declined to comment. However, Ford sent a statement that “the keyless ignition system has proven to be a safe and reliable innovation …” adding that its cars “alert drivers when the driver’s door is opened and the … engine’s running.”

The Pitts have found their own “workarounds” to feel safe.

Jeff keeps his radio on — all the time. It’s his way of knowing if the engine is running.

Because Mercedes offers the option, Joel swapped out the keyless feature for an actual key.

All of this has motivated Harry Pitt’s granddaughter Lindsay, who now plans to study engineering.

“In terms of all the incredible things that they do with cars, you know, they’re making self-driving cars, they should be able to make cars that can turn themselves off,” she said.


Statements from automakers named in the class-action lawsuit:

Toyota - “We have no statement or comment to share at this time.”
Aaron S. Fowles - Corporate Communications

Ford – “Ford takes the safety of our customers very seriously; the keyless ignition system has proven to be a safe and reliable innovative feature that has been well-received by customers. Ford vehicles equipped with keyless ignition alert drivers when the driver’s door is opened and the vehicle’s engine is running.”
Kelli Felker - Safety Communications Manager

Nissan – “Nissan cannot comment on the subject of current litigation, so we respectfully decline comment on the topic at this time.”
Steve Yaeger - Specialist, Safety & Customer Service Communications

Honda – No response.

GM - “GM is deferring comment to the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers. “
Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers - “Current keyless ignition system designs generally follow the recommended practices of the Society of Automotive Engineers, which includes recommendations that deal with operating logic, indication of vehicle ignition/control status and the physical control characteristics of keyless ignitions systems. The recommendations also address uniform labeling – all of this so consumers can have an even better understanding of keyless systems functions. “ Wade Newton - Director of Communications

BMW – No response.

Volkswagen and Bently - “Volkswagen Group of America and its brands consider the safety and satisfaction of its consumers and passengers as a top priority. All brands within the Volkswagen Group are engineered to meet or exceed all government regulations. We are unable to comment on specific litigation.”
Erin Bronner - Communications Manager, Bentley Motors, Inc.

Mercedes Benz – “Our vehicles contain the latest in safety features. In fact, unlike many of the other keyless start systems on the market, ours can be operated as a normal keyed ignition system simply by removing the Stop/Start button or using the standard ignition switch (depending on the model). So customers can essentially choose how they wish to operate the system.”
Robert Moran - Director, Corporate Communications Mercedes-Benz USA

Hyundi – “We are cooperating with NHTSA on their research.”
Jim Trainor - Sr. Group Mgr., Product Public Relations

Kia – No response

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA['Netflix and Chill' Graffiti at HQ]]> Wed, 04 Nov 2015 15:49:38 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/194*120/netflixmainOCT.PNG

Someone is taking the "Netflix and chill" thing to the next level.

A passerby snapped this photo of the graffiti spray-painted outside Netflix's headquarters in Los Gatos and sent it to NBC Bay Area.

For the uninitiated, "Netflix and chill" is slang for hooking up. As Fusion explains: "It began as a plain, descriptive phrase ('Can’t wait to leave work so I can watch Netflix and chill!'), and stayed that way for several years before acquiring a loose sexual connotation ('Wanna come over for Netflix and chill? ;)') and, eventually becoming a known code phrase ('He said he loves me, but I know he just wants to Netflix and chill')." (Here's a video of Seth Myers explaining what it means).

The photo generated a lot of excitement on Twitter, but the sign itself was shortlived.

According to Elite Daily, the "And Chill" part was taken down pretty fast. The photo however lives on.

Photo Credit: Contributed Photo]]>
<![CDATA[Activision to Buy 'Candy Crush' Maker for $5.9B]]> Tue, 03 Nov 2015 02:17:15 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CandyCrush-AP_163106589683.jpg

Video game maker Activision Blizzard Inc. said it will buy the maker of the popular “Candy Crush Saga” game, Reuters reported.

Activision will buy King Digital Entertainment for $5.9 billion to strengthen its games portfolio. It will pay $18 in cash per King share.

King went public last year and has been struggling to boost bookings. It will continue to be led as an independent operating unit.

Video game makers are shifting to digital business platforms as more consumers are playing games on smartphones and tablets.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon Offers 20 Weeks of Paid Maternity Leave]]> Mon, 02 Nov 2015 14:51:19 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_93380942358.jpg

Amazon is now offering new birth mothers who have spent a year with the company up to 20 weeks of maternity leave. The company outlined the new perk in an internal memo, which it shared with NBC News on Monday.

It's the latest salvo in the technology benefits wars, with top companies heaping perks on their workers to prevent poaching and attract top talent. Women have been a focus of these expanded benefits, with companies including Apple and Facebook offering to subsidize egg freezing for their female employees, even as both companies deal with lackluster diversity statistics. 

Amazon's new program introduced on Monday guarantees new mothers four weeks of medical leave before delivery, followed by 10 weeks of paid maternity leave. All new mothers or parents who have worked at the company for at least a year then also qualify for an additional six weeks of paid parental leave.

Photo Credit: File--AP]]>
<![CDATA[Study: What Makes Selfies Better]]> Mon, 02 Nov 2015 03:54:06 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/teaser.jpg

They're everywhere: modern self portraits shrunk down to fit the size of a mobile screen.

Better known as a selfie.

Stanford University Ph.D student Andrej Karpathy wanted to figure out what makes one selfie better than the rest with a visual recognition computer process, so he ran over 2 million photos tagged as selfies through the system.

The system, Convolutional Neural Network, or ConvNets for short, calculated how many people have seen and liked each photo, and Karpathy normalized the results based on the followers each user had.

After creating this rubric, Karpathy entered in another 50,000 new photos and had ConvNets order them from "best" to "worst" according to his algorithm. One key finding was that the style of the image is more important than the raw attractiveness of the person.

Wondering if your selfies pass the test? Karpathy created a Twitter account that rates your selfie for you.

Here are some of his most interesting findings, according to his blog:


Females: Women are consistently ranked higher than men. There were no men on the top 100 "best" photos produced by ConvNets

Face occupies about 1/3 of the frame: The top photos showed faces positioned in the center and occupying about 1/3 of the frame. In many photos, the head was slightly tilted.

Forehead cut-off: At least for women, cutting off the forehead seemed like a popular strategy. Especially with long hair strands running down the shoulders. 

Oversaturate the face: An over-saturated face makes the photo more uniform.

Filters and borders: Black and white photos did very well and most top images contained a filter that decreases the contrast. Horizontal or vertical white borders also made a frequent appearance on the top photos by ConvNet.


Low lighting: Darker photos which appear more grainy were ranked as the least appeal photos. 

Zoomed in face: Such a close up view was a turn off and resulted in some of the worst photos.

Group selfies: While Ellen Degeneres and friends had one of the greatest selfies of all time at the Oscars in 2014, this practice is not commonly viewed as the best selfie practice. Karpathy suggests to "keep it simple and take up all the space yourself," presumably, with your head partially cut off. 

Photo Credit: Andrej Karpathy blog]]>
<![CDATA[UCSD to Launch Contextual Robotics Institute]]> Thu, 29 Oct 2015 07:06:40 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/UC-San-Diego-Generic-Facebook.jpg

The University of California, San Diego has announced plans to start a Contextual Robotics Institute, bringing together top academics from its schools of engineering and social science.

With the institute, the university hopes to design machines that function better with, and act friendlier toward, human beings.

The goal is to make robotic systems that function in the real world based on the contextual information they perceive, in real time.

The institute could help make San Diego a leader in robotics, the university said in a statement.

Already, companies such as privately held General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. and Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC) have teams working on systems that help aircraft fly autonomously and avoid obstacles. Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) has a strong interest in robotics, as do a number of small and midsized companies.

In future decades, university officials said, robots might go to work in elder care and assisted living, disaster response, medicine, transportation and environmental sensing.

“This is an extremely exciting time for robotics researchers,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla, whose academic specialty is robotics. “Many robotics subfields have seen incredible advances in the last few years. The time is right for UC San Diego to step up and take a leadership role in the future of robotics.”

“We are seeking to enhance collaboration between scientists from different fields so that the next generation of machines we build are machines that humans can use better,” said Carol Padden, UC San Diego’s dean of social sciences. “What social scientists bring to the enterprise is a deep understanding of humans — our behavior and brains, and our emotional and social needs. Social scientists also investigate the public space and cultural infrastructure. By designing more responsive robots that are compatible with humans and in sync with social practices, we can build machines to serve humanity.”

More than 40 UC San Diego professors and research scientists have elected to be a part of the Contextual Robotics Institute at its launch, the university said.

The university will conduct a national search for the institute’s first director.

The new institute will build on what UC San Diego calls its strong research programs in core robot technologies. These include computer vision, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, electronic actuators, dynamic controls, materials, nano- and micro-machines, sensors and sensing, controls systems, chips, wireless communications, new materials, biomimetics, batteries and power management.

Photo Credit: UC San Diego/Facebook
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<![CDATA[Google's Internet Balloons to Take Flight Over Indonesia]]> Wed, 28 Oct 2015 19:05:00 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/loongroup_mtv.jpg

Google's Internet-beaming balloons are ready to take off on the next phase of their mission to deliver online access in regions where most people live offline, according to the company's blog.

The company, now known as Alphabet, announced Wednesday it is partnering with three of Indonesia's mobile network operators — Indosat, Telkomsel, and XL Axiata — to begin testing Project Loon balloons over Indonesia in 2016.

About 250 million people live on 17,000 islands in that part of Southeast Asia, although only 42 million have Internet access. Google's 2-year-old "Project Loon" program aims to change that by transmitting high-speed Internet signals from clusters of balloons floating about 60,000 feet above the Earth.

Photo Credit: Google]]>
<![CDATA['We're Doing It!': Zuckerberg Vows to End 'Candy Crush' Invites]]> Wed, 28 Oct 2015 13:11:08 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_117350797265.jpg

Mark Zuckerberg said he would prioritize ending frequent "Candy Crush'" invitations on Facebook.

At a town hall Q&A session at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi on Wednesday, the CEO addressed the issue. 

"See, so this is where these town hall Q&A's are really useful," Zuckerberg responded. "I actually saw this question, it was the top-voted question on my thread. There are some tools that are kind of outdated that allow people to send invitations to people who've never used a game, who have gotten invitations in the past but don't play games on Facebook. We hadn't prioritized shutting that down, we just had other priorities. But if this is the top thing that people care about, we'll prioritize that and do it.

"So we're doing it!" he concluded, to enthusiastic applause.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[IBM to Buy Weather.com, But Not the Weather Channel]]> Wed, 28 Oct 2015 09:42:02 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/IMB-generic-GettyImages-109503852.jpg

IBM said Wednesday it is buying The Weather Company's digital properties, including WSI, Weather.com, Weather Underground and The Weather Company brand. 

The TV segment — The Weather Channel — is not included in the deal, but The Weather Co. will license weather forecast data and analytics from IBM under a long-term contract, according to a statement by the company.

NBC Universal, the parent company of NBC News, along with The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital are joint owners of The Weather Company.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[SD Inventor Previews Special Glasses Meant to Help Docs]]> Mon, 26 Oct 2015 08:48:29 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/airglassespic-PIC_0.jpg

A new pair of glasses created by San Diego researchers may give doctors a new way to save lives.  

Augmented interactive Reality or AiR glasses premiered at the Anesthesiology conference in downtown San Diego, where thousands of vendors come with their inventions, hoping they will take off as the future of the medical field unfolds

These glasses, however, are far from ordinary.

Here's how they work: AiR glasses use a doctor's voice and movements to pull up information as they work. That means as a doctor works on a patient, he or she can, for example, check out the patient's charts. 

“For me, it’s like wearing a pair of sunglasses that have a computer in them. I can see and talk to you completely clearly, but I can see the data being fed to my monitor on either side of your face,” said Blake Byrne, who demonstrated AiR glasses.

In a reenactment, Byrne, the pretend doctor, operates on Keri Hill, a pretend patient, without taking his eye off her to check a chart.

Hill told us what it’s like lying there as someone doesn’t touch you, but waves their hand in front of you.

“It is a little strange, if you’re watching it on the screen, he’s like touching my nose or my eye," Hill said, laughing. 

Joe Kiani, founder of Masimo, stumbled across AiR glasses and demanded he take part.

“We’ve had like 200 people every time we’ve done the demo," Kiani said. "The feedback we’re getting, I don’t think we’ll have to work too hard at it. I think they’re ready for it."

Kiani created the medical software used inside the glasses and teamed up with the inventor Soulaiman Itani.

Itani insists AiR glasses cut down on contamination, saying, “You know when the doctor touches a tablet or keyboard, that’s very dangerous because many people have touched that keyboard. Just taking that and putting it into the air, saves lives.”

Just 26 years ago, Masimo started out of Kiani's garage once he graduated from San Diego State University. 

If the future is measured by past success, the FDA approved Masimo’s wireless pulse and oxygen detector two days ago.

AiR glasses is a prototype and the FDA has not approved it.

<![CDATA[Study on Lyft, Uber Substantiates Some Protester Claims]]> Sat, 24 Oct 2015 14:29:37 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/uber-file.jpg

It’s no secret that some Uber drivers have been upset with the company’s handling of employee concerns – many of them tried to stage a nationwide protest to combat low wages just a few weeks ago. Now, an independent survey has substantiated some of their claims, finding that Lyft and Uber drivers can be subject to increasingly high turnover rates and dismal wages.

A report from SherpaShare, a Menlo Park-based company that helps drivers keep track of their wages, revealed a number of trends that reflect poorly on ride-sharing companies.

The study, which included 963 participants, found that older drivers make substantially less – about 20 percent on average -- than their younger counterparts. It also noted that the earning trend only increases with the amount of hours driven, with drivers over the age of 55 earning about 35 percent less when driving between 26 and 30 hours per week.

The study hypothesized that older drivers may be less likely to strategize and research tips and tricks to increase their rates, among other possible causes.

“Whatever (combination of factors, most likely) it is, the trend in our survey data is clear - there’s a gap in earnings between seniors and the rest of the driving population,” the study concluded.

Turnover rates, which are often used as an indicator of job dissatisfaction, was notably high for Uber, Lyft, and comparable companies, the study also found. About 65 percent of active drivers had been driving for less than six months, and 18 percent had been driving for less than two months.

“Consistant with our results from last year, it’s clear that ridesharing, in general, is a business with a constantly-refreshing workforce,” said the report.

As with previous studies, this latest survey also found that women are less likely to work for ride-hailing companies. Women drivers comprised fewer than 20 percent of survey respondents, and most of them reported working fewer hours than men, and thus made less money.

Nearly all (90 percent) of survey respondents worked for either Uber, Lyft or both. In general, people who worked 21 to 25 hours a week collected $1,376 monthly before deductions for car maintenance and gas, while those who worked more than 40 hours earned a little less than $3,000 before deductions.

“In the brave new world of ridesharing, there has long been a gap between what the companies say happens, what the drivers feel or think happens, and what actually happens,” SherpaShare concluded in a previous study.

<![CDATA[Couple Sues Apple for $5M Over 'Wi-Fi' Feature]]> Fri, 23 Oct 2015 22:15:42 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AppleLogoIPhone.jpg

Apple is facing a $5 million lawsuit alleging the iPhone's "Wi-Fi Assist" feature caused cellular data overage fees for numerous users, NBC News reported.

Apple Insider was the first to report the lawsuit, which was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, on behalf of a Florida couple, William Scott Phillips and Suzanne Schmidt Phillips.

Wi-Fi Assist automatically switches the phone's connection to cellular if the user is on slow or patchy WiFi, ideally ensuring quick and seamless Internet access. The feature can be toggled on or off in the Cellular section of the phone's Settings menu. But because it's on by default, it may silently have eaten up data allowances on phones when the owner thought they were on a WiFi connection, and therefore free to use high-bandwidth apps like Netflix.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status to include anyone who owned a device running iOS 9, whether it was on the phone when they got it or installed as an update. It's not clear just how many people were affected by the issue or how much money iPhone users actually paid in cellphone data overages, but according to the lawsuit, "the overall amount in controversy exceeds $5,000,000."

Photo Credit: File--AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Google Engineer Lives in Box Truck]]> Fri, 23 Oct 2015 20:44:23 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/googlemain.jpg

By now, you might have heard about the Google engineer who is saving 90 percent of his income by living in a truck parked inside the company's headquarters.

If not, here’s a refresher.

Twenty-three-year-old Brandon (he has not disclosed his last name) quickly became the talk of the town when word broke this week that he was living in a 16' box truck to avoid paying rent in the Bay Area.

After photos of Brandon's living situation went viral, people began wondering: Does Google know he lives in the parking lot? Does he have friends? Is he insane? Why are there stuffed animals in his truck?

Brandon unwittingly found himself in the limelight – and the target of criticism. So, like many 21st century tech aficionados, he recently turned to his blog to explain himself. 

As it turns out, Brandon is not living in the truck so much as sleeping in it. The only time he's there, he writes, is when he's sleeping or doing laundry.

"If you're living a large portion of your waking hours inside a small box, you're doing it wrong," he writes rationally. He also confirms that he uses Google office perks -- such as gourmet food, 24 hour gyms with showers and a bathroom, and arcade games -- to supplement his truck's scant amenities.

Still, he received a lot of flack from people asking if he had a social life, and if people were weirded out by the whole truck-living thing.

"People seemed really eager to paint me as some sort of goblin who works 16 hours a day and is afraid of sunlight and women, which I probably should have expected," he writes. But apparently that's not the case. He says he has a great social network (a real, live, offline one!) and that "people are far more accepting" of the truck life than anonymous commenters have been.

As for Google, the company hasn't endorsed the idea of living in a truck parked in the company parking lot, but security hasn't kicked Brandon out either, and it doesn't appear that there are plans to. After all, he may live inside a box, but he still thinks outside of one, and that's a trait Google has cultivated for years.

So, for now, the engineer will continue to live on the premises with his stuffed animals.

"I'll admit, as a grown man living in a truck, stuffed animals are about the only decoration that could possibly make my living situation look any creepier," he writes. "The reality is that they were given to me by a friend, and they're one of the few possessions I've attached sentiment to."

He also says he will be glad when his 15 minutes of fame are over, and that he appreciates the tips people have sent in on how to improve his truck.

Photo Credit: File - Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Watch Worn on Apollo 15 Mission Sells for $1.6M]]> Fri, 23 Oct 2015 13:22:20 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/David+Scott+Watch.jpg

A personal watch that astronaut David Scott wore while walking on the moon in 1971 has sold for a whopping $1.625 million at auction.

The winning bidder for the rare Bulova Chronograph and its moondust-stained strap was a Florida businessman who wishes to remain anonymous, Boston-based RR Auction said Friday.

Scott's timepiece is notable in that it is the only privately owned watch to be worn by an astronaut on the lunar surface. Of the dozen men that have stepped foot on the moon, all sported the standard Omega Speedmasters officially issued by NASA.

Photo Credit: RR Auction]]>
<![CDATA[Fitbit Owners Not at Risk of Malware, Company Says]]> Thu, 22 Oct 2015 16:02:36 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-477622012.jpg

Fitbit is defending itself against claims by a security researcher that its fitness trackers can be hacked wirelessly in 10 seconds.

Earlier this month, Axelle Apvrille from security firm Fortinet claimed to have found a way to hack into a Fitbit through its Bluetooth connection, which could theoretically be used to infect it with malware and distribute that malware to any devices or computers it synced with.

Fitbit disputed those findings calling the reports "false" and noted that Apvrille has confirmed to Fitbit that this was only "a theoretical scenario and is not possible."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Apple Removes 256 Apps That Collected Private Data]]> Wed, 21 Oct 2015 11:51:01 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AppleLogoIPhone.jpg

Hundreds of applications found on the Apple App Store have been removed for using a software development kit that collected personal information from users and sent it to China, the company said Tuesday.

Apple confirmed that over 200 applications on its digital store were collecting the emails and serial numbers of its users Iphones, Ipads and Ipod Touches and sending that data to a Chinese advertising firm.

"This is a violation of our security and privacy guidelines," Apple said in a statement.

Apple said that the group of apps were using a third-party advertising development kit from Youmi, a Chinese mobile advertising provider, that uses application programming interfaces to gather private information.

Shortly after researchers from Purdue University and SourceDna made the find, the cybersecurity group alerted Apple of the unauthorized process. The two groups traced clusters of application code back to Youmi, according to SourceDna.

"We found 256 apps (est. 1 million downloads) that have one of the versions of Youmi that violates user privacy," SourceDNA wrote in a statement. "Most of the developers are located in China."

The apps altogether have had an estimated 1 million downloads, according to SourceDNA, which compiled a list of affected apps on its website.

Malpractice is not suspected and Apple said that it is working with developers to update versions of their apps that are safe to use and within Apple's guidelines.

This is the third cybersecurity problem Apple has faced in the last month. Last week, another set of apps were banned for their ability to peek into encrypted communications between Apple products and servers. The app store also suffered a major malware attack that forced the tech giant to remove dozens of infected popular apps.

Photo Credit: File--AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Stanford Engineers Build Self-Driving, Powersliding DeLorean]]> Wed, 21 Oct 2015 07:57:10 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/15773-car_MARTY_banner-16x9.jpg

"Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads," claimed Doc Brown in "Back to the Future."

Engineers at Stanford's Revs Program are paying homage to the hit film franchise just in time for "Back to the Future" Day. They've taken a vintage 1981 DeLorean, just like the one in the film, and tricked it out. It doesn't fly, unfortunately, but it does run on electricity and drive itself. 

Perhaps most impressively they've trained the DeLorean, nicknamed MARTY, to use a drifting technique for negotiating those sharp corners.

It's a fitting technological achievement now that we've reached Oct. 21, 2015 – the date Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) travel forward in time to in "Back to the Future Part II."

The software the car uses to drive itself is similar to those from Google and Tesla. But the Stanford team is focusing more on training autonomous cars to handle "extreme situations."

So while yes, we still needs roads, MARTY is doing its best to tear them up - with doughnuts.

"The sublime awesomeness of riding in a DeLorean that does perfect, smoke-filled doughnuts by itself is a mind-bending experience that helps you appreciate that we really are living in the future," Stanford engineer Jonathan Goh said in a statement.

MARTY - short for Multiple Actuator Research Test bed for Yaw control (and perhaps not coincidentally also the name of Fox's character in the film series) - was built in collaboration with Renovo Motors, a Silicon Valley-based start-up that specializes in building advanced electric vehicle technology.

Photo Credit: Courtesey David Bush via Stanford News Service
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<![CDATA[U.S. Companies Slow to React to Hackers: Report]]> Wed, 21 Oct 2015 03:00:54 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_31488411400.jpg

Foreign countries are targeting U.S. companies, but few are taking threats seriously, NBC News reported.

A new report from cybersecurity research firms Ponemon Institute and CounterTack shows 75 percent of the IT practitioners surveyed said they aren’t ready, can’t detect or combat cyber attacks. Only half of those surveyed said they are taking precautions to prevent or deter attacks.

"The world has really changed," Larry Ponemon, the Institute's founder, told NBC News. "Companies are doing a good job — but attackers, and not just nation-states, but all attackers, they're becoming more sophisticated, strategic and just nastier. The gap is growing."

Cybersecurity researchers have traced many attacks to China — despite protestations by the country's president, Xi Jinping, that it does not engage in such behavior. North Korea, Iran, Russia and Syria have also been implicated in intrusions, NBC News reported.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Finding Steve Jobs' Grave ]]> Tue, 20 Oct 2015 15:40:11 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP080115083000_0.jpg

The search for where Steve Jobs is buried is heating up.

Jobs is buried in an unmarked grave located at Palo Alto's Alta Mesa Memorial Park, where, according to San Jose Mercury News, people from around the world have looked for him and left notes in a memorial book since his passing in 2011.

He's not alone in anonymity; actress Shirley Temple is also buried in an unmarked grave at Alta Mesa.

According to the publication, Walter Isaacson wrote in his book "Steve Jobs" that the cemetery buried him near one of two apricot orchards that are on the grounds.

In the absence of a public memorial grave, the Internet has come up with imaginary interpretations of what his tombstone could look like, including an iPod with a fatal error.

"Steve Jobs" the biopic opens in theaters Friday.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Google, Yahoo Sign Internet Search Deal]]> Tue, 20 Oct 2015 15:48:36 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Yahoo-Headquarters.jpg

Unable to revive Yahoo's revenue growth on her own, CEO Marissa Mayer is hoping for a little help from her old friends at Google. Mayer, a former top Google executive who came to Yahoo in 2012, announced Tuesday the two companies had reached a three-year deal to work together in Internet search and advertising, NBC News reported. 

The pact was unveiled after Yahoo released a disappointing report on its third-quarter performance, with revenue dropping 8 percent from the same time last year to $1 billion. It marked the ninth time in the past 11 quarters that Yahoo's net revenue has declined or remained unchanged from the previous year.

This is Yahoo's second attempt to lean on Google's expertise in Internet search and advertising. Yahoo Inc. tried to team up with Google Inc. in search during 2008 as part of its defense against a takeover attempt by Microsoft Corp. The Google alliance unraveled after the U.S. Justice Department threatened to block the partnership on the grounds that it would thwart competition.

Photo Credit: File--AP]]>
<![CDATA[Apple to Pay $234M in Patent Case]]> Fri, 16 Oct 2015 21:53:05 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Apple-Customer.jpg

A U.S. jury on Friday ordered Apple Inc. to pay the University of Wisconsin-Madison's patent licensing arm more than $234 million in damages for incorporating its microchip technology into some of the company's iPhones and iPads without permission, NBC News reported.

The amount was less than the $400 million the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) was claiming in damages after the jury on Tuesday said Apple infringed its patent for improving the performance of computer processors.

Apple said it would appeal the verdict, but declined to comment further.

WARF praised the verdict and said it was important to protect the university's inventions from unauthorized use. "This decision is great news," said WARF Managing Director Carl Gulbrandsen in a statement.

Photo Credit: File--AP]]>
<![CDATA[Twitter Briefly Goes Down for Some Users]]> Thu, 15 Oct 2015 05:27:13 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Twitter-Down-Oct-15.jpg

Twitter briefly went down for some desktop and mobile users on Thursday morning.

"Something is technically wrong," a message said on the website. "Thanks for noticing- we're going to fix it up and have things back to normal soon."

It's not clear what caused the brief outage. 

Photo Credit: Twitter]]>
<![CDATA[Your Stolen Data Doesn't Cost as Much as You Think: Report]]> Wed, 14 Oct 2015 22:53:53 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_430705227590.jpg

The price for your stolen data may seem like a lot, but a new report from Intel Security Group’s McAfee Labs says that information doesn’t usually go for much, NBC News reported.

Researchers monitored websites, chat rooms and other places where stolen data are bought and sold. The prices ranged from 55 cents to $1, the report said.

Even though the data may lack a hefty price tag individually, those selling the information usually make up for shortfalls in volume.

"Selling millions of cards for cents still nets huge returns. The idea is to sell a lot of accounts," Raj Samani, CTO of Intel Security for Europe, the Middle East and Africa said.

Photo Credit: AP]]>