The global positioning system can locate you within 5 to 10 meters anywhere on Earth—as long as your receiver is in the line of sight of multiple satellites. Getting location information indoors is tricky. A team at the University of Utah has now put the solution underfoot: A suite of sensors and circuits mounted to a boot can determine position with an accuracy of about 5 meters, indoors or out, without GPS.The navigation system, installed in a very hefty prototype boot, could help rescue workers navigate inside buildings, and show firefighters where their team members are. It might also be integrated with virtual or augmented reality games. The Utah researchers presented their GPS-free navigation system on Tuesday at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco.
Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast included a spot for Amazon’s Alexa, in which Alexa’s name was said some 10 times. But the Amazon Echos in people’s homes didn’t even blink, because they were programmed to look for a particular digital fingerprint in the wake-up word, and ignore it.Said Amazon in a blog post, the company’s acoustic fingerprinting technology allowed the devices to distinguish between the wake-up words uttered in the ad—which sounded perfectly natural—and commands given to Alexa by actual users.Amazon, of course, had the audio from the advertising to work with, with lots of time to spare. The company indicated that it also can build acoustic fingerprints on the fly. “When multiple devices start waking up simultaneously from a broadcast event, similar audio is streaming to Alexa’s cloud services,” said the blog post. “An algorithm within Amazon’s cloud detects matching audio from distinct devices and prevents additional devices from responding.”
On the floor of CES, LG’s CLOi service robots got a lot of attention. But just across the parking lot from the Las Vegas Convention Center, two service robots—both Relay robots from San Jose-based Savioke—are quietly at work. These robots, tagged Elvis and Priscilla, are full-time employees of the Renaissance Hotel, and they aren’t getting a lot of attention.When Priscilla navigated through the crowded lobby to make a delivery on Wednesday, only a few people pulled out cameras. Others casually brushed by, sometimes giving it a little pat as they passed.
Consumer devices are getting smarter, they can follow our instructions, help us find our way and even assist us in driving our cars. They are listening to our sentences and following our instructions. These capabilities are enabled by the application of artificial intelligence—particularly machine learning—using ever-evolving electronics and software. At this year’s CES show in Las Vegas I expect AI to be enabling and enhancing an increasing number of consumer devices and services. AI will enable and control Internet of Things-based products, whether these are automated vehicles, voice-controlled devices in the home, or an increasing array of cloud-based consumer services.
MicroLED displays are screens built from tiny versions of the same sort of gallium nitride chips you find in LED lights. They promise double or triple the power efficiency of today’s OLED and LCD screens and brightness that is orders of magnitude better. So, it’s no surprise that both a crowd of startups and at least one gargantuan gadget-maker are all racing toward making the first commercial screens.
That license plate frame sporting a dealership name, sports team logo, or your favorite superhero? That’s so last year.This year, auto dealers in California will be able to go beyond personalized license plate frames to sell “Kindle-ized” license plates, in which the entire plate can display custom text and graphics using e-paper technology. These displays can be updated remotely, with such updates replacing the little date stickers that must be reapplied each year when registration is renewed.
In mid-2014, Magic Leap began teasing us with visions of realistic baby elephants playing in the palms of our hands, promising to soon unveil a mind-blowing augmented reality technology that would dramatically change the worlds of both entertainment and computing. Investors have ponied up an astounding US $1.39 billion so far to own a piece of this AR future, according to Crunchbase.We’re still waiting. For a while, it seemed that 2017 was going to be the year of Magic Leap, but the company’s technology does not appear ready for prime time, though AR fans are hoping for at least one public demo.
Tech security today is bad, and as people bring more and more connected tech gadgets into their homes, the risks are increasing dramatically. That’s why it is time for the tech industry to step up and take responsibility for protecting the devices they make, and the people that use them.This was the message delivered by ARM CEO Simon Segars to ARM developers attending the annual ARM TechCon in Santa Clara, Calif., this week.The theme of security permeated the event, with ARM announcing its Platform Security Architecture, a set of architecture specifications and open source firmware aimed for use in the IoT, along with a programmable security core.But Segars and other speakers made it clear that this concern about security wasn’t just about what ARM is doing. Segars distributed what ARM is calling a Security Manifesto, urging the tech industry to accept the fact that it has a social contract with users, that security is a collective industry responsibility and that security systems have to allow for human error.
We’ve all been there: You’re out with friends for dinner and everyone has finished their entrees and placed orders for coffee and dessert. The conversation seems to fade along with the food and, almost simultaneously, everyone suddenly realizes they have to give their phone a quick peek—any text messages? And as long as it’s in their hands, maybe a glance at email or Facebook. The scrolling goes on until the coffee arrives.Every time this happens, I feel like sneezing, because it reminds me of the era in which the end of a meal had at least a few people at a table reaching for a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.
It’s a quiet week here at IEEE Spectrum, so we wanted to give loyal readers something fun to chew on. For an end-of-year treat, enjoy this photo-video compilation of animals interacting with gadgets. With more electronic devices in the world than ever before, domestic and wild animals can’t help but run up against these strange-looking objects in their daily lives. And how they react to a device says a lot about how they perceive it—as a type of food, a potential threat, or a new friend.