SAITAMA, Japan – If an earthquake strikes in the not too distant future and survivors are trapped under tons of rubble, the first responders to locate them could be swarms of cyborg cockroaches.
That’s a potential application of a recent breakthrough by Japanese researchers who demonstrated the ability to mount “backpacks” of solar cells and electronics on the bugs and control their motion by remote control.
Kenjiro Fukuda and his team at the Thin-Film Device Laboratory at Japanese research giant Riken developed a flexible solar cell film that’s 4 microns thick, about 1/25 the width of a human hair, and can fit on the insect’s abdomen.
The film allows the roach to move freely while the solar cell generates enough power to process and send directional signals into sensory organs on the bug’s hindquarters.
The work builds upon previous insect-control experiments at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and could one day result in cyborg insects that can enter hazardous areas much more efficiently than robots.
“The batteries inside small robots run out quickly, so the time for exploration becomes shorter,” Fukuda said. “A key benefit (of a cyborg insect) is that when it comes to an insect’s movements, the insect is causing itself to move, so the electricity required is nowhere near as much.”
Fukuda and his team chose Madagascar hissing cockroaches for the experiments because they are big enough to carry the equipment and have no wings that would get in the way. Even when the backpack and film are glued to their backs, the bugs can traverse small obstacles or right themselves when flipped over.
The research still has a long way to go. In a recent demonstration, Riken researcher Yujiro Kakei used a specialized computer and wireless Bluetooth signal to tell the cyborg roach to turn left, causing it to scramble in that general direction.
But when given the “right” signal, the bug turned in circles.
The next challenge is miniaturizing the components so that the insects can move more easily and to allow for mounting of sensors and even cameras. Kakei said he constructed the cyborg backpack with 5,000 yen ($35) worth of parts purchased at Tokyo’s famed Akihabara electronics district.
The backpack and film can be removed, allowing the roaches to go back to life in the lab’s terrarium. The insects mature in four months and have been known to live up to five years in captivity.
Beyond disaster rescue bugs, Fukuda sees broad applications for the solar cell film, composed of microscopic layers of plastic, silver, and gold. The film could be built into clothing or skin patches for use in monitoring vital signs.
On a sunny day, a parasol covered with the material could generate enough electricity to charge a mobile phone, he said
MANILA – The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is eyeing the creation of an online shopping platform to help micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME) expand their businesses into the digital space.
DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy said the platform would provide a complete e-commerce “ecosystem” from sourcing of raw materials, global digital marketing, and an e-payment system.
“This will be integrated — they won’t have to worry about how would they transform their business from a brick-and-mortar into an e-commerce-enabled business,” Uy said.
He said the platform, to be run by the DICT in cooperation with the Department of Trade and Industry, would be similar to other online shopping platforms such as Shopee and Alibaba.
“But then, specially designed for MSMEs. This will bring them up, make them more, and will become a major player. Because MSMEs have always been a major player in our economy,” he said.
Instead of having to design and develop their own websites to expand their businesses online, he said the government would design the platform and the MSMEs would simply need to “register and be onboard.”
“[It will] assist them to transform their businesses and introduce them to the e-commerce world seamlessly. Kasi ‘yan ang challenge nila (Because that’s the challenge for them). Where the heck are they going to hire web designers?” he said.
The project is to address the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that shuttered numerous businesses while others who adapted online thrived, he said.
“They haven’t been able to shift their business into the e-commerce platform because of challenges. We’re here, and we’ll solve those challenges for them and make it easier for them to do,” Uy said.
GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company based in the UK, said e-commerce market in the Philippines has registered growth during the last few years and the Covid-19 pandemic has further accelerated this trend.
It is expected to further grow an annual rate of 15.8 percent from 2022 to 2025 and transactions are projected to reach PHP495.2 billion in 2025
In a rare show of alliance, Apple, Google and Microsoft have joined forces to expand support for passwordless logins across mobile, desktop and browsers.
Passwords are notoriously insecure, with weak and easily guessable credentials accounting for more than 80% of all data breaches, per Verizon’s annual data breach report. While password managers and multi-factor technologies offer incremental improvements, Apple, Google and Microsoft are working together to create sign-in technology that is more convenient and more secure.
The tech giants announced on Thursday that they are expanding support for a password-free sign-in standard from the FIDO Alliance and the World Wide Web Consortium, which means you’ll soon be able to use your smartphone to sign in to an app or website on a nearby device, regardless of the operating system or browser you’re using. You’ll use the same action that you take multiple times each day to unlock your smartphone, such as with a verification of your fingerprint, face scan or a device PIN.
Users will also be able to automatically access their FiDO sign-in credentials, or “passkeys,” across multiple devices — including new ones — without having to re-enroll every account.
While the three companies have long supported the passwordless sign-in standard created by the FIDO Alliance, users are still forced to sign into each website or app with each device before they can use the passwordless feature. Over the next year, the three tech giants will implement passwordless FIDO sign-in standards across macOS and Safari; Android and Chrome; and Windows and Edge. This means that, for example, users will be able to sign in on a Google Chrome browser that’s running on Microsoft Windows, using a passkey on an Apple device.
This will make it much more difficult for hackers to compromise login details remotely since signing in requires access to a physical device.
“Working with the industry to establish new, more secure sign-in methods that offer better protection and eliminate the vulnerabilities of passwords is central to our commitment to building products that offer maximum security and a transparent user experience — all with the goal of keeping users’ personal information safe,” said Kurt Knight, Apple’s senior director of platform product marketing, in a press release.
This new collective commitment was commended by Jen Easterly, director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), who called it “the type of forward-leaning thinking that will ultimately keep the American people safer online.”
“At CISA, we are working to raise the cybersecurity baseline for all Americans,”
Easterly added. “Today is an important milestone in the security journey to encourage built-in security best practices and help us move beyond passwords. Cyber is a team sport, and we’re pleased to continue our collaboration.”While the password has so far survived many attempts to kill them for good, this could be one of the final nails in the password’s casket
Samsung is hosting its annual Galaxy Unpacked event on August 11. In the weeks leading up to the event, the company already confirmed what was coming: a new slate of foldables and no Galaxy Note. Amid the company’s confirmations, a slew of leaks has revealed a lot of details already. And, less than two days before the event itself, Samsung has accidentally leaked ads for the upcoming Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Galaxy Z Fold 3.
Samsung Malaysia accidentally posted a 30-second ad on YouTube for the foldable, presenting them in detail with their touted features. The YouTube account has since deleted the ad but not before Reddit captured the video.
The video starts by displaying the Galaxy Z Flip 3’s bigger cover screen, allowing users to see much more of their notifications even without flipping the device on. It then moves on to the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s S Pen experience, confirming that the series will get a much more optimized S Pen. Finally, the video touts the series’ increased durability, a persistent problem since the form factor’s introduction.
Of course, these are all details that were hinted at in the past. The leaked video hasn’t really revealed anything new about the series. However, it does show the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Flip 3 in all their glory. Plus, it confirms formerly rumored details.
A researcher at a university in South Korea has devised a toilet that turns human waste into power, Reuters reports. As a bonus incentive, each use rewards, uh, poopers with a small amount of digital currency that they can trade in for a coffee or a cup of noodles on campus.
The toilet first pumps your excrement into an underground tank, which means it uses less water right off the bat when compared to a traditional toilet. Microorganisms then break down the waste into methane, a usable source of energy.
In short, it’s a delightful new method of turning sewage into power.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” inventor Cho Jae-weon, an urban and environmental engineering professor at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), told Reuters. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet could turn roughly a pound of solid human waste, the average amount a human poops in a day, into an impressive 50 liters of methane gas, according to Cho. That means it can generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to drive an electric car for three quarters of a mile.
And because its 2021 — a day and age in which nothing is safe from the world of cryptocurrencies — Cho came up with a virtual currency called Ggool, or “honey” in Korean. Every use of the toilet scores you 10 Ggool per day, which can be used to buy stuff on the university’s campus.
“I had only ever thought that feces are dirty, but now it is a treasure of great value to me,” a postgraduate student Heo Hui-jin who’s both earned and spent Ggool, told Reuters. “I even talk about feces during mealtimes to think about buying any book I want.”
Another year, another classic Nokia phone resurrected from the grave. Since its revival, Nokia, helmed by HMD Global, has slowly revived its lineup of classic phones. The new lineup is a perfect match for the nostalgia and the budget-conscious market. According to a new report, Nokia is reviving another classic, the Nokia 3650.
According to a Russian source, the company will modernize the brick phone for the new generation. Given how it looked, this comes as no surprise.
Back in its day, the classic brick phone presented a controversial form factor for the industry. Instead of the iconic numpad, it had a circular keyboard reminiscent of the old rotary phones. If you had a brick phone, you should have muscle memory of texting with a numpad without looking. Because of its weirder format, the Nokia 3650 is harder to memorize.
In 2003, the Nokia 3650 had a rare rear-mounted camera, albeit a VGA one. With a redesign on the horizon, Nokia can definitely make the brick phone more adaptable to the modern market.
However, since it’s only a rumor, we don’t know when the modern Nokia 3650 is coming out. If anything, a new classic Nokia phone is something to look out for this year.
Developers use GitHub together with a number of other platforms, to communicate with each other on issues, pull requests, deployment statuses, and other updates. We want to integrate GitHub with other platforms to make it easier for developers and teams to collaborate around their projects from whatever context they work in. We’ve had a GitHub + Slack integration for years, and today we are excited to announce that we’re expanding our portfolio, with a new GitHub + Microsoft Teams integration, now available in public beta.
To get access to this new integration, head over to the Microsoft Teams app store and install GitHub (Preview), or directly install from here.
There’s a lot to be excited about with this integration, including the ability to close/reopen issues and comment on issues/pull requests right in Teams. But, first things first, you’ll want to link your GitHub and Teams accounts. To link your accounts, authenticate to GitHub using a @github signin command.
Let’s see what else you can do with this integration!
Customizing your experience
Get notifications for only the organizations and repositories you care about. You can subscribe to get notifications for an organization or repository’s activity using the @github subscribe [organization]/[repository] command. To unsubscribe to notifications from a repository, use @github unsubscribe [organization]/[repository]
Viewing current details
Your team can see all the essentials details on a GitHub activity posted in a Microsoft Teams channel. The notification card you see for any pull request or issue always reflects the current state from GitHub along with other metadata like checks, descriptions, labels, assignees, and reviewers.
Turning conversations into actions
Any new event that happens on a pull request or issue (like comment/review/close/merge etc.) is added as a reply to the parent card. This helps in retaining the context and promotes collaboration. And you can turn discussions into actions on GitHub, directly from Teams. You can perform actions like:
Open a new issue
Close and reopen existing issues
Comment on issues and pull requests
Unfurling your links
When you share links to GitHub activities in the channel, more details are automatically extracted and shown as a preview in your Teams channel. Check it out:
Staying in touch
We’re looking forward to hearing your feedback on the new integration. Please share any feedback you might have here. For more information, visit teams.github.com and/or our product documentation page today.
About a year ago, Microsoft launched Visual Studio Online, its online code editor based on the popular Visual Studio Code project. It’s basically a full code editor and hosted environment that lives in your browser.
Today, the company announced that it is changing the name of this service to Visual Studio Codespaces. It’s also dropping the price of the service by more than 50% and it’s giving developers the option to run it on relatively low-performance virtual machines that will start at $0.08 per hour.
In today’s announcement, Microsoft’s Scott Hanselman points out that the company learned that most developers who used Visual Studio Online thought of it as being much more than simply an editor in the browser.
“To better align with that sentiment, and the true value of the service, we’re renaming Visual Studio Online to Visual Studio Codespaces. (It’s true what they say, naming is hard!) Do you want a great experience working on your long-term project? Do it in a Codespace. Need to quickly prototype a new feature or perform some short-term tasks (like reviewing pull requests)? Create a Codespace! Your Codespaces are simply the most productive place to code.”
The new pricing will go into effect on May 19, the first day of Microsoft’s (virtual) Build developer conference. These are pretty significant price drops, down from $0.45 per hour to $0.17 for a machine with 4 cores and 8 GB of memory, for example (you also incur some relatively minor storage costs of $0.0088 for using a 64 GB SDD, too).
Hanselman also points out that a lot of developers don’t need quite that much power, so the company is now introducing a Basic plan with a 2-core machine and 4 GB of RAM for $0.08 per hour. Best I can tell, these will go live for around $0.24 per hour today and then see a price cut on May 19, too. Why not launch it at the reduced price? Only Microsoft knows, so we asked and will update this post once they tell us.
Typically, this is the kind of announcement Microsoft would make at its annual Build developer conference. And while some other companies have decided to fully scrap their events and aren’t even hosting a virtual conference, Microsoft is moving full steam ahead with its Build conference in the middle of May. I expect we’ll hear more about how that event will play out in the near future.
Facebook is co-opting some of the top video chat innovations like Zoom’s gallery view for large groups and Houseparty’s spontaneous hangouts for a new feature called Rooms. It could usher in a new era of unplanned togetherness via video.
Launching today on mobile and desktop in English speaking countries, you can start a video chat Room that friends can discover via a new section above the News Feed or notifications Facebook will automatically send to your closest pals. You can also just invite specific friends, or share a link anyone can use to join your Room.
For now, up to 8 people can join, but that limit will rise to 50 within weeks, making it a more legitimate alternative to Zoom for big happy hours and such. And more importantly, users will soon be able to create and discover Rooms through Instagram, WhatsApp, and Portal, plus join them from the web without an account, making this Facebook’s first truly interoperable product.
“People just want to spend more time together” Facebook’s head of Messenger Stan Chudnovsky tells me. One-on-one and group video calling was already growing, but “Now in the time of COVID, the whole thing is exploding. We already had a plan to do a bunch of stuff here [so people could] hang out on video any time they want, but we accelerated our plans.” There’s no plans for ads or other direct monetization of Rooms, but the feature could keep Facebook’s products central to people’s lives.
Choosing to create a separate and extremely prominent space for discovering Room above the News Feed reveals how seriously Facebook is taking this product. It could have marooned Rooms in a standalone app or made them just another News Feed post that’s timeliness would get lost in the algorithm. Instead, it was willing to push the feed almost entirely off the start screen beneath the composer, Rooms, and Stories. Clearly Facebook sees sharing, ephemeral content, and synchronous connection as more key to its future than static status updates.
Facebook Goes All-In On Video
The launch of Rooms comes alongside a slew other video-related updates designed to shore up Facebook’s deficiency in many-to-many communication. Messenger and WhatsApp now see 700 million people using audio and video calls each day, while Facebook and Instagram Live videos now reach 800 million people per day. Facebook already owns the many-to-one feeds and has emerged as a leader in one-to-many livestreaming, but “the middle piece needed way more investment” Chudnovsky says.
Here’s a rundown of the other announcements and what they mean:
Virtual And 360 Backgrounds with mood lighting – Facebook will soon launch the ability to choose a virtual background to cover up what’s behind you on a video call, including 360 backgrounds that look different as you move around, plus mood lighting to make you look better on camera
WhatsApp expands group calls from four to eight max participants – Encompassing larger families and friend groups makes WhatsApp a more viable competitor to Zoom
Facebook Live With returns – It’s tough to be the center of attention for long periods, so being able to bring a guest on screen during Live calls keeps them interesting and low pressure
Donate button on live videos – This makes it much easier for musicians, activists, and normal people to raise money for causes during the coronavirus crisis
Live via audio only – With more musicians bringing their tours to Facebook Live, now you can listen while still going about your day when you can’t watch too or want to conserve data, and you can use a toll-free number to dial in to some Pages’ videos
Instagram Live on web – You can now watch Live videos and comment from desktop so you can multi-task during longer streams
Live on IGTV – Long live videos won’t have to disappear since they can now be saved to IGTV, encouraging higher quality Instagram Lives meant to last
Portal Live – You’ll now be able to go Live to Pages and Groups from Portal devices so you can move around while streaming
Facebook Dating Video Chat – Rather than going on a date where you have no chemistry, you’ll be able to video chat with matches on Facebook Dating to get a feel for someone first.
How To Use Facebook Rooms
Facebook strived to make Rooms launchable and discoverable across all its apps in hopes of blitzing into the space. You can launch a Room from the News Feed composer, Groups, Events, the Messenger inbox, and soon Instagram Direct’s video chat button, WhatsApp, and Portal. You’ll be able to choose a start time, add a description, and choose who can join in three ways.
You can restrict your Room just to people you invite, such as for a family catch-up. You can make it open to all your friends, who’ll be able to see it in the new Rooms discovery tray above the News Feed or inbox and eventually similar surfaces in the other apps. In this case, Facebook may notify some close friends to make sure they’ll see it. Or you can share a link to your Room wherever you want, effectively making it public.
Facebook apparently watched the PR disaster that emerged from Zoombombing, and purposefully built security into Rooms. The host can lock the room to block people from joining via URL, and if they boot someone from a Room, it automatically locks until they unlock it. That ensures that if trolls find your link, they can’t just keep joining from the web.
Naturally, Chudnovsky tried to downplay the influence of Zoom and Houseparty on Rooms. “We’re glad there are many other apps people can use when they want to see each other and stay close to each other. I don’t think we necessarily learned anything that actually became part of this product” he insisted. It’s also convenient that Rooms is essentially a non-exclusive video version of Clubhouse, the voice chat app that’s the talk of Silicon Valley right now
The Uncopyable Copier
Facebook has been quietly working on Rooms since at least 2017, exploring how to make group chats discoverable. It tried a standalone app for group video chat discovery called Bonfire that year. In fact, Facebook launched a standalone app called Rooms back in 2014 for anonymous forums.
The genius of this launch is how it combines three of Facebook’s biggest strengths to build a product that copies others but is hard to copy itself.
The ubiquity of its messaging apps and web compatibility make Rooms highly accessible, without the friction of having to download a new app.
The frequency of visits to its feeds and inboxes where Rooms can be found by the family of apps’ 2.5 billion users plus Facebook’s willingness to bet big by sticking Rooms atop our screen like it did with Stories could unlock a new era of spontaneous, serendipitous socializing.
The social graph we’ve developed with great breadth across Facebook’s apps plus the depth of its understanding about who we care about most allow it to reach enough concurrent users to make Rooms fun by intelligently ranking which we see and who gets notifications to join rather than spamming your whole phone book.
No other app has all of these qualities. Zoom doesn’t know who you care about. Houseparty is growing but is far from ubiquitous. Messaging competitors don’t have the same discovery surfaces.
Facebook knows the real engagement on mobile comes from messaging. It just needed a way to make us message more than our one-on-one threads and asynchronous group chats demanded. Rooms makes video calls something you can passively discover and join rather having to actively initiate or be explicitly pulled into by a friend. That could significantly increase how often and long we use Facebook without the deleterious impacts of zombie-like asocial feed scrolling.