Howie’s Tech News

Resident ‘Gadget Boy’ Howard takes a look at the month’s news in tech, science, and stuff that he would like people to buy him. Please.

(scroll down for this month’s top gadgets)

Sorry security guards, you’re being replaced by AI

Thanks to a new security system from Japan, the way shop owners catch potential thieves could be changing. Whereas these days a security guard might patrol the aisles of a store to deter shoplifters, backed up by CCTV, the new AI Guardman camera from Japanese tech firm NTT East can spot a tea-leaf before they even pinch anything.

Using artificial intelligence developed at Carnegie Mellon University in the US, the system scans the movements of all the humans it can see and analyses their behaviour and movements, making predictions on who might be about to stuff those DVDs down their pants. Once a shopper is highlighted, a team of real security guards is dispatched to apprehend the sticky-fingered person… if they’ve actually stolen anything, mind.

That’s the main problem with this thing; exactly what constitutes suspicious behaviour? I assume tip-toeing into the store with a sack marked SWAG over your shoulder is going too far, but honest shoppers could be unnecessarily bothered if they act incisively (which is the only kind of shopper I am) or behave in a strange manner (ditto). I can already see the Daily Mail articles about these FOREIGN cameras spying on BRITISH mums, ACUSSING them of stealing. CHURCHILL WOULDN’T HAVE STOOD FOR IT.

I suppose it’s a reminder that artificial intelligence is only really human intelligence set on a loop. What is suspicious to one Japanese computer programmer might not be so to an actual experienced flesh-and-blood guard. Who knows, this might lead to a new kind of ‘behaviour expert’ thief who gets away with stealing millions by mimicking the behaviour of innocent people. The swines!

Camera face

Although Spectacles, the eyeglasses with built-in video cameras from social sharing site SnapChat, have been out for about a year now, Snap recently updated them. The update, which came to users for free, allows snapped photos and videos to exported from the glasses in formats other than the tradition circular shape. This means images and footage captured by the specks as you wear them can now also be shared to the likes of Instagram and Facebook.

Snap thinks this will make Spectacles more appealing, and I think they’re right. However, as well as looking bloody awful (imagine the glasses worn by an 80 year old Harry Potter who has grown not to give a crap about how he looks) I can’t be the only one who is creeped out by the fact that people are literally walking around wearing cameras on their faces. Sure, everyone has a camera on their person these days in the form of their phone, but other people can usually tell if they’re being recorded, because… y’know… a phone is being held up in their general direction. But with Spectacles they’re just there, possibly recording, all the time.

If I encountered someone wearing a pair I don’t think I’d want to talk to them. I realise CCTV is pretty much everywhere these days (we are the most surveilled nation on earth, after all), but chatting to someone you know is recording you, to watch back later while alone, with or without their clothes on, is freaky.

So, although SnapChat updating the specs is definitely a plus for the company, I think there is a good chance it is a negative for social interaction. He said. Over the internet. To strangers (without any clothes on).

The space nation is born

Right… heard of Asgardia? 200,000 people across the planet have already signed up to be a part of the first “space nation”, which hopes to one day create human colonies on the moon. At the weekend the first meeting was held by Asgardia, where their first official ruler was sworn in – Russian billionaire Igor Ashurbeyli. I’ll be honest, I’m one of those 200,000 who signed up on the Asgardia website about two years ago, more out of interest that any real hope that my next step on the property ladder will be into the Sea of Tranquillity.

At the time it all seemed quite positive: here is a group of people who want to make sure that space isn’t claimed by competing nations who will fight over natural resources. Y’know, like the formation of small-handed President Trump’s Space Force recently (“Look to space! And not the children I’m holding captive in detention camps. #MAGA!”). However, with the inauguration of a Russian billionaire to the post of ruler (he’s also the guy that initially set Asgardia up), it’s starting to sound a little suspicious. Oh, and remember former MP Lembit Opik who dated one (or both) of The Cheeky Girls? He’s the first leader of parliament. Dodgy.

I’m all for a single space nation, though. If you’ve seen the TV show The Expanse, where Earth is at war with Martian and asteroid belt colonies, you’ll know that sticking together and playing nice is probably the best way to go when it comes to living in space. We’ll have to stick together anyway, if we want to defeat the aliens. Death to the different ones!

Anyway, mention that a Russian billionaire is involved in anything and I’m out. For all we know Asgardia is actually a way to import slaves to the moon to constantly clean Vladimir Putin’s burial pyramid he’s secretly constructing up there. I dunno.

 

Algeria and Iraq aren’t great places…

…when it comes to an free and open internet, he hastens to add to avoid possible racist overtones. That is because, in an effort to stop kids cheating on their exams over the coming few weeks, both countries are essentially switching off the entire internet to the whole country for two hours each morning. Run a business that depends on the internet 24/7? Tough. Need to urgently contact someone via email, messenger or social media? Tough. Want to tweet about this outrageous abuse of governmental control that all the schools and universities think is totally detrimental? Tougho-buffo.

The government in Algeria say they are doing so because the main paper for the country’s baccalaureate exam has been leaked, so needs to ensure that students will not be able to cheat and look up the answers during the test. As well as a full net black-out, which as been widely criticised by rights groups, schools will also use metal detectors and mobile phone jammers. Jeez.

Meanwhile in Iraq, they’re doing it just to be awkward – no leaks have been reported, and it may be that they think Algeria is the cool one in North Africa and want to bring some of that thoughtless style to the Middle East. Get your own harsh totalitarian plans, man!

But, right now, if you’re thinking that something like that will never happen dear old Blighty, and that our rights are too well respected by the government, just remember that Teresa May, as part of the Snoopers Charter, really wants a record of your internet history kept. Yep, YOUR internet history. Even from that one night when you were drunk. Maybe one day she’ll just decide we all need a bit of ‘quiet time’ to reflect, away from Facebook, Twitter, and the news websites posting stories about how horrible she is.

 

Gadget Guide

Parott Anafi Drone. Parott’s latest flying camera is pretty impressive, and not just because it can fold up neatly and fit in your backpack. The Anafi features 4K video recording and 21MP photos, while also boasting a unique 180 degree tilting camera, allowing you to film up. Yep, something that flies being able to look up. At what, we’re not sure. Oh, the underside of bridges maybe? Anyway, it all sounds very cool. £629.99 from www.parrot.com/uk

SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick. Flash drives are always very useful have on your person, especially if you’re a student of high flying exec. However, who has the time to actually plug one in to a USB port these days? Good job SanDisk have brought one out that you can read from and copy to completely wirelessly. You can still plug it in if you want, Grandad, but connecting via WIFi to a special SanDisk app on your phone is way cooler. From £19 from www.amazon.co.uk

Fun gadgets under £20

Golf Ball Finding Glasses. Golfing? Lost your ball? Pop these on and they will highlight anything white. Pretty useless when it snows, we assume. £7.99 from www.iwantoneofthose.com

 

Easy Breezy USB Desk Fan. Combat the summer heat and waft away those ‘elephant in the room’ unclaimed office farts with one of these little beauties. £14.99 from www.firebox.com

Kickstart this

We check out a new product currently seeking funding on www.kickstarter.com

CHIIZ Toothbrush 4.0. This is an automatic toothbrush. Seriously. You pop the whole thing in your mouth, bite down gently and it starts to clean all of your teeth at once. This means it takes less time, and is apparently more efficient than single toothbrushes. Still, would you want the whole thing in your gob, battery and all?

 

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