Google sued over sex discrimination

A man rides a bike passed a Google sign and logo at the Googleplex in Menlo Park, California on November 4, 2016.Image copyright
AFP/Getty

Three women who used to work at Google have filed a lawsuit against the technology giant, alleging it pays women less than men for comparable work.

The suit says Google is aware of the situation, but has not moved to fix it.

It comes as companies in Silicon Valley face growing scrutiny over gender relations.

Google is also under investigation by the US Department of Labour over its pay practices.

“It is time to stop ignoring these issues in tech,” said Kelly Ellis, a former software engineer at Google and one of the women who filed the suit.

She posted on Twitter that she hopes the suit will force Google and other companies to change their practices.

Skip Twitter post by @justkelly_ok

End of Twitter post by @justkelly_ok

The lawsuit, filed in a San Francisco court, says Google discriminates against female staff with lower pay, more limited promotion, and fewer advancement opportunities compared to men with comparable qualifications.

Ms Ellis, for example, was hired in 2010 at a level typically assigned to college graduates, although she had four years of experience, according to the lawsuit. A male colleague with similar levels of experience started on a higher rung.

She was also assigned to a less prestigious engineering role, the suit says

Ms Ellis resigned from Google four years later “because of the sexist culture”, the lawsuit said.

Previous allegations

The complaint is seeking class-action status that would cover women working at the company in California for the last four years. They are looking for unpaid wages, among other remedies.

Google said it would review the lawsuit but disagreed with the “central allegations”.

“Job levels and promotions are determined through rigorous hiring and promotion committees, and must pass multiple levels of review, including checks to make sure there is no gender bias in these decisions,” spokeswoman Gina Scigliano said in a statement.

Like other companies in Silicon Valley, the company has faced questions about how it treats women before.

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Getty Images

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Google’s Sundar Pichai criticised a memo written by an employee for being sexist

About 70% of Google’s workforce are men, according to the company. Men represent about 80% of staff in “tech” roles and 75% of leadership positions.

The Department of Labour found systematic pay disparities at the firm during a 2015 audit, according to the lawsuit. The government in January sued Google to get access to more information to see if the patterns held true across a more extensive probe.

A spreadsheet with data from 1,200 employees also found disparities, the New York Times recently reported.

Google also made headlines earlier this summer, when a memo written by a senior Google employee that criticised diversity programmes and hiring practices became public.

Google later fired him.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-41274202

Apple iPhone X: The internet reacts

Media captionWATCH: Dave Lee gets hands on with the new iPhone X

When Apple chief Tim Cook declared the iPhone X “the biggest leap forward since the first iPhone” at his latest launch extravaganza, you couldn’t help but wonder if he was referring to its features or its price.

With the top-end model costing £1,149, customers are paying a premium to swap their fingerprint sensor for a facial scanner and the ability to make an animated monkey or poo emoji copy their bemused looks.

In opting to refer to the model as “ten” rather than “x”, the firm has also thrown its naming convention into a bit of confusion – will there ever be an iPhone 9 – or indeed IX?

Of course, that’s a problem for another day. And the internet has had plenty else to chew over in the meantime…


Image copyright
Getty Images

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Some critics believe the iPhone X makes the new iPhone 8 models look outdated

Cnet

The two biggest questions for me focus on the iPhone X’s most daring design change, ditching the home button. Will it actually make the phone more convenient to use? And will using your face to unlock the phone benefit you, or is it just a workaround?

The Verge

The iPhone X may be the most powerful iPhone ever, but compared to almost any other Android flagships, it’s hard to pick out a category where it leads the pack – at least on paper when comparing raw specifications. But if Apple has shown one thing time and again with every iPhone generation, it’s that optimisation of hardware and software matter just as much – if not more.

Wall Street Journal

The iPhone X’s new design – a 5.8in, edge-to-edge display -has raised hopes that it can reverse Apple’s fortunes in China, where sales have fallen six straight quarters. Chinese consumers are more influenced by a phone’s appearance than consumers in other markets, and Apple had kept the same appearance for three years.

Bloomberg

A $1,000 iPhone could add as much as 6% to Apple’s 2018 earnings per share… but that depends on the iPhone X being a hit, and there’s more competition from lower-cost Chinese competitors such as Huawei and Xiaomi, which timed the introduction of their new phones around Apple’s launch to attract customers who may be deterred by the iPhone X’s price.

Slashgear

Apple has crafted a stunning new flagship. In a time when existing iPhones were starting to look a little – dare I say – pedestrian in comparison to what Samsung, LG, and others were doing in hardware, the iPhone X has accelerated through and can spar with the best of them.

Engadget

What did bother me a little more than expected were the bezels that run around the screen… Given that Apple’s competition has done an incredible job trimming the cruft from around their displays, I can’t help but feel that the iPhone X’s design doesn’t have the same kind of impact as, say, the Essential or Samsung’s recent Galaxys.

Wired

The very notion of using your face as the key to your digital secrets presents some fundamental problems… It’s very hard to hide your face from someone who wants to coerce you to unlock your phone, like a mugger, a customs agent, or a policeman who has just arrested you. In some cases, criminal suspects in the US can invoke the Fifth Amendment protections from self-incrimination to refuse to give up their phone’s passcode. That same protection doesn’t apply to your face.

Financial Times

All the focus today was on the innovations in the X.But it all made the new 8 look like a rather boring, “plain old” iPhone – and the price for that has just gone up $50 as well.

Techcrunch

The X is the best iPhone, no questions, and it’s quickly jumped to the top of the best phones, period. Yeah, it’s going to cost you, but you already knew that.


Media captionWATCH: Apple’s event in two minutes

Twitter:

“I gaze into the iPhone and the iPhone gazes back at me” – Nietzsche. @ericasadun

I’m not sure how the iPhone X face recognition will distinguish between me with make-up and without make-up. Because the difference is real. @kandeejohnson

So if you were sleeping and your girl picks the iPhone X and puts it in your face, it just unlocks it yeah? Lol. Thanks Apple. But no, thanks. @DrOlufunmilayo

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Twitter

I think the leaks spoiled the iPhone X keynote, but Apple also didn’t do enough to show why augmented reality matters. @tomwarren

The choice is simple: The iPhone X or 363 coffees. @joshtgoossen

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Twitter

Releasing the iPhoneX and 8 at the same time is strange, surely those who get the 8 will feel they’ve not got the latest iPhone. @Mr_Iconic

The iPhone X is over a thousand dollars but I get to make myself into a poop emoji, so ya, it’s worth it. @donaldcookie


Image copyright
Getty Images

Facebook

iPhone X has facial recognition. It’ll look at your face and tell you that you can’t afford it. – Abhimanyu Singh

Face ID seems like an over-engineered fix that they were forced to include because they couldn’t integrate a fingerprint scanner into the screen – Nick Farina

How on earth can they justify the same price in $s as in £s… utterly shameful! I wont’ be buying on that basis alone. – Darren Taylor

They made the 8 almost identical to the 7 so people would have to spend the extra money for the X. And I’m sure I’ll buy one even though I know what they did. – Patrick Michael

Google has just been given a gift. Apple could have really done something that would have caused Android fans angst today. It did not. Instead, we’re looking toward the Pixel 2 launch in October with renewed interest. – Robert Scoble


Media captionWATCH: A hands on with the new iPhone 8 Plus

Reddit

Apple isn’t the first in facial recognition (by a long shot) but they will without a doubt make facial recognition competitive by making it better. This is how they always work. – Leprecon

The lack of any fingerprint reader could cause problems for people who either cover their face for religious or professional reasons as well as for blind people. Really hoping Apple thought about these issues. – danius353

The iPhone home button was what made it look like a iPhone. The little round button was so iconic. Now the iPhone X looks like any other phone really especially if you put a case on it. – Ihavefallen

X2? XS? What are they going to call the next one? – Alteran195

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41249367

Destiny 2 apology for ‘Nazi-inspired’ Kekistan flag

Kekistan flag and Destiny gauntletImage copyright
Bungie

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Bungie is removing the armour that had been linked to the fictional Kekistan flag

Destiny 2′s developer has apologised after featuring armour in the video game that resembles a flag associated with the alt-right and internet trolls.

The item matches the design and colouring of the Kekistan flag – a banner made for a fictional country, which anti-racism campaigners say was modelled on a Nazi war flag.

Developer Bungie said it had already removed some instances of the imagery.

It added that others would be wiped by an update planned for next week.

“It’s come to our attention that a gauntlet in Destiny 2 shares elements with a hate symbol,” the Washington State-based firm tweeted.

“It is not intentional. We are removing it.

“Our deepest apologies. This does not represent our values, and we are working quickly to correct this. We renounce hate in all forms.”

The firm has not provided any other information about how the art came to be included in the first place.

However, its chief executive has also tweeted on the matter, saying: “Our company values place the highest emphasis on inclusion of all people and respect for all who work with us or play our games.”

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Bungie

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Destiny 2 has topped video games sales charts since its release

Destiny 2 is the big-budget sequel to one of 2014′s best-selling computer games, and was released on 6 September.

The inclusion of the offending armour had not been widely reported before Bungie acted.

Civil rights campaigners at the Southern Poverty Law Center have highlighted previous appearances of the Kekistan flag at alt-right events in the US.

It was also spotted by the Washington Post newspaper during the Charlottesville protests in August.

“Bungie is a hugely established company in the game sector and wouldn’t want any controversy connected with Destiny 2,” commented Piers Harding-Rolls from the IHS Markit tech consultancy.

“There doesn’t seem to have been a catalogue of complaints about this, but someone obviously brought it to the company’s attention and it acted very quickly to remove it.

“What’s interesting is that it has been transparent with its users and can’t be accused of covering up anything.”

While some players have welcomed Bungie’s action, others attacked the move.

“Bungie just doesn’t want their brand to be connected to a group of trolls from 4chan. I think it’s pretty understandable,” wrote one user on Reddit.

But another responded: “They could have easily removed it quietly without a peep and no-one would’ve known the wiser, but they just had to comment on a made-up fairytale land as being a hate symbol.”

And another posted on Bungie’s own forums: “What about the people you’re offending by taking it away? It feels like you’re playing favourites towards the extra-sensitive people out there.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41253614

Apple iPhone X adopts facial recognition and OLED screen

Media captionWATCH: Apple’s event in two minutes

Apple has revealed a high-end smartphone with an “edge-to-edge” screen that has no physical home button.

The iPhone X – which is referred to as “ten” – uses a facial recognition system to recognise its owner rather than a fingerprint-based one.

Apple said FaceID can work in the dark by using 30,000 infra-red dots to check an identity, and was harder to fool than its old TouchID system.

It is Apple’s most expensive phone yet.

A 64 gigabyte capacity model will cost $999 (£999 in the UK) when it goes on sale on 3 November. A 256GB version will be priced at $1,149 (£1,149 in the UK).

Media captionWATCH: Dave Lee gets hands on with the new iPhone X

By contrast, Samsung is charging $930 (£869 in the UK) for its new Note 8 phone, which has 64GB of storage.

“The iPhone X is a long-term investment by Apple that sets a template for the next generation of iPhone hardware,” commented Geoff Blaber from the CCS Insight consultancy.

“An OLED [organic light-emitting diode] display and the new design is likely to be standard on future iPhone models, but Apple must first tackle the challenge of obtaining sufficient supplies.”

Apple said the switch to an OLED display would help the phone produce “true blacks” and more accurate colours than before. LG and Samsung already use similar tech on their handsets.

Prior to the launch, Apple’s most expensive phone was an iPhone 7 Plus that cost $969 (£919 in the UK).

One expert commented that Apple’s ability to get consumers to spend more on its smartphones than rivals’ was “legendary”.

Media captionWATCH: A hands on with the new iPhone 8 Plus

“There may be an element of high pricing to constrain demand and make things match up with how many they can produce,” said Neil Mawston from Strategy Analytics.

“But I suspect Apple always had a $1,000 iPhone in mind – we had seen the price creep up year after year, and there’s a lot of pressure from shareholders for the company to hit a $1tn valuation.

“Bumping up the prices on their number one product is one way of doing that.”

Facial recognition

Apple acknowledged that users might have concerns about using facial recognition to verify purchases via Apple Pay or to access their device.

But it claimed that while there was a one-in-50,000 chance that TouchID could be unlocked by a random stranger, the odds rose to one-in-one-million with FaceID.

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Apple

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Apple said it used a range of technologies to ensure its FaceID system was accurate

Nevertheless, one expert said users might still be concerned the handset had no fingerprint sensor as an alternative.

“This is the steepest hurdle that they have,” commented Carolina Milanesi from market research firm Creative Strategies.

“A lot of consumers will be a little bit reluctant to use facial recognition as an ID system until Apple has proven that it is safe and works all the time.

“In the eyes of consumers TouchID wasn’t broken – so they may ask why Apple is trying to fix it.”

Other features announced about the handset included:

  • its 5.8in (14.7cm) screen has 458 pixels per inch, making it the firm’s most detailed phone display to date. To mark this it has been branded “super retina”
  • the lack of a home button is dealt with by requiring users to swipe up to access its apps, and to press a side button to summon its virtual assistant Siri
  • portrait mode – in which the camera blurs a photo’s background – and a relighting tool can be used on pictures taken by both the front and rear cameras
  • it has two hours more battery life than the iPhone 7

Analysis

Image copyright
Reuters

By Dave Lee, North America technology correspondent

It’s the big(ger) leap that iPhone fans – and Wall Street – had been demanding.

The iPhone X brings together many features we’d been expecting – such as FaceID for unlocking the phone, and animated emojis – animojis – that look fun to play with, if not a killer feature that will have people running to stores.

All this won’t come cheap: at $999+ it’s the most expensive iPhone to date.

Apple is often accused of being slow to new tech, and I think that criticism will continue.

Wireless charging comes years after Samsung first introduced it, for example, and the overall look of the phone – which no longer has the iconic home button – looks strikingly similar to the latest Samsung Galaxy Note.

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Reuters

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The iPhone X uses its face-mapping sensors to let users control the facial expressions of new animojis

The phone was unveiled in the new Steve Jobs Theater, a purpose-built venue for such launches.

A beautiful, comfy building, with marble everywhere, it sits alongside Apple’s striking new spaceship campus. This is the house that iPhone built, with a decade of phenomenal success.

Does iPhone X herald another great era? The audience here cheered, but didn’t stand, with applause. I’m reserving my judgement until I’ve tried it.


The iPhone X also adds support for wireless charging.

“Apple chose Qi wireless charging,” noted Ian Fogg, from the IHS Markit consultancy.

“It was the right decision to use a standard because Apple users will benefit from widely available charge pads.”

The feature was also introduced to the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus models, which were introduced earlier at the event.

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APple

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The iPhone 8 models are dust and water resistant

The lower-end 4.7in and 5.5in devices are distinguished from their predecessors by having:

  • glass rather than metal backs
  • faster processors
  • improved camera sensors that help them operate in low light
  • stereo speakers that are 25% louder than before

The iPhone 8 ranges from $699 to $849 and the iPhone 8 Plus from $799 to $949.

They will cost the same amounts in Sterling and go on sale on 22 September.

Mixed reality

The new models coincide with the release of iOS 11 – the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system.

It introduces ARKit – software development tools that make it easier for developers to add augmented reality features to their apps, in which graphics are mixed together with real-world views.

Marketing chief Phil Schiller showed off one app that – if used by spectators at a sports stadium – would show real-time stats hovering over the live action.

Another demo involved the Machines, a multiplayer robot-battle game that can be played over views of close-by table tops and other surfaces.

The facility will not work on the iPhone 6 or older devices, so may provide a means to convince owners of ageing Apple kit to upgrade.

Media captionWATCH: What can AR do on iPhone?

“When Apple first introduced the iPhone users were unsure about how touchscreens would benefit them, but now we know that they’re a great way to use a device,” said Brian Blau, a tech industry analyst at Gartner.

“The same thing will happen with augmented reality – it’s as important as touch, if not more.

“Developers have new opportunities and I think they will embrace them, but just as with touch it took them years to perfect those experiences, I also think that will also happen with AR.”

Apple also unveiled a version of its smartwatch with its own 4G link.

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The new watch has a red crown to denote its 4G capability

The innovation means that the Watch Series 3 can receive phone calls, access internet services and stream music without being linked to an iPhone. Users will, however, face an additional monthly charge for the benefit.

Apple recently overtook Fitbit to become the world’s joint-top wearable tech-maker alongside Xiaomi, according to one study.

Other companies – including LG and Samsung – have previously sold smartwatches with in-built cellular capabilities, but battery-life restrictions and other issues limited interest.

“Apple’s ability in the past to generate new markets when others thought they were dead is legendary,” commented Mr Mawston.

“For people like joggers, runners and cyclists who possibly want to do hardcore sports outdoors without carrying two devices, an LTE Apple Watch could be something of a blessing.”

The latest version of the Watch’s operating system – which will also be available to earlier models – will include new heart monitor functions.

It will warn owners if their heart rate becomes elevated when they are not active or if its rhythm becomes irregular, to flag the possibility of disease.

The 4G Apple Watch will cost $399 (£300) and be released on 22 September.

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The launch was held in the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple’s new campus

4K movies

Apple also announced a fresh version of its TV set-top box, which now supports 4K video and high dynamic range (HDR) content.

In one of the few details not to have leaked in advance, Apple revealed it had struck a deal with several of the major movie studios to ensure that films in the higher-resolution, richer-colour formats would not cost more than their high-definition (HD) equivalents.

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Apple

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Consumers have had to pay a premium for 4K HDR movies until now

Users’ existing iTunes movie libraries will also be upgraded without charge.

HDR 4K movies have already been available to rent or buy from services including Amazon, but they tended to be sold at much higher prices than lower-quality formats.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41228126

Google appeals against huge EU anti-trust fine

Google logoImage copyright
AFP

Tech giant Google has lodged an appeal against the 2.4bn euro fine (£2bn / $2.8bn) it was ordered to pay by the European Commission in June.

The regulator had ruled that positioning its own shopping comparison service at the top of Google search results was an abuse of power.

The fine was the largest penalty ever issued by the regulator, which also said the firm could face more fines if it continued its practices.

Google said it had no further comment.

At the time that the fine was imposed, Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s Competition Commissioner said that Google’s activity was “illegal under EU antitrust rules”.

A spokesman then said that Google “respectfully disagreed” with the ruling.

Google was also given 90 days to end the “anti competitive” practices or face a further fine amounting to 5% of the average daily global earning of its parent company Alphabet.

The deadline for making the changes is 28 September.


Analysis: Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC Technology Correspondent

It is hardly a surprise that Google is appealing against the record fine handed down to it by the EU.

When the Competition Commissioner Margarethe Vestager ruled against the search giant, the move was seen as just the first shot in a wider campaign.

The Commission is looking at other areas where it suspects Google may have abused its monopoly power, notably its Android mobile operating system – so the American firm did not want to lie down and accept its fate.

This of course means that there will be plenty of work for lawyers and lobbyists for years to come.

Last week the Commission had a setback when the European Court of Justice ordered a review of a fine it imposed on the chip giant Intel. That dates back to 2009 – so don’t expect Google’s case to be done and dusted in the near future

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41227989

Row over AI that ‘identifies gay faces’

Composite of facesImage copyright
Stanford University

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The study created composite faces judged most and least likely to belong to homosexuals

A facial recognition experiment that claims to be able to distinguish between gay and heterosexual people has sparked a row between its creators and two leading LGBT rights groups.

The Stanford University study claims its software recognises facial features relating to sexual orientation that are not perceived by human observers.

The work has been accused of being “dangerous” and “junk science”.

But the scientists involved say these are “knee-jerk” reactions.

Details of the peer-reviewed project are due to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Narrow jaws

For their study, the researchers trained an algorithm using the photos of more than 14,000 white Americans taken from a dating website.

They used between one and five of each person’s pictures and took people’s sexuality as self-reported on the dating site.

The researchers said the resulting software appeared to be able to distinguish between gay and heterosexual men and women.

In one test, when the algorithm was presented with two photos where one picture was definitely of a gay man and the other heterosexual, it was able to determine which was which 81% of the time.

With women, the figure was 71%.

“Gay faces tended to be gender atypical,” the researchers said. “Gay men had narrower jaws and longer noses, while lesbians had larger jaws.”

But their software did not perform as well in other situations, including a test in which it was given photos of 70 gay men and 930 heterosexual men.

When asked to pick 100 men “most likely to be gay” it missed 23 of them.

In its summary of the study, the Economist – which was first to report the research – pointed to several “limitations” including a concentration on white Americans and the use of dating site pictures, which were “likely to be particularly revealing of sexual orientation”.

‘Reckless findings’

On Friday, two US-based LGBT-focused civil rights groups issued a joint press release attacking the study in harsh terms.

“This research isn’t science or news, but it’s a description of beauty standards on dating sites that ignores huge segments of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning) community, including people of colour, transgender people, older individuals, and other LGBTQ people who don’t want to post photos on dating sites,” said Jim Halloran, chief digital officer of Glaad, a media-monitoring body.

“These reckless findings could serve as a weapon to harm both heterosexuals who are inaccurately outed, as well as gay and lesbian people who are in situations where coming out is dangerous.”

Image caption

Campaigners raised concerns about what would happen if surveillance tech tried to make use of the study

The Human Rights Campaign added that it had warned the university of its concerns months ago.

“Stanford should distance itself from such junk science rather than lending its name and credibility to research that is dangerously flawed and leaves the world – and this case, millions of people’s lives – worse and less safe than before,” said its director of research, Ashland Johnson.

The two researchers involved – Prof Michael Kosinski and Yilun Wang – have since responded in turn, accusing their critics of “premature judgement”.

“Our findings could be wrong… however, scientific findings can only be debunked by scientific data and replication, not by well-meaning lawyers and communication officers lacking scientific training,” they wrote.

“However, if our results are correct, Glaad and HRC representatives’ knee-jerk dismissal of the scientific findings puts at risk the very people for whom their organisations strive to advocate.”

‘Treat cautiously’

Previous research that linked facial features to personality traits has become unstuck when follow-up studies failed to replicate the findings. This includes the claim that a face’s shape could be linked to aggression.

One independent expert, who spoke to the BBC, said he had added concerns about the claim that the software involved in the latest study picked up on “subtle” features shaped by hormones the subjects had been exposed to in the womb.

“These ‘subtle’ differences could be a consequence of gay and straight people choosing to portray themselves in systematically different ways, rather than differences in facial appearance itself,” said Prof Benedict Jones, who runs the Face Research Lab at the University of Glasgow.

It was also important, he said, for the technical details of the analysis algorithm to be published to see if they stood up to informed criticism.

“New discoveries need to be treated cautiously until the wider scientific community – and public – have had an opportunity to assess and digest their strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41188560

iPhone X: 10 key moments leading up to the new handset

iPhoneImage copyright
Getty Images

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Attendees at the original iPhone’s unveiling could look at but not touch the handset

Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone launch is expected to be the biggest single upgrade the handset has seen since its launch.

A revamped design with an edge-to-edge display, facial recognition ID system and advanced augmented reality features is expected.

Several analysts have predicted the asking price for the top-end models will hit new heights too.

In a world in which the smartphone has become ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget how much of a surprise Steve Jobs’s unveiling of the original was a decade ago, and how divided opinion was about whether it was truly a game-changer.

To mark the occasion, we have picked 10 key moments from its past.


1. 2004: The birth of Project Purple

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Apple

Image caption

This design – codenamed Purple – was created by Apple’s designers in August 2005

After the success of first the iMac and then the iPod, Apple began developing a tablet as its next breakthrough product.

But around 2004, ex-iOS chief Scott Forstall recalls having a critical conversation over lunch with chief executive Steve Jobs.

“We were both using our phones and hated them,” he told an audience earlier this year.

“We looked around, and like everyone around us has a phone, and everyone looks very angsty as they’re using them.

“And Steve said, ‘Do you think we can take that demo we are doing with the tablet and multi-touch and shrink it down to something… small enough to fit in your pocket?’”

This prompted Apple’s engineers to create a basic contacts app that was constrained to a corner of the prototype tablet’s display.

“The second [Steve Jobs] saw this demo, he knew this was it,” Mr Forstall said. “There was no question. This was the way a phone had to behave.”

As a legal filing would later reveal, by August 2005 Apple’s industrial designers had already created a concept form factor – codenamed Purple – that is recognisable as the basis for the iPhone that followed.


2. July 2008: First iOS App Store apps released

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Erica Sadun

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One of the original third-party iPhone apps is still available via the App Store

There are now well over two million native apps available for the iPhone’s iOS operating system, and most owners have several pages and folders worth of the programs.

But for a while, after the first iPhone launched, there weren’t enough to fill even a single screen.

That’s because third-party developers were initially limited to creating software that ran within the device’s web browser. Steve Jobs reportedly believed policing a native app marketplace would be too complicated.

It wasn’t until more than a year after the handset went on sale that the App Store was launched.

And history was made on 9 July when Apple made a handful of native apps live in advance of the marketplace opening its virtual doors.

Among them was Moo – a cow sound simulator – from Denver-based developer Erica Sadun.

“I had come from the jailbreak community [in which developers modify smartphones to add capabilities], which put a lot of pressure on Apple to have its own store,” Ms Sadun said.

“The App Store completely revolutionised how independent developers could create businesses, monetise their product and present it to a community of people that was larger than anybody had ever dreamed of.

“It created a gold rush that I don’t think we are ever going to see again.”


3. September 2008: HTC Dream unveiled

Image copyright
HTC

Image caption

The original Android phone did not feature multi-touch capabilities

It sounds fanciful now, but once upon a time Google’s chief executive was a member of Apple’s board of directors.

Eric Schmidt did not resign from the post until 2009, but his days were numbered as soon as the first commercial Android phone was announced.

The HTC Dream offered features the iPhone still lacked, including copy and paste, Street View and multimedia messaging.

And while reviews were tepid – suggesting it was “best suited for early adopters” – they recognised the potential of a more open smartphone platform to iOS.

Curiously, the Dream was theoretically capable of supporting “multi-touch” gestures – recognising how many fingers were in contact with the screen – but the feature was disabled.

That was probably because Apple had patented the technology.

When HTC added the feature to a follow-up handset in 2010, Steve Jobs was infuriated.

“I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product,” he subsequently told his biographer Walter Isaacson.

“I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this.”


4. February 2010: Siri app released by SRI

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Siri allowed Apple to enter the Search market

These days, Apple spends millions making adverts starring Siri and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, among other celebrity co-stars.

But when the virtual assistant was first released on iOS, it was a relatively low-profile app from a fairly obscure Californian research institute, which had been part-funded by the Pentagon.

Its business model was to charge restaurants and event promoters a fee for any voice-controlled bookings made for their businesses, and the plan was to release follow-up versions for Android and Blackberry.

But that changed two months after its launch, when Apple bought the technology, reportedly for more than $200m (£150m).

The app remained live on the App Store until October 2011, at which point an upgraded version became an exclusive feature for the newly launched iPhone 4S.


5. June 2010: The first selfie iPhone

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Getty Images

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The iPhone 4′s front camera took only 0.3 megapixel photos

When the iPhone 4 was released, reviews highlighting its addition of a front camera focused on its use for video calls rather than self-portraits.

Perhaps that was understandable. Although the word “selfie” had already been coined, it had yet to become commonplace.

And while the iPhone 4 was not the first handset to feature a camera on both its sides – Sony Ericsson did so in 2003 – it can claim to have been a driving force in the rise of selfie culture.

“The iPhone 4 was important as you had a device that was very easy to use, a big teen demographic with access to it, and an explosion of mobile apps,” said Charles Arthur, author of Digital Wars.

“It’s a classic example of unintended consequences.

“Now, the selfie has taken over from the autograph.

“Watch people at any public event where they are meeting stars, and they’re always trying to get a selfie with them.”


6. October 2011: The death of Steve Jobs

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Steve Jobs died from a rare form of pancreatic cancer

When Tim Cook – rather than Steve Jobs – unveiled the 4S on 4 October 2011, he faced criticism for his performance. The BBC even accused him of appearing “dull”.

What wasn’t apparent at the time was that Mr Cook must have been aware that his mentor and friend Steve Jobs was close to death.

He died the next day.

It is likely that Apple would have collapsed had Mr Jobs not returned in 1997 to the company he had co-founded, meaning there would never have been an iPhone.

Or had he not subsequently stayed at Apple, it’s possible the company’s engineers might have pursued a rival mobile phone design based around the iPod’s click wheel.

Certainly, since his death, Apple has yet to launch a product that has come anywhere close to achieving the iPhone’s level of success, and some question whether it ever will.

Mr Jobs’s last public appearance was at Cupertino City Council in June 2011, where he sought permission for Apple to build a new headquarters.

The new iPhone will be the first product to be launched at the new campus, within an event space called the Steve Jobs Theater.


7. April 2012: Facebook’s $1bn takeover of Instagram

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If ever proof were needed of the disruptive economic impact of the iPhone, the takeover of Instagram provided it.

The app had been in existence only 18 months when the deal was announced. It had just 13 employees and had been an iOS-exclusive until the week before the revelation.

Its takeover provided a bonanza to both Instagram’s investors as well as to other smartphone-related start-ups seeking venture capital cash.

At the time, many thought Facebook had wildly overpaid. Now, as Instagram sucks in ever more advertising dollars while offline media’s funding struggles worsen, it seems like a bargain.

Other apps that debuted on the iPhone – including Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb – have shaken up industry in other ways.

And by one estimate, the total value of the global app economy – including software sales, advertising and mobile commerce – was $1.3tn (£993bn) for last year.


8. July 2012: Apple buys AuthenTec

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It took Apple just over a year to add AuthenTec’s technology to its iPhones

Apple’s $356m takeover of a fingerprint sensor chip-maker in 2012 caused a particular problem for Samsung.

The South Korean company was already using the Florida-based company’s components in its laptops and had just announced a deal to add another of its security products to its Android phones.

But while the idea of frustrating its arch-rival probably had some appeal, the biggest benefit to Apple was the ability to launch its Touch ID system in 2013′s iPhone 5S.

As reviews noted, previous attempts to introduce fingerprint scanning to phones had proven “unreliable, often causing more aggravation than they’re worth” but the new system worked “pretty much flawlessly”.

Initially, the feature was limited to being used to unlock the phone and make digital purchases from Apple.

But it later made it possible for the company to introduce Apple Pay and add security to third-party apps without requiring the hassle of typing in a password each time.

One side-effect of the sensor’s success is it may have prolonged the life of a physical home button on the iPhone.

If rumours are to be believed, Apple has struggled to replace it with a part that could be hidden beneath the screen and may be about to replace it altogether with facial recognition scans on the iPhone X.


9. August 2013: Steve Ballmer says he is stepping down as Microsoft chief

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Although Windows Phone achieved a double-digit market share in Europe, it never looked like it would outsell the iPhone

In 1997, Microsoft threw Apple a lifeline by taking a $150m stake in the failing company.

Apple returned the favour by launching a product that Microsoft first failed to properly understand and then struggled to match.

Chief executive Steve Ballmer famously laughed at the iPhone’s prospects after he first heard about it.

“That is the most expensive phone in the world, and it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard,” he said in 2007.

Six years later, he announced the takeover of Nokia’s phone business for 5.4bn euros ($6.5bn; £5bn) in an attempt to catch up, only for the sum to be written off in 2015 after he had departed and his successor finally accepted Windows Phone was a flop.

The irony is that if Microsoft’s stake in Apple had not been sold off under Mr Ballmer, it would now be worth more than $40bn and he might have shared in its success.

“Like so many other people, Steve Ballmer completely underestimated the impact of the iPhone,” said Ben Wood, from the CCS Insight consultancy.

“His arrogant dismissal has certainly come back to haunt him.”


10. July 2016: Pokemon Go released

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Pokemon Go fever is now well past its peak, and the app more likely to make headlines for botched events than rare monster sightings.

But its legacy has been to prove that augmented reality (AR) apps – in which graphics are mixed with real-world views – can have mass appeal.

AR actually dates back to 2009 on the iPhone, when a French developer created an app that shows nearby shops and other points of interest in Paris.

But it’s set to come of age with the imminent release of iOS 11, which includes ARKit – software that makes it easier for developers to anchor graphics to the world beyond and take account of its lighting conditions.

Several demos released in advance have looked impressive, not least a version of PacMan where you walk through the maze.

The question remains whether users will be satisfied experiencing the action on their iPhones, or whether Apple will feel compelled to release an accompanying headset to let them go hands-free.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41188450

‘No fire risk’ with new lithium batteries

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Jhi Scott, ARL

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The batteries produced sufficient energy for use in household electronics

Lithium-ion batteries that are resistant to exploding or catching fire have been developed by scientists.

The devices produced sufficient energy for use in household electronics, but did not ignite – even when punctured repeatedly with a nail.

The batteries use a water-salt solution as their electrolyte, removing the risks carried by some non-aqueous commercial models.

The research is published in the journal Joule.

“In the past, if you wanted high energy, you would choose a non-aqueous lithium-ion battery, but you would have to compromise on safety. If you preferred safety, you could use an aqueous battery such as nickel/metal hydride, but you would have to settle for lower energy,” said co-author Kang Xu, from the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL).

“Now, we are showing that you can simultaneously have access to both high energy and high safety.”

The latest paper follows on from a 2015 publication in Science journal, in which the same team unveiled a similar 3.0 volt battery with an aqueous electrolyte.

However, at the time, the researchers were prevented from reaching higher voltages by something called “cathodic challenge”. This occurs when one end of the battery (the anode) – made from graphite, or lithium metal – is degraded by the water-based electrolyte.

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Jhi Scott, ARL

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A gel polymer helps protect the electrode

The gel polymer decomposes on the battery’s first charge to form a stable layer called an “interphase”. This interphase protects the anode from chemical reactions that stop it from working properly and allows the most desirable anode materials to be used in the battery.

By coating the anode with the protective gel polymer, the scientists were able to push the battery voltage up to 4.0, making it useful for household electronic devices such as laptop computers.

The addition of the gel coating also boosts the safety advantages of the new battery when compared to standard non-aqueous lithium-ion batteries. It also boosts the energy density when compared to other proposed aqueous lithium-ion batteries.

Dr Xu said the interphase chemistry needs to be perfected before it can be commercialised.

But with enough funding, the four-volt chemistry could be ready for commercialisation in about five years, he said.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-41187824

US judge dismisses email invention claim

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MIKE CLARKE

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Modern email clients are based on the work of many different developers and programmers

A US judge has dismissed a libel case that revolved around one man’s claim to have invented email in 1978.

Shiva Ayyadurai sued news website Tech Dirt earlier this year after it published several articles denying his claim.

The judge overseeing the case said email was impossible to define precisely, meaning Mr Ayyadurai’s claim could not be proven.

Mr Ayyadurai said he planned to appeal against the decision.

Legal costs

Mr Ayyadurai’s controversial claim revolves around a program he wrote in 1978, called EMAIL, that was used by staff at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He was granted a copyright for this program in 1982.

Many news websites have published detailed rejections of his claim.

Tech Dirt was one of the most vocal critics of Mr Ayyadurai’s campaign to establish his software as the definitive version.

Technology history suggests that modern email programs have a lot of influences, but much of the work was done prior to 1978 by many different developers.

Ray Tomlinson is widely acknowledged as the programmer who, in the early 1970s, first used the “@” symbol as a way to describe a particular user on a particular network.

Mr Ayyadurai said Tech Dirt had libelled him, inflicted emotional distress and harmed his ability to make money from his accomplishment. He sought $15m (£11.5m) in damages.

The judge disagreed and said in his ruling that because the history of email was in doubt, questioning Mr Ayyadurai’s claim to be its inventor was not libellous.

Tech Dirt said it was “pleased” with what was a “big win” for free speech.

But it was “disappointed” with one aspect of the ruling, in which the judge said it would have to pay its own legal costs.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41188004

‘Dolphin’ attacks fool Amazon, Google voice assistants

Voice assistants

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Google’s Home, Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s Siri all responded to ultrasonic commands

Voice-controlled assistants by Amazon, Apple and Google could be hijacked by ultrasonic audio commands that humans cannot hear, research suggests.

Two teams said the assistants responded to commands broadcast at high frequencies that can be heard by dolphins but are inaudible to humans.

They were able to make smartphones dial phone numbers and visit rogue websites.

Google told the BBC it was investigating the claims presented in the research.

Many smartphones feature a voice-controlled assistant that can be set up to constantly listen for a “wake word”.

Google’s assistant starts taking orders when a person says “ok Google”, while Apple’s responds to “hey Siri” and Amazon’s to “Alexa”.

Researchers in China set up a loudspeaker to broadcast voice commands that had been shifted into ultrasonic frequencies.

They said they were able to activate the voice-controlled assistant on a range of Apple and Android devices and smart home speakers from several feet away.

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Dolphins can hear sound that humans cannot

A US team was also able to activate the Amazon Echo smart speaker in the same way.

The US researchers said the attack worked because the target microphone processed the audio and interpreted it as human speech.

“After processing this ultrasound, the microphone’s recording… is quite similar to the normal voice,” they said.

The Chinese researchers suggested an attacker could embed hidden ultrasonic commands in online videos, or broadcast them in public while near a victim.

In tests they were able to make calls, visit websites, take photographs and activate a phone’s airplane mode.

However, the attack would not work on systems that had been trained to respond to only one person’s voice, which Google offers on its assistant.

Apple’s Siri requires a smartphone to be unlocked by the user before allowing any sensitive activity such as visiting a website.

Apple and Google both allow their “wake words” to be switched off so the assistants cannot be activated without permission.

“Although the devices are not designed to handle ultrasound, if you put something just outside the range of human hearing, the assistant can still receive it so it’s certainly possible,” said Dr Steven Murdoch, a cyber-security researcher at University College London.

“Whether it’s realistic is another question. At the moment there’s not a great deal of harm that could be caused by the attack. Smart speakers are designed not to do harmful things.

“I would expect the smart speaker vendors will be able to do something about it and ignore the higher frequencies.”

The Chinese team said smart speakers could use microphones designed to filter out sounds above 20 kilohertz to prevent the attack.

A Google spokesman said: “We take user privacy and security very seriously at Google, and we’re reviewing the claims made.”

Amazon said in a statement: “We take privacy and security very seriously at Amazon and are reviewing the paper issued by the researchers.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41188557