Connect with us

Tech Gadgets

New device stops your smart speaker from listening without a safe word

(TECH GADGETS) Don’t like your smart devices spying on you? There might just be a solution. Paranoid is a device that stands between you and companies listening to you.

Published

on

Paranoid smart speaker

Okay, I’m the first to admit I do not trust smart home devices. Between the threat of corporations, hackers and the government all potentially tapping into private information, there’s a lot to be worried about. There’s something disquieting about random Amazon employees listening to my conversations, y’know?

That said…I still sometimes wish for voice activated devices. What can I say, they’re convenient. It would be nice to command my speaker to change the song when my hands are covered in flour or something.

Turns out, I’m not the only one who wishes for a smart speaker that wasn’t always listening in.

Paranoid, which hails from major security company Pleasant Solutions, will serve as a way for you to have your cake and eat it too. Or, in this case, have your smart device and cut down on its ability to spy.

How does it work? Essentially, Paranoid keeps a device from listening in until you say the safe word – “paranoid” – in which case it allows your smart device to listen to your command. For most devices, Paranoid will provide you with a device that easily attaches to your speaker and either jams the speaker or engages the mute button until you want to use the device. More complicated devices can be sent to Paranoid for internal alterations that will provide something similar.

For the moment, Paranoid only services specific models of Amazon and Google speakers, though they hope to expand to tackle any smart speaker on the market.

Of course, if you’re as wary as me, you’re probably aware that this just means Paranoid will be spying on you instead. (My first thought was seriously “out of the frying pan into the fire” when I learned about Paranoid’s technology.) I was relieved to learn, though, that unlike the smart devices, Paranoid doesn’t connect to the cloud. It doesn’t even connect to the internet, which means you don’t have to worry about anyone hacking into the system.

The initial devices will cost $49 USD each. Sure, this could double the price of a cheap smart home speaker, but when the alternative is potentially allowing almost anyone to listen in to your private conversations? I’d say it’s worth it.

Brittany is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a Master's in Media Studies under her belt. When she's not writing or analyzing the educational potential of video games, she's probably baking.

Tech Gadgets

Has Samsung learned from their Galaxy Fold bendy mistakes?

(TECH GADGETS) Samsung’s back with round two of the folding glass phone, but is it worth it? Has Samsung fixed the kinks from the Galaxy Fold with the new Z Flip?

Published

on

galaxy Z flip

Talk to any woman and you’ll know that most pants pockets are too small to fit the average cell-phone. Seriously, I can’t even fit my phone into my back pockets. This is a problem that has persisted since the dawn of time (or at least the dawn of smart phones) and an unlikely company is stepping up to present a solution: Samsung.

Sure, Samsung can’t make pockets bigger – though that would be the obvious solution to this problem – but it can make phones smaller. And if that makes you worried you’ll have to sacrifice screen space, never fear! Samsung’s newest model, the Galaxy Z Flip combines the smartphone of the future with the flip phone of the past. In other words: a smart phone with foldable glass.

After all those jokes we made about the inferiority of flip phones, companies are racing back to the general design. In fact, Apple just patented some foldable tech a few days ago.

This isn’t the first time Samsung has tried to release a flip-phone/smartphone hybrid. Last year, they released the Galaxy Fold, which was the size of a normal phone but could unfold to become a tablet. Unfortunately, problems manifested immediately. People reported the phone breaking in under 48 hours, many mistook an integral part of the phone for a screen protector, and others soon had a crease down the middle of the screen.

The release was…underwhelming, to put it nicely.

Now Samsung argues things are different. The Galaxy Z Flip will be about the size of your average smartphone when it’s unfolded, for one, and Samsung assures potential customers that the folding problems from the last device have been fixed. The phone also boasts 5G compatibility and improved cameras that are only made better by the unique angles the flip phone can provide.

Galaxy Z Flip 2

Will this release usher in a new era of flip phones? We’ll have to wait and see, though if it’s anything like their last release…probably not. Even if the device works without a hitch, it still comes with a high price tag – $1,380 to be exact. That’s no small sum to lay down on a phone that is still not guaranteed to last, but hey, that’s what it takes to be a trendsetter.

Continue Reading

Tech Gadgets

Why Google’s Deep Dream project is more than just a trippy tricky

A programmer discovered that even while asleep, your computers dream, and the imagery is amazingly bizarre and sometimes creepy. What are the implications of this? Is it more than just a cool trick?

Published

on

google dreams

google dreams

Dreaming deep, sound asleep

As machines become increasingly intelligent, they are also becoming more artistic.

Google’s Deep Dream is making a huge splash on the web. It was originally coded by Alexander Mordvintsev, a programmer working in security systems who liked to play around with artificial intelligence as a side project. In the middle of the night last May, he discovered the lines of code that would cause Google’s neural net to generate original images that look like a psychedelic combination of Salvador Dalí and Lisa Frank. He posted his images on Google’s internal Google + account, and was soon paired with young programmer Chris Olah and software engineer/sculptor Mike Tyka to develop Deep Dream.

bar

REM for your RAM

The Deep Dream team has created an entire gallery of surrealistic art. Animal parts of different species combine to form fantastical beasts, backgrounds fill with swirling patterns, and spiders emerge from cloudless skies.

In July, the Deep Dream team released the software on GitHub so that the general public could turn their family portraits and vacation photos into bizarre art pieces. New apps are popping up, several grotesque portraits of presidential candidates have been produced, and the band Wilco used a Deep Dream image on the cover of its latest album. Samim Winiger, who created software that makes animations from Deep Dream images, says that “in five years we won’t recognize Photoshop,” alluding to the possibility for Deep Dream technology to become a major feature in our visual world.

But is there more to it?

Winiger refers to Deep Dream as “creative AI [artificial intelligence].” But can a computer be said to have creativity? The dreamlike (or, at times, nightmarish) quality of Deep Dream images has certainly caused some observers to posit that Deep Dream is pulling images from the “subconscious” of Google’s mind. But a computer, no matter how smart, is not a brain. So is Deep Dream just the robot equivalent of a cool party trick?

Deep learning in the neural net

But Deep Dream wasn’t created just to blow our minds with freakish four-eyed kittens and giant tarantulas crawling from the sky. It’s also a useful way for programmers to study artificial intelligence. Computers can now achieve what programmers call “deep learning” by processing information through a neural net (NN). Neural nets are meshes of artificial neurons layered one over the other, like spider webs. Information is passed through several layers of the NN, and each layer analyzes it from a different angle. The topmost layer is responsible for the output of information that has been “learned” by deeper layers of the net.

Google has made great strides towards teaching its neural net to visually recognize objects by having it produce an image of whatever it’s viewing, which is then graded for accuracy and fed back into the computer, giving the NN an opportunity to learn from its mistakes and eventually come to automatically correct itself.

Layered learning, and pattern detecting

So far, it has been hard for researchers to really know for sure what is happening at each layer of the neural net. But a researcher can have a computer produce a Deep Dream image from a specific layer of its neural net, thus revealing exactly what that layer is learning. In this way, researchers are discovering more about what happens inside an artificial mind.

What researchers have found is that computers may have higher perception and better pattern-recognition than humans. It’s like having a highly imaginative child watch clouds. If a cloud looks a little bit like a ship, the neural net will run the image through a feedback loop until a highly detailed ship emerges. This is why Deep Dream is able to create images even out of random noise – it can detect patterns that a human wouldn’t even notice.

This has far-reaching implications for how artificial intelligence may eventually replace humans. For example, researchers are using neural nets to read ultrasounds, detecting tumors invisible to the human eye.

Final thoughts

So, is artificial intelligence becoming creative? Is a computer an artist? That depends on how you define creativity, and where you draw the line between the “real” and the “artificial.” But Deep Dream engineer Mike Tyka is impressed: “If you think about human creativity, some small component of that is the ability to take impressions and recombine them in interesting, unexpected ways,” – the same ability Deep Dream displays.

Regardless of whether or not this is true “creativity,” the world seems to agree with Tyka that when you let a computer come up with original art, “it’s cool.”

Steven Levy was granted the first interview with the Deep Dream team. You can read his report at Medium.com.

#DeepDream

Continue Reading

Tech Gadgets

Angee is a customizable, livestreaming home security system. Why don’t you have it yet?

The newest in home security, Angee syncs with your smart phone in 30 seconds, rotates 360 degrees and can be turned off at the sound of your voice.

Published

on

angee

angee

360 degrees of security

When it comes to home safety, it’s important to stay up-to-date and as current as possible, especially when home security systems are involved. Thanks to technology, new and improved smart alarm systems like Piper, Nest Cam, and Canary are readily available to the consumer. The newest member to this tech security family is Angee, and she is a far cry from the security systems of yesteryear.

Angee is “the only smart home security system to provide full perimeter security with a portable, 360° rotating camera, not to mention voice-controlled home connectivity and personal assistance,” said Max Rattner, VP of Sales & Brand Development for Angee.

Rather than using the traditional means of home security, Angee uses boosted bluetooth technology to create a geofence for your home by using security tags that are placed anywhere you want them.

Shuts down completely in privacy mode

Controlled by your smartphone, Angee arms your home once you have left the premises. However, she can be set to switch to privacy mode while you are home and Angee will literally turn to the wall and turn off her camera while the family is home and safe.

An interesting feature for Angee is her voice identification system. She stores all of your family member’s names and voices and when you enter your own home, just let her know it’s you! She will verify your voice and not sound the alarm. No need to enter a code on a keypad every time you’re coming and going.

See the weird things your cat does while you’re working

Angee powers herself off a 3600mAh battery, which has an 8 hour battery life of live streaming video you can literally watch on your phone, tablet, or smartwatch when you get bored at work. She also holds one hour of HD quality video, or several more hours if you’re willing to burn your eyes by staring at SD video.

The fact that you can keep an eye on your home via live streaming differentiates Angee enough from traditional home security systems. But to make this new system even more modern, Angee also manages your home’s other smart devices such as the thermostat, TV, and lights. Angee also has 1.5 Gb of local storage and 1 Gb of free cloud storage. In addition, Angee requires no traditional installation and the Angee team is extremely proud of how easy it is to set the security system up with your personal smart phone. The team claims syncing the system with your phone will only take around 30 seconds.

One-time payment for full-time security

Another great feature to this new, modernized home security system is that there are no monthly fees. As the company grows, subscription plans will become available as needed, but for now Angee feels that the smart triggers and video loops do more than enough. Angee is perfect to use in apartments and small spaces, and you can easily get away with only purchasing Angee and one sensor for the main door. If you live in a larger home and want to monitor multiple rooms via your smart phone, purchase Angee and a three pack of sensors to place around the perimeter of the house.

Home security systems can’t get any easier than this.

#HomeSecurity

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Our Great Partners

The
American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!