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Mattel introduces Echo knockoff so your baby has an AI personal assistant

(TECH NEWS) It is no doubt that children will enjoy playing with Mattel’s new toy, but at the end of the day, is it just one more distraction?

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mattel aristotle

Meet your new nanny, Aristotle

The time has come where even babies need a personal assistant. For years, Mattel has been manufacturing entertaining and innovative toys for children and now they’re hopping on the AI bandwagon with their newest release.

Mattel is now introducing Aristotle, an at-home assistant with extremely similar function and design as the Amazon Echo. The new device can work as a surrogate parent by answering questions, playing games and even reading bedtime stories to your kids.

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Split personality

Aristotle has two AI personalities. The first interacts and entertains your children. The second, which works the same as Amazon’s Alexa, is for parents.

Adults can use the device as a baby monitor and to shop for new products. Other features that Mattel have included are a light-up speaker and internet-connected camera. Such developments allow Aristotle to interact with their environment, enhancing play time by adding sound effects to toys and even recognizing your child’s voice.

Mattel predicts that Aristotle will end the long battle of people versus robotic devices when it comes to communication.

By reading “test paragraphs” aloud, Aristotle comes to recognize the unique speech of your child, even if you cannot always tell what they are saying.

Dependent from birth

While all the features of Aristotle seem promising, are they really necessary for children? It is no doubt that children will enjoy playing with a new toy, but at the end of the day, is it just one more distraction? While technology is no doubt a benefit to our society, such devices can teach dependence at a very young age.

For some, privacy is the bigger issue. Mattel has faced troubles in the past with hackers.

It was not too long ago that their “Hello Barbie Doll” provided hackers with live feed from the built-in microphone along with stored audio files. In addition, Mattel could use the information gathered from your child’s interactions with Aristotle to profile children and even share it with third party partners. It is the same way in which websites track our interactions in order to sell us relevant products.

Is it fair to expose children to this before they have a choice? Is it just another toy?

#Aristotle

Natalie is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and co-founded an Austin creative magazine called Almost Real Things. When she is not writing, she spends her time making art, teaching painting classes and confusing people. In addition to pursuing a writing career, Natalie plans on getting her MFA to become a Professor of Fine Art.

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Which security company (that knows better) is actively selling your data?

(TECH NEWS) Maybe you can’t even trust your antivirus software anymore. Avast is protecting your data from all outside threats, but ignores the wolf in the hen house.

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Avast sells data

A company designed to protect users from online harm is at the center of the latest data scandal, except this time it’s not hackers we have to worry about. Avast, a popular antivirus software used by people around the globe, has been selling users data through a subsidiary company.

A new investigation by Motherboard and PCMag has found that Avast has been taking user data from its antivirus software and selling it through a subsidiary company called Jumpshot. Avast used the subsidiary company to pass off the data collected from users of their antivirus software and then sell it for millions.

Some of the biggest companies out there, names you recognize and see everyday, are on the list of past and current customers. A few of the companies we know have worked with Jumpshot to purchase user data are Google, Home Depot, Microsoft, Pepsi, Expedia, Intuit, Keurig, Conde Nast, Sephora, and Loreal.
What is still unclear is which of these companies are current and which are past Jumpshot clients. Yelp, another big name on the list, has already admitted to using the company to purchase data, but insist that it was on a “one-time basis.”

While users of Avast’s antivirus software were required to opt-in to sharing their data, the investigation found that many users were unaware that their data was being sold. This is unsurprising.
We’ve all been there, you jump onto a new website and it asks if they can collect data, use cookies, sell your left kidney, or whatever they need to better serve you. You don’t really understand what they’re asking, but you click the little yes box because if you say no then you’re taken to a new screen with a pile of legal jargon in tiny text to sort through.

Companies know that you don’t want to deal this. You’re just trying to read an interesting article on your lunch break or do a little online shopping. Companies like Avast know exactly what they’re doing when they convince you to sell your data. And make no mistake, your user data is valuable.

One of Jumpshot’s products called “All Clicks Feed,” sells for just over $2 million. This product allows the buyer to see everything from Google searches, Google Maps locations, LinkedIn page activity, YouTube video views, visits to porn websites, and more.

In a statement to Vice, Avast said, “Because of our approach, we ensure that Jumpshot does not acquire personal identification information, including name, email address or contact details, from people using our popular free antivirus software.”

All the data Jumpshot sells is anonymous, meaning users personal information and possible identifiers are scrubbed, but experts are skeptical about the security of anonymized information.

The safety of your personal data and the frightening power that comes with holding millions of users data is already enough to keep a person up at night. Perhaps the most troubling part is that this type of behavior doesn’t necessarily call for legal action.

At most, we are looking at an ethics breach for not making it clearer to users precisely how their data is being used. Avast claims to comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and until someone can find direct evidence of a legal misstep, they’re free to continue selling user data to the highest bidder.

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WTH is ‘Green UX’ anyway?

(TECH NEWS) Earth-saving green UX? It’s a green new deal, for real, and can actually create a more environmentally friendly company.

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green ux, green Earth

Remember that time a 6th-grader proved you could save a metric butt-ton of ink by switching from Times New Roman to Garamond?

I’m a nerd, so I found that unbelievably cool. Cooler still is the fact that the spirit of Suvir Mirchandani’s experiment isn’t just for physical press!

Enter “Green UX.” It’s a website-building methodology that slightly offsets polluters’ near cartoonish levels of choking the planet, and the dent it makes isn’t just saving the whales, it’s saving users a hell of a lot of hassle! So how do you do it? I have you covered with a few steps.

1: Don’t clutter your interface with a lot of crap. That means ads everywhere, a subscription pop-up on entering and on leaving, and a bunch of ill-curated “sponsored stories”. The more of that you cut out, the more carbon you cut down, the more of a green ux you will have.

2: Emphasize accessibility. Building things the right way, with everyone’s needs in mind is always the most efficient thing to do. Think about getting a commercial building ready. The person in charge of the purse strings might not be swayed by doing the right thing. What will give them a push is the idea of a well-deserved ADA lawsuit smackdown, closing for days due to construction, and hiring a rebranding professional to wipe down all the bad press.

And in terms of environmental assistance, everything involved in repairing, company image included, is sucking resources. Your website is the same way. The more users need to add their own image descriptions in shares, host alternative videos with captions, and click back and forth because they can’t read your ‘edgy’ white print on a yellow background for more than .01 seconds at a time, the more okapis you may as well be punching straight in the face. Keep everyone in mind, keep the earth happy, and keep off of African ungulates’ hit lists.

3: Optimize EVERYTHING. Text? Wrapped. Gifs? Clipped down by HAND, not by automation. Pictures? Compressed. When everything loads faster, everyone’s happier. When everyone’s happier, they tend to buy more.

When they buy more based on your website being easier to navigate than everyone else’s, you get to spend less money on ads, less money on new campaigns, and more money donating to foundations that turn air pollution particles into ink for needy children. See how this works?

In a SHOCKING turn of events, doing what’s best for the planet is best for the people making a living on it!

Who would have thought, right?

Now some of our regular readers might recognize most of these from when AG boosted news about how to slip past Google’s potential ‘SLOW SITE’ stamp.

That’s for good reason.

A fast, convenient website is literally better for the environment! The less processing power they draw, the less electricity they pull, and the end user saves enough time in their day not waiting on any variant of the circle of doom to go plant a tree or something. So it’s best to have a green UX.

Big Momma Earth wins? We win! It’s literally that simple.

Let’s see some innovation as we race UPWARDS this time, shall we?

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Soma AI + ML = security system to reduce the number of mass shootings

(TECH NEWS) Soma robotics has a new plan and new devices for protecting schools from the rising dangers. They have heard the thoughts and answered the prayers.

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Soma robotics anti shooting device

In an age where everyone is separated in the debates between the security and the rights of the American people’s future, there is a company out there who is looking to upgrade our security systems to combat with the current issues of today with technology.

SOMA Robotics, a houstonian company at heart, has built a security system “using non-lethal AI (artificial intelligence) powered technology” with MI (machine learning), to allow these situational victims a chance to either “fight, or hide, or run”.

According to their website, the system essentially engages with the attacker through a blinding spotlight that then follows them much like a real spotlight on a stage. Although this system might not be the end of all new-aged attacks, it can at least be a mitigator of the impact these attacks have on their victims.

To be as blunt as possible, “at the end of 2019 there were 417 mass shootings” of which “31 were considered to be mass-murders” stated CBS News. 2019 was reported to be the year with the highest rate of mass shootings.

It seems SOMA Robotics is actively trying to lower those statistics, at a time when, sadly, this is a huge public safety issue impacting over 39,000 people in 2019 alone, posted Gun Violence Archive. I would even say, SOMA Robotics is tired of seeing “Thoughts & Prayers” on social media, and trying to put up a fight for us since we cannot agree on how to protect ourselves.

Currently, SOMA Robotics’s Founder and CTO, Ed Schipul, is seeking investors to support their mission of “peace of mind”. In a posted interview on SOMA Robotics’ website, Schipul discusses how this technology could be a “game changer” for “soft-targets”,places like schools and airports.

Schipul even discusses how hopefully the costs to the product is inexpensive enough to all others to affordable purchase this technology, and even possibly releasing the open-source code for others to use.

Be like SOMA Robotics, be good.

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