Security researchers find flaws in AMD chips but raise eyebrows with rushed disclosure

 A newly discovered set of vulnerabilities in AMD chips is making waves not because of the scale of the flaws, but rather the rushed, market-ready way they were disclosed by the researchers. When was the last time a bug had its own professionally shot video and PR rep, yet the company was only alerted 24 hours ahead of time? The flaws may be real, but the precedent set here is an unsavory one. Read More

Ecobee’s new voice-powered light switch moves closer to whole-home Alexa

Alexa is already everywhere in a lot of homes, thanks to the affordability and ease of installation/setup of the Echo Dot. But Alexa could become even more seamlessly integrated into your home, if you think about it. And Canadian smart home tech maker ecobee did think about it, which is how they came up with the ecobee Switch+.

Ecobee is probably most known for their connected thermostats, which are one of the strongest competitors out there for Nest. The company’s been building other products, too, however, and developing closer ties with Amazon and its Alexa virtual assistant. The Switch+ has the closest ties yet, since it includes Alexa Voice Service and far-field voice detection microphone arrays to essential put an Echo in your wall wherever you have a light switch handy.

The ecobee Switch+ is still a connected light switch that works like similar offerings from Belkin’s Wemo, too, and offers full compatibility with Alexa, HomeKit and Assistant for remote voice control. But it goes a step further with Alexa, acting not only as the connected home smart device, but also the command center, too.

The Switch+ is now available for pre-order from ecobee and select retail partners including, unsurprisingly, Amazon, in both the U.S. and Canada for a retail price of $99 U.S. or $119 Canadian. It should work with most standard light switches, although not 2-way switches where multiple switches control the same light or lights. In-store availability and shipping starts on March 26.

Samsung turns to Harman to further SmartThings development

 Harman and Samsung have entered into a strategic association that will have Harman taking up the SmartThings’ standard and carrying it forward against other Internet of Things products. Announced today, Samsung SmartThings R&D team and HARMAN Connected Services (HCS), a division of HARMAN International, will collaborate on the platform with HCS developing and supporting the… Read More

The Wave is a ring that controls sound as if by magic

Out in the desolate wastes of deepest Iceland, magic blooms. The Icelandic sagas tell of fairy houses to magical rings that control the world and now one of those, the Wave, has landed on the Internet.

The Wave is a ring that controls sound. It is essentially a wearable MIDI controller which lets you play and modify sounds as its made, allowing you to play music in thin air. It’s a clever little solution and is shipping next December.

The system works by setting a specific sound or function to a specific gesture. You can turn the audio sample up and down by waving your hand or trigger a sample by tapping your finger. It can work with keyboards and guitars and even can change music as you make it, allowing you to perform in multiple ways.

The wave costs $129 for early birds and it will sell for $200. They’ve already raised $43,000 and the prototype is working. The Wave works with multiple music apps including Logic.

So whether you’re writing the score for a vibrant Icelandic elven love story or trying to lull the great sea dragon Hvítserkur back to sleep through song, the Icelandic Wave is the device for you.

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Philips releases outdoor connected Hue lighting

Philips Hue products are going outside. Available for purchase this summer in the U.S., the lighting company has a range of new outdoor lighting products extending the world of Internet of Things to the great outdoors.

These products mark an important change for the Internet of Things world. As WiFi range and consumer demand increases, products such as these will become more available. Soon, consumers will expect to talk to products outdoors as they would indoors. I do. Last summer, I retrofitted an Echo Dot for outdoor use and connected it to a small amp that powers some outdoor speakers. It made weeding the garden a lot more enjoyable.

Like their indoor counterparts, these Hue products are a tad on the pricey side but offer a range of features not available on traditional lighting products. Once connected to a standard Philips Hue hub, the lights can be controlled through the Hue app or a voice assistant.

The new line includes a standard, weather-resistant bulb for $29.99, wall mounted lights starting at $49 and several color changing models, too. The spotlight Philips Hue Lily costs $270 and comes with three lights, while the Calla is $129 and is designed to illuminate pathways — both have access to 16 million different colors.

This robo-bug can improvise its walk like a real insect

There are plenty of projects out there attempting to replicate the locomotion of insects, but one thing that computers and logic aren’t so good at is improvising and adapting the way even the smallest, simplest bugs do. This project from Tokyo Tech is a step in that direction, producing gaits on the fly that the researchers never programmed in.

“Perhaps the most exciting moment in the research was when we observed the robot exhibit phenomena and gaits which we neither designed nor expected, and later found out also exist in biological insects,” enthused the lead researcher, Ludovico Minati, in a news release.

One could program an immensely complicated AI or pattern generator to respond instantly to any of a thousand situations. But if a bug with a brain the size of a grain of sand can adapt to new situations quickly and smoothly, there must be a simpler, more analog way.

Different gaits produced by different patterns — okay, they don’t look that different, but they definitely are.

That’s what Minati was looking into, and his hexapod robot is certainly a simpler approach. A central pattern generator produces a master signal, which is interpreted by analog arrays and sent to the oscillators that move the legs. All it takes is tweaking one of five basic parameters and the arrays reconfigure their circuits and produce a working gait.

“An important aspect of the controller is that it condenses so much complexity into only a small number of parameters. These can be considered high-level parameters, in that they explicitly set the gait, speed, posture, etc.,” said one of Minati’s colleagues, Yasaharu Koike.

Simplifying the hardware and software needed for adaptable, reliable locomotion could ease the creation of small robots and their deployment in unfamiliar terrain. The paper describing the project is published in IEEE Access.

These hackers put together a prosthetic Nerf gun

How can you participate in a Nerf gun fight if you’re missing a hand? The ingenious Hackerloop collective of tinkerers solved that problem by putting together a prosthetic Nerf gun that you can control with your arm muscles.

In other words, Nicolas Huchet became Barret Wallace from Final Fantasy VII for a day. And here’s what it looks like:

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Let’s look at the device more closely. In particular, Hackerloop had to find a way to replace the trigger on the Nerf gun with another firing gesture.

The base gun is a Swarmfire Nerf blaster without the handle. Thanks to some 3D printing, Huchet could wear the device as a prosthetic extension of his right arm — it’s a custom-made casing.

The Nerf gun is then connected to an Arduino-like microcontroller that activates the gun on demand. And finally, Huet is wearing three electrodes near his elbow. If he contracts his muscle, the electrodes send the electrical activity to the microcontroller.

If the voltage reaches a certain level, the microcontroller fires the Nerf gun. And of course, Huchet played around with it in the streets of Paris. Pretty neat!

In the past, Hackerloop has worked on other creative hacks. The team built a replica of the house in “Up” using paper and foam and sent it above Paris to post photos on Instagram using a Raspberry Pi.

They also worked on the Nosulus Rift, a VR fart simulator to promote Ubisoft’s South Park game (The Fractured But Whole). Every time you fart in the video game, the Nosulus Rift emits a farting smell.

I tried it myself and it really stinks.