Category Archives: Tech News
The Science Is Clear: Dirty Farm Water Is Making Us Sick


Lettuce contaminated with pathogens have sickened and killed people. But the FDA has shelved Obama-era plans to test the culprit: farms’ irrigation water.


Epic is removing ‘embarrassing’ breast animations from Fortnite

Early this morning Epic Games launched the much-anticipated sixth season of Fortnite, which added a number of features to the game — but not all of them were welcome.

As first noted by Fortnite streamer “Agony,” the update featured elaborate breast animations for the new “Calamity” avatar. It appears that the animations only show up when the avatar emotes in its default skin. In a statement to The Verge, an Epic spokesperson said that “This is unintended, embarrassing, and it was careless for us to let this ship. We are working now to fix this as soon as possible.”

The most important thing in the Season 6 update

— FaZe Agony (@Agony) September 27, 2018

It’s unclear how an “embarrassing” addition like this…

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Remembering Telltale Games

<em>The Walking Dead.</em>

Six years ago, on a cold November day, I was forced to make the most difficult decision a video game had ever presented me with. I was playing the fifth and final episode of The Walking Dead’s debut season, and though I had long predicted how things would play out, it didn’t make it any easier when the moment arrived. A beloved character was beginning to turn into an undead monster, and he wanted me to kill him. All I had to do was press a button — but I labored over the decision, unsure about how actually killing someone, even someone about the become a zombie, would affect me. Eventually, I pulled the trigger, but it wasn’t easy. Six years later, I still think about it.

This was the power of Telltale’s unique and distinct take on…

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Amazon updates the Echo Plus so it can control the smart home when the internet goes down

Amazon today is giving its premium smart home-ready Echo Plus device a notable update. The device, which includes a smart home hub built into the Echo, is now getting a new fabric design, and a temperature sensor. However, what’s more interesting is the addition something Amazon calls “local voice control.” What this means is that if the internet goes down, you’ll still be able to use Alexa to control your smart home devices.

As the company explained this morning at an event in Seattle, a hub that works with a cloud-based system can often run into trouble when internet access becomes spotty or unavailable. So what the company did to address this is build in a new capability, local voice control, that takes the best of its natural language understanding and its automatic speech recognition, and runs it all locally on the device.

So when the internet goes down – and Amazon says it’s starting with the smart home capabilities here, when it comes to local voice control – you can still say “Alexa, turn on the lights” or “Alexa, turn on the plug,” and  it’ll work. This feature will get  better over time as the devices add more local control more capabilities, the company noted.

Meanwhile, the temperature sensor feature will allow Alexa owners to add temperatures into their routines. For example, if the room gets too chilly, Alexa can tell you.

The updated version of the Echo Plus will still remain $149 and it will be shipping in every country that Alexa is in today.

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Puppies spread antibiotic-resistant bacteria in recent diarrhea outbreak

Puppy poop gave 118 people diarrhea in a recent outbreak of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Nobody died, but 26 people were hospitalized. And if the pet industry doesn’t change its puppy-peddling ways, these outbreaks could continue.

The CDC was first clued into the outbreak in August 2017, when the Florida Department of Health reported that six people had been infected with a type of bacteria that causes fevers, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. By February 2018, the CDC discovered that more than 118 people in 18 states had been infected with the same thing: a bacteria called Campylobacter that’s usually linked to eating raw chicken or food contaminated by chicken juices.

This time,…

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PlayStation Classic and original PlayStation, side by side

DngcIgBU0AEUQB2-wm.jpgAt the Tokyo Game Show Sony showed off its PlayStation Classic system for the first time in person. Engadget Japan editor Ei Ito said it wasn’t playable so we don’t know if this is just a mockup or the real thing, but it is sitting next to one of the…


Amazon could open 3,000 cashierless Go stores by 2021

dims?crop=5363%2C3540%2C0%2C0&quality=85Amazon now has four of its Go stores up and running — three in Seattle and one in Chicago — with at least one on the way in New York. And while we’ve heard that there are plans for San Francisco as well, that apparently is just the beginning, becau…


Google will match up to $1M in donations for Hurricane Florence relief

As cities in Hurricane Florence’s path deal with its aftermath, Google will match up to $1 million in donations to help with relief efforts.

The disaster’s death toll is currently 35 people and about 343,000 people in North Carolina are without electricity. The hurricane caused widespread flooding and property damage throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.


Google drew attention to its Hurricane Florence donation campaign with a banner that appeared on top of Gmail for some users. Google has matched donations for other disasters before, including Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey last year. It’s also raised money for humanitarian efforts crises, like a 2015 matching program for up to $5.5 million in donations to provide aid to refugees in Europe. For that campaign, it temporarily added a “Donate” button to its search homepage.

The company is partnering with non-profit Network for God to collect and distribute funds. All donations will be directed to the American Red Cross, which Google said it chose to work with “because of their strong track record and existing response in the region.”

Other tech companies helping with Hurricane Florence relief include Amazon, which enabled Alexa users to make donations by saying “Alexa, donate to Hurricane Florence disaster relief” and sent trucks with food and donated items to affected areas, and Apple, which donated $1 million to the American Red Cross. Airbnb also offered free rooms to people fleeing the hurricane.


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This tech (scarily) lets video change reality

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have created a method to turn one video into the style of another. While this might be a little unclear at first, take a look at the video below. In it, the researchers have taken an entire clip from John Oliver and made it look like Stephen Colbert said it. Further, they were able to mimic the motion of a flower opening with another flower.

In short, they can make anyone (or anything) look like they are doing something they never did.

“I think there are a lot of stories to be told,” said CMU Ph.D. student Aayush Bansal. He and the team created the tool to make it easier to shoot complex films, perhaps by replacing the motion in simple, well-lit scenes and copying it into an entirely different style or environment.

“It’s a tool for the artist that gives them an initial model that they can then improve,” he said.

The system uses something called generative adversarial networks (GANs) to move one style of image onto another without much matching data. GANs, however, create many artifacts that can mess up the video as it is played.

In a GAN, two models are created: a discriminator that learns to detect what is consistent with the style of one image or video, and a generator that learns how to create images or videos that match a certain style. When the two work competitively — the generator trying to trick the discriminator and the discriminator scoring the effectiveness of the generator — the system eventually learns how content can be transformed into a certain style.

The researchers created something called Recycle-GAN that reduces the imperfections by “not only spatial, but temporal information.”

“This additional information, accounting for changes over time, further constrains the process and produces better results,” wrote the researchers.

Recycle-GAN can obviously be used to create so-called Deepfakes, allowing for nefarious folks to simulate someone saying or doing something they never did. Bansal and his team are aware of the problem.

“It was an eye opener to all of us in the field that such fakes would be created and have such an impact. Finding ways to detect them will be important moving forward,” said Bansal.

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Calif. safety tests pass moldy marijuana but fail ~20% of products overall
Article intro image

Enlarge / Mold growth on cannabis. (credit: Getty | OlegMalyshev)

Almost 20 percent of marijuana products in California have failed the state’s new safety-testing standards for contamination and labeling accuracy, the Associated Press reports.

While growers argue that the standards are too strict, costly, and inconsistent, some testing experts say the standards don’t go far enough to adequately catch fungal contamination that would otherwise be found in routine drug and food testing.

California now has the country’s largest legal market of marijuana products. Since testing regulations went into full swing there on July 1, labs have examined nearly 11,000 batches of products ranging from buds to oils and edibles. About 2,000 products failed the tests. Of those, about 65 percent of failures were down to labeling and potency issues. The concentration of the psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in any given product must be within 10 percent of what is listed on the label to pass the test, for instance.

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