hardware

U.S. companies banned from selling components to ZTE

This time last year, Chinese electronics giant ZTE pled guilty to violating sanctions on Iran and North Korea. This morning, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced a seven-year export restriction for the company, resulting in a ban on U.S. component makers selling to ZTE.  The company’s initial guilty plea was met with up to $1.2 billion penalties and fines, along with the dismissal of four senior employees, along with more fallout for lower level employees. As part of the initial agreement, ZTE was allowed to continue to work with U.S. companies, assuming it adhered to the rules laid out in the agreement. The DOC, however, contends that ZTE failed to significantly penalize those employees. “ZTE made false statements to the U.S. Government when they were originally caught and put on the...

Are hardware makers doing enough to keep Android phones secure?

For all the good of Android’s open-source approach, one of the clear and consistent downsides is that the onus to issue software updates falls on the manufacturer. That can mean frustration for those waiting for the latest and greatest feature updates — and in some cases, it can put your phone at risk with delayed or missed security updates. A pair of researchers at Security Research Labs recently shared a study with Wired highlighting some of these risks. The team’s findings are the result of testing 1,200 Android handsets from all the major manufacturers over the course of two years, examining whether manufacturers had offered the security patches as advertised. According to SRL, missed security patches were discovered on a wide range of different handsets across manufacturers. Sony and ...

Conserve the Sound is an archive of noises from old tape players, projectors and other dying tech

All of us grew up around tech different from what we have today, and many of us look back on those devices with fondness. But can you recall the exact sound your first Casio keyboard made, or the cadence of a rotary phone’s clicks? Conserve the Sound aims to, well, conserve the sound of gadgets like these so that future generations will know what it sounded like to put a cartridge in the NES. It’s actually quite an old project at this point, having been funded first in 2013, but its collection has grown to a considerable size. The money came from German art institution Film & Medienstiftung NRW; the site was created (and is maintained) by creative house Chunderksen. The whole thing is suitably minimal, much like an actual museum: You find objects either by browsing randomly or by findi...

Massterly aims to be the first full-service autonomous marine shipping company

Logistics may not be the most exciting application of autonomous vehicles, but it’s definitely one of the most important. And the marine shipping industry — one of the oldest industries in the world, you can imagine — is ready for it. Or at least two major Norwegian shipping companies are: they’re building an autonomous shipping venture called Massterly from the ground up. “Massterly” isn’t just a pun on mass; “Maritime Autonomous Surface Ship” is the term Wilhelmson and Kongsberg coined to describe the self-captaining boats that will ply the seas of tomorrow. These companies, with “a combined 360 years of experience” as their video put it, are trying to get the jump on the next phase of shipping, starting with creating the world’s first fully electric and autonomous container ship, the Ya...

Under a millimeter wide and powered by light, these tiny cameras could hide almost anywhere

As if there weren’t already cameras enough in this world, researchers created a new type that is both microscopic and self-powered, making it possible to embed just about anywhere and have it work perpetually. It’s undoubtedly cool technology, but it’s probably also going to cause a spike in tinfoil sales. Engineers have previously investigated the possibility of having a camera sensor power itself with the same light that falls on it. After all, it’s basically just two different functions of a photovoltaic cell — one stores the energy that falls on it while the other records how much energy fell on it. The problem is that if you have a cell doing one thing, it can’t do the other. So if you want to have a sensor of a certain size, you have to dedicate a certain amount of that real estate t...

MIT’s new headset reads the ‘words in your head’

There’s always been a glaring issue with voice computing: Talking to a voice assistant with other people around makes you feel like a bit of a weirdo. It’s a big part of the reason we’ve been seeing the technology start to take off in the home, where people feel a little less self-conscious talking to their machines. The advent of some sort of nonverbal device that gets the job done in a similar way, but without the talking, is a kind of inevitability. A team at MIT has been working on just such a device, though the hardware design, admittedly, doesn’t go too far toward removing that whole self-consciousness bit from the equation. AlterEgo is a headmounted — or, more properly, jaw-mounted — device that’s capable of reading neuromuscular signals through built-in electrodes. The hardware, as...

Amazon opens Echo Button games to developers

Echo Buttons are one of the stranger bits of hardware to come out of the Amazon labs in recent memory. Announced alongside the latest Echos, the little light up devices are designed to bring interactive game play to the Alexa Echo system. The company’s already announced a handful of compatible titles, and it seems that list is about to get a bit longer, as it opens up a beta version of the Gadgets Skill API for the hardware. Developers can platform to associate button presses with different skills and send light up animation to the hardware. A preview version of the API lead to the development of a number of experiences for the two for $20 peripherals, including light up playback of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Trivial Pursuit from Hasbro. The selections are nothing...

NASA grants Lockheed Martin $248M contract to develop a quieter supersonic jet

The Concorde was a generation ago, yet its legend persists — and the dream of supersonic flight may be returning. NASA and Lockheed Martin are taking concrete steps toward the creation of jets that travel faster than the speed of sound but are “about as loud as a car door closing.” NASA announced today that it has awarded Lockheed a juicy $247.5 contract to produce a single “X-plane,” or experimental plane, meeting certain requirements by the end of 2021. The company created a preliminary design under a previous contract. Much of the engineering is up to Lockheed, of course, but in the end the single-pilot craft will travel at some 940 MPH at high altitude — 55,000 feet — and produce around 75 perceived decibels (compared with the Concorde’s 90) at ground level. Of course it will be louder...

Alexa’s routines can now play music, podcasts and radio shows

Alexa’s routines are getting a musical upgrade. First launched last year, routines allow Alexa device owners to string together a series of actions that kick off with a simple command — like “good morning” or “I’m home,” for example. Until today, the feature included support for news, weather, traffic, smart home skills, as well as, more recently, a set of “Alexa says” commands that let you add a little personality to a given routine. Starting today, Alexa can play your favorite music, podcast or radio show in a routine, too. To use the feature, you’ll select an artist, playlist, album or station from your music library or one of the supported streaming services. Currently, the supported services are those that already work with Alexa — Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Saavn, D...

China’s 9-ton Tiangong-1 space station will burn up tonight, but no one knows quite where

What goes up must come down. That’s generally the rule, anyway, certainly for spacecraft that have fulfilled their purpose and have no way to stay in orbit. Such is the case of Tiangong-1, China’s first space station, which after nearly 7 years in space is making an uncontrolled descent and should provide a nice fiery light show in the skies over… somewhere. Because there are so many unknowns about Tiangong-1’s trajectory, observers can only give an educated guess. The only thing they’re pretty sure about is that it’s going to drop some time in the next 24 hours — probably sometime tonight, and somewhere between 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south. But owing to the speeds involved and the inherently unpredictable nature of how a large body will tumble through the atmosphere, the exact ti...

DARPA wants new ideas for autonomous drone swarms

The Defense Department’s research wing is serious about putting drones into action, not just one by one but in coordinated swarms. The Offensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics program is kicking off its second “sprint,” a period of solicitation and rapid prototyping of systems based around a central theme. This spring sprint is all about “autonomy.” The idea is to collect lots of ideas on how new technology, be it sensors, software, or better propeller blades, can enhance the ability of drones to coordinate and operate as a collective. Specifically, swarms of 50 will need to “isolate an urban objective” within half an hour or so by working together with each other and ground-based robot. That at least is the “operational backdrop” that should guide prospective entrants in their decision whether the...

Chinese police foil drone-flying phone smugglers at Hong Kong border

Dozens of high-tech phone smugglers have been apprehended by Chinese police, who twigged to the scheme to send refurbished iPhones into the country from Hong Kong via drone — but not the way you might think. China’s Legal Daily reported the news (and Reuters noted shortly after) following a police press conference; it’s apparently the first cross-border drone-based smuggling case, so likely of considerable interest. Although the methods used by the smugglers aren’t described, a picture emerges from the details. Critically, in addition to the drones themselves, which look like DJI models with dark coverings, police collected some long wires — more than 600 feet long. Small packages of 10 or so phones were sent one at a time, and it only took “seconds” to get them over the border. That prett...