Top Stories for the Week of November 11, 2014

  • Episode 373
  • November 11, 2014
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Tuesday November 11, 2014


Augmented reality for blind people could help them get around without the help of a guide dog, thanks to a new technology being tested by Microsoft.

Microsoft is helping blind people "see" using 3D audio technology.

For millions of blind and visually-impaired people, venturing out of the house can be a dangerous and daunting task. Microsoft is aiming to change this with 3D Audio technology and a smart headset the software giant is trialling in the UK.

Microsoft’s system works by creating a 3D-soundscape of audio that’s transmitted through your jaw bone. You wear a bone conduction headset that pairs to a smartphone that can pick up nearby beacons and guide you around. The bone conduction here is key, as it means you can still hold conversations with people or hear the environment around you because you’re not wearing headphones that cover your ears, which is crucial if you’re visually impaired and rely on sound as a primary sense. Microsoft has created a clever system of audio cues for nearby stores, points of interest, and journey details, alongside regular GPS instructions and a unique audio ping that keeps you straight on track when you’re navigating.

Microsoft’s headset is designed to tackle these challenges with technology that won’t cost $80,000 — the lifetime price tag of a guide dog. It won’t replace a guide dog or a white cane, but it might just lower the costs and complexity of navigating cities if you’re visually impaired. 90 percent of the world’s visually impaired live in low-income settings, according to the World Health Organization. Inexpensive technology is badly-needed and Microsoft recognizes that a simple headset could be the answer.

The headset is calibrated by first scanning your entire face and head with Kinect, producing a map for the system to improve the accuracy of the headset and tailor it to your own dimensions. It’s all driven using gestures from a smartphone app that plays back audio menus straight "into" your ears. You simply tap and hold and slide or drag around to navigate, with each move accompanied by a subtle vibration from the handset and the menu item read back to you. If you’re on a train or a bus it will tell you when you’re about to reach a station or stop using GPS or nearby beacons, but it’s blindly walking around environments where it’s especially impressive.

The real magic of this system is the 3D audio technology that gives you a real sense of direction. One feature on the headset allows you to push a button and hear a list of nearby places of interest. They’re processed through the headset dependant on the direction you’re facing so that when a store is read aloud you’ll be able to hear the direction of where it’s located. That might be in the rear left or out in front, but the audio gives you a clear sense of where that store is along a route through just sound alone.

We've received no word yet on the release date or cost of the peripheral, but the prototype is quite impressive.


Home Depot has revealed that the hack attack earlier this year leaked not just credit card and debit card information, but also email addresses of their customers.

The Home Depot hack that happened earlier this year also leaked around 53 million email addresses.

US retail giant Home Depot says hackers who stole payment-card details of millions of customers also stole 53 million email addresses.

It said hackers accessed its network with a vendor's username and password between April and September.

The company had previously revealed that 56 million debit and credit card details were also stolen in the hack.

Analysts say it is one of the largest data breaches on record, surpassing a similar incident at retailer Target.

Home Depot insisted on Thursday that the file containing the email addresses did not contain passwords or other sensitive personal information.

But it warned customers to be on guard against further phishing scams that might trick them into sharing personal information.


Police in Germany are clamping down on movie and music piracy and have raided over a hundred homes.

German police have raided over a hundred homes to clamp down on piracy.

More than 400 police officers in Germany have taken part in a nationwide clampdown against piracy, Cologne's Public Prosecutor has announced.

They searched 121 apartments across 14 states in the hunt for people sharing music and films illegally online.

Officials targeted members of a file-sharing forum called Boerse, who the prosecutor says have uploaded movies, music, software and e-books.

The German police said some of the suspects in the latest raid were willing to cooperate.

They added, "The investigating authorities are hoping to gain further insights into the piracy scene on the evaluation of the evidence".


Thinking about buying that 3D TV this Christmas season? A French health watchdog is warning of the impact of 3D technology on developing eyes.

A French health watchdog is warning against the use of 3D technology by children 6 and under.

A French health watchdog has recommended that children under the age of six should not be allowed access to 3D content.

The Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (Anses) added that access for those up to the age of 13 should be "moderate".

It follows research into the possible impact of 3D imaging on still-developing eyes.

Few countries currently have guidelines about 3D usage.

According to Anses, the process of assimilating a three-dimensional effect requires the eyes to look at images in two different places at the same time before the brain translates it as one image.

They said in a statement, "In children, and particularly before the age of six, the health effects of this vergence-accommodation conflict could be much more severe given the active development of the visual system at this time".


President Obama made a statement yesterday in support of Net Neutrality, and while it may be upsetting to Internet Service Providers and large companies, it will level the playing field for the average user.

US President Barack Obama wants to keep the Internet Open and Free (as in freedom)

President Barack Obama wants to reclassify the internet as a utility, he said in a new statement released by the White House yesterday.

That would allow the Federal Communications Committee to enforce heavier restrictions on it and protect net neutrality.

The President said, "The time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do".

Obama is officially supporting net neutrality, writing that internet service providers should not be allowed to control or "pick winners and losers" in the online marketplace.

In his statement, President Obama outlined rules for an Internet where ISP's could not block legal content, throttle services, or offer paid prioritization of service.


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