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Top Stories for the Week of October 9, 2019

  • Episode 628
  • October 9, 2019

Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday October 9, 2019

PayPal has dropped out of the alliance that is trying to launch Facebook's digital currency Libra.

PayPal has dropped out of the alliance that is trying to launch Facebook's digital currency Libra.

PayPal made the announcement in a statement on Friday, but did not specify what had prompted the decision.

Libra, and its digital wallet Calibra, were revealed by Facebook in June.

But the cryptocurrency has been criticised by regulators, and both France and Germany have pledged to block it from Europe.

PayPal said it "[remained] supportive of Libra's aspirations" but had chosen to focus on its own core businesses.

The firm was one of the original members of the Libra Association, a group of 28 companies and non-profits helping to develop Libra. Its other members include payments company Visa, ride-hailing app Uber and humanitarian charity Mercy Corps.

In response to PayPal's withdrawal, Libra Association said it was aware that attempts to "reconfigure the financial system" would be hard.

"Commitment to that mission is more important to us than anything else," it said in a statement. "We're better off knowing about this lack of commitment now."

At its unveiling this year, Facebook said people would be able to make payments with the currency via its own apps, as well as on messaging service WhatsApp. Partner firms would also be able to accept Libra for transactions.

Facebook said Libra would be independently-managed and backed by real assets, and that paying with it would be as easy as texting.

The Group of Seven advanced economies warned in July that it would not let Libra proceed until all regulatory concerns had been addressed.

Central bank chiefs, including the UK's Mark Carney, have also voiced scepticism, and US President Donald Trump has tweeted he is "not a fan" of the currency.

The Libra Association will hold the first meeting of its governing body - the Libra Council - on 14 October.

The group said in a tweet that it planned to share updates soon afterwards about "1,500 entities that have indicated enthusiastic interest to participate".


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

A man has been able to move all four of his paralysed limbs with a mind-controlled exoskeleton suit.

A man has been able to move all four of his paralysed limbs with a mind-controlled exoskeleton suit.

Thibault, who does not want his surname revealed, was an optician before he fell 15m in an incident at a night club four years ago.

He says taking his first steps in an experimental exoskeleton suit felt like being the "first man on the Moon".

His movements, particularly walking, are far from perfect and the robo-suit is being used only in the lab.

But researchers say the approach could one day improve patients' quality of life.

Thibault had surgery to place two implants on the surface of the brain, covering the parts of the brain that control movement.

Sixty-four electrodes on each implant read the brain activity and beam the instructions to a nearby computer.

Sophisticated computer software then reads the brainwaves and turns them into instructions for controlling the exoskeleton.

The injury to his spinal cord left him paralyzed and he spent the next two years in hospital.

But in 2017, he took part in the exoskeleton trial with Clinatec and the University of Grenoble.

Initially he practiced using the brain implants to control a virtual character, or avatar, in a computer game, then he moved on to walking in the suit.

After two years of not walking, he says he'd actually forgotten how to walk, and even lost the perception that he was taller than a lot of the people in the room. While he quickly took to controlling the exoskeleton's ability to walk, it took a lot longer to learn how to control the arms. He says, "It was very difficult because it is a combination of multiple muscles and movements. This is the most impressive thing I do with the exoskeleton."

Thibault does need to be attached to a ceiling-harness in order to minimise the risk of him falling over in the exoskeleton - it means the device is not yet ready to move outside the laboratory.

There are also plans to develop finger control to allow Thibault to pick up and move objects. But the researchers have to be careful how much data they transmit from the brain to the computer. They have 350 milliseconds to go from thought to movement otherwise the system becomes difficult to control. There is the future potential to read the brain in more detail using more powerful computers and AI to interpret the information from the brain, and the team responsible are keen to continue developing the technology.

Using the sensors, Thibault has also used the implant to control a wheelchair.

According to the researchers, their motivation is entirely medical, in providing mobility to patients who otherwise would be unable to move.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

No, WE"RE not early to the April Fools jokes of 2020. Microsoft is really making a new mobile phone that has two screens, and runs Android.

In what serves to confirm we are currently living in the end times, Microsoft has made a new mobile phone that has two screens, and runs Android.

It would appear Microsoft itself is learning that if at first you don't succeed, there's always Linux!

They've announced a forthcoming Android Surface Phone Duo at their annual hardware event, among other dual-screen Qualcomm and AMD-powered goodies.

There is a huge catch: you'll have to wait until Christmas 2020 if you want one of your own.

Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Fold, Microsoft's attempt at a folding fondleslab is quite clearly two screens, with a chunky 360-degree hinge in the middle, allowing the displays to be positioned however you want: as a small tablet, as a closed-up device, half open as a book, or fully open as a large flat tablet.

Those touchscreens are each 5.6-inch units, making an 8.3-inch display when opened up fully. While the separate screens will be scoffed at by owners of Samsung and Huawei's forthcoming foldable devices which use one large continuous bendable display, the Surface monitors should at least be more durable than the disastrous first attempt by Samsung.

Surface enthusiast-in-chief Panos Panay says the company is "partnering with Google to bring the best of Android." This comes after Microsoft extracted billions of dollars in patent royalty payments out of Android makers, until recently, and is about to finally bring the axe down on its family of mobile Windows operating systems. And this is Android powered by Linux, the open-source kernel that Redmond now apparently loves after earlier declaring it a cancer. Quite a turnaround.

Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds said back in 1998, "If Microsoft ever does applications for Linux it means I've won."

Well, Linux... You've won.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Canada’s busiest airport will soon be using artificial intelligence-powered technology to detect weapons.

Canada’s busiest airport will soon be using artificial intelligence-powered technology to detect weapons.

The operator of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport says it has agreed to test the new system developed at an Ivy League American university and marketed by a B.C. company.

Vancouver-based Liberty Defense Holdings Ltd. says the technology, known as Hexwave, can detect both metallic and non-metallic weapons ranging from guns and knives to explosives.

It operates by capturing radar images, then using artificial intelligence to analyze those images for signs of a weapon concealed in bags or under clothing.

Liberty says the technology is not able to recognize facial features and therefore does not pose a privacy risk, a position experts in the field view with some skepticism.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority, which operates Pearson, says it will start deploying the technology in the spring of 2020 in a bid to boost security.

Dwayne MacIntosh, director of corporate safety and security for the authority, said "They were trying something that could give us a more definitive look at weapons and plastic explosives that may be coming into airports. When I saw this opportunity, I felt that we had to be part of it."

MacIntosh said exact plans for the pilot project are still underway, but said Hexwave units will be deployed just outside airport terminals in order to pick up on potential threats before they get inside.

One of the system’s benefits, he said, is that it can be integrated with other airport security features and trigger responses based on what it picks up. Detection of certain weapons, for instance, could automatically trigger doors to lock or sound specific alarms.

Pearson airport is not the only location — the Metro Toronto Convention Centre has also signed on as a test site.


Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson



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