Walmart’s New AI-Camera Technology Can Prevent Theft at Checkout

Image Source: iStock.com/artran

Computer vision technology has been implemented in over 1,000 Walmart stores. This type of technology is called the Missed Scan Detection which helps checkout registers recognize if items have passed by the scanner without being scanned and immediately notifies the attendant. Walmart’s surveillance system is being upgraded by applying this new technology at their kiosk stations and their registers. 

AI is surely becoming a part of our everyday lives as large retailers like Walmart begin to rely on these systems for daily operations. The ultimate goal of computer vision technology is to prevent revenue loss and theft, which, in 2017, turned out to be a big problem for many U.S. retailers who lost up to $47 billion. Since the system was installed, Walmart stated that they have had decreased theft, losses, and errors.

Walmart hasn’t been the only large retailer to use AI. Amazon has been investing in Artificial Intelligence as well, however, the approach is a little different. They have produced a smooth and cashier-less experience for their customers in their own Go stores. 

Aside from it’s anti-theft technology, Walmart also recently opened an AI-powered store to supervise their large inventory. This makes it easier for employees to keep track of when stocks are running low and order items on time before supply runs out.

iOS 13 Features iPhone Users Can Look Forward To

Image Source: Apple.com

This year’s WWDC Conference showcased Apple’s newest features for the upcoming iOS 13 update set for release this Fall. A bunch of new tools are on the way, including a dark mode, swipe-able keyboard for easy texting, photos application redesign and plenty more.

Here are some updates all iPhone users can look forward to with the new iOS 13 software:

DARK MODE

One exciting feature – dark mode for iPhone – will allow users to switch to a visually appealing dark aesthetic that’ll be great for using your phone during nighttime. Dark mode appears to be implemented across the entire iOS system as demonstrated in apps such as music, photos, maps, and calendar.

Image Source: Apple.com

SWIPE-TO-TEXT KEYBOARD

iPhone users are well aware that swiping for text writing was essentially nonexistent…until now. Apple unveiled the swipe-able keyboard, calling it “QuickPath Typing”, which is said to work just as well as regular keyboard tapping. The QuickPath typing feature also comes with spelling suggestions as well.

Image Source: Apple.com

PHOTOS AND CAMERA APPLICATIONS

Apple’s iOS update also brings new features of photo editing to its photos application, allowing iPhone users to change light intensity in portrait lighting, for example. Other editing features include vignette, vibrance, and noise reduction. Users can also change video orientation if a video was shot incorrectly.

Photos will also organize your images in a more easy-to-find design: by sorting photos by year, month, and date. As you scroll through your photos, live photo captures and videos also play.

FIND MY

Apple has combined two of its applications – Find My Friends and Find My Phone – into its new application named Find My. If a user loses his/her offline device, a secure Bluetooth beacon may be used to locate a missing or stolen phone.

SIGN IN WITH APPLE

Apple is adding a privacy feature – Sign-in with Apple – for apps that ask you to log in using an account. The purpose of this feature is to block any third party applications from accessing or tracking user data. Authentication of user credentials during app logins will be done through Face ID check through using Sign-in with Apple. Users also have the option of hiding their email address and instead using Apple’s randomly generated email that will forward information to your actual email address, thereby limiting any application’s access to your real email.

Apple also added a feature to block location tracking via WiFi and Bluetooth.

SIRI VOICE UPDATE

The newest iOS promises a more natural sounding Siri voice assistant, as Apple has used AI to smooth out Siri’s voice responses with less speech gaps.

To view more iOS 13 features, check out Apple’s iOS 13 preview page here.

Augmented Reality Tech is Coming to Google Search

Google’s I/O developer conference had some interesting technological reveals this week, one of them including Augmented Reality technology that will be brought to Google Search.

During the conference, Google demonstrated different examples of how the new search function would operate. For instance, if a user were to search “great white shark”, an option to use your camera for a 3D model will be available for a more immersive experience. 3D objects can be viewed in your own space to give a sense of what the object would look like in detail.

Image Source: TechCrunch via Google; Image showing AR of human muscular system

Google CEO Sundar Pichai explained that the company’s “goal is to build a more helpful Google for everyone,” and to help “[get] things done.”

Brands may also be able to take advantage of the AR search experience by providing a digital view of products for consumers. The AR search result could help unsure consumers in making a decision to purchase a particular product when previewing it in better detail.

There is no word on how many 3D models will be available to users or whether other publishers can contribute to the AR search with their own models.

The new AR features are expected to roll out by the end of this month according to a twitter post by Google.

NatWest Launches Fingerprint Scanning Debit Card Trial in UK

Image Source: NatWest

NatWest – a bank located in the UK – is making debit card payment safer and simpler through use of a fingerprint scanner on their new NFC payment cards. The trial run allows 200 customers to begin utilizing the cards in order to make “contactless” payments, in which no signature or pin is required – just a tap on the card reading terminal.

While consumers in the UK can already make purchases using this method (with a £30 minimum), expensive purchases still require one to input their PIN after the card has been inserted into the card reading machine.

What makes the card safe to use is how user information is not stored within a bank database that could potentially be breached. Rather, the biometric data from one’s fingerprint is kept on the card itself which acts as a better defense against thieves potentially stealing financial assets through PIN access.

In order to activate the card, customers must visit a NatWest branch. NatWest’s new cards use Gemalto’s biometric technology that has been tested in the past in both 2017 and 2018. Such trials done in the past year also required customers to activate the card through visiting their local bank – a process that can slow down use of the card when consumers can’t activate it from the comfort of their home. In the future, Gemalto hopes to make this process easier.

With the implementation of Apple Pay or Google Pay and Face ID to make purchases, it seems redundant that fingerprint scanning cards are made available for use. However, with this technology, consumers without modern smartphones can engage in making quicker and safer purchases as well.

The AI Tech Mastermind Behind “ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com” is Now Creating Fake Animals and Home Listings

Image Source: BBC

ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com creates pictures of human faces who look like everyday people that we come across. However, as the website domain so explains: these people do not exist. All the faces on the website are 100% fake and are completely computer-generated. To create these faces, the website uses a GAN, or generative adversarial network.

The Next Web states that GAN uses two methods that work against one another – the judge and generator. The generator’s task involves misleading the judge into thinking a generated photo is legitimate. If the judge is fooled by the generator, a developer takes a look at the coding algorithm. The GAN steps in to tell us when the generator is favorable. This website uses a certain type of method, StyleGAN – created by an Artificial Intelligence company, Nvidia –  to generate thousands of fake faces, each individually shown through every refresh page button press.

StyleGAN has now expanded into websites that generate fake cats (TheseCatsDoNotExist.com), fabricated anime characters (ThisWaifuDoesNotExist.net), and phony Airbnb listings (ThisAirbnbDoesNotExist.com). One of the website developers explained that the reasoning behind these fruitless websites is to show people how easily they can be convinced into believing something that is not real. Websites like these could now be used to fabricate nearly anything, whether it’s a bogus news story or if it’s a nonexistent person.

Chris Schmidt, owner of ThisAirbnbDoesNotExist.com, stated,This means that just about anyone with a couple hours to kill could create something just as compelling as I did…[AI is] now sufficiently advanced that they can often fool folks, especially if they’re not looking very hard.”

FedEx Robots May Deliver Packages Within the Same Day This Summer

This Summer, FedEx is planning to deliver packages with the help of robotic technology! Appropriately named the SameDay Bot, FedEx’s delivery on small wheels is essentially created to get consumer packages out in a more conveniently timed fashion, with last-minute deliveries a likely possibility.

With strategically placed cameras and sensors, the SameDay Bot is designed to handle small deliveries while navigating on roadsides and sidewalks. FedEx Executive VP and Marketing and Communications Manager Brie Carere commented on how “[t]he [bot] is an innovation designed to change the face of local delivery and help retailers efficiently address their customers’ rising expectations.”

The SameDay Bot is set to be tested in its hometown of Memphis, Tennessee this summer. Companies such as Walmart, Walgreens, Lowe’s, Target, and Pizza Hut are all partners supporting the project on its launch.

Robotic delivery methods have been a prospective project for many companies, including Kiwi Campus – launched for delivering food to University of California, Berkeley students – or Nuro which partnered with Kroger to deliver groceries, along with many more.

This adopted method of delivery offers a promising look into how our future packages may arrive on our doorsteps, ultimately providing a quick and convenient solution to meet growing consumer needs.

Foldable iPhones Could Be Apple’s Next Project

Apple’s recently published patent application has sparked some interest from iPhone enthusiasts. The patent images reveal blueprint images of an iPhone drawn with a folding mechanism concept. Apple’s patented design was filed last October, and while there is no official announcement of a foldable iPhone in the making, the patent’s images reveal that the company has also been thinking of its own take on the folding phone trend.

Image Source: Apple

Foldable phones have been a project many companies have been undertaking, such as Royole and their Flexpai phone, Xiaomi with their double folding prototype, and the recently released Samsung Galaxy Fold that’ll cost consumers a hefty price of $1980.

In a series of images provided within the published patent, Apple’s folding design relies upon use of hinge mechanisms either allowing the depicted device to fold in half or in thirds. Apple’s patent states how “[i]t would be desirable to be able to use [the] flexible display technology to provide improved electronic devices.”

This released patent information indicates that perhaps foldable iPhones may indeed be a device in development, although Apple has yet to confirm this. Back in March of 2018, CNBC had released a report that revealed how Apple was planning on releasing its own foldable phone in 2020.

Well-Known iPhone Apps Record Your Phone Screen Without Your Knowledge

Recent investigative reporting through TechCrunch revealed that a third-party application–Glassbox–has been assisting companies in collecting screen sessions (i.e. recording your screen) from users’ iPhones without their consent. This “session replaying” is essentially programmed into the application one uses on their mobile device, and can record your every press and swipe, even taking screenshots of what you’ve engaged with on the mobile app.

Travel sites such as Air Canada or booking sites like Expedia and Hotels.com are all guilty of utilizing Glassbox–a finding that is alarming considering the fact that such sites have users input personal and financial information during ticket or booking reservation purchases.

TechCrunch also revealed how such sites failed to mention the technology used for screen recording in their privacy policies. Neither of the apps also ask for user consent in collecting screen sessions. TechCrunch’s investigation stems from the App Analyst’s discovery on Air Canada’s Glassbox use. As no information is disclosed to these application users, who is to say that other apps–both within iOS and Android–are not engaging in similar practices?

What is interesting–and particularly scary–to see is how session replay data is not masked, as sensitive information inputted by the user is susceptible to an interception cyber attack. In the previous year, Air Canada had suffered a data breach of its own mobile application, which exposed 20,000 users’ passport information.

Glassbox provided comment to The Verge:

“TechCrunch’s piece was interesting but also misleading. Glassbox and its customers are not interested in ‘spying’ on consumers,” the company said. “Our goals are to improve online customer experiences and to protect consumers from a compliance perspective. Since its inception, Glassbox has helped organizations improve millions of customer experiences by providing tools that record and analyze user activity on web sites and apps. This information helps companies better understand how consumers are using their services, and where and why they are struggling.

We are strong supporters of user privacy and security. Glassbox provides its customers with the tools to mask every element of personal data. We firmly believe that our customers should have clear policies in place so that consumers are aware that their data is being recorded — just as contact centers inform users that their calls are being recorded.”

Robot Arm Created by MIT Researchers Learns How to Play Jenga

Image Source: MIT

Researchers at MIT are experimenting with their ABB IRB 120 robot arm to push the limits on what technology can accomplish – this time using their complex machine to play the fun yet challenging Jenga block game.

The ABB IRB 120 utilizes a soft gripping mechanism to grab each block and place it accordingly, with the goal of keeping the tower in place and stable. The machine also includes a camera and force-sensing wrist joint to help calculate and maneuver each block to its correct position.

As Jennifer Chu from the MIT News Office explains, “the robot carefully pushes against a block, a computer takes in visual and tactile feedback from its camera and cuff, and compares these measurements to moves that the robot previously made. It also considers the outcomes of those moves — specifically, whether a block, in a certain configuration and pushed with a certain amount of force, was successfully extracted or not. In real-time, the robot then ‘learns’ whether to keep pushing or move to a new block, in order to keep the tower from falling.”

The robot arm was trained with 300 attempts that were clustered together based on identified measurements and possible outcomes of how the block was to react to the machine’s movement on each piece. This cluster training technique proved more efficient as it mimics the way humans also utilize this learning behavior.

Assistant Professor of MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering elaborates how “playing the game of Jenga…requires interactive perception and manipulation, where you have to go and touch the tower to learn how and when to move blocks,” essentially leaving the robot to learn through game piece interaction.

The researchers’ “tactile learning system” is not only useful in a game of Jenga, but can ultimately be used for the purposes of product assembly, as machines must use the right amount of force to carefully place product pieces together.

Wi-Fi 6 is Here, But It May Take a While Before You Can Actually Use It

Wireless connectivity is going through a big change as the time has come for an upgrade. This year’s CES Convention held in Las Vegas showcased routers with the newly implemented Wi-Fi 6 generation; however, devices including our laptops and smartphones have yet to support the new upgrade.

As of now, Wi-Fi 6 can only be used by a few devices, as other gadgets cannot yet reap the benefits of its faster speeds. The new generation of Wi-Fi has promised an improved connectivity to multiple devices that occupy one household, as well as better battery performance and endurance for routers under strenuous conditions.

It’s been a couple years since Wi-Fi 6 was announced, and the upgraded version is set to take off this year. The Wi-Fi Alliance is to certify devices in 2019, making sure the “technology meets industry agreed standards for interoperability and security.”

The CES Convention allowed for HP and Dell to announce their new laptops that will support Wi-Fi 6 in the coming year. Intel also spoke about its redesigned Thunderbolt 3 Wi-Fi 6 DL Boost chips to be used in laptops and PCs in 2019. Assuming all goes according to scheduled plan, the move to Wi-Fi 6 is expected to follow through in 2019 and 2020 when devices have incorporated upgraded chips to support the next generation Wi-Fi; however, the release of such devices could still take a while before you can take advantage of Wi-Fi 6’s benefits.