Deere Puts Spotlight on High-tech Farming 

It has GPS, lasers, computer vision, and uses machine learning and sensors to be more efficient. This is the new high-tech farm equipment from John Deere, which made its first Consumer Electronics Show appearance this week to highlight the importance of tech in farming. 

 

Deere brought its massive agricultural combine and GPS-guided tractor to the Las Vegas technology event, making the point that farming is more than sticking a finger up in the air to gauge the weather. 

 

The machines are guided by enhanced GPS data that, according to the company, is accurate to 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) — compared with 3 meters (10 feet) for conventional GPS. 

 

As they work the fields, the machines gather data about soil conditions and monitor how corn and other crops are being harvested to reduce waste and improve efficiency. 

 

“We want consumers to understand how food is grown,” said Deere marketing executive Deanna Kovar. “Not only is this machine harvesting the grain, it’s harvesting the data, which helps farmers make decisions for next year.” 

 

Kovar said the extra electronics add about $10,000 to the cost of the combine, which sells for close to $500,000, and that most buyers take the option. 

 

“You can get a savings of about one to three bushels per acre, so it pays for itself very quickly,” she said.

Study: Elderly, Conservatives Shared More Facebook Fakery in 2016 

People over 65 and ultraconservatives shared about seven times more fake information masquerading as news on Facebook than younger adults, moderates and super liberals during the 2016 election season, a new study found. 

 

The first major study to look at who is sharing links from debunked sites found that not many people were doing it. On average, only 8.5 percent of those studied — about 1 person out of 12 — shared false information during the 2016 campaign, according to the study in Wednesday’s issue of the journal Science Advances. But those doing it tended to be older and more conservative.

“For something to be viral, you’ve got to know who shares it,” said study co-author Jonathan Nagler, a politics professor and co-director of the Social Media and Political Participation Lab at New York University.  “Wow, old people are much more likely than young people to do this.” 

 

Battling back

Facebook and other social media companies were caught off guard in 2016 when Russian agents exploited their platforms to meddle with the U.S. presidential election by spreading fake news, impersonating Americans and running targeted advertisements to try to sway votes. Since then, the companies have thrown millions of dollars and thousands of people into fighting false information. 

 

Researchers at Princeton University and NYU in 2016 interviewed 2,711 people who used Facebook. Of those, nearly half agreed to share all their postings with the professors.  

The researchers used three different lists of false information sites — one compiled by BuzzFeed and two others from academic research teams — and counted how often people shared from those sites. Then to double check, they looked at 897 specific articles that had been found false by fact checkers and saw how often those were spread. 

 

All those lists showed similar trends. 

 

When other demographic factors and overall posting tendencies are factored in, the average person older than 65 shared seven times more false information than those between 18 and 29. The seniors shared more than twice as many fake stories as people between 45 and 64 and more than three times that of people in the 30-to-44-year-old range, said lead study author Andrew Guess, a politics professor at Princeton. 

 

The simplest theory for why older people share more false information is a lack of “digital literacy,” said study co-author Joshua Tucker, also co-director of the NYU social media political lab. Senior citizens may not tell truth from lies on social networks as easily as others, the researchers said. 

Signaling identity

 

Harvard public policy and communication professor Matthew Baum, who was not part of the study but praised it, said he thought sharing false information was “less about beliefs in the facts of a story than about signaling one’s partisan identity.” That’s why efforts to correct fakery don’t really change attitudes and one reason why few people share false information, he said. 

 

When other demographics and posting practices are factored in, people who called themselves very conservative shared the most false information, a bit more than those who identified themselves as conservative. The very conservatives shared misinformation 6.8 times more often than the very liberals and 6.7 times more than moderates. People who called themselves liberals essentially shared no fake stories, Guess said.  

Nagler said he was not surprised that conservatives in 2016 shared more fake information, but he and his colleagues said that did not necessarily mean that conservatives are by nature more gullible when it comes to false stories. It could simply reflect that there was much more pro-Donald Trump and anti-Hillary Clinton false information in circulation in 2016 that it drove the numbers for sharing, they said. 

 

However, Baum said in an email that conservatives post more false information because they tend to be more extreme, with less ideological variation than their liberal counterparts and they take their lead from Trump, who “advocates, supports, shares and produces fake news/misinformation on a regular basis.” 

 

The researchers looked at differences in gender, race and income but could not find any statistically significant differences in sharing of false information. 

 

Improvements

After much criticism, Facebook made changes to fight false information, including de-emphasizing proven false stories in people’s feeds so others were less likely to see them. It seems to be working, Guess said. Facebook officials declined to comment. 

 

“I think if we were to run this study again, we might not get the same results,” Guess said. 

 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Deb Roy, a former Twitter chief media scientist, said the problem is that the American news diet is “full of balkanized narratives” with people seeking information that they agree with and calling true news that they don’t agree with fake. 

 

“What a mess,” Roy said.

Experimental App Might Spot Drug Overdoses in Time to Help

Too often people die of an opioid overdose because no one is around to notice they’re in trouble. Now scientists are creating a smartphone app that beams sound waves to measure breathing — and summon help if it stops.

The app is still experimental. But in a novel test, the Second Chance app detected early signs of overdose in the critical minutes after people injected heroin or other illegal drugs, researchers reported Wednesday.

One question is whether most drug users would pull out their phone and switch on an app before shooting up. The University of Washington research team contends it could offer a much-needed tool for people who haven’t yet found addiction treatment.

“They’re not trying to kill themselves — they’re addicted to these drugs. They have an incentive to be safe,” said Shyamnath Gollakota, an engineering and computer science associate professor whose lab turns regular cellphones into temporary sonar devices.

But an emergency room physician who regularly cares for overdose patients wonders how many people would try such a device.

“This is an innovative way to attack the problem,” said Dr. Zachary Dezman of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who wasn’t involved in the research.

Still, “I don’t know if many folks who use substances are going to have the forethought to prepare,” he added.

More than 47,000 people in the U.S. died of opioid overdoses in 2017. The drugs suppress breathing but a medicine called naloxone can save victims — if it reaches them in time. Usually, that means someone has to witness the collapse. Dr. Jacob Sunshine, a University of Washington anesthesiologist, notes that people have died with a relative in the next room unaware they were in trouble.

How it works

The research team settled on cellphones as potential overdose monitors because just about everyone owns one. They designed an app that measures how someone’s chest rises and falls to see if they’re slipping into the slow, shallow breaths of an overdose or stop breathing completely.

How? The software converts the phone’s built-in speaker and microphone to send out inaudible sound waves and record how they bounce back. Analyzing the signals shows specific breathing patterns.

It won’t work inside a pocket, and people would have to stay within 3 feet. The researchers are in the process of making the app capable of dialing for help if a possible overdose is detected.

Testing the device

They put the experimental gadget to the test at North America’s first supervised injection site in Vancouver, British Columbia, where people are allowed to bring in illegal drugs and inject themselves under medical supervision in case of overdose. Study participants agreed to have doctoral student Rajalakshmi Nandakumar place the app-running cellphone nearby during their regularly monitored visit.

The software correctly identified breathing problems that could signal an overdose — seven or fewer breaths a minute, or pauses in breathing — 90 percent of the time, the researchers found. Most were near-misses; two of the 94 study participants had to be resuscitated.

For a bigger test, the researchers next turned to people who don’t abuse drugs but were about to receive anesthesia for elective surgery. Rendering someone unconscious for an operation mimics how an overdose shuts down breathing.

Measuring 30 seconds of slowed or absent breathing as those patients went under, the app correctly predicted 19 of 20 simulated overdoses, the researchers reported. The one missed case was a patient breathing slightly faster than the app’s cutoff.

The findings were reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The researchers have patented the invention and plan to seek Food and Drug Administration approval.

CES: Transportation Secretary Skips Show Amid Government Shutdown

The CES 2019 gadget show is revving up in Las Vegas. Here are the latest findings and observations from Associated Press reporters on the ground.

THIS SHOW WON’T GO ON

The Trump administration has some ideas about the future of commercial drones and self-driving technology, but it won’t be sharing them at CES this week amid an ongoing partial government shutdown.

CES organizers say U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has canceled a planned Wednesday keynote address at the Las Vegas tech conference.

Her decision to skip the event came several days after Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and several other scheduled federal government speakers told CES they wouldn’t be coming because of the shutdown.

Chao had planned to speak about U.S. policies affecting drones and self-driving vehicles.

FRESH BREAD, NO BAKER

That smell wafting through the CES show? Freshly baked bread.

Wilkinson Baking Co. unveiled a 22-square-foot machine that can bake 10 loaves of bread every hour — no baker needed. But a human is needed to dump the ingredients into the machine, which then mixes them, forms the dough and starts baking. Someone also needs to slice the bread, although the company says it’s working on a way for the machines to do that, too.

The BreadBot, as it’s called, is being pitched to supermarkets as a way to deliver fresh bread to shoppers who are increasingly worried about the ingredients in their foods. The machine is covered in glass, so customers can watch bread get made. They then select the loaf they want on a touch screen, sort of like a vending machine.

Three local supermarkets are already testing it. The company says a couple of big chains have agreed to try it out soon, but it won’t say which.

SMART BRA

Is your bra dumb? An underwear company is pitching a solution to an age-old problem for women: finding a bra that actually fits.

In the past, women could get help from an expert human in finding their right size. A simple measuring tape wouldn’t do, as it doesn’t reflect other factors such as the shape of a woman’s breasts. But these old-school “bra fitters” are hard to find these days.

To address that, a company called Soma has added some circuits to a brassiere and connected it to an app.

The Soma Innofit has four lines of circuitry hooked up to a circuit board in the back, which then connects to an app via Bluetooth. The smart $59 bra then recommends a bra — from Soma’s line, of course.

The smart bra isn’t meant for regular wearing, though it could be used again if sizes change because of pregnancy or other factors. The company says people who don’t want to buy one can use it at a Soma store.

CASH FOR KIDS

How do you teach children the value of money when there is no cash around?

Pigzbe is offering an electronic cash device with a digital currency called Wollo. It connects to an app that explains how money is earned and spent. Parents can set tasks that children complete to receive Wollo currency.

Trouble comes when your kid tries to spend Wollo at a store. The currency needs to be connected to a card to spend as real money in the real world.

And to get Pigzbe, parents also have to fork out some real money — $99.

Global Certainty of Future Cyberattacks Growing

Cyberattacks on elections, public infrastructure and national security are increasingly being seen as the new normal, according to a global survey on cybersecurity.

And in some of the world’s largest economies, people think their governments are not prepared.

The survey of more than 27,000 people across 26 countries conducted by the Pew Research Center found less than half of the respondents, 47 percent, believed their countries are ready to handle a major cyber incident.

A median of 74 percent thought it was likely national security information would be accessed.  Sixty-nine percent said they expected public infrastructure to be damaged. And 61 percent expected cyberattacks targeting their country’s elections.

Israel and Russia ranked as among the most confident populations, with more than two-thirds of survey-takers in those countries saying their governments are prepared for a major cyber incident.

The three sub-Saharan African countries in the survey — Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa — were generally optimistic, with more than half of those polled saying their nations were prepared for a cyber incident.

Brazil and Argentina were the least confident, with just nine percent of Argentineans responding their government was prepared.

In key economies such as Germany and Japan, more than half of the respondents expressed concern they were ill-prepared to deal with cyberattacks.

United States

The Pew survey found expectations for cyberattacks ran highest in the United States, where there have been more than 100 major cyber incidents since 2006.

Almost 80 percent of U.S. respondents expected damage to public infrastructure, breaches of national security information and elections tampering.

But while more Americans than not say the country is prepared for cyberattacks, 53 percent to 43 percent, feelings on cyber preparedness changed depending on political affiliation.

More than 60 percent of Republicans thought the United States is prepared for cyberattacks as opposed to 47 percent of Democrats.

Politics, age

The Pew survey detected similar trends in many of the other countries in the survey.

In Russia, for example, about 75 percent of those who support President Vladimir Putin are optimistic about handling a cyberattack, compared to 61 percent of non-Putin supporters.

The level of concern about cyberattacks also varied according to age.

In many of the Western countries surveyed, Pew found older people were likely to be more concerned than younger people.

In Sweden, for example, 82 percent of those aged 50 or older feared a cyberattack on infrastructure, compared with 53 percent of those aged 18 to 29.

The Pew survey was conducted in-person or via telephone between May 14 and August 12, 2018.

The 26 countries surveyed are: United States, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Britain, Russia, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, South Korea, Israel, Tunisia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

CES 2019: Google Brings a Disney-Like Ride to Tech Show

The CES 2019 gadget show opened its doors Tuesday, with tech companies from giants to tiny startups showing off their latest products and services.

In recent years, CES’s influence has declined as Apple, Google and other major companies throw their own events to launch new wares. Still, more than 180,000 people from about 150 countries are expected to attend. The sprawling event spans 11 official venues, plus scores of unofficial ones throughout Las Vegas. The four-day show in Las Vegas opened after two days of media previews. 

Here are the latest findings and observations from Associated Press reporters on the ground.

Cutting through the babel

Google has transformed CES into a Disney-like theme park – complete with singing animatronic macarons – to showcase new features of its voice-enabled digital assistant.

This includes an “interpreter mode” that enables some of Google’s smart home devices to work as a translator. It’s being piloted at a hotel concierge desk near the Las Vegas tech conference and rolls out to consumer devices in several weeks. 

Voice assistants are getting pretty good at translating speech into text, but it’s a thornier challenge in artificial intelligence to enable real-time translation across different languages. Google’s new feature expands upon real-time translation services it’s rolled out to Android phones and headphones over the past year.

This is the second year that Google Assistant had made a huge splash at CES in an effort to outbid Amazon’s Alexa as the voice assistant of choice. 

Google this year has an amusement park ride that resembles Disney’s “It’s a Small World,” though on a roller-coaster-like train at slow speeds. Talking and singing characters showcase Google’s various voice-assistant features as visitors ride along.

Google isn’t the only CES exhibitor promising the next generation of instant translation. Chinese AI firm iFlytek has been showing of its translation apps and devices that are already popular among Chinese travelers. And at least two startups, New York-based Waverly Labs and China-based TimeKettle, are promoting their earbuds that work as in-ear translation devices.

Bring that umbrella

IBM is expanding its side job as the world’s meteorologist.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty used a keynote address Tuesday to unveil a new global forecasting system that promises more accurate local weather reports in places that never had them before.

The computing giant owns The Weather Company, which runs popular weather services including weather.com and the Weather Channel and Weather Underground apps (though not the Weather Channel television network). Those apps provide precise and constantly updating forecasts in places like the U.S. and parts of Europe and Japan, but not in most of the world.

IBM says its new forecasting model relies in part on “crowd-sourced” data – barometric pressure readings from millions of smartphones and sensor readings from passing airplanes. 

Weather Company CEO Cameron Clayton says the new system is intended to aid IBM’s business providing critical weather data to airlines, energy firms and other industries. But he says it will also have societal benefits, such as helping small farmers in India or parts of Africa yield better crops. 

IBM may have trouble persuading some users to agree to transmit atmospheric data to IBM after the city of Los Angeles sued last week to stop the Weather Channel’s data-collection practices. The lawsuit alleges that the company uses location information not just to personalize weather but also to track users’ every step and profit off that information. The company has denied any impropriety with sharing location data collected from users, saying it does disclose what it does.

Samsung wants to bring robots home

Up next for Samsung: a robot that can keep its eye on grandma and grandpa.

The rolling robot, which talks and has two digital eyes on a black screen, can track medicines they take, measure blood pressure and call 911 if it detects a fall.

The company didn’t not say when Samsung Bot Care would be available, but brought the robot out on stage Monday at a presentation at CES. Samsung also said it is working on a robot for stores and another for testing and purifying the air in homes.

Samsung also unveiled TVs, appliances and other high-tech gizmos – but not a foldable phone it hinted at in November. But a startup called Royole did. The Royole FlexPai smartphone was first shown in November but the California-based company has more details. The phone will have a 7.8-inch display that can be folded like a wallet, priced at more than $1,300.

Star delight

Sony brought some star power to CES with a visit from musician Pharrell Williams, straight from trip to Anguilla.

The star of hit songs such as “Happy” came to talk about a mostly secret project that he and Sony are supposedly undertaking. But in the end, it was clearly an attempt by Sony to sprinkle some stardust on launches for TVs and other products.

“I was a little bit worried that he was still on holiday, but he is here,” Sony Music head Rob Stringer told the crowd.

Vietnam Says Facebook Violated Controversial Cybersecurity Law

Facebook has violated Vietnam’s new cybersecurity law by allowing users to post anti-government comments on the platform, state media said on Wednesday, days after the controversial legislation took effect in the communist-ruled country.

Despite economic reforms and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam’s Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate dissent.

“Facebook had reportedly not responded to a request to remove fan pages provoking activities against the state,” the official Vietnam News Agency said, citing the Ministry of Information and Communication.

In a statement, a Facebook spokeswoman said, “We have a clear process for governments to report illegal content to us, and we review all these requests against our terms of service and local law.”

She did not elaborate.

The ministry said Facebook also allowed personal accounts to upload posts containing “slanderous” content, anti-government sentiment and defamation of individuals and organizations, the agency added.

“This content had been found to seriously violate Vietnam’s Law on cybersecurity” and government regulations on the management, provision and use of internet services, it quoted the ministry as saying.

Global technology companies and rights groups have earlier said the cybersecurity law, which took effect on Jan. 1 and includes requirements for technology firms to set up local offices and store data locally, could undermine development and stifle innovation in Vietnam.

Company officials have privately expressed concerns that the new law could make it easier for the authorities to seize customer data and expose local employees to arrest.

Facebook had refused to provide information on “fraudulent accounts” to Vietnamese security agencies, the agency said in Wednesday’s report.

The information ministry is also considering taxing Facebook for advertising revenue from the platform.

The report cited a market research company as saying $235 million was spent on advertising on Facebook in Vietnam in 2018, but that Facebook was ignoring its tax obligations there.

In November, Vietnam said it wanted half of social media users on domestic social networks by 2020 and plans to prevent “toxic information” on Facebook and Google.

We’re Techy, too! Deere, Tide Maker Head to CES Gadget Show

The companies founded by blacksmith John Deere and candle-and-soap-making duo Procter & Gamble may not be the hip purveyors of new technology they were in 1837.

But they’re first-time exhibitors at this year’s CES gadget show, along with other unlikely newcomers such as missile-maker Raytheon, outdoorsy retailer The North Face and the 115-year-old motorcycling icon Harley-Davidson.

The four-day consumer-electronics show opens Tuesday with some 4,500 companies exhibiting products and services and more than 180,000 people expected to attend. It’s the place startups and established tech giants alike go to unveil everything from utilitarian apps to splashy devices.

So what are these legacy companies doing here?

“Every company today is a technology company,” said Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which organizes CES.

Shapiro said many companies already send executives to Las Vegas each January to gauge trends, so it’s not surprising that they eventually unveil their own new technology as well.

It’s also part of a more fundamental economic shift as consumers increasingly expect to buy not just goods and services, but a personal experience, which often skews digital, said Dipanjan Chatterjee, a brand analyst at Forrester Research.

“We’re still doing old-fashioned things: Ordering clothes, buying detergent, getting a cup of coffee, but there are new-fangled ways of doing it,” he said. “Brands have no choice but to play a role in this new technology space.”

That’s one reason Harley-Davidson is using the show to announce the commercial launch of its first electric motorcycle LiveWire. The motorcycle will have a cellular connection, as many cars do these days, so people can keep track of their motorcycle’s charge or check where they parked it through an app.

Consumer goods giant P&G, best known for Pampers diapers and Tide detergent, is showcasing heated razors, a toothbrush with artificial intelligence and a wand-like device that scans the skin and releases serum to cover up age spots and other discoloration.

P&G is also showing off an internet-connected scalp adviser: The Head & Shoulders-branded device uses ultraviolet light and other techniques to uncover scalp issues and recommend products. The device is available only in Europe and Asia for now.

Expect these gizmos to cost more than the plain-old “dumb” versions. P&G’s Oral-B toothbrush, for example, is expected to cost $279, while a regular Oral-B electric toothbrush can be had for less than $30.

And every new connected device means more data collection about people’s personal habits — a gold mine for advertisers and hackers alike.

The North Face is using virtual reality to provide a fine-grained look at its waterproof fabrics.

Raytheon is demonstrating the everyday applications of GPS anti-jam technology, which was originally designed to protect military forces.

And John Deere has hauled in self-driving tractors and a 20-ton combine harvester aided by artificial intelligence. The combine has cameras with computer-vision technology to track the quality of grain coming into the machine so that its kernel-separating settings can be adjusted automatically. Farmers can monitor it remotely using a smartphone app.

It’s hard to imagine what 19th century Illinois blacksmith John Deere might think if he were plopped into his company’s 2019 booth at the flashy Vegas convention center, but Deanna Kovar believes he’d be “amazed and astonished.”

“His innovation was making a self-powering steel plow that could cut through the heavy, rich soils of the Midwest,” said Kovar, the company’s director of production and precision agriculture marketing. “We’ve been a technology company since the start.”

Kovar said American farmers have been using self-driving tractors for decades — and CES is a chance to let everyone else know.

Chatterjee said such messages are directed not just at a company’s customers, but to investors, potential corporate partners, startup acquisition targets and the technically skilled employees these more traditional firms are hoping to attract.

“These are brands that are aggressively looking to work tech into their DNA,” Chatterjee said. “They want to be perceived all around as a tech-forward innovative brand.”