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Sex Toy Stripped of CES 2019 Award Because Vaginas

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Sex tech made great strides at the Consumer Electronics Show … until it didn’t.

Pleasure product start-up Lora DiCarlo was selected as a CES 2019 Innovation Awards honoree in the robotics and drone category for its Osé “personal massager.”

It uses micro-robotics to provide “blended orgasms”—a combination of the two different ways women can climax.

“We’re doing something that has never been done before,” company founder and CEO Lora Haddock wrote in a statement. “We’re making the world’s first hands-free device for the holy grail of orgasms.”

Vetted by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA, which owns and produces the annual CES event) and a panel of independent judges, Osé joined a handful of other award-winning inventions.

“This feather in our collective cap made years of research and engineering even more worthwhile and further validated our vision for creating innovative, inclusive products that change lives,” Haddock said.

The almost exclusively female team rejoiced, celebrating their win and looking toward a future of envelope-pushing ideas. For a little while.

A month later, Lora DiCarlo was “unexpectedly informed” that CTA was rescinding the award—as well as the firm’s invitation to CES 2019.

Administrators initially cited a certain rule, saying entries deemed to be “immoral, obscene, indecent, profane, or not keeping with” the organization’s image will be disqualified.

As Haddock pointed out, not only does this imply that women’s sexual wellness products are somehow indecent or salacious, but it begs the question of how Osé made it past the first round of inspections by CTA staff.

(Which has, in the past, authorized the launch of a sex doll for men, among other sex toys, and welcomes a recurring VR porn exhibit that lets folks view erotica while consumers wander by.)

CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro and Executive Vice President Karen Chupka reportedly followed up with a memo stating that Lora DiCarlo’s product—designed with university robotics engineering labs and a team of engineers—was “actually ineligible” for the robotics and drone category.

“You never know how technology can be used,” Haddock said. “The future of healthcare might well be in the patent for a sex toy. But if CES and CTA are so intent on keeping women and sex tech out, we’ll never find out.”

In an open letter to Shapiro, et al., Haddock encouraged followers to share her words on social media using the hashtag #CESGenderBias.

Interested shoppers can also sign up for the Lora DiCarlo newsletter for updates on the fight for sexual equality and the Osé launch.

The Consumer Technology Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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You May Soon Be Able to Fly Drones Over a Crowd, At Night

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The U.S. Department of Transportation on Monday announced new rules that would allow drones to fly over crowds of people and at night without waivers.

Current Federal Aviation Administration regulations do not permit small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to fly after dark without official authorization.

The program, detailed this week by DOT Secretary Elaine Chao, allows drones to fly at night. But only if the operator has received appropriate training and completed approved testing, and the drone is equipped with anti-collision lighting.

Public feedback is welcome once the proposal is published in the Federal Register; the comment period will remain open for 60 days.

“The Department is keenly aware that there are legitimate public concerns about drones, concerning safety, security, and privacy,” according to Chao. “Recent events overseas have underscored concerns about the potential for drones to disrupt aviation and the national airspace.”

(Remember the days-long shutdown of the UK’s second-busiest airport following sightings of unmanned aerial vehicles?)

“So along with this new proposed rule, the Department is finishing up two other proposals to address drone safety and national security,” she added.

The UAS Safe and Secure ANPRM (advanced notice of proposed rulemaking) identifies major drone safety and security concerns, and will also be published in the Federal Register “as soon as possible,” with 60 days for public comment.

In her final announcement, Chao revealed three commercial partners—Nevada UAS Test Site Smart Silver State, Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site, and Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership—that will develop technology to manage airspace for the DOT’s drone pilot programs.

“Together, these three initiatives will be a major step forward in enabling the safe development, testing, and deployment of drones in our country,” she said.

Well ahead of other autonomous technologies (i.e. self-driving cars), UAVs are already widely used by hobbyists and first responders, for rescue and recovery efforts and to inspect infrastructure.

As of Dec. 14, 2018, there were nearly 1.3 million registered drones in the US, according to DOT, and more than 116,000 registered drone operators.

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Study: Majority of Facebook Users Don’t Understand Targeted Ads

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A surprising number of Facebook users remain clueless about how their personal information is used for targeted advertising.

A Pew Research Center survey found that 74 percent of U.S. adult Facebook users were unaware the site maintains a list of interest and traits.

While most websites and apps track how consumers use digital services and turn that data into targeted advertisements, their proprietary algorithms are usually kept under lock and key.

As part of its “transparency” narrative, however, Facebook allows users to view at least some of how it classifies them—based on engagement with content on the site—via the “Your ad preferences” page.

Unique to each user, the dossier displays various pieces of personal information, including a list of purported interests.

When directed to the page, 59 percent of Pew survey participants said the generated categories do reflect their real-life interests; another 27 percent claim they are not very, or not at all, accurate.

I can see where they’re coming from.

While I do enjoy photography, Star Wars, and IKEA, I have no idea how or why Facebook decided drag racing, towels, veganism, and Jesus are some of my personal passions. (They’re not.)

So whether you like it or not, ads for horror fiction, YouTube, women’s rights, and nail polish will probably appear on your Facebook feed.

But even if Facebook were spot-on with its assessments of user interests, targeted ads still feel, for many, like an invasion of privacy.

According to Pew, about half of those surveyed (51 percent) are not comfortable with Facebook creating lists about their hobbies and traits. Conversely, a handful of folks (5 percent) are “very comfortable” with their leisure pursuits being aired for the world to see.

“We want people to understand how our ad settings and controls work. That means better ads for people,” Facebook said in a statement to The Verge.

“While we and the rest of the online ad industry need to do more to educate people on how interest-based advertising works and how we protect people’s information,” it continued, “we welcome conversations about transparency and control.”

The social network did not immediately respond to Geek’s request for comment.

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Pandora Launches Voice-Enabled Smart Assistant For Easier Streaming

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Streaming music provider Pandora is taking on Amazon, Google, and Spotify with a native smart assistant.

New “Voice Mode” allows listeners to control Pandora’s mobile app and discover music simply by asking.

Use the wake phrase “Hey Pandora,” followed by a request, to hear a specific artist, song, station, podcast, or playlist. The platform can also deliver personalized tunes based on tastes, moods, and activities (i.e. “play something for my workout” or “play music for relaxing”).

“With Voice Mode, we are introducing an even more natural and conversational way for listeners to discover new music and enhance their experience directly in the Pandora mobile app, like getting recommendations from a friend who really knows you,” Chief Product Officer Chris Phillips said in a statement.

The new feature relies on advanced natural language understanding and music recommendation technology to provide a hands-free experience tailored to individual users.

Change stations, control volume, skip or pause music, and conduct other basic navigation commands with a few words.

Don’t like what you’re hearing? Tell Pandora to “play something different.” Stumble upon a fresh new beat you’d like to listen to again? Direct the app to “add this song to my party playlist” or give it a thumbs up by saying “I like this.”

Beta access new Voice Mode is available now for iOS and Android owners.

This is the latest addition to the US-only streaming service (I’m dying for access in the UK!), which rolled out personalized podcast recommendations in November.

The Podcast Genome Project—a cataloging system and discovery algorithm that combines technology and human curation to deliver new content, based on 1,500-plus attributes. Users signal their enjoyment (or lack thereof) via thumbs, skips, and replays.

At the heart of Pandora is the Music Genome Project, described by the firm as “the most sophisticated taxonomy of music information ever collected.”

Each song in the system is analyzed using up to 400 distinct musical characteristics; Pandora recognizes and responds to individual tastes, giving users a personalized radio experience.

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