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You Know Your Smartphone is Spying on You, But It’s Worse Than You Think

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Is your phone surreptitiously monitoring you?

Yes. Of course, it is. You knew that, I knew that, it’s just a given these days. But, it’d also perhaps quite a bit worse than you may have suspected. Many top apps, for instance, are secretly taking screenshots and videos and sending them to other people, according to a new study.

That means, of course, anything that shows up on your screen could be digital fodder.

“We found that thousands of popular apps have the ability to record your screen and anything you type,” said David Choffnes told Techxplore. “That includes your username and password, because it can record the characters you type before they turn into those little black dots.”

So much is worse than we first think — especially in cybersecurity. But damn, this is bottom barrel. I’m no slouch when it comes to security, but this trumps even my memorized 28 character iPhone passphrase.  

The study started because a pair of students — Elleen Pan and Jingjing Ren — wanted to investigate the common urban legend that phones are listening in conversations and shooting out adverts based on that. I think we’ve all had that feeling when a friend tells us about a new thing and then suddenly that’s your top suggested item on Amazon. And that is the absolute worst feeling of deja vu. Unfortunately, while that isn’t exactly what’s happening, the reality is quite a bit worse.

“We knew we were looking for a needle in a haystack,” said Choffnes, “and we were surprised to find several needles.”

“This opening will almost certainly be used for malicious purposes,” said Christo Wilson, another professor who supervised the students. “It’s simple to install and collect this information. And what’s most disturbing is that this occurs with no notification to or permission by users. In the case we caught, the information sent to a third party was zip codes, but it could just as easily have been credit card numbers.”

The fact that there were “no audio leaks at all,” according to Wilson leaves me with a bizarre feeling of unease though. Because we all know that happens, but, then again, if Target can figure out you’re pregnant like two months in, maybe we really are that predictable.  

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Autonomous Sexbots Are the Future

In a 2017 TEDx talk, University of London lecturer and writer Kate Devlin pointed out that “There are no actual sex robots in production yet—just dolls.”

What a difference a year makes.

Chinese robotics developer DS Doll is currently working on the world’s first autonomous sex robot.

According to Daily Star, the Dalian-based firm is 3D-printing component parts for its AI-powered humanoid. The advanced technology helps boost production speed and efficiency, allowing for the mass production of sexy cyborgs.

Able to move its eyes, mouth, head, shoulders, and arms, the first prototype is “almost complete,” DS Doll told the UK tabloid; engineers are putting the finishing touches on the mobile legs.

A slew of video clips shared via the company’s Twitter account highlight the unnamed android’s … talents: Watch her shake to life before fitfully stretching her arms and turning her silicone head.

Not exactly the smooth operator you’d hope to bed, the electronic skeleton is designed to mimic the human body. DS Doll uses 3D printing to develop and stamp out specific, uniform shapes. It can even scan full human bodies and prototype parts for replication.

The company constructs 400 custom models each month; its premium-range mannequins sell for around $5,000.

“We are still in the researching process,” DS Doll chief development officer Qiao Wu told the Daily Star.

“The full-body robot will have more physical expression to help with human communication,” he explained. “One day, we hope the robot can be used in etiquette, presentation, human companionship, front-desk services, and other areas.”

Sex dolls (because Devlin’s right—most of these devices are nothing more than life-sized hunks of plastic with no understanding of consent) have come a long way from the tacky, low-grade inflatable masturbation toys of yore.

They still have a long way to go, though.

The line between man and machine continues to blur. Which is why activists are calling for sex robot regulations. Learn everything you always wanted to know about sex robots (but were afraid to ask) and more here.

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SpaceX Signs First Private Passenger For Lunar Flight

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DIY a Desktop Arcade Cabinet With Retro Picade Kit

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This is the year of retro gaming: Classic titles are reappearing on modern consoles, and nostalgic appliances are reappearing as modern consoles.

So it’s no surprise that hobbyist electronic firm Pimoroni recently launched a redesigned version of its Raspberry Pi-powered mini arcade machine.

Unveiled in August, the build-it-yourself Picade features authentic controls, a high-res 4:3 display, and a “punchy speaker to hear those 8-bit game soundtracks at their best.”

The kit takes about two to three hours to build (according to the experts who created it). All you need is a Raspberry Pi, micro-SD card, power supply, and £150 ($198) to spare.

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The original Picade was introduced in 2012 as the UK’s first Kickstarter project, collecting more than £74,000 ($98,000) toward a £33,000 ($44,000) goal.

Six years later, Pimoroni has updated its “ultimate desktop retro arcade machine,” now more compact, with a better display, dedicated power button, and Picade X HAT “packed full of useful features.”

Fans may also notice splashier artwork and packaging. Each Picade comes with “a bunch of extra goodies,” like an enamel pin, sticker selection, poster, and assembly instructions.

In an effort to drum up interest in the new toy, Sheffield-based Pimoroni asked folks around the world to come up with a retro game concept that would suit the new Picade.

Entries from the UK, Europe, and US included hand-drawn posters, punny titles, and “screenshots.” Ultimately, the team behind Trolley Wars—a Supermarket Sweep-like game—won for its “simplicity and button-bashing of arcade favorites of old.”

New packaging for a new machine (via Pimoroni)

Everything old is new again, and arcade cabinets are no exception: British manufacturer STOA last year rolled out custom-built cupboards, each handcrafted from start to finish for one or two players.

In place of traditional cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors, STOA uses modern LCD screens, with the same 4:3 aspect ratio as the Picade. Every device comes with a curated selection of games (Ms. Pac-Man, Street Fighter II, Paperboy, Mortal Kombat, Space Invaders, etc.), tailored to the client’s preference and design.

You can do anything with a Raspberry Pi and a little imagination: DIY a Spotify speaker, upcycle a karaoke machine, track foosball scores. Check out our recent Geek Pick, the Retroflag SUPERPi case for Nintendo lovers. And stay up to date on all things Raspberry Pi here.

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