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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

New Wearable Sensor Detects Stress Hormone In Sweat
An anonymous reader quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: Today, a team of researchers at Stanford, led by materials science and engineering associate professor Alberto Salleo and postdoctoral research fellow Onur Parlak, announced in Science Advances that they've developed a wearable patch that can determine how much cortisol someone is producing in seconds, using sweat drawn from the skin under the patch. [Cortisol, a steroid hormone, goes up when a person is under physical or emotional strain.] The stretchy patch pulls in the sweat through perforations to a reservoir. A membrane on top of the reservoir allows charged ions, like sodium and potassium, to pass through. Cortisol, which has no charge, can't pass, and instead blocks the charged ions. Signals sent from an electrical sensor in the patch can be used to detect these backups and determine how much cortisol is in the sweat. The prototype cortisol detection patch channels sweat into a reservoir; a membrane selectively lets charged ions through, and the amount of these ions detected can be translated into a reading of cortisol levels in the sweat. Parlak tested the prototype on several runners, and reported that the cortisol levels detected by the wearable sensor patch matched those obtained by running samples of the runners' sweat through an ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test that takes several hours.

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AI Plus a Chemistry Robot Finds All the Reactions That Will Work
A team of researchers at Glasgow University have built a robot that uses machine learning to run and analyze its own chemical reaction. The system is able to figure out every reaction that's possible from a given set of starting materials. Ars Technica reports: Most of its parts are dispersed through a fume hood, which ensures safe ventilation of any products that somehow escape the system. The upper right is a collection of tanks containing starting materials and pumps that send them into one of six reaction chambers, which can be operated in parallel. The outcomes of these reactions can then be sent on for analysis. Pumps can feed samples into an IR spectrometer, a mass spectrometer, and a compact NMR machine -- the latter being the only bit of equipment that didn't fit in the fume hood. Collectively, these can create a fingerprint of the molecules that occupy a reaction chamber. By comparing this to the fingerprint of the starting materials, it's possible to determine whether a chemical reaction took place and infer some things about its products. All of that is a substitute for a chemist's hands, but it doesn't replace the brains that evaluate potential reactions. That's where a machine-learning algorithm comes in. The system was given a set of 72 reactions with known products and used those to generate predictions of the outcomes of further reactions. From there, it started choosing reactions at random from the remaining list of options and determining whether they, too, produced products. By the time the algorithm had sampled 10 percent of the total possible reactions, it was able to predict the outcome of untested reactions with more than 80-percent accuracy. And, since the earlier reactions it tested were chosen at random, the system wasn't biased by human expectations of what reactions would or wouldn't work. The research has been published in the journal Nature.

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The New MacBook Pro Keyboard Resists Dust Much Better Than Previous-Gen, Reports iFixit
iFixit tore apart the new 2018 MacBook Pro keyboard to see how well the silicone membrane works to protect the butterfly mechanism from dust and debris. After showering a 2017 and 2018 MacBook Pro in dust particles, the repair site found the newer generation holds up surprisingly well. 9to5Mac reports: As shown in the photo, the blue paint particles coat the outside of the keycaps and the edges of the membrane, but the silicon covers stop most of the particles from getting into the key mechanism -- which is what causes the sticky key issues on the previous models. However, the silicon covers have to have holes in them to allow the keycap clips to attach. Naturally, dust can and will get through these holes over time. iFixit placed some sand particles into the "danger zones" of the keycaps, and confirmed the keys will break/become-unreliable when that happens, just like the second-generation butterfly keys. The non-cocooned 2017 keyboard was "almost immediately flooded" in the particles, unsurprisingly. Clearly, the 2018 model is greatly improved in regard to reliability, but it remains to be seen just how much better it is in real-world use. Over time, you only need a couple specks of dust to get in the keycaps and the keys will get stuck. It's just the chances of dust getting in are greatly reduced with the 2018 models.

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Killer Robots Would Be 'Dangerously Destabilizing' Force in the World, Tech Leaders Warn
Thousands of artificial intelligence experts are calling on governments to take preemptive action before it's too late. The list is extensive and includes some of the most influential names in the overlapping worlds of technology, science and academia. From a report: Among them are billionaire inventor and OpenAI founder Elon Musk, Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, artificial intelligence researcher Stuart Russell, as well as the three founders of Google DeepMind -- the company's premier machine learning research group. In total, more than 160 organizations and 2,460 individuals from 90 countries promised this week to not participate in or support the development and use of lethal autonomous weapons. The pledge says artificial intelligence is expected to play an increasing role in military systems and calls upon governments and politicians to introduce laws regulating such weapons "to create a future with strong international norms." "Thousands of AI researchers agree that by removing the risk, attributability, and difficulty of taking human lives, lethal autonomous weapons could become powerful instruments of violence and oppression, especially when linked to surveillance and data systems," the pledge says. "Moreover, lethal autonomous weapons have characteristics quite different from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and the unilateral actions of a single group could too easily spark an arms race that the international community lacks the technical tools and global governance systems to manage," the pledge adds.

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DeepMind, Elon Musk and Others Pledge Not To Make Autonomous AI Weapons
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Yesterday, during the Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, the Future of Life Institute announced that more than 2,400 individuals and 160 companies and organizations have signed a pledge, declaring that they will "neither participate in nor support the development, manufacture, trade or use of lethal autonomous weapons." The signatories, representing 90 countries, also call on governments to pass laws against such weapons. Google DeepMind and the Xprize Foundation are among the groups who've signed on while Elon Musk and DeepMind co-founders Demis Hassabis, Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman have made the pledge as well. "Thousands of AI researchers agree that by removing the risk, attributability and difficulty of taking human lives, lethal autonomous weapons could become powerful instruments of violence and oppression, especially when linked to surveillance and data systems," says the pledge. It adds that those who sign agree that "the decision to take a human life should never be delegated to a machine." "I'm excited to see AI leaders shifting from talk to action, implementing a policy that politicians have thus far failed to put into effect," Future of Life Institute President Max Tegmark said in a statement. "AI has huge potential to help the world -- if we stigmatize and prevent its abuse. AI weapons that autonomously decide to kill people are as disgusting and destabilizing as bioweapons, and should be dealt with in the same way."

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Secretive Startup Zoox Is Building a Bidirectional Autonomous Car From the Ground Up
A secretive Australian startup called Zoox (an abbreviation of zooxanthellae, the algae that helps fuel coral reef growth) is working on an autonomous vehicle that is unlike any other. Theirs is all-electric and bidirectional, meaning it can cruise into a parking spot traveling one way and cruise out the other. It can make noises to communicate with pedestrians. It even has displays on the windows for passengers to interact with. Bloomberg sheds some light on this company, reporting on their ambitions to build the safest and most inventive autonomous vehicle on the road: Zoox founders Tim Kentley-Klay and Jesse Levinson say everyone else involved in the race to build a self-driving car is doing it wrong. Both founders sound quite serious as they argue that Zoox is obvious, almost inevitable. The world will eventually move to perfectly engineered robotic vehicles, so why waste time trying to incorporate self-driving technology into yesteryear's cars? Levinson, whose father, Arthur, ran Genentech Inc., chairs Apple Inc., and mentored Steve Jobs, comes from Silicon Valley royalty. Together, they've raised an impressive pile of venture capital: about $800 million to date, including $500 million in early July at a valuation of $3.2 billion. Even with all that cash, Zoox will be lucky to make it to 2020, when it expects to put its first vehicles on the road.

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Video Raises Concerns About Excessive Thermal Throttling On 2018 MacBook Pro With Intel Core i9
Last week, Apple announced new MacBook Pros, including a 15-inch model that supports Intel's 6-core 2.9GHz i9 processor. YouTube Dave Lee managed to get his hands on this top-of-the-line device early and run some tests, revealing that the laptop gets severely throttled due to thermal issues. 9to5Mac reports: Dave Lee this afternoon shared a new video on the Core i9 MacBook Pro he purchased, and according to his testing, the new machine is unable to maintain even its base clock speed after just a short time doing processor intensive work like video editing. "This CPU is an unlocked, overclockable chip but all of that CPU potential is wasted inside this chassis -- or more so the thermal solution that's inside here," says Lee. He goes on to share some Premiere Pro render times that suggest the new 2018 MacBook Pro with Core i9 chip underperforms compared to a 2017 model with a Core i7 chip. It took 39 minutes for the 2018 MacBook Pro to render a video that the older model was able to render in 35 minutes. Premiere Pro is not well-optimized for macOS, but the difference between the two MacBook Pro models is notable. Lee ran the same test again with the 2018 MacBook Pro in the freezer, and in cooler temperatures, the i9 chip was able to offer outstanding performance, cutting that render time down to 27 minutes and beating out the 2017 MacBook Pro.

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System76 Linux Computer Maker Offers a Sneak Peek Into Its New Factory
BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: System76 has long been a Linux computer seller, but recently, it has transitioned into a Linux computer maker. What's the difference, you ask? Well, currently, the company doesn't really make its own computers. System76's laptops, for instance, are made by other manufacturers, which it re-brands as its own. No, System76 doesn't just slap its name on other company's laptops and ship them out the door. Actually, it works closely with the manufacturers, tweaks firmware, and verifies that both Ubuntu and its Ubuntu-based Pop!_OS will work well on the hardware. System76 then offers top-notch support too. In other words, the company isn't just selling a computer, but an experience too. Unfortunately, when you rely on other computer manufacturers, you don't fully control the experience. Ultimately, System76 cannot achieve its true vision without building its own laptops. And so, that is exactly what it is going to do! Yes, System76 will be building and selling the computers right here in the USA (Denver, Colorado to be exact). I mean, when your company supports open source ideology and takes pride in being "Made in America," how can you go wrong? Many folks in the Linux community are excited to see the fruits of System76's labor, and today, we get a small peek. No, the company isn't sharing any of its computer designs, but it is showing off its new manufacturing facility. In a new blog post by System76 customer service all-star Emma, she shares several photos of the new factory. [T]he space is absolutely massive! It seems System76 has very lofty goals. Exactly when these new computers both designed and manufactured by System76 will become available for purchase is anyone's guess. Quite frankly, based on the System76's blog post, it seems they are still at very early stages. With that said, it will be interesting to see what is born inside that factory in Colorado. The Linux community is anxiously awaiting something special.

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Rolls-Royce Is Developing Tiny 'Cockroach' Robots To Fix Airplane Engines
Rolls-Royce announced today that it is teaming up with robotics experts at Harvard University and University of Nottingham to develop tiny "cockroach" robots that can crawl inside aircraft engines to spot and fix problems. These robots will be able to speed up inspections and eliminate the need to remove an engine from an aircraft for repair work to take place. CNBC reports: Sebastian de Rivaz, a research fellow at Harvard Institute, said the inspiration for their design came from the cockroach and that the robotic bugs had been in development for eight years. He added that the next step was to mount cameras on the robots and scale them down to a 15-milimeter size. De Rivaz said that once the robots had performed their duty they could be programed to leave the engine or could simply be "flushed out" by the engine itself. Also under development are "snake" robots that are flexible enough to travel through an engine like an endoscope. These would enter through a combustion chamber and would inspect damage and remove any debris. The second "snake" would deposit a patch repair that would sit temporarily until the engine was ready for full repair. No schedule is placed on when the crawling robots will be available. You can view animations of each robot type here.

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Samsung Unveils World's First 10nm-class 8 Gb LPDDR5 DRAM
BrianFagioli writes: Today, Samsung announces yet another milestone, this time with its low-powered memory. You see, Samsung has created what it calls the "industry's first 10-nanometer (nm) class 8-gigabit (Gb) LPDDR5 DRAM." The company promises significant power reduction -- up to 30 percent over LPDDR4X DRAM. This should be important for the upcoming 5G explosion. "The 8Gb LPDDR5 boasts a data rate of up to 6,400 megabits per second (Mb/s), which is 1.5 times as fast as the mobile DRAM chips used in current flagship mobile devices (LPDDR4X, 4266Mb/s). With the increased transfer rate, the new LPDDR5 can send 51.2 gigabytes (GB) of data, or approximately 14 full-HD video files (3.7GB each), in a second," says Samsung. The Galaxy-maker further says, "The 10nm-class LPDDR5 DRAM will be available in two bandwidths -- 6,400Mb/s at a 1.1 operating voltage (V) and 5,500Mb/s at 1.05V -- making it the most versatile mobile memory solution for next-generation smartphones and automotive systems."

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D-Wave's Quantum Computer Successfully Models a Quantum System
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from Ars Technica: D-Wave's hardware has always occupied a unique space on the computing landscape. It's a general-purpose computer that relies on quantum mechanical effects to perform calculations. And, while other quantum-computer makers have struggled to put more than a few dozen qubits together, D-Wave's systems have already scaled to more than 2,000 addressable bits. But the D-Wave systems don't perform calculations in the same way and, despite all those bits, haven't clearly demonstrated performance that can outpace even traditional computing hardware. But D-Wave has come out with a research paper in Science that suggests that the system can do interesting things even in its current state. The company's researchers have set it loose modeling a quantum system that closely resembles the bits used in the hardware itself, allowing them to examine quantum phase transitions. While this still isn't cutting-edge performance, it does allow researchers full control over the physical parameters of a relevant quantum system as it undergoes phase changes.

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Samsung's Galaxy S10 To Come In Three Sizes, With An In-Display Fingerprint Sensor
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Samsung will launch the Galaxy S10 in three different sizes: 5.8 inches, 6.1 inches, and 6.4 inches. They are nearly the same sizes that Kuo expects Apple's next series of iPhones to come in. The Verge reports: The larger two S10 models will include in-display fingerprint sensors, Kuo says, while the smaller model will include a fingerprint sensor on the side. That suggests the smaller model will be Samsung's entry-level offering, while the larger two will potentially have higher-end specs and features. Another recent rumor says the S10 might include five cameras, adding an additional wide angle option to the back and another lens to the front for capturing portrait effects. It's very likely plans will change between now and when the Galaxy S10 launches, which should be early next year. The next flagship smartphone to come from the South Korean company will be the Galaxy Note 9. It's expected to make its appearance at an event on August 9th.

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Roku's New Wireless Speakers Automatically Turn Loud Commercials Down, Turn Show Audio Up
Roku announced today that it's getting into the audio business with the launch of its in-house Roku TV Wireless Speakers. The two HomePod-esque speakers work exclusively (and wirelessly) with Roku TVs, and feature software that will optimize audio from anything connected to the pair Roku TV, including cable boxes, antennas, and Bluetooth devices. The company also announced a new Roku Touch tabletop remote that's similar to Amazon's Alexa. Ars Technica reports: "Optimized" in this sense refers to the software-improved audio quality: automatic volume leveling will boost lower audio in quiet scenes and lower audio in loud scenes (and in booming commercials), and dialogue enhancement will improve speech intelligibility. Accompanying the Wireless Speakers is the Roku Touch remote, a unique addition to Roku's remote family. The company has a standard remote that controls its set-top boxes and smart TVs, and it also has a voice remote that processes voice commands to search for and play specific types of content. The Touch remote is most like the voice remote, but it can be used almost anywhere in your home because it's wireless and runs on batteries. It has a number of buttons on its top that can play, pause, and skip content playing from your Roku TV, and some of those buttons are customizable so you can program your favorite presets to them. There's also a press-and-hold talk button that lets you speak commands to your TV, even if you're not in front of it. Roku's Wireless Speakers and Touch remote will begin shipping this October, and the company is running a deal leading up to the release. For the first week of presales (July 16 through July 23), a bundle consisting of two Wireless Speakers, a Touch remote, and a Roku voice remote will be available for $149. From the end of that week until October, the price will be $179. When the new devices finally come out, the bundle price will be $199.

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Things Are Going From Bad To Worse For Apple In India
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Despite its increased focus on India, Apple is all set to see a slower year-on-year growth in iPhone sales in the country in 2018. "iPhone India sales were weak in the first half of 2018, and even if they show a big jump in the traditionally strong second half, Apple will still fall short of last year," Neil Shah, research director at market analytics firm Counterpoint Research, told Bloomberg. Apple has been struggling in India for some time now. In the year ended March 2017, its revenue growth fell to 17%, compared to 53% a year ago. This six-year-low growth was mainly due to a high base and a drop in the average selling price of each phone. Apple's biggest struggle in India has been its high price points. iPhones cost between Rs35,000 ($500) and Rs80,000 ($1,100) in India, compared to the average smartphone price of $157 in the country. Amid all this, the company is seeing a massive churn in its India leadership. Last December, India head Sanjay Kaul quit after a six-year stint. The company has now reportedly lost three more of its top executives, Bloomberg reported on July 15: national sales and distribution chief, Rahul Jain; head of commercial channels Jayant Gupta, and head of telecom carrier sales, Manish Sharma. The company is also overhauling its India sales team, Bloomberg said, quoting unidentified sources.

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Apple Won't Replace Faulty MacBook Pro Keyboards With Third-Gen Components
After determining that a "small percentage" of 2015-2017 MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards may experience sticky keys, Apple initiated a Keyboard Service Program. The company has been servicing affected keyboards for free, but the fix doesn't guarantee the problem won't emerge again. The new 2018 MacBook Pros feature third-generation keyboards that are intended to prevent the keys from getting stuck. "For this reason, some customers have been hoping that Apple will start swapping out second-generation keyboards with third-generation keyboards, as part of its service program, but MacRumors has learned that isn't the plan." From the report: When asked if Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers will be permitted to replace second-generation keyboards on 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro models with the new third-generation keyboards, if necessary, Apple said, no, the third-generation keyboards are exclusive to the 2018 MacBook Pro. Hopefully, in that case, it means that Apple has quietly tweaked the second-generation keyboard to be more reliable. It wouldn't really make sense for Apple to replace keyboards with ones that are just as prone to break again, especially if the third-generation keyboards offer a fix. One possibility is that the third-generation keyboards aren't backwards compatible with 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro models to begin with. The keyboard is actually one part of a larger component called the "top case," which also has a glued-in battery, and the internal design could be tweaked in 2018 models.

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