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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

'Snapdragon 1000' Chip May Be Designed For PCs From the Ground Up
Qualcomm's Snapdragon 850 processor may be intended for PCs, but it's still a half step -- it's really a higher-clocked version of the same processor you'd find in your phone. The company may be more adventurous the next time, though. From a report: WinFuture says it has obtained details surrounding SDM1000 (possibly Snapdragon 1000), a previously hinted-at CPU that would be designed from the start for PCs. It would have a relatively huge design compared to most ARM designs (20mm x 15mm) and would consume a laptop-like 12W of power across the entire system-on-a-chip. It would compete directly with Intel's low-power Core processors where the existing 835 isn't really in the ballpark. A reference design found in import databases might give a clue as to what you could expect: it'd have up to 16GB of RAM and two 128GB storage modules.

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8 Months After a Surge of Complaints, Apple Announces a Repair Program For Its Flawed MacBooks and MacBook Pros
Casey Johnston, writing for The Outline: At long last, Apple admitted to its customers that its MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboard designs are so flawed and prone to sticking or dead keys, as originally reported by The Outline in October, and that it will cover the cost of repairs beyond the products' normal warranty. The admission comes after the company has been hit with no fewer than three class action lawsuits concerning the computers and their ultra-thin butterfly-switch keyboards. While the repair and replacement program covers costs and notes that Apple will repair both single keys as well as whole keyboards when necessary, it doesn't note whether the replacements will be a different, improved design that will prevent the problem from happening again (and again, and again).

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Should Professional Sports Switch To Robot Referees?
Long-time Slashdot reader Esther Schindler writes: Everyone who watches sports spends some amount of time yelling at the umpire or sports referee. For the past few years we've also been shouting, "Replace that ump with a robot!" But is it technically feasible? Is the current level of AI and robotics tech up to the job? This article starts with the assumption that someone seriously wants to create a robot umpire or sports referee and then evaluates whether it possible to build an accurate and trustworthy augmented reality solution today. The article points out that professional tennis matches already apply AI to high-definition video feeds from up to six different cameras to dispense binding judgments on whether a ball was in or out. At the same time, not every officiating decision in every sport is so easily automated, since AI "can't yet handle calls that hinge on judgment of players' intent." But there's a larger question: do we really want to remove those human watchers from our sports? "Sports is a human activity," argues a professor of social sciences at Cardiff University in Wales, suggesting that human officials continue a cultural tradition which reminds us of who we are. "Humans are imperfect; that's OK." What do Slashdot's readers think? Should professional sports switch to robot referees?

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Dropbox Open Sources DivANS: a Compression Algorithm In Rust Compiled To WASM
Slashdot reader danielrh writes: DivANS is a new compression algorithm developed at Dropbox that can be denser than Brotli, 7zip or zstd at the cost of compression and decompression speed. The code uses some of the new vector intrinsics in Rust and is multithreaded. It has a demo running in the browser. One of the new ideas is that it has an Intermediate Representation, like a compiler, and that lets developers mashup different compression algorithms and build compression optimizers that run over the IR. The project is looking for community involvement and experimentation.

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Valve's Knuckles EV2 Controller Will Let You Squeeze Things In VR
Valve's "Knuckles" controllers for VR, first introduced in 2016, are getting upgraded. According to Engadget, Valve is "sending game makers another version, the EV2, that has revamped buttons, straps and a slew of sensors that essentially translate finger motion and pressure to let you touch, grab and squeeze objects inside games." From the report: Some of the EV2's changes are evident: The old Steam Controller-style touchpad that dominated the controller's top has been shrunken to an oval 'track button' that measures touch and force. That's flanked by traditional inputs: A joystick (by developer demand, Valve noted in a blog post) and standard circular buttons. The strap is adjustable for different hand sizes and pulls tight to let players let go of the controller completely without dropping it -- which could be key for the pressure inputs. While last year's model had touch inputs tracking each finger in the 'grip' area, the EV2 introduces pressure sensors that measure how much force the wielder is using. Obviously, this has implications for VR developers who want players to grip or squeeze objects in the world, but as Valve's blog post points out, combining those with the touch sensors tells games when players let go of the grips -- like, say, when they're throwing things in-game. Lastly, the battery life has been extended to last six hours.

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Tesla To Close a Dozen Solar Facilities In 9 States
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Electric car maker Tesla's move last week to cut 9 percent of its workforce will sharply downsize the residential solar business it bought two years ago in a controversial $2.6 billion deal, according to three internal company documents and seven current and former Tesla solar employees. The latest cuts to the division that was once SolarCity -- a sales and installation company founded by two cousins of Tesla CEO Elon Musk -- include closing about a dozen installation facilities, according to internal company documents, and ending a retail partnership with Home Depot that the current and former employees said generated about half of its sales. About 60 installation facilities remain open, according to an internal company list reviewed by Reuters. An internal company email named 14 facilities slated for closure, but the other list included only 13 of those locations.

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The iPhones of the Future May Be Wireless, Portless and Buttonless
The first iPhone to shed its headphone jack was the iPhone 7, which launched in late 2016. Now it seems like the Lightning port may be the next to go. CNET reports: Apple has considered removing the Lightning port on the iPhone X, according to Bloomberg, citing unnamed "people familiar with the company's work." While earlier rumors suggested that Apple would remove the Lightning port in favor of USB-C, Apple's goal may be to remove all ports entirely. Bloomberg's report is about the challenges that Apple faces with its AirPower wireless charger, but it also shares some details about Apple's vision for a wireless future. The report says: "Apple designers eventually hope to remove most of the external ports and buttons on the iPhone, including the charger, according to people familiar with the company's work. During the development of the iPhone X, Apple weighed removing the wired charging system entirely. That wasn't feasible at the time because wireless charging was still slower than traditional methods. Including a wireless charger with new iPhones would also significantly raise the price of the phones."

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Nintendo and Microsoft Team Up To Promote Cross-Play, While Sony Remains Silent
Minecraft for the Nintendo Switch is getting a big update today that will enable cross-play with PC, Xbox One, and smartphones -- but notably not the PlayStation 4. "Sony is blocking cross-play for Fortnite, Rocket League, and Minecraft so PS4 players can't play against Xbox One or Nintendo Switch owners," reports The Verge. "Meanwhile, Nintendo and Microsoft are partnering to utilize cross-play as a marketing weapon today." From the report: The Minecraft cross-play trailer specifically focuses on the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch being able to play together. It also includes the rare sight of an Xbox One controller in a Switch commercial. If that's not enough of a partnership, the ad even encourages players to create, explore, and survive together in Minecraft on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.

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Burger Robot Startup Opens First Restaurant
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Creator's transparent burger robot doesn't grind your brisket and chuck steak into a gourmet patty until you order it. That's just one way this startup, formerly known as Momentum Machines, wants to serve the world's freshest cheeseburger for just $6. On June 27th, after eight years in development, Creator unveils its first robot restaurant before opening to the public in September. Here's how Creator's burger-cooking bot works at its 680 Folsom Street location in San Francisco. Once you order your burger style through a human concierge on a tablet, a compressed air tube pushes a baked-that-day bun into an elevator on the right. It's sawed in half by a vibrating knife before being toasted and buttered as it's lowered to conveyor belt. Sauces measured by the milliliter and spices by the gram are automatically squirted onto the bun. Whole pickles, tomatoes, onions and blocks of nice cheese get slices shaved off just a second before they're dropped on top. Meanwhile, the robot grinds hormone-free, pasture-raised brisket and chuck steak to order. But rather than mash them all up, the strands of meat hang vertically and are lightly pressed together. They form a loose but auto-griddleable patty that's then plopped onto the bun before the whole package slides out of the machine after a total time of about five minutes. The idea is that when you bite into the burger, your teeth align with the vertical strands so instead of requiring harsh chewing it almost melts in your mouth. TechCrunch has produced a video about the company on YouTube.

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Humans Can Now Correct Robots With Brainwaves
Researchers at MIT have built a system that allows robots to be corrected through thought and hand gestures. "The system monitors brain activity, determining if a person has noticed an error in the machine's work," reports Popular Mechanics. "If an error is detected, the system reverts over to human control. From that point, all it takes is a flick of the wrist to get the robot back on the right course." From the report: "This work combining EEG and EMG feedback enables natural human-robot interactions for a broader set of applications than we've been able to do before using only EEG feedback. By including muscle feedback, we can use gestures to command the robot spatially, with much more nuance and specificity," says CSAIL Director Daniela Rus, who supervised the work, in a press statement. EEG refers to electroencephalography, a type of biofeedback which uses real-time displays of brain activity to each self-regulation to the brain. EMG feedback refers to electromyography, which is the recording of the electrical activity of muscle tissue. Earlier brain recognition systems required people to think in highly specific ways to achieve EEG or EMG recognition. What Rus' team realized is that when the human brain recognizes an error, it automatically releases a very specific signal all on its own. These signals are called error-related potentials (ErrPs). When the robotic system notices an ErrP signal in the human brain, it turns the robot over to human control.

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Tesla Sues Employee Alleged To Have Stolen Gigabytes of Data
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Wednesday, Tesla sued a former employee who worked in its Gigafactory in Nevada, accusing him of stealing trade secrets. The lawsuit appears to be what CEO Elon Musk was referring to recently when he said that production of the Model 3 had been sabotaged. Musk said that there are "more" alleged saboteurs. According to the civil complaint that was filed in federal court in Nevada, Tesla accused Martin Tripp, who began working in Sparks as a "process technician" in October 2017, of exporting company data: "Tesla has only begun to understand the full scope of Tripp's illegal activity, but he has thus far admitted to writing software that hacked Tesla's manufacturing operating system ("MOS") and to transferring several gigabytes of Tesla data to outside entities. This includes dozens of confidential photographs and a video of Tesla's manufacturing systems."

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Portland Kicks Off Smart City Initiative With Traffic Sensor Safety Project
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Portland, Oregon officials claim its city has some of the best bike data in the United States -- data revealing how many people ride bicycles, where they're going and what streets they're using. Their collection of that data, however, has been as low-tech as it gets: city staffers and volunteers stand out on street corners for two hours at a time and count. Now, the city is aiming for more comprehensive, accurate data collection with the installation of 200 sensors installed on street lights on three of Portland's deadliest streets: Southeast Division St., SE Hawthorne Blvd. and 122nd St. The Traffic Sensor Safety Project, for a price tag of just over $1 million, represents the first major milestone for the Smart City PDX initiative. It relies on GE's Current CityIQ sensors, which are powered with Intel IoT technology and use AT&T as the data carrier. GE, Intel and AT&T have already worked together to deploy smart streetlight sensors in San Diego.

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New IBM Robot Holds Its Own In a Debate With a Human
PolygamousRanchKid shares a report: The human brain may be the ultimate super computer, but artificial intelligence is catching up so fast, it can now hold a substantive debate with a human, according to audience feedback. IBM's Project Debater made its public debut in San Francisco Monday afternoon, where it squared off against Noa Ovadia, the 2016 Israeli debate champion and in a second debate, Dan Zafrir, a nationally renowned debater in Israel. The AI is the latest grand challenge from IBM, which previously created Deep Blue, technology that beat chess champion Garry Kasparov and Watson, which bested humans on the game show Jeopardy. In its first public outing, Project Debater turned out to be a formidable opponent, scanning the hundreds of millions of newspaper and journal articles in its memory to quickly synthesize an argument on a topic and position it was assigned on the spot. "Project Debater could be the ultimate fact-based sounding board without the bias that often comes from humans," said Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research. An audience survey taken before and after each debate found that Project Debater better enriched the audience's knowledge as it argued in favor of subsidies for space exploration and in favor of telemedicine, but that the human debaters did a better job delivering their speeches. The AI isn't trained on topics -- it's trained on the art of debate. For the most part, Project Debater spoke in natural language, choosing the same words and sentence structures as a native English speaker. It even dropped the odd joke, but with the expected robotic delivery. IBM's engineers know the AI isn't perfect. Just like humans, it makes mistakes and at times, repeats itself. However, the company believes it could have a broad impact in the future as people now have to be more skeptical as they sort out fact and fiction. "Project Debater must adapt to human rationale and propose lines of argument that people can follow," Krishna said in a blog post. "In debate, AI must learn to navigate our messy, unstructured human world as it is -- not by using a pre-defined set of rules, as in a board game."

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Shots Fired Again Between CPU Vendors AMD and Intel
Highdude702 shares a report from Tom's Hardware: AMD's feud with Intel took an interesting turn today as the company announced that it would swap 40 Core i7-8086K's won from Intel's sweepstakes with a much beefier Threadripper 1950X CPU. At Computex 2018, Intel officially announced it was releasing the Core i7-8086K, a special edition processor that commemorates the 40th anniversary of the 8086, which debuted as the first x86 processor on June 8, 1978. Now AMD is offering to replace 40 of the winners' chips with its own 16-core 32-thread $799 Threadripper processors, thus throwing a marketing wrench into Intel's 40th-anniversary celebration. AMD has a list of the complete terms and conditions on its site. But it is also noteworthy that "winners" of AMD's competing sweepstakes will have to pony up for a much more expensive X399 motherboard with the TR4 socket, which currently retail for more than $300, instead of Intel's less-expensive 300-series motherboards. Regardless, those who do swap their Intel Core silicon for an AMD Threadripper chip will gain 10 cores and quad-channel memory, not to mention quite a bit of resale value. In response, Slashdot reader Highdude702 said: "AMD is shooting back at Intel like its easy for them, even though 40 out of 8086 is kind of stingy. They are acting like they have the horsepower now. I believe it is going to be an interesting time for consumers and enthusiasts coming soon. Maybe we will even get better prices." Intel responded via its official verified "Intel Gaming" Twitter account, tweeting: ".@AMDRyzen, if you wanted an Intel Core i7-8086K processor too, you could have just asked us. :) Thanks for helping us celebrate the 8086!"

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Kickstarter Bets On 'Wired' Arduino-Compatible IoT Platform
L-One-L-One writes: Most IoT home projects today are based on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and friends. But this is not always the ideal solution: you end up swapping batteries frequently, which becomes annoying quite quickly. You also have to deal with signal strength issues and interferences. To address this problem, a new Kickstarter campaign called NoCAN is proposing an Arduino-compatible internet-of-things platform based on wired connections that combine networking and power in one cable. The platform uses a set of cheap Arduino-compatible nodes controlled through a Raspberry Pi. The network uses CAN-bus and offers a publish/subscribe mechanism like MQTT and over-the-network firmware updates. It can also be controlled by a smartphone or tablet. Even with such features, can it succeed in going against the all-wireless trend? We'll know in a few weeks.

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