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Safer Internet Day: The how-to

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This Safer Internet Day, Microsoft is raising awareness and offering help to promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology for children and young people.

In the cloud-first, mobile-first era, students, parents, and teachers are empowered to accomplish more by tapping into the power of the Internet, social networks, data analytics and mobile devices. However, online safety concerns still remain for both parents as well as educators and caregivers due to the mix of old and new threats such as virtual bullying, plagiarism, cybercrime, gambling and even kidnapping, resulting in the need for risk awareness and smart online habits to be re-emphasized.

Toward that end, Microsoft highlighted a few new resources via a blogpost by Jacqueline Beauchere – Microsoft Chief Online Safety Officer. These resources have been created for parents, caregivers and educators on some important topics in online safety, including teaching young people about misinformation and hate speech online, educating them about the dangers of “sexting,” and helping them respond to incidents of cyber harassment.

To complement our existing factsheet on teen sexting written for parents, last year the Youth Advisory Board of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation created a sexting factsheet for us geared toward youths. At Microsoft, we see sexting as a significant and unsavoury gateway through which young people can be exposed to a range of negative online content and experiences. So, we’re raising awareness, partnering with others on research and other projects, and generally encouraging good digital behaviour.

Microsoft announced the removal of sexual imagery of victims of “revenge porn” from OneDrive as well as Xbox Live. We have also denied access via Bing to those images, when those victims make known to us the existence of such content on our services. December saw the highest number of removal requests made to us to-date, with the vast majority of those cases being accepted and addressed. Accordingly, for the foreseeable future we’ll continue to make available our dedicated Web reporting form for non-consensual pornography.

Microsoft has received some 180,000 customer calls concerning tech-support fraud since May 2014. We have also taken a first major step in fighting back by filing a federal lawsuit against two companies. In addition, international law enforcement agencies are making this a priority for action. This is another area ripe for consumer education and awareness, so we teamed with AARP to help spread the word.  (See, http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2015/scams-and-frauds-to-avoid.html) That message needs to continue to circulate in 2016.

The start of a new year brings a fresh opportunity to become more online and technology savvy by amongst others taking stock of one’s online habits and practices. Here’s to a happy, healthy and safe 2016, both online and off.

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to online safety and encouraging good digital citizenship, visit our website:  www.microsoft.com/saferonline.

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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