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Prototype prosthesis proffers proper proprioceptive properties – TechCrunch

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Researchers have created a prosthetic hand that offers its users the ability to feel where it is and how the fingers are positioned — a sense known as proprioception. The headline may be in jest, but the advance is real and may help amputees more effectively and naturally use their prostheses.

Prosthesis rejection is a real problem for amputees, and many choose to simply live without these devices, electronic or mechanical, as they can complicate as much as they simplify. Part of that is the simple fact that, unlike their natural limbs, artificial ones have no real sensation — or if there is any, it’s nowhere near the level someone had before.

Touch and temperature detection are important, of course, but what’s even more critical to ordinary use is simply knowing where your limb is and what it’s doing. If you close your eyes, you can tell where each digit is, how many you’re holding up, whether they’re gripping a small or large object and so on. That’s currently impossible with a prosthesis, even one that’s been integrated with the nervous system to provide feedback — meaning users have to watch what they’re doing at all times. (That is, if the arm isn’t watching for you.)

This prosthesis, built by Swiss, Italian and German neurologists and engineers, is described in a recent issue of Science Robotics. It takes the existing concept of sending touch information to the brain through electrodes patched into the nerves of the arm, and adapts it to provide real-time proprioceptive feedback.

“Our study shows that sensory substitution based on intraneural stimulation can deliver both position feedback and tactile feedback simultaneously and in real time. The brain has no problem combining this information, and patients can process both types in real time with excellent results,” explained Silvestro Micera, of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, in a news release.

It’s been the work of a decade to engineer and demonstrate this possibility, which could be of enormous benefit. Having a natural, intuitive understanding of the position of your hand, arm or leg would likely make prostheses much more useful and comfortable for their users.

Essentially the robotic hand relays its telemetry to the brain through the nerve pathways that would normally be bringing touch to that area. Unfortunately it’s rather difficult to actually recreate the proprioceptive pathways, so the team used what’s called sensory substitution instead. This uses other pathways, like ordinary touch, as ways to present different sense modalities.

(Diagram modified from original to better fit, and to remove some rather bloody imagery.)

A simple example would be a machine that touched your arm in a different location depending on where your hand is. In the case of this research it’s much finer, but still essentially presenting position data as touch data. It sounds weird, but our brains are actually really good at adapting to this kind of thing.

As evidence, witness that after some training two amputees using the system were able to tell the difference between four differently shaped objects being grasped, with their eyes closed, with 75 percent accuracy. Chance would be 25 percent, of course, meaning the sensation of holding objects of different sizes came through loud and clear — clear enough for a prototype, anyway. Amazingly, the team was able to add actual touch feedback to the existing pathways and the users were not overly confused by it. So there’s precedent now for multi-modal sensory feedback from an artificial limb.

The study has well-defined limitations, such as the number and type of fingers it was able to relay information from, and the granularity and type of that data. And the “installation” process is still very invasive. But it’s pioneering work nevertheless: this type of research is very iterative and global, progressing by small steps until, all of a sudden, prosthetics as a science has made huge strides. And the people who use prosthetic limbs will be making strides, as well.

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Eufy’s “local storage” cameras can be streamed from anywhere, unencrypted

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Enlarge / Eufy’s camera footage is stored locally, but with the right URL, you can also watch it from anywhere, unencrypted. It’s complicated.

When security researchers found that Eufy’s supposedly cloud-free cameras were uploading thumbnails with facial data to cloud servers, Eufy’s response was that it was a misunderstanding, a failure to disclose an aspect of its mobile notification system to customers.

It seems there’s more understanding now, and it’s not good.

Eufy didn’t respond to other claims from security researcher Paul Moore and others, including that one could stream the feed from a Eufy camera in VLC Media Player, if you had the right URL. Last night, The Verge, working with the security researcher “Wasabi” who first tweeted the problem, confirmed it could access Eufy camera streams, encryption-free, through a Eufy server URL.

This makes Eufy’s privacy promises of footage that “never leaves the safety of your home,” is end-to-end encrypted, and only sent “straight to your phone” highly misleading, if not outright dubious. It also contradicts an Anker/Eufy senior PR manager who told The Verge that “it is not possible” to watch footage using a third-party tool like VLC.

The Verge notes some caveats, similar to those that applied to the cloud-hosted thumbnail. Chiefly, you would typically need a username and password to reveal and access the encryption-free URL of a stream. “Typically,” that is, because the camera-feed URL appears to be a relatively simple scheme involving the camera serial number in Base64, a Unix timestamp, a token that The Verge says is not validated by Eufy’s servers, and a four-digit hex value. Eufy’s serial numbers are typically 16 digits long, but they are also printed on some boxes and could be obtained in other places.

We’ve reached out to Eufy and Wasabi and will update this post with any further information. Researcher Paul Moore, who initially raised concerns with Eufy’s cloud access, tweeted on November 28 that he had “a lengthy discussion with [Eufy’s] legal department” and would not comment further until he could provide an update.

Vulnerability discovery is far more of a norm than an exception in the smart home and home security fields. Ring, Nest, Samsung, the corporate meeting cam Owl—if it has a lens, and it connects to Wi-Fi, you can expect a flaw to show up at some point, and headlines to go with it. Most of these flaws are limited in scope, complicated for a malicious entity to act upon, and, with responsible disclosure and a swift response, will ultimately make the devices and systems stronger.

Eufy, in this instance, is not looking like the typical cloud security company with a typical vulnerability. An entire page of privacy promises, including some valid and notably good moves, has been made largely irrelevant within a week’s time.

You could argue that anyone who wants to be notified of camera incidents on their phone should expect some cloud servers to be involved. You might give Eufy the benefit of the doubt, that the cloud servers you can access with the right URL are simply a waypoint for streams that have to leave the home network eventually under an account password lock.

But it has to be particularly painful for customers who bought Eufy’s products under the auspices of having their footage stored locally, safely, and differently from those other cloud-based firms only to see Eufy struggle to explain its own cloud reliance to one of the largest tech news outlets.

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Pixel 7a rumors show similar design, big tech upgrades

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Enlarge / Yep, that’s what I thought it would look like.

OnLeaks and Smartprix

The design of the Pixel 7a does not seem like it will contain many surprises. OnLeaks has a fresh render for Google’s next mid-range phone, and it looks like a mini Pixel 7. Usually, these renders are based on CAD information passed out to accessory manufacturers, so the sizes and shapes are usually accurate, but things like the colors and materials are up for interpretation.

If rumors are true, this will be Google’s fourth phone to keep the camera-bar design going. The Pixel 6 and 6a camera bar had a clear glass or plastic covering around the camera lenses, while the Pixel 7 switched to an opaque, solid aluminum camera bar. Google likes these phones to look the same, so it’s a safe bet the Pixel 7a will also get a solid camera bar. Whether that’s aluminum or some other material is still up for interpretation. The front is also predictable and looks just like the Pixel 6a, with a flat screen and what the report calls “thick bezels.”

Elsewhere in the Pixel rumor mill, big upgrades are expected for the Pixel 7a. Android researcher Kuba Wojciechowski has been tracking the Pixel 7a (codenamed “Lynx” and “Pixel 22 Mid-range”) via the Android codebase, which reveals additions like (slow) 5 W wireless charging and the same Samsung GN1 main camera as what’s in the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, along with a Sony IMX787 for the wide-angle sensor. The new sensors would be a big camera upgrade. Currently, the Pixel 6a’s main camera is the venerable Sony IMX363, a sensor that Google has been using (with one minor revision) since the Pixel 2. A fresh set of sensors would make sense, given that the IMX363 is around six years old now.

You might ask, “Well, won’t flagship cameras cannibalize the bigger Pixel sales?” and we’ll say that Google has never seemed to care about that. The Pixel 6a has the same SoC as the Pixel 6 and really seems to strive to be a third flagship next to the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. Running a similar camera loadout would fit that strategy. Cannibalization might matter for companies with big, established businesses, but Google might just want to grab at whatever sales it can get at this point.

Wojciechowski’s code hunting also says the Pixel 7a will sport a 90 Hz, 1080p Samsung display, which would also be a huge improvement over the 60 Hz Pixel 6a. All of this at the 6a’s current $449 price might sound like a lot, but the Pixel 7 recently shipped in India, and if Google wants to be competitive there, this still isn’t good enough. In India, it’s normal for phones in this price range to have 120 Hz displays and flagship specs. In the US, though, this phone at Pixel 6a prices would be a killer deal.

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Elon Musk appears to reconcile with Apple after Twitter tirade

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Elon Musk said he had a “good conversation” with Apple chief executive Tim Cook and “resolved the misunderstanding” about his claim that Twitter could be removed from the App Store, just days after the world’s richest man unleashed a tirade against the most valuable tech company.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Musk said that “Tim was clear that Apple never considered” potentially removing Twitter from the App Store, describing it as a “misunderstanding.”

Musk, who bought Twitter for $44 billion last month, also thanked Cook for “taking me round Apple’s beautiful HQ,” and posted a video from Apple Park.

The volte-face comes after the billionaire entrepreneur on Monday accused Apple of threatening to “withhold Twitter from its App Store” without explaining why, and criticized the iPhone maker for curbing advertising on the platform, writing: “Do they hate free speech in America?”

The Tesla and SpaceX chief executive also raised concerns about Apple’s “in-app purchase” policy, which gives it a 15-30 percent cut of digital purchases made on the iPhone, and claims that the company abuses its market power.

Musk has previously outlined plans to shift Twitter away from relying on advertising revenues—in which Apple takes no cut—towards more subscription revenues, from which Apple would take a slice.

Apple declined to comment.

The apparent reconciliation comes amid growing concern among some nonprofits and regulators about Musk’s relaxation of Twitter’s content moderation policing. Musk, a self-declared “free speech absolutist,” is reversing most permanent bans on the platform and allowing all speech as long as it is legal, although “negative/hate speech” will not be boosted in users’ feeds.

The approach has prompted dozens of large brands to pull spending from the platform over fears their advertising may run alongside toxic content.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Twitter said none of its policies had changed and that its trust and safety team remained “strong and well-resourced.”

Apple maintains guidelines requiring social media apps to “block abusive users,” allow users to “report offensive content” and to filter “objectionable material from being posted.”

When Apple expelled Parler, a Twitter rival used by rightwing extremists, Apple said it had “not upheld its commitment to moderate and remove harmful or dangerous content encouraging violence and illegal activity.”

Although the feud appears to be over for now, Musk’s tweets were a catalyst for renewed criticism of Apple that could prove damaging, as antitrust regulators and app developers voice concerns over its rules and the role it plays as “gatekeeper” by deciding what content is allowed on more than 1 billion phones worldwide.

Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, warned Apple that removing Twitter from the App Store would be viewed as a “raw exercise of monopolistic power” and “would merit a response from the United States Congress.”

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook parent Meta, was also critical of Apple’s market power during an interview at The New York Times’s Dealbook summit on Wednesday, saying: “I do think Apple has sort of singled themselves out as the only company that is trying to control, unilaterally, what apps get on the [Apple] device and I don’t think that’s a sustainable or a good place to be.”

Apple has been dealing with criticism of the App Store for years. Epic Games, the maker of popular mobile game Fortnite, sued Apple in 2020 but only won on one of the 10 counts. Epic and Apple have both appealed against the decision.

© 2022 The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved. Not to be redistributed, copied, or modified in any way.

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