The world’s fifth-most-visited website has a long-running problem with gender bias: Only 18 percent of its biographies are of women. Surveys estimate that between 84 and 90 percent of Wikipedia editors are male. Quicksilver, is a software tool by San Francisco startup Primer designed to help Wikipedia editors fill in blind spots in the crowdsourced encyclopedia. Its under representation of women in science is a particular target. Quicksilver uses machine-learning algorithms to scour news articles and scientific citations to find notable scientists missing from Wikipedia, and then write fully sourced draft entries for them.
The summaries it generates are intended to provide a starting point for Wikipedia editors, who can clean up errors and check the sources to prevent any algorithmic slip-ups contaminating the site.
Echo Dot smart-home device aimed at children, is entering a busy and growing marketplace. More than one-third of U.S. homes with children has at least one “internet of things” connected toy—like a cuddly creature who can listen to and respond to a child’s inquiries. Many more of these devices are on the way, around the world and in North America specifically.
The toys connect wirelessly with online databases to recognize voices and images, identifying children’s queries, commands and requests and responding to them. They claim to improv children’s quality of play, providing children with new experiences of collaborative play, and developing children’s literacy, numeric and social skills.
Privacy is a concern for all their users with devices but children are particularly vulnerable and have special legal protections. Consumer advocates have raised alarms about the toys’ insecure wireless internet connections—either directly over Wi-Fi or via Bluetooth to a smartphone or tablet with internet access.
1. Unsecured wireless connections
Some “internet of things” toys can connect to smartphone apps without any form of authentication. So a user can download a free app, find an associated toy nearby, and then communicate directly with the child playing with that toy. In 2015, security researchers discovered that Hello Barbie, an internet-enabled Barbie doll, automatically connected to unsecured Wi-Fi networks that broadcast the network name “Barbie.” It would be very simple for an attacker to set up a Wi-Fi network with that name and communicate directly with an unsuspecting child.
The same thing could happen with unsecured Bluetooth connections to the Toy-Fi Teddy, I-Que Intelligent Robot and Furby Connect toys, a British consumer watchdog group revealed in 2017.
The toys’ ability to monitor children—even when used as intended and connected to official networks belonging to a toy’s manufacturer—violates Germany’s anti-surveillance laws. In 2017, German authorities declared the My Friend Cayla doll was an “illegal espionage apparatus,” ordering stores to pull it off the shelves and requiring parents to destroy or disable the toys.Unsecured devices allow attackers to do more than just talk to children: A toy can talk to another internet-connected device, too. In 2017, security researchers hijacked a CloudPets connected stuffed animal and used it to place an order through an Amazon Echo in the same room.
2. Tracking kids’ movements
Some internet-connected toys have GPS like those in fitness trackers and smartphones, which can also reveal users’ locations, even if those users are children. In addition, the Bluetooth communications some toys use can be detected as far away as 30 feet. If someone within that range looks for a Bluetooth device—even if they’re only seeking to pair their own headphones with a smartphone—they’ll see the toy’s name, and know a child is nearby.
Internet-connected toys have cameras that watch kids and microphones that listen to them, recording what they see and hear. Sometimes they send that information to company servers that analyze the inputs and send back directions on how the toy should respond. But those functions can also be hijacked to listen in on family conversations or take photographs or video of children without the kids or parents ever noticing.
Toy manufacturers don’t always ensure the data is stored and transmitted securely, even when laws require it: In 2018, toymaker VTech was fined US$650,000 for failing to fulfill its promises to encrypt private data and for violating U.S. laws protecting children’s privacy.
According to consumer advice from the FBI, parents should carefully research internet-connected toys before buying them, and evaluate their capabilities, functioning, and security and privacy settings before bringing these devices into their homes. Without proper safeguards—by parents, if not toy companies—children are at risk, both individually and through collection of aggregate data about kids’ activities.
The initial group of experts includes former Google ethicist Tristan Harris; former Facebook operations manager Sandy Parakilas; former Apple and Google communications executive Lynn Fox; former Facebook executive Dave Morin; Facebook “like” button creator Justin Rosenstein; early Facebook investor Roger McNamee; and technologist Renee DiResta.
Nonprofit media watchdog group Common Sense Media is on an anti-tech addiction lobbying effort called The Truth About Tech. The ad campaign in 55,000 American public schools will aim to educate students, parents and teachers about the dangers of technology and social media induced depression.
“The Truth About Tech campaign isn’t anti-tech, Common Sense founder and CEO Jim Steyer told Observer in an email. “It’s for tech that’s for kids. But there’s plenty of evidence that tech is changing the nature of our interpersonal relationships, and it’s time for a national conversation about that—among families, schools, and the industry.”
Parents and mental health experts have called on tech companies to reduce marketing to children. YouTube Kids and Facebook’s Messenger Kids have come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks.
Common Sense found that the average teenager uses online media nine hours per day, while tweens are exposed up to six hours a day.
Video game characters welcome guests at the opening announcement event for Esports Arena Las Vegas at the Luxor on January 10.
The Luxor will open Esports Arena Las Vegas on March 22, 2018 in the space formerly occupied by LAX Nightclub.
Twitch is a live-streaming video platform that made $1.7 billion in revenue last year from kids and young adults watching other people play video games,” says Christopher LaPorte. “Gaming is the second most-popular content category on YouTube.
Esports resource Newzoo’s third annual Global Esports Market Report released last year projected the esports economy would grow to nearly $700 million in 2017 and $1.5 billion by 2020. On February 1, international multimedia news provider Reuters announced the launch of a new wire service devoted to coverage of esports and the competitive gaming industry.
Constructing real stained-glass windows may or may not sound like a good time, but it’s pure pleasure in the world of Sagrada. In this dice-drafting game, players take turns picking dice from a pool available each round, then slotting those dice into the “window” they’re constructing on a personal player board. The boards themselves dictate where certain dice can go—only red dice here, only 2s there—while the game has its own global placement rules.
The 7th Continent
The 7th Continent sets you off (solo or with up to three friends) on a Choose Your Own Adventure-style quest to explore a mysterious island in order to rid yourself of a curse. The game is driven by a huge box of square-shaped cards, which represent the terrain you explore, the items and creatures you find, and the skills and upgrades you acquire to help you along the way.
Exit: The Game
the best of the current “escape room” games, these adventures are just terrifically designed—but they are hard. Don’t bust these games out with young children and expect everyone to have a good time.
Twilight Imperium: 4th Edition
The biggest, longest and most sprawling game of interstellar conquest and diplomacy is back for its fourth and best edition. It’s been streamlined (meaning you may just still see daylight after someone finally wins, for a change) but it’s still an absolute beast and a must for any fans of the maximalist style of board gaming.
NMBR9 is a spatial puzzle all about getting chunky cardboard numbers as high off the table as possible. Play couldn’t be simpler, and the game has no setup—just open the box! On each turn, a single card is revealed, showing a single number. Every player takes a copy of that number from the box and places it on the table before them.
The mission is to find only those words that belong to your team—but the catch is that each teammate only knows some of the words. (A double-sided card sits in a plastic stand throughout the game, showing each player which words they need to uncover.)
Downforce flies past, giving that sense of pure speed. Car movement is card-driven; discard something from your hand and move multiple cars the requisite number of spaces shown beside their colors.