Good deal on an Echo Dot: $38

Amazon is selling certified refurbished Echo Dots for $38. That's a great price for a gadget that plays podcasts, audiobooks, music, NPR updates, tells you the weather, and settles arguments about whether or not Nixon-era Secretaries of State are still alive. I use my Dot many times a day. It has a decent built-in speaker and the microphones (it has 7) can pick up and recognize what I'm saying with amazing accuracy even when I'm across the room. Read the rest

The Juicero is an impressive piece of over engineered hardware

It's easy to squeeze the juice out of a Juicero juice bag with your bare hands. But for some reason, the $400 Juicero machine was built to squeeze charcoal briquettes into diamonds. Ben Einstein, a product designer and venture capitalist, took one apart to see what was inside.

Excerpts:

Juicero’s Press is an incredibly complicated piece of engineering. Of the hundreds of consumer products I’ve taken apart over the years, this is easily among the top 5% on the complexity scale. Because the door must transmit the force of the entire drivetrain pushing against the juice packs, we see MASSIVE machined aluminum components. It is exceptionally rare to see a custom power supply on a first-time hardware startup’s product as these are inspected very carefully as part of UL/ETL certification, creating additional cost and risk. Like many of the other systems on this product, the motor is seemingly custom to account for the exceptionally high rated power (stalls at 5A at 330V DC, which is hard to believe, possibly even a misprint on the motor casing) and sports a custom encoder system designed by Juicero (yellow arrow) Removing the sheet metal frame sheds light on a few more custom-machined aluminum drivetrain components. The number, size, complexity and accuracy of these parts is somewhat mind-blowing for a young hardware startup.

At least the engineers had fun designing this! Read the rest

A juicer that won't make juice unless the produce is marked with special code [Updated]

This has been out for a while, but my IFTF colleague Brad just told me about it last week. It's the $400 Juicero juicing machine. To make juice with it, you must subscribe to receive pre-masticated produce that comes in packs (priced between $7 and $10 per pack, $35 to $50 per week). The packs are marked with a QR code that the Juicero scans to make sure it is "fresh." If the pack gets "out of code" (i.e., it's produce you grew, traded, or brought elsewhere) the Juicero will reject it. It's got a built-in Wi-Fi radio, which checks the date (and monitors your use of the juicer). The machine itself seems pretty neat - it presses the juice by squeezing the fruit, but they really need to let you use your own produce.

If this appeals to you, here's a smart floss dispenser you'll probably like.

UPDATE: A spokesperson for Juicero sent me an email, asking me to make some corrections to the piece:

- Produce Packs are $5 - $8 each, not $7 - $10

-The QR code is not to ensure you don’t use your own produce, it’s there to ensure that the produce is fresh, quality and to help consumers manage their Pack subscriptions. We don’t use any preservatives or additives, just fresh, organic produce, so the QR code ensures that the produce in the Packs is within the approx. 6 day shelf life. It also help you manage your Packs by enabling the Juicero App to remind you when your Packs are about to expire.

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In video, Alexa goes strangely quiet when asked if it's connected to the CIA

An amusing, slightly unsettling video. Just a glitch, right? Read the rest

Internet-connected teddy bear leaked kids' data online

Update: Dupe!

Internet-connected Cloud Pets stored recordings online and put associated data in an unprotected database for hackers to find.

Since Christmas day of last year and at least until the first week of January, Spiral Toys left customer data of its CloudPets brand on a database that wasn't behind a firewall or password-protected. The MongoDB was easy to find using Shodan, a search engine makes it easy to find unprotected websites and servers, according to several security researchers who found and inspected the data. ... During the time the data was exposed, at least two security researchers, and likely malicious hackers, got their hands on it. In fact, at the beginning of January, during the time several cybercriminals were actively scanning the internet for exposed MongoDB's databases to delete their data and hold it for ransom, CloudPets' data was overwritten twice, according to researchers.

Security researcher Troy Hunt reports that the snuggly spies, from Spiral Toys, "represents the nexus" of the problem with internet-connected appliances and toys: children being recorded, data being leaked, and the technical possibility of surreptitious access to children through networked toys. "The best way to understand what these guys do is to simply watch the video [advertisement for the toy]."

Clearly, CloudPets weren't just ignoring my contact, they simply weren't even reading their emails. 4 attempts (that we know of) were made to contact CloudPets and warn them of this risk.
Read the rest

Germans warned to DESTROY Cayla, network-connected doll that spies on children

It's called Cayla, it's about a foot tall, and it can be used to listen to and talk to the child playing with it. But who is doing the listening? Anyone in Bluetooth range, reports Germany's Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur).

An official watchdog in Germany has told parents to destroy a talking doll called Cayla because its smart technology can reveal personal data. ... The Vivid Toy group, which distributes My Friend Cayla, has previously said that examples of hacking were isolated and carried out by specialists. However, it said the company would take the information on board as it was able to upgrade the app used with the doll.

But experts have warned that the problem has not been fixed.

The Cayla doll can respond to a user's question by accessing the internet. For example, if a child asks the doll "what is a little horse called?" the doll can reply "it's called a foal".

Watch the BBC's video of Cayla, in its squeaky, sinister voice, say "I've been hacked to say all sorts of scary things."

Cayla was on Boing Boing last year when the FCC received complaints about it. Cayla is on Amazon for $45.

It's so easy to hack that everyday YouTubers are at it! Read the rest

Asking Alexa 50 questions

This entertaining video is a good way to learn what the Amazon Echo can do. Read the rest

Listen to these elevators having a conversation with a computer

Here's a live feed of Kone elevators around the world having an English language conversation with a computer system that analyzes the elevators' reports about their temperature, ride time, landing accuracy, vibration, etc. I can't wait for the graphic novel adaptation. Read the rest

Amazon Alexa gone wild

[NSFW audio] Amazon Alexa gets saucy, much to the consternation of a toddler's parents. Read the rest

Echo Dot for $40

The Echo Dot, Amazon's voice-controlled device that play music, audiobooks, radio shows, podcasts, news alerts, and more is just $40 right now. I bought it a couple of months ago when it was $50. My family uses it many times a day. My favorite use for it listening to Audible books while I clean the kitchen (I'm currently tearing through Michael Connelly's oeuvre). I also use it a lot to add items to my shopping list and to-do list. The speech recognition is excellent. I love this thing. Read the rest

DDoS attack on Finnish automated buildings disabled heating controls

When the heat goes out during Finnish winter, it's a matter of life and death, so when two automated buildings controlled by Valtia systems suffered DDoS attacks that shut off the heat, Finns were understandably alarmed about the new threat. Read the rest

Buy a Dash button for $1, get a $5 credit

I just bought another Amazon Dash Button for my growing collection of wireless one-push product ordering buttons. (This time, I got the button for Amazon Basic Batteries.) Dash Buttons are usually $5, but you can get one for $1 if you use the promo code CYBERDASH. You'll also get a $5 Amazon credit after your first press. Read the rest

China electronics maker will recall some devices sold in U.S. after massive IoT hack

A China-based maker of surveillance cameras said Monday it will recall some products sold in the United States after a massive "Internet of Things" malware attack took down a major DNS provider in a massive DDOS attack. The stunningly broad attack brought much internet activity to a halt last Friday.

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St. Jude heart implant devices can be hacked, security researchers say

Security experts hired by the short-selling firm Muddy Waters said in a legal brief filed today that cardiac implants made by St. Jude Medical can be hacked. If hackers can pwn your heart device, the researchers say, they can kill you--from as far away as 100 feet.

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English man spends 11 hours trying to make cup of tea with Wi-Fi kettle

The iKettle is advertised as “the world’s first Wi-Fi kettle.” Mark Rittman got one and said it took 11-hours to make a cup of tea.

From The Guardian:

A key problem seemed to be that Rittman’s kettle didn’t come with software that would easily allow integration with other devices in his home, including Amazon Echo, which, like Apple’s Siri, allows users to tell connected smart devices what to do. So Rittman was trying to build the integration functionality himself.

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Pornhub on a refrigerator in Home Depot

John McAfee observed something unusual running on a fridge at the local Home Depot: porn.

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Design fiction, the Internet of Women's things, and futurism

Jasmina Tesanovic (previously) and Bruce Sterling did a residency at The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UCSD, working with the students on design fiction and futurism. Read the rest

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