Day: August 15, 2011

Avatar-Based Virtual Co-Driver System Replaces Vehicle Owner’s Manuals

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Flashing signal lamps and unfamiliar control elements tend to worry car drivers. Scientists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen in cooperation with engineers at Audi AG have developed an Avatar-based Virtual Co-driver System (AviCoS) to support the driver with explicit information on the vehicle in a natural-language dialog — supported by images and videos — making cumbersome paging through owner’s manuals a thing of the past.

The avatar is displayed on the monitor of the Audi Mulitmedia Interface that comes standard in all new Audi models. The virtual figure understands complete sentences. Using artificial intelligence, AviCoS interprets questions by the vehicle occupants and answers in spoken language. The driver can view descriptive images or videos on-screen and the avatar points to the relevant areas during the explanation.

A further option — in addition to speech — for communicating with AviCoS is a Touch&Tell mode. If a driver is unfamiliar with a specific control element, a simple touch is all it takes to cue the avatar to provide background information on the function in question. “This is a tool to explain control elements in an quick and easy, hands-on way. It is particularly useful in unfamiliar vehicles,” says Professor Helmut Krcmar, Chair of the TU Muenchen Institute of Business Informatics.

Underway at high speeds

AviCoS can also be used while driving. To avoid distracting the driver’s attention from traffic, as the vehicle speed increases, first the animations and later all graphical output is suppressed. Albeit, voice communication with the avatar remains available at all times.

Investigations carried out in the context of the research project attest to the virtues of AviCoS. Compared to looking up information in the owner’s manual, car drivers can find the information they need faster and more accurately. And AviCoS is simply more fun to use. “Overall, AviCoS provides comfortable and interactive access to multimedia content that goes far beyond the information contained in printed manuals. The self-explanatory system can be used without training, making it easy to get familiar with the operation of a vehicle,” says Dr. Michael Schermann, director of the Automotive Services research group at the Institute for Business Informatics.

Language as a mood meter

The natural language interaction between drivers and vehicles will be extended in the future. The vision: A system that recognizes and adapts to the driver’s state of mind. AviCoS analyses the driver’s tone of voice and speech rhythm to determine if the driver is challenged by the current traffic situation. When it detects that the driver is stressed, it reduces the degree of multimodal output, e.g. by suppressing animations. Other devices in the car, such as electronic navigators, can also be integrated by indicating the directions earlier on and more frequently.

AViCoS was developed in the context of a three-year research project. The Department of Process and System Integration for Electrical and Electronic Systems of the Audi AG and the TU Muenchen Institute of Business Informatics took part in the project. The researchers worked at the TU Muenchen Regional Competence Center INI.TUM. This branch of the TU Muenchen, located in Ingolstadt, works in close collaboration with Audi AG to foster and strengthen the link between science and business

BREAKING: Google Buys Motorola Mobility for $12.5 Billion

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Google announced Monday morning that it will acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion.

Motorola is one of 39 manufacturers of handsets that use Google’s Android operating system.

Buying a hardware company is an unusual move for Google. The acquisition, Google said in a statement, “will enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem.”

 

SEE ALSO: Google Shares Sink Following Motorola Mobility Acquisition 

Google CEO Larry Page expanded on what that might mean in a blog post. In addition to citing Motorola’s home devices and video solutions business, Page references recent patent wars that Google believes to be anti-competitive.

“The U.S. Department of Justice had to intervene in the results of one recent patent auction to ‘protect competition and innovation in the open source software community’ and it is currently looking into the results of the Nortel auction,” Page writes. “Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.”

 

SEE ALSO: The History of Android [INFOGRAPHIC] 

Android will continue to be an open platform, and Motorola will continue to be run as a separate business, Page added.

Pictures of Osama Bin Laden phishing attack hits Twitter users

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Phishers are once again on the prowl for unsuspecting Twitter users, tempting their prey with the promise of pictures of Osama Bin Laden.

Pictures of Osama Bin Laden

Pictures of Osama Bin Laden [LINK]

Some of the accounts had earlier posted a similar message (complete with some rather sloppy spelling):

Pics of Osama Bin Laden Are Finally Released! [LINK] ::wanring very gorry::

Clicking on the links takes you to what appears to be the normal Twitter login page.

Fake Twitter login page

Would you enter your username and password at this point?

Take a close look at the URL before you make that decision.

Pictures of Osama Bin Laden phishing url

Hopefully you notice that it’s not the real Twitter URL – it’s a phishing site set up to steal your username and password.

If you make the mistake of entering your username and password then you will handing over the keys to your account to phishers, who would then be able to use your account to read your private messages, send messages (perhaps spam-related or containing malicious links) to your followers.

Worst of all, if you’re one of those people who uses the same password as you use elsewhere on the internet – you’ve now told the cybercriminals how to access, for example, your Gmail, Hotmail or PayPal accounts as well.

If you found your Twitter account was one of those sending out the phishing messages, or if you made the mistake of entering your username and password, then you must change your password as soon as possible.

Not just on Twitter, but also make sure you’re not using the same password anywhere else on the net. You have to consider that password is now compromised.

There’s some other house-cleaning you should do on your Twitter account too. Visit the Applications tab in “Account Settings”, and revoke access for any third-party application that you don’t recognise.

Anonymous hacks BART, creating even more innocent victims

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Guy Fawkes mask protester

Anonymous continued their crusade against governments and organizations this weekend, attacking the myBART.org website belonging to San Francisco’s BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system.

They performed a SQL injection (SQLi) attack against the site and were able to extract more than 2,000 records containing names, usernames, passwords (plain text), emails, phone numbers, addresses and zip codes.

They also defaced the website with Guy Fawkes masks, which BART has yet to remove more than four hours later.

Mybart.org defacement

While it is understandable that people are upset with BART after the recent blocking of cell phone communications to prevent protesters from organizing, it is puzzling to me how exposing thousands of innocent people’s personal information hurts BART more than it hurts transit users.

Users of rapid transit are certainly not the problem, and this simply takes a bad situation and makes it worse by creating even more victims.

During my interview about the incident with KCBS radio in San Francisco this afternoon, I was asked what people can do to protect themselves against these types of attacks. What an interesting question…

Personally, I am skeptical of anyone asking for my information for almost any reason. We can’t know how that data will be protected, shared or sold regardless of what the privacy policy may say.

The best approach is to not provide your personal information where it isn’t needed and make sure you always use a unique password for every website, regardless of how unimportant you think the site may be.

If you are a user of myBART.org, I recommend changing your passwords anywhere you might have used the same password. Aside from that, there is little you can do now that your information has been published.

Website admins, if you are still storing passwords in plain text and haven’t examined your web site for SQL injection vulnerabilities, even after the attacks against Sony, I highly recommend doing so. This is not a list you want your site to be added to.