Technology

Fitness devices can help monitor heart rate but are unreliable at keeping tabs on calories burned, research has revealed. Scientists put seven consumer devices through their paces, comparing their data with gold-standard laboratory measurements. “We were pleasantly surprised at how well the heart rate did – under many circumstances for most of the devices, they actually did really quite well,” said Euan Ashley, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University and co-author of the research. “At the same time we were unpleasantly surprised at how poor the calorie estimates were for the devices – they were really all over the map.” The team tested seven wrist-worn wearable devices – the Apple Watch, Basis Peak, Fitbit Surge, Microsoft Band, Mio Alpha 2, PulseOn, and Samsung Gear S2 – with 31 women and 29 men each wearing multiple devices at a time while using treadmills to walk or run, cycling on exercise bikes or simply sitting. “There …

Image caption Blockchain’s Peter Smith speaks at the Consensus 2017 conference in New York The price of Bitcoin, a digital currency once located at the fringe of finance, has been rising to new records in recent months as digital assets move into the mainstream. On Tuesday, it shot past $2,200 (£1,700), more than doubling from just two months ago. And a newer currency, Ethereum, has climbed even faster. Industry members say uncertainty surrounding the value of global currencies, including the pound, is driving demand for alternative currencies. The kind of technology that underwrites Bitcoin and newer entrants such as Ethereum, is also gaining, well, currency, as it gets put to new uses by developers and others looking to beef up cyber-security. Policy changes in Japan and elsewhere in Asia have made it easier to trade. And of course, when it comes to price, interest generates its own momentum. “It’s a promising technology,” says Joshua Rosenblatt, …

Hackers have stolen student information from a Melbourne high school, posting it online and sending emails to parents pretending to be from the principal. The Victorian education department is working with police to identify hackers who illegally downloaded information from Blackburn high school’s computer system. The school realised on Friday that data had been accessed and posted to at least one file-sharing website, including details of current and past students. It then contacted police and secured the system. The hackers also sent fake emails to parents, purporting to be from the school’s principal. A parent told 3AW the emails asked parents to enter credit card details into what was “supposed to be a high school site”. “I believe a number of parents did actually provide their credit card details,” he told 3AW on Wednesday. The department said IT experts were used to discover the location of the information posted online and it was removed from …

Amazon is to add more than 40 TV channels to its UK streaming service, including ITV and live sport for the first time, upping the stakes against rival Netflix and pay-TV operators such as Sky. Amazon will offer the channels at an extra cost to Amazon Prime members, who pay £79 a year or £7.99 a month for on-demand video including exclusive shows such as American Gods, The Grand Tour and Man in the High Castle. The individual pricing for the new channels ranges from £1.49 to £9.49 a month, with subscribers choosing and paying for individual services, rather than for a bundle as with the traditional pay-TV model used by Sky. Netflix’s standard video on-demand service costs £7.49 a month while Sky’s cheapest package of channels is £22. ITV will offer its live TV and ad-free catch-up service for £3.99. Conspicuous by their absence are the UK’s other main free-to-air broadcasters – the BBC, …

Image copyright ccc Samsung’s eye-scanning security technology, used on the new Galaxy S8 smartphone, has been fooled with a photograph and a contact lens. The iris-scanner can be used to unlock the phone simply by looking at it, which Samsung says provides “airtight security”. But researchers at Chaos Computer Club had easily tricked the device with a picture of an eye, Motherboard said. Samsung told the BBC it was “aware of the issue”. Image copyright Samsung Image caption Samsung’s website says irises are “virtually impossible to replicate” The researchers first set up the phone’s security by registering a volunteer’s eyes using the S8 iris scanner. They then took a photograph of one of the volunteer’s eyes, using a digital camera with an infra-red night vision setting. After printing the image, the researchers placed a contact lens over the photograph. The team posted a video showing the S8 smartphone unlocking itself when it saw the false …

The best emojis on the market are no more: Google’s weird blobs are being retired in favour of more conventional circular yellow faces. First introduced in 2013 with Android 4.4, the blobs have been a divisive feature of the company’s operating system. Some love them for their unique spin on otherwise indistinguishable emojis, while others hate the potential for miscommunication they introduce when speaking across multiple platforms. That was particularly true between 2014 and 2016, when not just smilies, but all human figures, were updated to incorporate the amorphous blob. The dancing emoji – a glamorous flamenco dancer in implementations that take their cue from Apple – was a fairly unflattering blob with a rose between its teeth in Android Lollipop. In 2016, the blobs were redesigned, losing some of their blobbiness and becoming more gumdrop-shaped, after Unicode (the body that oversees emoji design) introduced genders and skin tones for human emojis. That also saw …

Image copyright Getty Images Instagram is rated as the worst social media platform when it comes to its impact on young people’s mental health, a UK snapshot survey suggests. The poll asked 1,479 people aged 14-24 to score popular apps on issues such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and body image. Instagram said keeping the platform a safe and supportive place for young people was a top priority. Mental health charities urged companies to act to increase users’ safety. ‘Inadequacy and anxiety’ The Royal Society for Public Health study says social platforms should flag up heavy social media use and identify users with mental health issues. Instagram says it provides tools and information on how to cope with bullying and warns users before they view certain content. The RSPH report says that “social media may be fuelling a mental health crisis” in young people. However, it can also be used as a tool for good, …

Image copyright Ozimals Thousands of rabbits have been “culled” in the Second Life virtual world. The web server sustaining them has been deactivated after a legal threat from a company claiming to have designed them. Added to Second Life in 2010, Ozimals bunnies were collectible pets that players could breed. Some owners had secured an “everlasting timepiece”, giving their pets eternal life but preventing them from breeding. But the remaining rabbits entered “permanent hibernation” on Saturday. They were designed to communicate with a web server to ensure they had not been tampered with, but the company that created them closed in 2016. Since then, the server sustaining them has been run by a volunteer known by the pseudonym Malkavyn Eldritch. On Tuesday, Eldritch said he had received a cease-and-desist letter, demanding he “cease all use of Ozimals intellectual property” from a company claiming to have designed the rabbits’ “visual assets”. “I do not have the …

One of the most powerful players in the British election is also one of the most opaque. With just over two weeks to go until voters go to the polls, there are two things every election expert agrees on: what happens on social media, and Facebook in particular, will have an enormous effect on how the country votes; and no one has any clue how to measure what’s actually happening there. “Many of us wish we could study Facebook,” said Prof Philip Howard, of the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, “but we can’t, because they really don’t share anything.” Howard is leading a team of researchers studying “computational propaganda” at the university, attempting to shine a light on the ways automated accounts are used to alter debate online. “I think that there have been several democratic exercises in the last year that have gone off the rails because of large amounts of misinformation in the …

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Bitcoin’s value has fluctuated sharply over the last four years The value of Bitcoin has hit a new high with each individual coin now worth more than $2,100 (£1,615). The valuation caps a strong month for the virtual currency, with its value growing by more than 65% in a month. The steady rise in value is believed to be linked to policy changes in Japan and China that have made it easier for speculators to trade in bitcoins. Many other virtual currencies have also enjoyed a sustained rise in value over the last few weeks. Bitcoin first broke the $1,000 (£768) barrier in November 2013 but its value has fluctuated wildly since then. For instance, in early 2014 one bitcoin was worth only $280 (£215). And at the end of 2016, each one was changing hands for about $900 (£690). Unsustainable bubble Bitcoin emerged in 2008 and is a …

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