Category: Technology


This little robot from Japan cannot do really practical things. The Kirobo Mini is practically a modern successor to the teddy bear and should make its owner smile or entertain.

The leading Japanese car company Toyota is making a new attempt to use robots to address customers outside of the classic vehicle market. Toyota will start selling the Kirobo Mini robot in Japan next year, as the company announced at the Ceatec electronics fair in Ciba, near Tokyo. At the Toyota booth, there was a long line of visitors to the fair who wanted to see the little social robot in action.

The approximately ten centimeter tall companion should have the intelligence of a five-year-old and be able to read the state of mind of its owner from the facial expression. It will hit the market in 2017 for 39,800 yen (350 euros). There is also a monthly subscription fee of 300 yen (2.60 euros).

In 2013, Toyota had already presented the Kirobo, a small talking robot that, among other things, could transport the Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata to the International Space Station. Kirobo was already able to recognize and react to human gestures and facial expressions. The Kirobo Mini now recognizes, for example, whether a car driver is driving too briskly and shouts “Oops!” When the car is braked sharply. On a longer journey, it also reminds the driver to take a break.

What robots can already do today

The Kirobo Mini is equipped with a camera, microphone and Bluetooth. It connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth. The robot should be able to locate human voices and turn its head towards the speaker. However, the little robot cannot distinguish between different people. Toyota assumes that the Kirobo Mini is assigned to a single person and is not shared by multiple users.

Fuminori Kataoka, the responsible manager of the Kirobo project, said the Kirobo Mini does not have a mind that can be described as artificial intelligence. The robot primarily serves as an emotional connection exception. “It’s about having someone there to talk to.” A soft toy cannot talk even though people are talking to it. “Wouldn’t it be better if it could answer?”

These automakers have the most satisfied customers

Toyota produces the Kirobo Mini together with Vaio, which was spun off from the Japanese electronics giant Sony . The former Sony factory in Nagano prefecture used to produce the robot dog Aibo. Aido was discontinued by Sony in 2006, despite fans in Japan and around the world vehemently advocating further development of the robot.

Toyota is looking for new business areas

Like other automotive companies, Toyota is looking for new business areas outside of its core business. In Japan, car sales are projected to decline over the long term because the population is shrinking due to aging. In addition, many young people are no longer interested in buying their own car.

At Ceatec, the Japanese electronics group Sharp also presented a further development of its robotic smartphone RoBoHoN. The robot can not only make phone calls, but also dance, conduct dialogues and display videos with a built-in projector. After the takeover of Sharp by the Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn , observers had expected the project to end because RoBoHoN had not been commercially successful so far.

A version of RoBoHoN that also understands English and Chinese was shown at the fair. In addition, functions have been added to the smartphone so that it can also be used as a robot in the reception area of ​​companies.

“Safe, easy, fast”. With these words Commerzbank advertises the use of photoTAN in online banking. Scientists from Bavaria have now discovered a weak point in the process.

According to a report in the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, two IT security researchers have managed to crack the photoTAN procedure used in mobile banking on manipulated Android smartphones. After the two researchers from the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg installed malware on the devices, they were able to redirect online transfers or create them themselves. However, the transactions could only be manipulated if the banking app and photoTAN app are installed on one device.

According to the researchers Vincent Haupert and Tilo Müller, the attacks could target the financial institutions Deutsche Bank , Norisbank and Commerzbank . “For us it is no problem at all to hide the actual transfer afterwards,” said Hauptert. As long as a customer conducts his banking transactions on the move, the manipulation remains undetected.

A one-time password is generated with the photoTAN. When the process was introduced, an image of approximately three by three centimeters was generated on the PC monitor from small dots that contains the transaction data. In this variant, this graphic is scanned with the smartphone or reader. After the photoTAN has been decrypted, the transaction data (amount and name of the recipient of a transfer) and a seven-digit transaction number with which the transfer can be approved can be seen on the screen for checking.

Apple in numbers

From the researchers’ point of view, it is critical if the banking application and the photoTAN app are on the same device and the two-way authentication that is actually intended is undermined. The researchers still consider the use of a photoTAN on the PC with an external reader to be safe. The attack by the two security researchers requires that a virus-infected app must already be installed on the victim’s smartphone.

“That makes the attack more difficult, but not impossible,” says Hauptert. This is indicated by malware such as “Godless” and “Hummingbad”. This made it into the official Google app store and would have worked on 90 percent of all Android smartphones. Ten million devices were affected.

What the new 5G mobile network should achieve

The attack scenario was demonstrated using the Google Android system. In principle, an attack is also conceivable with the iPhone system iOS. The iOS malware Pegasus showed that not only Android smartphones could be attacked. However, the security model of the Apple software is more restrictive, so that compared to Android there is less chance of catching malware.

When asked, press spokespeople from Deutsche Bank and Norisbank point out that security is being taken very seriously: “When used correctly, all legitimation procedures are secure.” Customers decide which procedure suits them best according to their own preferences. In an answer, Commerzbank will reimburse the full amount in the event of damage. The bank gives customers security instructions on its website. The bank is not aware of the attack carried out by the researchers.

Angela Merkel was impressed by a 360-degree camera at the CDU party conference in Essen and asked what kind of device it was. The answer to the Chancellor’s question and what else you should know about it.

What kind of device is that?

As the cameraman explained to the Chancellor, the device that is causing so much enthusiasm is a 360-degree camera. Unfortunately, neither the answer nor the video shows which device and which technology the CDU works with.

How are 360-degree videos created?

Basically there are several options, which differ mainly in the number of their lenses. In the variant with a lens, the lens “looks” upwards, so to speak. There is a mirror there that directs the light rays into the lens. Next to the lens there is another mirror that guides the light, and thus the image, towards the first mirror. This allows the camera to generate a panoramic image of its surroundings, even though it is “looking” upwards

Another possibility is in cameras with two lenses. Two so-called fisheye lenses are used. These wide-angle lenses can each cover a field of view of 180 degrees. Together, the images then result in a panoramic view. There are also cameras that have even more lenses, each of which then covers a smaller field of view.

Virtual reality glasses

Diving goggles for the virtual

Whether Oculus Rift, Playstation VR or HTC Vive: All virtual reality glasses work on the same principle. A screen shows the virtual environment in the field of vision, lenses are supposed to provide an all-round effect. The image is adjusted with every movement of the head – sensors measure every change, the computer calculates the new image at lightning speed.

Oculus Rift from Oculus VR

Founder Palmer Luckey assembled the first data glasses from smartphone components. In the meantime, the Facebook subsidiary has refined the technology so that a first consumer version of the Oculus Rift will be ready in 2016. Oculus has set the price for the long-awaited 3D glasses at 699 euros in Europe, higher than expected by experts.

Gear VR from Samsung

Samsung already offers the Gear VR data glasses as an accessory for the smartphone – it is pushed into the holder and serves as a display, the two lenses in the glasses ensure the 3D optics. This means that the system is not as powerful as competing products, but it is mobile. Incidentally, the technology comes from Oculus VR.

Vive from HTC and Valve

The electronics manufacturer HTC is developing its virtual reality glasses Vive together with the games specialist Valve. In order to determine the position of the player as precisely as possible, two laser sensors are installed in the room, which are permanently in contact with the sensors on the device. A special feature: users can use it to move around the room. Introduction: end of 2015.

Cardboard from Google

Virtual reality doesn’t have to be expensive: With Cardboard, Google has developed a foldable cardboard construction into which users can slide their smartphone. An app prepares the images appropriately. The other systems are technically superior, but Cardboard gives an idea of ​​the possibilities.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different techniques?

For technical reasons, cameras with only one lens cannot produce images and videos with a perfect all-round view. You leave out the area above and below the cameras. With this technique, you don’t have to combine several images into one. This is exactly what you need for cameras with multiple lenses. Depending on the resolution and number of videos, putting them together can require a lot of computing power. In addition, unsightly transitions can occur when assembling

What other technology do I need?

Many 360 cameras come with an app for smartphones. This allows you to look at the image that the camera is currently taking. The videos can also be viewed with virtual reality glasses.

How expensive is such a camera?

As is often the case, this also depends on the requirements the device should meet. For a fancy video from your vacation trip that you can use to impress your friends on Facebook, you have to spend less money than the PR agency that produces videos for companies. Inexpensive entry-level models start at 190 euros. Expensive models can also cost over 2000 euros.


The Google parent Alphabet brings the development of technology for self-driving cars into an independent subsidiary under its corporate umbrella. Her future boss Jon Krafcik announced her name will be Waymo. “We are a company that deals with technology for autonomous driving,” he emphasized. Even before, Google managers kept repeating that they don’t want to become a car manufacturer themselves, but that they are looking for deals with established manufacturers. As early as 2009, Google put the first cars with technology for autonomous driving on the road. Since then, over 3.2 million kilometers have been covered, said Krafcik. Initially, they were converted Toyota vehiclesand Lexus, meanwhile Google is also testing cars from its own development. In one of the small electric two-seaters, a blind man was transported to Austin, Texas in October 2015 without an additional person on board. According to Google, it was the world’s first trip of its kind where the computer was completely on its own.

At the same time, according to a media report, the development of one’s own self-driving Google car without a steering wheel and pedals is not to be further advanced for the time being. Instead, the Silicon Valley industry service “The Information” wrote on Tuesday that there should be more cooperation with automakers for more traditional vehicles.

This gives rise to hopes of launching a commercial driver service with self-driving cars as early as the end of 2017, it said, citing informed people. The schedule depends on the development of the prototype with Fiat Chrysler . According to earlier announcements, 100 Chrysler Pacifica minivans will initially be converted to accommodate Google’s robotic car technology in the vehicles.

There are still many hurdles for self-driving cars

Fiat Chrysler is the only known major auto company to consider using Google technology in its robotic cars. Otherwise the industry preferred to develop its own solutions. Large manufacturers are working on it themselves, and the suppliers Delphi and MobilEye have teamed up to sell the manufacturers a cheap technology for it. Also Volvo and the supplier Autolivwant to offer their developments to others. Google had introduced the small electric two-seater from its own development in 2014. It was said that in the future, the cars should be controlled completely by the computer and get along without a steering wheel or pedals. The prototypes that are currently on the road in Google’s hometown of Mountain View and in Austin, Texas, still have both, among other things because the traffic regulations require it. In industry circles it was said that the Internet group had an offer from the industry to build vehicles according to the concept.

Krafcik, a former top manager at the South Korean car maker Hyundai , had last led the project. Outsourcing to a separate company had been expected for some time. Long-time head of development Chris Urmson, who left the project in the summer, wanted to continue working on his own cars, wrote “The Information”. According to information from the tech blog “Recode”, Urmson now wants to set up his own start-up for robot car software.

After the image damage caused by the burning batteries of the Note 7 model, Samsung needs an innovative hit. The market leader from South Korea took a month more than usual for its new Galaxy S8 model.

Smartphone market leader Samsung wants to present a new top model on Wednesday and thus step out of the shadow of the debacle over the burning batteries of the Galaxy Note 7. Samsung’s next flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8, is to be presented at an event in New York (from 5 p.m. CEST).

According to media reports, it should have an even larger screen, can also be controlled with gestures in some cases and can be unlocked with an eye scan. In addition, Samsung’s new personal assistant “Bixby” will be integrated into the device, as the South Korean company has already announced.

The Galaxy S models are traditionally the toughest competition for Apple’s iPhone, which leads in the business with expensive smartphones. According to previous reports, Samsung wants to bring some innovations to the market earlier, which are expected from the next iPhone in autumn. The display should fill almost the entire front of the device, with only small bezels. The Chinese provider Xiaomi showed how this can be technically solved last year.

This also allows the screen to be made larger without having to expand the housing accordingly, as was previously the case. According to information from the website “WinFuture”, the Galaxy S8 will have a display with a diagonal of 5.8 inches (14.7 cm) in the standard version – and with 6.2 inches in the “Plus” version . The current iPhone 7 is 4.7 and 5.5 inches respectively.

Five billion euros in damage

For Samsung this time it is also about leaving the fiasco with the battery fires of its Galaxy Note 7 behind last autumn. The Galaxy S8 is presented about a month later than usual because Samsung took more time after the debacle.

The MWC highlights in pictures

The double recall of the Note 7 and the industry’s first discontinuation of a smartphone model for security reasons resulted in considerable damage to the company’s image and a financial burden of the equivalent of five billion euros.

In addition, Samsung’s plan to counter Apple’s iPhone 7 with a fresh top device during the important Christmas business failed. According to calculations by analysts, Samsung’s share of the smartphone market fell from almost a quarter to the 20 percent mark – and Apple is likely to have pushed itself to the top in the Christmas quarter . For the year as a whole, Samsung can hold the crown of the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer thanks to the cheaper models. At the same time, the South Korean company is getting new competition from Google in the high-price area with its Pixel model.

The NRW consumer advice center has issued warnings to nine providers of fitness apps. The accusation: violations of data protection regulations. It’s about sensitive numbers about the health of users – in a booming market.

Pedometers, sports watches and fitness apps on mobile phones are much more than a private pleasure. Behind this is a huge growth market, as this number alone shows: The major sporting goods manufacturers Under Armor, Adidas and Asics have invested more than a billion US dollars in fitness apps. This is the result of research by the Statista Digital Market Outlook (DMO).

The downside of the boom: billions of data buzzing wildly through the world. The North Rhine-Westphalia consumer advice center is now pointing out precisely this aspect of this growth market. The trend around wearables and fitness apps promises more control over one’s own body. But consumers often no longer have control over their own data.

“The sporting goods manufacturers demonstrate that they have recognized the potential of digitization,” say the Statista market observers. The purchase of apps such as MyFitnessPal or Runtastic (more than 70 million registered users) strengthens the company’s mobile presence and enables access to an audience of millions with a sports affinity.

These are the best gadgets of 2017

What is interesting for the companies is that the group of possible customers is getting bigger and bigger, because the digital fitness market is booming. By 2020, the number of users of paid fitness apps in Germany is even expected to rise to around ten million. In the USA it could even be 35 million users.

But consumers who make intensive use of all these new options should be aware that the majority of devices send a large amount of information about the fitness behavior of users to providers. What then happens to the data is not further explained or remains unclear. This is confirmed by the new study by the market watchdog team at the consumer advice center in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The consumer advocates took a close look at twelve wearables and 24 fitness apps. The problem with small computers on the body is that sports wristbands, smartwatches and fitness apps no longer just count the steps of their users: the inconspicuous everyday companions also constantly collect data such as the pulse and calorie consumption of their wearers. Or show how long and how well you sleep.

Not everything works as smoothly as expected with this data. The consumer advocates found violations of the applicable data protection laws and therefore warned nine large providers. That doesn’t mean the problem is over.

How providers trick with data

“Information in sports apps allows conclusions to be drawn about the fitness and health of consumers,” warns Ricarda Moll, a consultant for the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer center in the project Market Watchdog Digital World. A survey showed that this is a perspective that many users find bad. The majority are annoyed by having no control over the personal information they disclose online (78 percent).

Based on their legal analysis, the market watchdog experts come to the conclusion that the providers examined often leave users in the dark about what happens to the collected data: three providers only provide their data protection notices in English, and only two provide information about the particular sensitivity of the data collected Health data.

The consumer advocates found out that only one provider can obtain separate consent for the processing of this sensitive health data from the users. Another critical point is that six providers allow themselves the opportunity to make changes to the data protection declarations at any time and without actively informing the user.

Wearables for managers

Five providers even kept it open to pass on the personal data of their users in the event of a merger or takeover by other companies. The conclusion of the consumer advice center in North Rhine-Westphalia is: “We can now say ‘rightly’: Providers collect numerous – sometimes sensitive – data and often leave consumers in the dark about its use. We don’t want to accept that, ”explained Ricarda Moll.

Kai Vogel, Head of the Health and Care Team at the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv), concludes: Consumers need secure information about the specifically proven benefits of apps and how their personal data is handled. “This can be remedied by a public, national online platform that lists high-quality health information and independent reviews of digital products in order to better inform consumers,” says Vogel.

And so that private health insurers and health insurance companies do not even come up with questionable ideas, Vogel added: “The consumer advocates categorically reject health insurance tariffs that combine financial incentives with the ongoing, permanent obligation to disclose data.”

After a smooth 3-0 win against the current number one in the Asian board game Go, Google’s AlphaGo software will no longer play tournaments. The team behind it should now concentrate on more general algorithms that should help humanity, said the co-founder and head of the developer company DeepMind, Demis Hassabis, after the match at the weekend. This included medicines for illnesses, lowering energy consumption and inventing new materials.

During the tournament, the Chinese Ke Jie tried to throw AlphaGo off course with unusual moves. According to experts, at times it looked quite good for him with this tactic – but in the end the software wrestled him down every time. “We have always believed in the potential of artificial intelligence to help society discover and benefit from knowledge – and AlphaGo gives us an early look at what is possible,” said Hassabis.

In March of last year AlphaGo defeated the South Korean champion Lee Sedol 4-1 and caused a stir. Because Go was long considered too complex for computers. The game, in which white and black pieces are alternately placed on the board, has many more possible combinations than chess – too many to calculate completely. AlphaGo therefore calculates the moves a human would likely play and only focuses on them. DeepMind first fed the program tens of millions of moves from games by human masters. Then the software played millions of games against itself – and analyzed which moves brought them to their destination. 50 of these games are now to be published so that the Go player community can evaluate them. Google bought DeepMind a good three years ago for £ 400 million. Hassabis had always emphasized that he wanted to use the company’s artificial intel

The ten best voice commands

Apple’s entry into the growing business with networked speakers is imminent, according to a media report. The iPhone company is already producing the first loudspeakers with its Siri assistance software on board, the financial service Bloomberg wrote on Wednesday. The device could be presented at the Apple developer conference WWDC next Monday, even if it should not go on sale until later in the year.

Amazon had popularized the product category through the success of its “Echo” loudspeaker with its listening and speaking assistant Alexa. There is now an “Echo” product family with a networked camera and speaker with display. Google followed with the competitor device “Home”, which offers access to the Internet company’s assistance software.

Microsoft accommodated its assistant Cortana in a loudspeaker from the hifi specialist Harman / Kardon. And just this week, the inventor of the Android mobile operating system, Andy Rubin, announced a smart home speaker from his new start-up Essential.

Language is an increasingly important way of communicating with computers. Apple pioneered the concept with its assistant Siri, who came to iPhones back in 2011. But the quality of the speech recognition and the answers often left a lot to be desired in the beginning, which is why the software was dismissed by many as a gimmick. Smartphone market leader Samsung , where the start of its assistant Bixby has been delayed for weeks , is also learning that it is a tough place .

Apple managers had indicated in the past that the group’s vision was more to let users communicate with Siri via various devices such as the iPhone or the group’s computer clock, instead of creating a fixed point of contact with a loudspeaker. Now, according to Bloomberg information, Apple wants to stand out from the competition with its smart loudspeaker, among other things with spatial sound. In-house services such as Apple Music or the Homekit smart home platform would be integrated. This is important for Apple, because the other speakers support the services of the competition and thus give them a bridgehead in the households.

Apple has the speakers manufactured by Inventec from Taipei, which also produces the wireless AirPods earphones, it said. Bloomberg had already reported on tests of the Apple speakers last year.

Apple introduced a loudspeaker back in 2006. The company’s popular music players could be plugged into the device called iPod Hifi. However, it had little success and was discontinued after a little over a year.

According to Bloomberg, new models of the iPad tablet and refreshed Macbook Pro notebooks with faster chips could also be presented at the Apple developer conference WWDC.

The app of the US streaming provider Amazon Prime Video has been able to bill sales to Apple’s App Store since the spring. Is there a deal behind this that is problematic? Apple refers to a generally applicable regulation.

Since the EU Commission opened an official investigation against the Apple App Store last week , a number of companies have spoken out. David Heinemeyer, co-founder of the software company Basecamp, even referred to the managers of the iPhone group as “mafiosi” and “gangsters”.

Others are also making grave allegations against the world’s most valuable company. They all accuse Apple of abusing its own market power by making access to its app store – the central sales channel for digital applications in addition to Google’s Play Store – difficult or subject to strict conditions. For example, the Apple auditors rejected a Facebook game app five times because it violated the rules of the app store. Apple sets these rules itself, and how they come about is not transparent.

An example that the EU Commission should take a closer look at in the next few months is the Prime Video app from the US group Amazon . Practically all app providers who sell non-physical goods in Apple’s App Store are obliged to use Apple’s own payment and subscription system. This incurs a 30 percent commission that Apple collects. For subscriptions that have been running for more than a year, it is 15 percent. Not so with Amazon: Here the streaming app uses Amazon’s own billing system, films and series are paid for with the user’s Amazon account. This was also proven by test purchases by WirtschaftsWoche. According to the US industry service “The Verge”, Amazon does not pay any commission to Apple.

The case is even more explosive due to the at least astonishing timing of the application of the special regulation by Amazon. Because Amazon first used it in the spring of this year, shortly after Apple launched its own streaming service Apple TV +. The offer was also available on Amazon’s Fire TV devices, which can be connected to televisions and with which users can now also receive the Apple offer.

It seems reasonable to assume that this temporal coincidence is more than a coincidence. When asked by Apple, however, it said that there are special rules for such video services in the app store that allow Amazon to use such a payment method. These have existed for a while, have not been developed for individual cases, and a provider in France also uses them. Apple therefore considers this to be unproblematic.

The question, however, is: under what circumstances did these rules arise? Apple has not yet provided any information on this, and Amazon also remains silent when asked. In the end, only the EU Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, can clarify beyond any doubt in her investigation. “It seems that Apple has taken on the role of a ‘gatekeeper’ in the distribution of apps and content to users of the popular Apple devices,” she said last week when the proceedings were opened.

Should there actually have been a deal between Apple and Amazon, the EU Commission could see it as evidence that Apple has used its market power in the App Store to indirectly prefer its own services. Apple may have treated providers in the App Store differently in order to give Apple TV + an advantage in the market. Streaming services like Netflix and Spotify have been trying for years to find a solution with the group on how users can buy their apps without incurring a commission for Apple. Apple had Spotify after a complaint to the EU, alleged that the company wanted to “retain all the benefits of the app store ecosystem – including the considerable revenue it generates from customers of the app store – without contributing to this marketplace”.

At IFA everything revolves around new developments in entertainment electronics and networking. The smartphone plays a central role here. A study highlights it as a central economic factor.

Ten years after the breakthrough, the smartphone is becoming increasingly important for the German economy. In the next five years, the sales that would be achieved with the help of the all-rounder cell phones rose by around a third to more than 60 billion euros, said telecommunications expert Klaus Böhm from the consulting firm Deloitte on Wednesday at the start of the International Consumer Electronics Fair (IFA) in Berlin. In 2022, the smartphone will provide 1.7 percent of German economic output. According to Deloitte and the industry association Bitkom, which jointly published a study, this is still calculated conservatively.

“The smartphone is also an economic factor outside of the device industry,” said Böhm. “The main growth driver is trade.” For example, more and more Germans are ordering new clothes or other goods from online providers such as Amazon or Zalando using their mobile phones. New applications in the field of digital health could definitely increase the revenues from the universal devices.

“The smartphone is more alive than ever,” said Bitkom consumer electronics expert Timm Lutter. 81 percent of Germans currently use such a universal device. “Everyone under 50 has a smartphone.” There is still growth potential among retirees; in the 65 plus generation, 41 percent had a corresponding device.

What will be important at IFA
Sales figures are falling in the face of this market saturation. According to the study “Consumer Technology 2017”, sales in Germany will fall to 24.07 million devices from 24.22 million smartphones in the previous year. In contrast, sales are expected to increase by four percent to 9.77 billion euros, mainly because larger devices (phablets) are in demand. The smartphone is “the device for which Germans have spent the most money in recent years,” said Lutter.