<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Tech News]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/tech http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usTue, 17 Jan 2017 18:06:08 -0800Tue, 17 Jan 2017 18:06:08 -0800NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Facebook's Zuckerberg Testifies at VR Copyright Trial]]> Tue, 17 Jan 2017 16:27:11 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/zuckerberg-trial-dallas.jpg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent much of Tuesday on a Dallas federal court witness stand defending his firm against claims it stole intellectual property for the Oculus virtual reality headset.

Zuckerberg said Facebook invested around $3 billion to buy Oculus as a way of moving rapidly into virtual reality technology, a figure higher than what was reported at the time of the 2014 deal.

He said he was so anxious to see Facebook move into VR that he pushed completion of the deal in just a matter of days over a weekend. But he denied any technology was stolen.

"The idea that Oculus technology is based on someone else's work is just wrong," Zuckerberg said.

ZeniMax Media, which owns id Software, based in Richardson, Texas, filed the lawsuit claiming former employee John Carmack took secrets with him when he joined Oculus. 

A lawyer for ZeniMax confronted Zuckerberg with emails and documents suggesting there were concerns about Oculus technology before the deal, but Zuckerberg said the accusations surfaced later, were not credible and were not pursued by Facebook.

ZeniMax is seeking $2 billion in damages.The trial began Jan. 10 and could last two more weeks.

Photo Credit: Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[IHOP: Our Twitter Was Hacked]]> Sun, 15 Jan 2017 20:30:16 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ihop-deleted-tweet-new.jpg

IHOP said that sometime Sunday morning, the company’s Twitter account was hacked when a politically charged retweet appeared that caused some customers to pledge to never eat their golden fluffy pancakes again.

The International House of Pancakes confirmed to NBC4 the retweet in question involved a statement that Hillary Clinton ran a "major garbage campaign."

As soon as the IHOP team saw the retweet, it was deleted and IHOP took necessary precautions to make sure the company wouldn’t be hacked again.

IHOP released the following statement:

"At the core of the IHOP brand is a desire to bring people together and a commitment to creating a warm and welcoming environment for guests and fans everywhere, both in our restaurants and online. After a thorough investigation, we have confirmed that the IHOP Twitter account was hacked this morning. The retweeted post in question was immediately removed, and we have taken the necessary steps to ensure the security and integrity of our social media accounts. We appreciate our fans bringing this to our attention and recognizing that this is not normal content shared by IHOP."

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<![CDATA[Facebook Issues Briefly Affect Some Pages]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2017 12:03:36 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/211*120/Facebook-generic-1.jpg

Some Facebook pages weren't loading properly Friday for about an hour.

The Facebook platform product dashboard didn't indicate any errors, but people on Twitter started chattering about getting error pages soon after 12 p.m. ET, and the website outage tracking page downdetector.com showed widespread outages in the U.S., Europe and Peru.

Several Facebook pages for NBC owned television stations were unable to completely load, but started returning about 1 p.m. ET.

A representative for Facebook confirmed Friday afternoon that the company was experiencing issues: "Earlier today some people may have had trouble accessing some Facebook services for a short period. We’re back to 100% for everyone, and we’re sorry for any inconvenience."

Downdetector said Facebook started having issues at 12:08 p.m. ET.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Yahoo CEO to Resign After Verizon Takeover, Company Says]]> Tue, 10 Jan 2017 00:19:55 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/YAHOO_AP_16254012507905.jpg

Yahoo Inc. announced Monday that CEO Marissa Mayer, one of the highest-profile women in the predominantly male tech world, will resign once the company's merger with Verizon Communications Inc. closes, NBC News reported.

When Verizon announced the $4.8 billion deal in July, Mayer said she intended to continue as CEO.

But in a brief filing Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Yahoo said Mayer and company co-founder David Filo will leave once Verizon takes control of its operating business. Four other board members are leaving with Mayer and Filo, according to document.

However, the Verizon deal has been jeopardized by Yahoo's recent discovery of two separate hacking attacks that stole personal information from more than 1 billion user accounts.

Photo Credit: AP ]]>
<![CDATA[Echo Accidentally Orders Dollhouses]]> Tue, 10 Jan 2017 08:40:49 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/amazon-echo1.jpg

Be careful what you say around Alexa.

A San Diego TV station’s report on Friday about an Amazon Echo — and how a young girl in Texas accidentally bought a dollhouse and 4 pounds of cookies through the smart speaker — prompted a slew of dollhouse orders across the region.

Here’s what happened: San Diego CW 6 reported on the Texas story, and one of its news anchors said: “I love that little girl saying, 'Alexa ordered me a dollhouse,'” according to the station’s report.

The artificial intelligence assistant “wakes up” when it hears its name and performs the command spoken.

And that’s exactly what happened in this case, as a number of San Diegans reported that their Amazon Echo ordered the toys upon hearing the television anchor's "command."

News anchor Jim Patton told The Verge that he wasn’t sure how many dollhouses were ordered by Alexa, but he didn’t think any of the devices went through with the purchases.

The Echo does have parental controls. You can turn off the ability to shop by voice or require a confirmation code before every order.

Photo Credit: AP (File)]]>
<![CDATA[Detroit Auto Show Kicks Off With Self-Driving Cars and More]]> Mon, 09 Jan 2017 06:42:28 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AutoShowAM0109_MP4-148397187754400001.jpg The North American International Auto Show opens Monday in Detroit. The concept cars are cool, but in an industry coming off an unprecedented seventh year of record sales, the spotlight is on the moneymakers. "There are a lot of cars here that may not be the flashiest of car, but they are the workhorses of the United States," said Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst for Edmonds.com.]]> <![CDATA[Rise of the Machines (and Apps) at CES 2017]]> Fri, 06 Jan 2017 08:46:10 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GRUSH.jpg

A lot has been made about all the artificial intelligence and smart cars here at CES this year, and it is a bit telling that so much of our daily lives is about to be trusted to machined and machine learning.

But there's also learning to be done through a series of new apps. Far less expensive than a Tesla or Faraday Future car, these aim to help us perform daily tasks a little bit better.

For example, Grush. As in Gaming Toothbrush. Based in San Jose, Grush is getting a lot of CES attention for its toothbrush that connects to your smartphone app and let you (or more likely, your kids) brush and see, on the phone screen, how they're doing. If one area needs extra brushing, monsters appear on the screen, encouraging your kids to brush more.

We also rode around in a car with Autobrain plugged in. The plug, which fits snugly into a port next to your steering wheel and costs about $50, tells you (via the Autobrain app) virtually everything about how your car is driving and performing. The plug in comes with AAA-style service, diagnostics, and a way to tell you, in a series of screens, how your driver (e.g., your teen) is doing. Too fast? Too reckless? Too much time at the party?

Autobrain President Yonah Lloyd says he understands concerns about Big Brother, but points out that you control how much information is pumped out, and calls his system a triangle between "The driver, the car, and the person concerned about the driver, liked a loved one." Expect it to sell well.

And then there's the newest way to get around on four wheels. Inboard Technology of Santa Cruz — with the help of Bay Area technology partner Flex — rolled out an electric skateboard that powers itself. No need to push your way around city blocks anymore.

"Now, all of a sudden, it becomes very economically to pack a lot of power in a very small package," Inboard Technology CEO Ryan Evans said. "So, I've got a vehicle with me that can take me 10 miles at 20 mph."

The easy-to-get-around skateboard retails for roughly $1,399.99 on Inboard's website.

Las Vegas is known for gambling and excitement. This time of year, though, we get a peek into the future. And 2017, at least when it comes to tech, looks pretty smart.

Scott can be found at CES through Friday and on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: Grush]]>
<![CDATA[Goal of Many Tech Companies: Make Our Lives More Relaxing]]> Fri, 06 Jan 2017 00:21:59 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ces-tech.jpg For all the focus on smart cars and virtual reality here, you may be happy to learn that a lot of the technology coming our way in the next few years is focused on your entertainment. Scott Budman has the latest from CES in Las Vegas.]]> <![CDATA[Check Out the Latest Smart Tech at CES 2017]]> Mon, 09 Jan 2017 06:52:16 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/AP_17006057282852-ces.jpg Bendable smartphones, floating speakers and smart cars are only a fraction of the offerings at the 2017 Consumer Electronic Show. Check out other smart tech that may streamline work and home spaces in the near future.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[360 Photos: Inside CES 2017]]> Fri, 06 Jan 2017 19:51:00 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/2017-01-05-budman-horn.jpg

NBC Bay Area reporter Scott Budman and photographer Michael Horn arrived in Las Vegas on Wednesday night, just in time to cover the hottest new tech trends at at CES 2017.

CES is a global consumer electronics and consumer technology tradeshow that takes place every January in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Check out our compilation of 360 photos from CES below:

TVs as thin as an iPhone. The latest TV technology includes razor thin screens, new curved screens and high-resolution displays.

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Yes, we stopped by the Ricoh Theta booth and took a 360 photo with our Ricoh Theta. We couldn't resist.  Turns out they have some cool new cameras in different colors and some other surprises.

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Executives unveiled a concept car with all kinds of revolutionary technology. The glass and a lot of the components like the dashboard inside are made from Corning gorilla glass which our own Scott Budman has found to be pretty much indestructible. The car will not go into production, however. It's just a proof of concept for the windshields and car automotive glass.

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Scott Budman and Michael Horn put on the miles walking from hall to hall in Las Vegas.

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Outside CES in Las Vegas, Scott Budman and Michael Horn can't wait to go in and see the latest and greatest technology.

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Photo Credit: Michael Horn/NBC Bay ARea
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<![CDATA[Barf Bags and Smart Cars: CES 2017 Kicks Off With Wild Ride]]> Thu, 05 Jan 2017 15:00:15 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/630987680-CES-2017-Intel-VR-presentation.jpg

The tech marketplace can be a bumpy ride for those trying to hawk new wares: Products sell or flop, stock prices soar or dive.

But Intel, arguably one of the more sedate companies in Silicon Valley, was apparently so concerned about its virtual reality demo Thursday night at the annual CES convention in Las Vegas, company reps handed out barf bags along with Oculus Rift headsets.

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No word if any of the assembled fans actually needed them. (And, by the way, the barf bags are the one detail anyone seems to remember from the speech. Not necessarily a good look for Intel.)

Contrast that with early talks from chip rival Nvidia, which laid out a plan to, among other things, develop a car using artificial intelligence with Audi (they're aiming for 2020), and Faraday Future, a shambolic, all-over-the-place company that also aims to bring AI into its electric cars. FF, as it calls itself, wants to take on Tesla while also using artificial intelligence to self-park its cars.

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Once again, CES is reaching for the stars, and promising things that only the future knows if it can deliver. And that's good news. When the economy was slow, CES showed us incremental growth. These days, with the stock market soaring and tech promise seemingly unlimited, CES is taking some wild guesses. Will the industry deliver?

In a year that's about to be filled with all sorts of drama, crazy visionary companies are welcome.

Strap yourself in .. and if you need it, there's a bag below.

Scott roams CES on Twitter & Periscope: @scottbudman

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Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[CES Tech Conference Kicks off in Las Vegas]]> Thu, 05 Jan 2017 07:16:52 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CESAM0105_MP4-148362783195600001.jpg The Consumer Electronics Show gets underway Thursday, Jan. 5 in Las Vegas. Thousands of companies from around the world will unveil products and technologies you might use in the near future. From fitness trackers that fit on your finger to robots that will give you directions at the airport, this year's hot buzz phrase is "The Internet of Things" or IOT. ]]> <![CDATA[Cruise Company Carnival Gets Personal With Concierge Tech]]> Wed, 04 Jan 2017 05:28:15 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CarnivalCorp..jpg

What if your room on a cruise ship were to unlock automatically as you approach, or if the wait staff could bring your favorite cocktail before you even ask?

Carnival Corp., the operator of such cruise lines as Princess, Holland America and Carnival, wants to make that happen so it can get cozier with its guests and make cruises even more personalized.

Carnival is using the CES gadget show in Las Vegas on Wednesday to unveil new concierge technology designed to help crew members anticipate and respond to passengers' needs. It will rely on sensors and wearable trackers, and is scheduled to debut on the Regal Princess cruise ship in November.

The leisure-cruise industry is playing catch-up with travel peers like hotels and airlines, which now let you unlock rooms with a smartwatch or fly with a boarding pass on your phone.

Personalization is important as cruise ships get bigger and come across as impersonal, said Mike Driscoll, editor-in-chief of Cruise Week, an industry publication. Personalization can also help cruise companies attract more first-timers, including tech-savvy millennials.

"It's catching up to what life is like on the land," Driscoll said.

Whether anticipating guests' needs will feel useful or creepy remains to be seen. Those who might be spooked don't have to use the medallion or can limit how much they want to participate, Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said.

"In the end, the guests will tell us," Donald told The Associated Press. "If it doesn't (resonate), it's back to the drawing board."

The linchpin of the system is a tracking medallion the size of a quarter. Cruise passengers wear it as a pendant, throw it into a purse or place it in a pocket. The medallion uses wireless technologies to communicate with sensors placed around the ship, cruise terminals and even airports, where staff can provide personalized greetings as passengers fly in.

Crew members armed with tablets can respond to any needs nearby. For example, a guest could be having a drink when a crew member comes by to remind him that a yoga class starts in five minutes. Or a waiter working poolside can ask whether a guest wants her usual gin and tonic.

In addition, interactive displays can offer personalized directions to guests' rooms. And the medallion ties into a payment system, so no one has to swipe or sign anything when buying souvenirs or drinks.

Donald said he hopes the service will encourage customers to sign up for repeat cruises while spending more on incidentals.

Different passengers might react quite differently to the service. "With your 83-year-old aunt in Saskatchewan, it might be too much," Driscoll said. But for a passenger in his 50s, such as Driscoll, it could make life on the ship "just easier."

Carnival plans to expand the setup to all other Princess ships in the next several years and eventually to other vessels. Carnival, the world's largest leisure travel company, owns more than 100 ships across 10 brands.

Personalization isn't new to the travel industry. Walt Disney World in Florida has a MagicBand wristband device that doubles as a room key and "FastPass" reservations to popular rides. The MagicBand is also linked to a credit card for speedier payments at restaurants and gift shops.

John Padgett, who was one of the chief architects of the MagicBand before joining Carnival in 2014, said the cruise ship's system goes further in eliminating the need to touch or tap a terminal. Sensors pick up signals automatically.

"There are no wires. There is no charging," Padgett said. "It doesn't require a guest or consumer to do anything specific."

Carnival officials say there will be safeguards against someone walking away with another guest's medallion. Each guest's profile is tied to a security picture, so a crew member can compare a passenger's photo on a portable device. Carnival also says the medallion doesn't contain sensitive information such as the stateroom number, much like a hotel room key. The company added that the system features additional authentication, although it declined to elaborate.

Donald said the technology could be adapted for other industries, too. Imagine a patient entering the hospital and being recognized immediately by a nurse without having to check in or fill out forms.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Mark Zuckerberg Says He's No Longer an Atheist]]> Tue, 03 Jan 2017 11:07:07 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP_49057729444.jpg

Mark Zuckerberg is an atheist no more.

The CEO of the world's largest social media company once had "atheist" in his Facebook profile, but it's been removed, and it appears he believes in a higher power, NBC News reported.

When he wished his followers a merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah from him and his family, one commenters asked, "Aren't you an atheist?"

Zuckerberg wrote back that he's not, and that after questioning things, "now I believe religion is very important."

Photo Credit: Manu Fernandez/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Forbes' Richest Entrepreneurs Under 40 ]]> Sun, 01 Jan 2017 18:26:03 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/170*120/Under40_No1.jpg

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon Echo, Google Home: Virtual Assistants or Big Brother?]]> Wed, 28 Dec 2016 20:51:51 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/echo-home.jpg

Devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home claim to listen and record what we say only after we use trigger words. For the Echo, it's "Alexa." But could these cool, trendy devices be recording more of us than we think?

The Amazon Echo and Google Home devices were among the hottest-selling gifts this holiday season. Now they are being scrutinized, as police in Bentonville, Arkansas, are asking for evidence from such a virtual assistant in a murder case.

The case is raising new questions about privacy.

"Your home is your bastion of privacy, and you have Big Brother listening all the time," said Ajay Arora, CEO of Palo Alto-based Vera Security.

Amazon admits it stores the questions asked of Alexa on a server.

"We know Amazon has a copy because consumers can actually listen to all their Alexa requests, and they can delete them," privacy expert Bob Sullivan said.

But Arora says there's also a hacking concern.

"Just as someone could tap a phone call, anyone could tap into your Google Home or Amazon Echo and listen to every word that you say," Arora said.

Security experts say it's possible these devices also could start recording when they merely think they've heard the trigger word. 

For its part, Amazon says it will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served.

Photo Credit: Getty Images file photos]]>
<![CDATA[Uber, Lyft Helping Drive Down DUIs in San Francisco: CHP]]> Tue, 27 Dec 2016 18:57:41 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/1227-2016-UberLyft.jpg

In San Francisco's frustration with the sheer numbers of Lyft and Uber drivers trolling city streets, there is also a silver lining, particularly during this time of the year.

The clogged streets could actually be making a safer holiday season, but it does come at a cost for some businesses.

Curbside valet service outside San Francisco Center is seeing most of the cars pulling up to the cur are not being parked. The cars are Uber and Lyft vehicles dropping off or picking up passengers.

At North Beach restaurant, valet parkers used to hustle non-stop. Not anymore.

"We had good business," said Mohlas Tur, manager of North Beach Parking. "But now after Uber, our business is very, very down."

Valet parkers at North Beach Parking used to handle 80 cars a night on weekends. Now, they park 40.

On the upside, that translates to 40 fewer drivers leaving a restaurant where good times involve alcohol.

While statistics are lagging, the California Highway Patrol said there is little doubt that the ride shares are driving down DUIs.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving also points to early studies confirming a positive trend. Natasha Thomas witnessed it with her own eyes at a sobriety checkpoint near night spots in San Francisco.

Thomas said four out of every five cars were an Uber during the sobriety checkpoint.

Statistics also show that it is younger drivers who cause a disproportionate percentage of accidents. It appears ride-share services are making a positive impact in this category as well.

Sixteen-year-olds are not quite so eager to drive now that Lyft and Uber give them the kind of freedom they might associate with a driver's license.

Driving instructors like Collin Huey confirm the trend, and because he stresses safety first, he is not complaining.

"A lot of kids get in accidents," Huey said. "You have a high rate of accidents, especially on Friday nights."

The trends do come at a cost, primarily congestion on city streets.

As many as 45,000 ride-share vehicles roll along city streets. That did not factor into the planning by the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency. The agency's "transit first" policies designed to encourage less automobiles use Uber stickers and Lyft's pink mustaches. The agency cannot adapt its policies without a clearer picture of the future, and the ride shares are not prone to share information.

"We're trying to work with these companies to get more data from them and understand exactly what we're dealing with," SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said.

Transit planners have appealed to the California Public Utilities Commission. At a minimum, they want the Lyft and Uber drivers who lease their vehicles to be regulated much the way limos are. The intent is to put a halt to the explosive growth of the ride-share companies.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[DC-Area Uber Drivers Stiff Passengers, App Users Say]]> Wed, 28 Dec 2016 05:06:55 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/uberfeuerherd.jpg

Uber passengers at Washington-area airports said some ride-share drivers are refusing to pick them up, because they don’t want to take the travelers where they want to go.

An Uber driver is never supposed to know the destination until the trip has started. But some drivers are said to be calling passengers in advance and finding out where the passengers want to go, which is against Uber policy.

If the driver thinks the trip isn’t worth their time, because they think the trip is too short, too long or they just don’t want to go to the destination, the drivers won’t pick up the passengers, the passengers said.

"I just wanted to get home,” Uber customer Landon Geurkink said. “We had just been traveling for a couple hours in the air. It was cold out."

Geurkink said he had to go through five separate Uber drivers before one finally picked him up at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. He said the drivers thought his relatively short trip to downtown D.C. wasn't worth the trip after calling him to find out his destination.

"He's, like, I just wanted to know where you are headed? I just said, ‘Oh, downtown D.C.,’” Geurkirk said. “Another minute later, he canceled."

Other drivers may have manipulated the Uber app or used a separate app to figure out the final destination and then decided they didn't want the trip. Some Uber drivers said they knew all about this technique, and some admitted they have ended trip requests based on destination.

"I know that I have canceled drives before that I thought were too long," one driver said.

Uber released a statement about the practice.

“Ridesharing apps are changing a transportation status quo that has been unequal for generations, making it easier and more affordable for people to get around, no matter where they live and where they're going."

Per Uber's deactivation policy, each city has a maximum cancellation rate, based on the average cancellation rate in that area, after which point a driver may be barred from using the app.

Uber riders can rate their driver and provide anonymous feedback about their trip. Uber said they do take feedback seriously.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said they are looking into the practice of the Uber drivers avoiding some trips.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Arizona Governor to Welcome Uber Self-Driving Cars]]> Sat, 24 Dec 2016 12:18:02 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ubertruck.jpg

Gov. Doug Ducey planned to welcome the arrival of Uber self-driving cars as a self-driving truck on Friday transported them from San Francisco to Arizona.  

Ducey's office says the governor will welcome the truck carrying the self-driving Volvos after it arrives at the State Capitol in Phoenix late Friday morning.

Uber announced Thursday that it was shipping the self-driving cars to Arizona after they were banned from San Francisco roads over safety concerns.

Uber made the announcement after Ducey on Wednesday and Thursday touted Arizona as an alternative to California for the ride-hailing company to test out its self-driving cars.

Uber hasn't announced when the cars will be tested, nor provided details about how many vehicles will be heading to Arizona. Uber previously had 16 self-driving cars registered in California.

Photo Credit: Uber]]>
<![CDATA[World's First Solar Road Opens in Normandy, France]]> Fri, 23 Dec 2016 01:09:09 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Solar-GettyImages-499584062.jpg

France has just opened what it claims is the first public solar panel road in the world, officials said on Thursday, NBC News reported. 

The French Ministry of the Environment announced the inauguration of the "unprecedented" new road on Thursday, which is covered by solar panels and stretches for more than half mile in the town of Tourouvre-au-Perche in Normandy, France. 

The road, called the Wattway, was officially opened Thursday by French Minister of Ecology Ségolène Royal and Mayor Guy Monhée, according to a statement from the environmental ministry. 

The stretch of road is covered in photovoltaic panels, which transform solar energy into electricity.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon, Other Firms Rescuing Last-Minute Christmas Shoppers]]> Fri, 23 Dec 2016 09:45:06 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/amazon+generic.jpg

When it absolutely, positively, has to get under your tree by Christmas, and you haven’t bought it yet, don’t despair.

There’s still hope, thanks to some tech companies who will fly through the air (literally) for your last-minute shopping.

Amazon claims its Prime Now delivery service is a “procrastinator’s dream” this year. While some Amazon shoppers are already seeing delivery times later than Dec. 25, Prime Now will, according to Amazon, deliver certain items up to 11:59 p.m. Christmas Eve. Even if you order now.

Our advice? Check the website to make sure. Amazon is cool, but it has broken hearts this time of year.

Meanwhile, if your heart can stand last-minute deadlines (and if you clicked on this, it probably can), a Menlo Park company called Deliv can be a life-saver.

Deliv works with companies to get you last-minute deliveries. Its list of where you can shop on Dec. 24 and make it under the tree is probably the best illustration of this, so here it is:

  • Best Buy: Order cut-off noon local time; delivery by 6 p.m.
  • Bloomingdale's: Order cutoff 10 a.m. local; delivery by 6 p.m. (offers same day delivery in the 13 Deliv markets where it has a store)
  • Macy's: Order cutoff 10 a.m. local; delivery by 6 p.m.
  • PetSmart: Order cutoff 2 p.m.; delivery by 6 p.m.

Not a gigantic list, but at this point, can we really afford to be choosy?

Scott delivers on Twitter: @scottbudman.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Uber Takes Self-Driving Cars to Arizona]]> Thu, 22 Dec 2016 14:52:18 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/Self-Driving+2.jpg

After publicly fighting with the California DMV, San Francisco-based ride sharing giant Uber is taking its driverless show on the road, to Arizona.

In a statement released to the press at about 12:30 Thursday, an Uber spokesperson says, “Our cars departed for Arizona this morning by truck. We’ll be expanding our self-driving pilot there in the next few weeks, and we’re excited to have the support of Governor Ducey.”

Uber also included pictures of the days’ departure, and we’ve reproduced some of them here.

Wednesday night, Uber admitted that, because of fallout over its refusal to get a permit from the DMV, it has to put its driverless testing on hold in San Frrancisco. At the time, the company hinted that it would try to continue the program somewhere in California, but it seems the plan has since changed.

Scott rolls on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: Uber
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<![CDATA['The Future of Aviation': U. of Maine Offers Class on Drones]]> Thu, 22 Dec 2016 06:37:47 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/University+of+Maine+Drone+School.JPG

From package delivery, to photography, to search and rescue operations, drones are the future of flight. One New England university is preparing students to be the next generation of pilots.

Students at the University of Maine at Augusta taking a non-credit drone course learn how to fly small stunt drones to get familiar with the remote controller.

"It's the wild, wild west of aviation," said Dan Leclair, the course's professor, an aviation instruction and a colonel in the Civil Air Patrol.

The flying is the fun part, but the course work is what's most important. Professor Leclair teaches the students about weather patterns, airport maps and all the rules they need to know to pass the FAA’s test for commercial pilots.

"The course teaches you to be safe, and how to fly the air craft in the national air space system," said Leclair, who teaches the class with retired Air Force Lt. Col. Greg Jolda.

UMA is among the few colleges in the nation to offer a course of this kind.

"The opportunity is wide open," said Tom Abbott, the UMA's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Project Manager.

Abbott came up with the idea for the drone course, realizing that companies are on the brink of incorporating drones into everyday business practices. Amazon, for example, is exploring drone delivery for packages.

"This is the future of aviation," said Abbott. "I said, 'Hey. Why can't we do this?'"

Abbott wants to add more drone classes, so UMA can offer a minor in drone piloting in its aviation degree program.

The class is only in its first semester, but has quickly taken off: 38 students are enrolled, between the ages of 16 to 70.

"I've always been into aviation and photography," said Gabriel Roig, a high school student who decided to take the drone course so he can someday open a small business. "I think it would be cool career path [to fly drones] to survey land for real estate companies."

An older student in the course, Jacob Gerritsen, has a similar plan.

"My son and I are starting a company called Pegasus Visuals," said Gerritsen. "We are open for business to do inspections of dams, wind turbines or real estate."

Gerritsen has been flying for years, and wanted his FAA certification to turn his hobby into a business venture. He said the UMA class helped him pass the FAA test with flying colors.

"I understand aviation a lot more," he said. "I understand the rules. I understand why they have the rules."

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[DMV Halts Uber's Self-Driving Pilot by Revoking Registration]]> Wed, 21 Dec 2016 21:30:54 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP_16349000708921-Uber-Self-Driving-Cars.jpg

The California Department of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday revoked the registration for Uber’s 16 self-driving cars over a permit fracas, effectively ending the company’s pilot program in San Francisco.

One week after the test was launched, Uber sent out a statement that said: "We have stopped our self-driving pilot in California as the DMV has revoked the registrations for our self-driving cars. We’re now looking at where we can redeploy these cars but remain 100 percent committed to California and will be redoubling our efforts to develop workable statewide rules."

At issue: a $150 permit that would allow Uber to legally give people rides in driverless cars. The company has been testing these cars around the city for a while now, and wanted to be able to use them in its ridesharing fleet.

However, the cars need the same special permit as the 20 other companies testing self-driving technology in California, regulators argued.

Uber maintains it does not need a permit because the cars are not sophisticated enough to continuously drive themselves and — although the company promotes them as "self-driving" — will always have an Uber employee behind the wheel.

The DMV said the registrations for the vehicles were improperly issued because they were not properly marked as test vehicles. It invited Uber to seek a permit so their vehicles could operate legally in California — an offer the company said it did not plan to accept.

So the DMV did not back down. 

"It was determined that the registrations were improperly issued for these vehicles because they were not properly marked as test vehicles," the DMV wrote in a statement on Wednesday. "Concurrently, the department invited Uber to seek a permit so their vehicles can operate legally in California."

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee expressed his pleasure at the DMV's enforcement.

"I have always been a strong supporter of innovation and autonomous vehicle development and testing, but only under conditions that put human, bicyclist and pedestrian safety first," he said in a statement.

Uber officials on Wednesday were scheduled to hold a closed door meeting with state regulators to hash out whether or not the company can pick up riders in driverless cars. However, all sides remained tight-lipped about all aspects of the meeting, including where and when it was taking place.

On Dec. 14, hours after rolling out its self-driving cars, Uber was bombarded with complaints: California legislators threatened legal action; dash cam footage showed an Uber driverless car running a red light; and Consumer Watchdog began pushing the San Francisco Police Department to impound the renegade cars as well as District Attorney Dennis Herrera to file criminal charges against CEO Travis Kalanick. 

Also, San Francisco also has an active bicycle culture, and some of its leaders have criticized Uber for deploying cars that make right "hook" turns across bike lanes at intersections.

The executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition said that on a test ride Uber gave him before the launch, the car twice made such turns. Brian Wiedenmeier said he told Uber officials and they promised to fix it. He said he got reports of other such turns on the pilot project's first day, but not since.

Before the San Francisco launch, the company said it told all employees sitting in the driver's seat to take the wheel for such turns. Meanwhile, it is working to improve the software.

Check back for updates. 

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Holiday Gifts for Tech-Savvy Gamers]]> Mon, 19 Dec 2016 10:45:28 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Gifts21.jpg Your crowd doesn't like puzzles or art kits? Not a problem. This holiday gift gallery offers a bit of everything for your favorite gamers.

Photo Credit: Blue, Arkane Studios/Bethesda Studios]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Calls Out Russia in 'New Era of Warfare']]> Fri, 16 Dec 2016 23:46:42 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-630102682-obama.jpg

We’ve had saber rattling, but in the modern era, get ready for cyber rattling.

"We are in a new era of warfare – cyber warfare," Melinda Jackson, a political science professor at San Jose State University, said after President Barack Obama called out Russia in a Friday press conference.

Obama talked about how, in the wake of Russia possibly hacking the Nov. 8 election to the point of disruption, "We can do stuff to you."

But will any of that "stuff" involve Silicon Valley?

Yes, says at least one cyber security expert.

"We have rules of engagement for conventional warfare," said Michael Borohovski of Mountain View-based Tinfoil Security. "We have no rules for cyber warfare."

Borohovski says he sees tech security companies like his becoming busier in the months and years to come, as hacking – even at the highest levels of government – becomes the new normal.

A former professor of Russian history, David Ransel, said Russia may be trying to get back at the U.S. for meddling in other world affairs. The election became the opportune time to strike. 

“It made them feel more vulnerable, so they’re reacting and Putin has been the champion of this reaction of fighting back in whatever way they can,” he said.

However, Ransel hopes Trump can smooth over US-Russia relations moving forward.

"I’m worried about what could evolve here," he admitted. "Russia isn’t the kind of threat it used to be, and it’d probably be better for everyone, if we could get along more with them." 


Scott rattles on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook Is Now Letting You Flag Fake News]]> Thu, 15 Dec 2016 22:41:02 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/187265573-facebook-generic.jpg

Facebook is letting its users flag news stories as fake or a hoax and working with fact checkers to vet them, the social media giant announced Thursday, in its first efforts to address fake news since the United States election.

Some news articles that were widely shared on the platform in the run-up to Election Day were obviously and demonstrably false, like the Pope and Denzel Washington endorsing Donald Trump for president — they did not. It's causing widespread confusion, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center, and the propagation of a baseless conspiracy theory is being blamed for gunman walking into a Washington, D.C., pizzeria shop and shooting a rifle.

Facebook executives have indicated since the election that they were reviewing what changes to make, if any, to combat fake news, though none have said they believe the false news shared on the platform changed the outcome of the election. Those changes were announced at 1 p.m. ET Thursday.

News that's identified as fake by the fact checking organizations, which must sign on to Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles, will be marked as "disputed" and have an explainer accompanying that content, Facebook said. Facebook's algorithm may also have those stories appear lower in users' feeds. Recode reported that ABC News, Politifact, FactCheck and Snopes are the partner news organizations.

Facebook is also trying to reduce the financial incentive for creating and posting fake articles, and is testing a way to see if reading an article leads fewer people to share it indicates the story is misleading and should be ranked lower.

"We believe in giving people a voice and that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we’re approaching this problem carefully," News Feed Vice President Adam Mosseri said in a statement. "We've focused our efforts on the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain, and on engaging both our community and third party organizations."

A Pew survey released Thursday found that 64 percent of U.S. adults say fabricated news stories are causing confusion about basic facts in current events, while only 10 percent said they believed it was causing not much or no confusion.

Seventy-one percent of the 1,002 people surveyed between Dec. 1 and 4 said they see fake news online often or sometimes.

Fake news became a massive point of contention in the final days of the election and afterward, with Hillary Clinton calling fake news a "danger that must be addressed" quickly in a speech on Capitol Hill last week.

The fake news seemed to target Clinton more than Trump, according to analyses of the content, including one by Buzzfeed that found top false articles generated more engagement than top election stories posted by 19 major news outlets, like NBC News, The New York Times and others. Only three of the top 20 performing false stories didn't target Clinton or support Trump, it found.

Producing fake news became a cottage industry in one part of Macedonia, where NBC News spoke to a teenager who said he's earned $60,000 in six months off of baseless, incendiary posts that mainly targeted followers of Donald Trump, because "Nothing can beat Trump's supporters when it comes to social media engagement," he said.

Those stories appear to have had real-world effects. Edgar Maddison Welch took an AR-15 rifle and handgun into the popular Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in D.C. in early December, to investigate the a rumored child sex abuse ring purportedly run by a Clinton aide, police said. The store's owner had already been receiving death threats, as the hoax became popular on Reddit and other online forums, before spinning off into fake news stories.

Welch discharged his rifle, but no one was hurt, police said. He later told a New York Times reporter that his "intel on this wasn't 100 percent."

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he doesn't think fake news swayed the election, and Mosseri told The New York Times Thursday he doesn't believe the feed directly caused people to vote for a particular candidate: "the magnitude of fake news across Facebook is one fraction of a percent of the content across the network."

Americans are split on whether fake news should be limited by social media, according to a McClatchy-Marist poll of just over 1,000 adults out Thursday. Fifty-three percent said it should be up to users to determine what information is true, while 41 percent said Facebook and Twitter should be responsible for preventing false information from spreading. 

A higher portion of those surveyed by Pew — 71 percent — said social networking sites and search engines bear a great deal or some responsibility for preventing their spread.

According to that poll, only 15 percent of people are not confident in their ability to spot fabricated news. But many have difficulty differentiating fake news from real, according to a recent Stanford study of students across the country. 

Photo Credit: File – Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Uber Self-Driving Car Caught on Camera Running Red Light]]> Wed, 14 Dec 2016 17:53:42 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-609845718.jpg

It’s day one of Uber’s self-driving car test in San Francisco, and already trouble is brewing amidst reports of vehicles running red lights and California regulators threatening legal action.

The ride-hailing giant on Wednesday rolled out a fleet of self-driving cars, but ignored the state’s permit requirement. Uber agued that its cars do not meet the state's definition of an "autonomous vehicle'' because they are foolproof: a person will always be behind the wheel to monitor and intervene if needed.

However, that fail-safe, well, failed hours aftert the big launch when Uber blamed the car’s driver for running a light in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, the San Francisco Examiner first reported.

A company spokesman said in a statement “This incident was due to human error. This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers. This vehicle was not part of the pilot and was not carrying customers. The driver involved has been suspended while we continue to investigate.

Dashcam footage obtained from taxi company Luxor Cab San Francisco shows a slew of cars careening by in the final seconds of a yellow light on Third Street. One even scrapes by just as the light turned red.

The taxi stopped at the light, but a few seconds later, an Uber self-driving car cruised past the already red light. This, after a man had stepped onto the pedestrian crossing.

Earlier in the day, San Francisco-based writer and producer, Annie Gaus, tweeted: “Just passed a 'self-driving' Uber that lurched into the intersection on Van Ness, on a red, nearly hitting my Lyft.”

Her next tweet says, “(Not enough time to get a good shot, but...whoops!)”, and shows an Uber self-driving car that came to a stop partially into the intersection.

The San Franciso Examiner also reported that the city police department’s traffic division was in the dark of Uber’s plan to debut its self-driving fleet.

Meanwhile, hours after the self-driving cars took to San Francisco’s streets, the California Department of Motor Vehicles ordered Uber to cease the pilot program until it obtained the necessary permit.

Consumer Watchdog is urging the San Francisco Police Department to impound Uber’s recalitrant robot cars, and City Attorney Denns Herrera to file criminal charges against the company’s CEO Travis Kalanick.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Yahoo: Hackers Stole Data From Over 1B Accounts]]> Wed, 14 Dec 2016 20:38:41 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/185*120/041613-yahoo-sign-getty.jpg

Yahoo announced Wednesday that more than one billion user accounts may have been affected in a hacking attack dating back to August 2013, a revalation that may put a recent multi-billion-dollar deal with Verizon in jeopardy.

The Sunnyvale, California, says it believes information, including names, email addresses, phone numbers, birth dates and security questions and answers, may have been stolen in the breach. The company says it believes bank-account information and payment-card data were not affected.

The security breach was discovered after law enforcement officials provided the company with data files that a "third party" claimed was Yahoo user data. After analyzing the information, Yahoo concluded that the data belonged to its users.

Yahoo says it has not been able to identify the source of the hack.

"Yahoo is notifying potentially affected users and has taken steps to secure their accounts, including requiring users to change their passwords. Yahoo has also invalidated unencrypted security questions and answers so that they cannot be used to access an account," the company said in a statement. 

Yahoo is also urging users to avoid clicking links or downloading attachments from suspicious emails, and to be cautious of unsolicited communications that ask for personal information.

The tech giant says it's a different breach from the one it disclosed in September, when it reported that 500 million accounts were exposed. 

Based on the ongoing investigation, the company believes hackers accessed the company's proprietary code to learn how to forge cookies that could allow an intruder to access users' accounts without a password. The company says it has connected some of this activity to the same "state-sponsored actor" believed to be responsible for the data theft the company disclosed on September 22, 2016.

The new hack revelation raises questions about whether Verizon will try to change the terms of its $4.8 billion proposed acquisition of Yahoo.

If the hacks cause a user backlash against Yahoo, the company's services wouldn't be as valuable to Verizon, raising the possibility that the sale price might be re-negotiated or the deal may be called off. The telecom giant wants Yahoo and its many users to help it build a digital ad business.

After the news of the first hack broke, Verizon said it would re-evaluate its Yahoo deal and in a Wednesday statement said it will review the "new development before reaching any final conclusions." Spokesman Bob Varettoni declined to answer further questions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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