Tag Archives: Apps and Software

Government Lab Reveals Quantum Internet Operated for 2 Years

Sparkleoptic

One of the dreams for security experts is the creation of a quantum Internet that allows perfectly secure communication based on the powerful laws of quantum mechanics.

The basic idea here is that the act of measuring a quantum object, such as a photon, always changes it. So any attempt to eavesdrop on a quantum message cannot fail to leave telltale signs of snooping that the receiver can detect. That allows anybody to send a “one-time pad” over a quantum network which can then be used for secure communication using conventional classical communication.

That sets things up nicely for perfectly secure messaging known as quantum cryptography and this is actually a fairly straightforward technique for any half decent quantum optics lab. Indeed, a company called ID Quantique sells an off-the-shelf system that has begun to attract banks and other organisations interested in perfect security.

These systems have an important limitation, however. The current generation of quantum cryptography systems are point-to-point connections over a single length of fibre, So they can send secure messages from A to B but cannot route this information onwards to C, D, E or F.

That’s because the act of routing a message means reading the part of it that indicates where it has to be routed. And this inevitably changes it, at least with conventional routers. This makes a quantum Internet impossible with today’s technology

Various teams are racing to develop quantum routers that will fix this problem by steering quantum messages without destroying them. We looked at one of the first last year. But the truth is that these devices are still some way from commercial reality.

Today, Richard Hughes and his team at Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico reveal an alternative quantum Internet, which they say they’ve been running for two and half years. Their approach is to create a quantum network based around a hub and spoke-type network. All messages get routed from any point in the network to another via this central hub.

This is not the first time this kind of approach has been tried. The idea is that messages to the hub rely on the usual level of quantum security. However, once at the hub, they are converted to conventional classical bits and then reconverted into quantum bits to be sent on the second leg of their journey.

So as long as the hub is secure, then the network should also be secure.

The problem with this approach is scalability. As the number of links to the hub increases, it becomes increasingly difficult to handle all the possible connections that can be made between one point in the network and another.

Hughes and co say they’ve solved this with their unique approach which equips each node in the network with quantum transmitters—ie lasers—but not with photon detectors which are expensive and bulky. Only the hub is capable of receiving a quantum message (although all nodes can send and receiving conventional messages in the normal way).

That may sound limiting but it still allows each node to send a one-time pad to the hub which it then uses to communicate securely over a classical link. The hub can then route this message to another node using another one time pad that it has set up with this second node. So the entire network is secure, provided that the central hub is also secure.

The big advantage of this system is that it makes the technology required at each node extremely simple—essentially little more than a laser. In fact, Los Alamos has already designed and built plug-and-play type modules that are about the size of a box of matches. “Our next-generation [module] will be an order of magnitude smaller in each linear dimension,” they say.

Their ultimate goal is to have one of these modules built in to almost any device connected to a fibre optic network, such as set top TV boxes, home computers and so on, to allow perfectly secure messaging.

Having run this system now for more than two years, Los Alamos are now highly confident in its efficacy.

Of course, the network can never be more secure than the hub at the middle of it and this is an important limitation of this approach. By contrast, a pure quantum Internet should allow perfectly secure communication from any point in the network to any other.

Another is that this approach will become obsolete as soon as quantum routers become commercially viable. So the question for any investors is whether they can get their money back in the time before then. The odds are that they won’t have to wait long to find out.

Image via iStockphoto, muratkoc

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/05/06/government-lab-quantum-internet/

Nokia Announces Windows Phone 8 Version of City Lens App

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After coming out of beta last week, Nokia‘s augmented reality app, Nokia City Lens, is due for another update with plenty of new features.

The upcoming Windows Phone 8 version of the app, which will work on Nokia’s Lumia 920 and 820 smartphones, is set to debut 3D icons, as well as the option of filtering search results to only show those in your line of sight.

Some WP8-specific features will also be added to the app, including the ability to pin to start any category, and to customize the menu by adding your favorite searches.

Perhaps most importantly, the app will work in both landscape and portrait modes.

Nokia has yet to comment on the exact release date of its newest version of City Lens.

Would you download the app? Tell us in the comments below.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/11/nokia-city-lens-windows-8/

Google to Launch New Devices, Android 4.2 at Oct. 29 Event

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Google will unveil several new devices and a software update at its scheduled Oct. 29 press event, according to a company video leaked from an all-hands meeting.

The Next Web is reporting Google has distributed an internal video that details and confirms speculations about what might be revealed at the upcoming event.

The video reportedly discusses the launch of a 32GB version of the Nexus 7 tablet, as well as one with 3G support. It also indicates Google is working with manufacturer Samsung to release a 10-inch tablet called “Nexus 10” that will run Android 4.2 (“Key Lime Pie”), and a Nexus smartphone manufactured by LG.

Meanwhile, the new Android 4.2 mobile operating system will include a panoramic camera option and “tablet sharing” capabilities, which would allow more than one user to access the device with his own set of email and apps — similar to how a family or business can switch between user settings on a Windows computer.

Earlier this week, Google sent invitations to the press for an Android event to be held in New York City. Although the invitation didn’t detail what might occur, the tagline — “the playground is open” — suggests it will have to do with Google Play, the company’s newly-rebranded Andriod Market.

The news came as Microsoft prepares for its Windows Phone 8 launch event, which will also be held on Oct. 29 — and Apple gears up to unveil its rumored 7.85-inch iPad on Tuesday, Oct. 23.

Google’s new Samsung tablet is reportedly being filed under the name “Codename Manta.” The device is expected to have a 2560×1600 pixel resolution and 300ppi, which is greater than the iPad’s 264ppi.

Meanwhile, the 4.7-inch Nexus smartphone manufactured by LG is said to tout a quad-core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm APQ8064 Snapdragon processor, a 1280×768 display, 2GB of RAM and 16GB storage.

BONUS: 10 Free Android Apps You’ll Use Every Day

Top 10 Tech This Week

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Watch This Magazine Cover Transform Into an Interactive Game

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The cover of ShortList, a weekly men’s magazine in the UK, took on a uniquely interactive quality this week thanks to Blippar.

Using Blippar’s augmented reality app for iPhone or Android devices, readers can scan the arcade game-style art on the cover to bring a fully playable version to life on their phones, as shown in the video above. Elsewhere in the issue, readers can use the app to pull up extra slideshows, vote in polls, take quizzes and more.

Blippar, a UK-based startup that set up its first U.S. office in Manhattan earlier this year, has been making increasingly frequent appearances in ads and even the cover of Justin Bieber’s last big album release, Believe. Meanwhile, augmented reality and other 2D-code-activated applications are being integrated into a broader array of magazine titles, including Allure, The Atlantic, Elle and Esquire.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/09/magazine-interactive-game-cover/

These Glasses Let You Play in 3D Virtual Worlds

Despite the endless gaming and interactive potential of augmented reality, the technology has been moving slow in terms of widespread awareness and adoption. But a new system called castAR aims to push augmented reality into the mainstream, starting with a Kickstarter campaign that launched Monday.

Founded by veteran developers and former Valve employees Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson, Washington-based company Technical Illusions is offering a product that delivers both augmented-reality and virtual-reality experiences.

First introduced in May as a prototype, the castAR system is centered around a pair of glasses that house two micro-projectors over each lens. Each projector receives its video stream via an HDMI connection, and then beams a portion of a 3D image to a flat surface made out of retro-reflective sheeting material.

Situated between two the two lenses is a small camera that scans the surface for infrared markers. This dynamic allows the castAR to accurately track your head movements in relation to the holographic representations on the surface.

The product also comes with a clip-on attachment that allows the wearer to experience private augmented reality, layering virtual objects onto the real world, or virtual reality, during which all the imagery you see is computer-generated. Also included is a device called a Magic Wand that serves as a 3D input device and joystick.

Some of the potential applications for the castAR system include board games, flight simulators and first-person shooters; but the developers believe that it could also be used for interactive presentations in business.

While many companies have promised to deliver impressive augmented-reality experiences, video of the commercial version of the castAR (above) is impressive. “It’s gonna deliver on the dream of the holodeck,” Bre Pettis, CEO of Makerbot, said in the video.

For $355, early adopters can get their hands on the entire package of components, which includes the castAR glasses, the retro-reflective surface, the Magic Wand and the AR and VR clip-on. There are also several other packages offered at lower prices for those only looking to try the basics of the system.

Launched with a goal of $400,000, the team’s Kickstarter campaign has already earned over $210,000 as of this writing. Those who order the device now can expect to get it next September, according to Technical Illusions.

Image: Technical Illusions

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/10/14/augmented-reality-glasses/

How to Detect Apps Leaking Your Data

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One reason that smartphones and smartphone apps are so useful is that they can integrate intimately with our personal lives. But that also puts our personal data at risk.

A new service called Mobilescope hopes to change that by letting a smartphone user examine all the data that apps transfer, and alerting him when sensitive information, such as his name or email address, is transferred.

“It’s a platform-agnostic interception tool that you can use on your Android, iOS, Blackberry, or Windows device,” says Ashkan Soltani, an independent privacy researcher who created Mobilescope with fellow researchers David Campbell and Aldo Cortesi.

Their first proof-of-concept won a prize for the best app created during a privacy-focused programming contest, or codeathon, organized by the Wall Street Journal in April this year; the trio has now polished it enough to open a beta trial period. Access is steadily being rolled out to the “couple of thousand” people that have already signed up, says Soltani.

Once a person has signed up for the service, Mobilescope is accessed through a website, not as an app installed onto a device. A user can use the site to see logs of the data transferred by the apps on their device. They can also specify “canaries,” pieces of sensitive information such as a phone number, email or name that trigger an alert if they are sent out by an app.

Mobilescope can catch apps doing things such as copying a person’s address book to a remote server, as Path and several other mobile apps were found to do earlier this year. Soltani says the service is intended to level the playing field between mobile apps and the people that use them by arming users with more information about what those apps do.

As became clear when several popular apps were caught quietly copying contact data from users earlier this year, neither Apple’s nor Google’s mobile operating systems currently offer people much insight into or control of what apps are sharing.

(MIT Technology Review)

“Our focus is making really simple the process of interception,” says Soltani. “If you’re not an advanced user, you can still get at this data using Mobilescope.”

When a person signs up for Mobilescope, a configuration file is sent to his device. Once installed, this file causes all future Internet traffic to be routed through a Mobilescope server so that it can analyze the data that comes and goes to the device and its apps.

That arrangement is possible thanks to the way that smartphones are designed to be compatible with VPNs, or virtual private networks — encrypted communications that some businesses use to keep corporate data private. That design doesn’t add much delay to a person’s connection, says Soltani, in part because users are connected with a server as geographically close to them as possible.

Mobilescope can even examine data that is sent over the most common types of secure connection used by apps, similar to those used by banking websites, by intercepting the certificates involved. The service cannot decrypt other data, but Soltani says that few apps bother to use encryption. Data collected by Mobilescope is discarded after each session of use, and is only ever stored on a person’s own device.

Soltani says he doesn’t imagine Mobilescope will have the mass appeal of something like Angry Birds, but he hopes it will encourage journalists, activists, and ordinary smartphone owners to look into what apps do, and will help put more pressure on app developers to respect privacy.

“Added transparency for everyone — app developers, users, regulators — will help the whole mobile ecosystem.”

An earlier version of Mobilescope gave users the power to send fake data to certain apps, for example sending a spoof location. “We had to pull that out because the ecosystem is not ready for it,” says Soltani, who says this broke some apps, sometimes in ways that could harm other users. A separate project does make that tactic available to Android users willing to use a modified version of their operating system.

(MIT Technology Review)

In April, Xuxian Jiang, an associate professor at North Carolina State University, published a study showing that the ad systems included in many Android apps endanger users’ privacy. Around half of these systems monitor a user’s GPS location, and some also collect call logs and other sensitive data.

Jiang, who has uncovered other security and privacy flaws with mobile apps, said Mobilescope will be an “interesting” new tool for keeping tabs on apps. However, he adds that it can’t be guaranteed to catch everything, and says mobile privacy can only be improved with greater transparency from developers, improved privacy statements, and action from the creators of mobile operating systems.

“[We] need of mechanisms for users to actually control apps’ access to various personal information,” he says.

Justin Brookman, who directs consumer privacy activity at the Center for Democracy and Technology, says this will require changes to the law, which currently simply encourages companies to write very broad privacy policies to avoid the penalties for writing false ones.

“Detailed disclosures are actually deterred by the law,” he says. The CDT is attempting to get legislation introduced that instead requires companies to explicitly tell consumers what’s happening to their data, and to provide them with more control over it.

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/10/detect-apps-leaking-data/

Zynga in Slumps-Ville, But Social Games Are Still Hot

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Social games have been synonymous with Zynga, the company that made FarmVille a sometimes maddening fixture on Facebook walls around the world. So given Zynga’s ongoing decline—the company’s stock has plummeted 75% since its December IPO, employees are fleeing, and its latest game titles are floundering—it’s easy to think social games are a quickly fading fad.

But plenty of investors and game developers are still writing checks and apps, betting that the average person isn’t bored with these kinds of games. The market for social and casual games is indeed still growing, but like many web applications, these games are moving to mobile devices—a transition that has brought new challenges.

“I don’t think they [Zynga] are a guide to the future,” says Andrew Marsh, a San Francisco-based game developer whose “indie” studio Fifth Column Games recently partnered with the rapidly expanding Japanese mobile-gaming company Gree.

While the investment bank Digi-Capital recently called the Zynga IPO the peak for “Social Games 1.0” investments, it also said investors are pouring money into games for smartphones and tablets. More than half of all game playing is on such devices, NPD Group, another research firm, recently estimated.

Yet major challenges remain for companies hoping to make their games more than make a fly-by-night hit on mobile devices. One longtime game developer, Tadhg Kelly, calls it “platform amnesia”—people get excited about the same old games presented on top of new technologies, but that wears out quickly.

And mobile-game companies have struggled to gain and keep users, especially ones willing to spend money. Zynga experienced this problem firsthand when it acquired OMGpop, the company behind the hit game Draw Something, earlier this year for more than $180 million, only to see the game quickly fade in popularity.

Gree, founded in 2004, is angling to succeed by creating a platform for smartphone games and courting developers like Marsh to create the next big hits. Where Zynga has struggled because it has largely depended on being seen in Facebook news feeds, Gree has created a specialized Facebook-like social network for gaming on mobile devices. Like DeNA, another Japanese company, it has found most of its current users in Asia, but it is seeking worldwide dominance with a recent spending spree and string of acquisitions.

Zynga, too, is trying to create an independent network. If it succeeds, this could help solve one problem that plagues mobile-game developers: how to get people to discover games among millions of apps in Google’s and Apple’s stores.

On Facebook, people naturally return day after day, but users aren’t as strongly inclined to open an app, says venture capitalist Charles Hudson, a partner with SoftTech VC who previously founded a company acquired by Zynga. As it is, since social elements are a less natural feature on smartphones, mobile-game companies are being forced to pour money into acquiring new users through advertising and cross-promotion. “Most mobile games are still discovered through the app store, and that’s not sustainable,” Marsh says.

Social games themselves may also need to become more creative as they migrate to mobile devices. To keep people playing, games can’t afford to get boring, says Kelly, who calls Draw Something a novelty that had no depth. Console game companies, such as Sony and Electronic Arts, and companies like Kixeye, which target more serious gamers, are starting to experiment with more casual social games for mobile devices.

Innovation could occur as developers take advantage of features particular to phones. Already, some are using feedback from touch interfaces and adapting to shorter gaming sessions—a couple of minutes while waiting for the train to come, for example.

Graphics on mobile devices are also nearing the quality of those on game consoles, especially in the case of tablets, and developers are starting to incorporate them into even simple social games. One example is NaturalMotion’s CSR Racing, a popular 3D drag-racing game that Apple CEO Tim Cook showed off at his company’s developer conference this year.

And while no company yet has found a lasting hit game that uses phone technologies such front-facing camera motion sensors or GPS location, Hudson says that could be coming as more startups experiment.

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/18/zynga-social-games-growth/

Want to Run Code on the ISS? There’s a Competition For That

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Any high school-aged coders with a love for space and NASA out there? Read on.

Zero Robotics, a robotics programming competition set up through MIT, is entering its fourth year — and there’s still a day left to register.

Here’s how it works: Students can sign up in teams for free on the website. Over the course of the semester, they compete head-to-head with other teams in writing programs — sort of situational, scenario-based challenges. Gradually, the challenges get more difficult. Then, after several phases, finalists are selected to compete in running code for the International Space Station (ISS) — which is broadcast live by an astronaut on board the ISS.

Since 2009, the competition has allowed participants to compete in a series of coding challenges through an online platform.

“There’s a whole ranking system that tells them how well they’re doing as they’re going through it,” said Jake Katz, co-founder of the competition and research assistant in the Space Stations laboratory at MIT. “And throughout the course of the season, the game gets slightly more complex. They start out in two dimensions and then they will soon, around Oct. 5, be going into 3-D competition — then we add some additional challenges towards the end.”

The original kick off for this year’s competition was on Sept. 8. But, Katz said, there’s still a day left to register.

“There have been people participating so far, and are already off and running with it, but it’s still possible to join in and make a submission for the first phase,” he said. “We have 75 teams so far, and that’s just from the U.S.”

There are an additional 43 teams from 19 other countries, he said.

The competition is sponsored by NASA, DARPA, TopCoder, Aurora Flight Sciences, CASIS and MIT. TopCoder, a programming company, designed the platform the games are played on.

“In 2009, when we started, we had just two teams competing against each other,” Katz said. “Just two years later, we had about 100 teams from all over sign up.”

Check out the promotional video below:

What kind of code would you write to run on board the ISS? Let us know in the comments.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/26/zero-robotics-mit/

10 Weird iPhone Games You’ve Got to Try

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