Staff picks for the week of Oct. 17, 2016

 In News, Staff Picks

Happy Friday! Here are the most interesting tech stories our staff read this week.

Staff Picks General

Your personal shopper on eBay? Artificial Intelligence (Read by Alexandria H.)

Who needs a personal shopper when artificial intelligence can do the job? eBay had the same thought when it rolled out Collective, a new section of the site that enables shoppers to “get the look” simply by clicking on a picture. An advanced algorithm searches through listings to find products that are similar to items pictured in the site’s annotated photographs. With this feature, online shoppers no longer have to rely on product descriptions or keywords, which can be misleading. Currently, Collective seems focused mainly on pricey antiques, but I can see it becoming a hit as more annotated photos are added and search results expanded to include more affordable listings.

The $1,200 Snoo Robo-Cradle will rock your baby to sleep for you (Read by Alexandria H.)

New parents know all too well the exhausting, middle-of-the-night struggle to soothe a crying baby. But thanks to a new invention by pediatrician and infant sleep expert Harvey Karp, parents might not have to sacrifice a good night’s sleep any longer. Karp invented the Snoo Robo-Cradle, a futuristic bassinet that calms fussy babies, enabling parents to catch some Zs. Designed to simulate a mother’s womb, the bassinet rocks and makes “swooshing” sounds, creating a familiar environment for newborns. Snoo’s built-in algorithms detect how fussy a baby is and adjust its rocking level accordingly, while parents can monitor the activity through an app. Albeit pricey, this cradle sounds like a blessing to new parents battling sleep deprivation.

These tiny, wearable robots can cling to your clothes and drive around your body (Read by Camillia S.)

Yup, you read that correctly. Researchers from MIT and Stanford University debuted the tiny robots, which crawl over any fabric, at a conference in Tokyo this week. What are they for? The inventors identified several possible uses, from tapping you on the shoulder to let you know you’ve received an email (although I think a ping from your mobile phone suffices), to turning your arm into a video display. I’m not sure about you, but the only thing I like crawling on me is a fluffy dog, and none of the robots’ potential uses are powerful enough for me to hop on board.

Traditional keyboard sounds can be decoded, compromising privacy (Read by Heidi B.)

A new study by researchers at the University of California and in Italy has discovered that criminals can steal sensitive information just by listening to you type. Keyboard sounds can be recorded through audio and video conferences and decoded to obtain confidential information like passwords and credit card info. So what’s a Skype-loving employee to do? According to researchers, avoid typing sensitive data while using a VoIP application or, if you must type during your call, do so on a touch-screen keyboard, since they don’t produce audible keystrokes. Sneaky hackers!

Robot mussels help measure the effects of climate change (Read by Heidi B.)

Along with being delicious smothered in butter and garlic, mussels are also good at something else: tracking climate change. A Northeastern University research team recently published data collected by robotic mussels that have been monitoring climate patterns for the past 18 years. They’ve been doing so by recording the body temperature of the living, breathing mussels around them every 10 to 15 minutes. How does this work? Mussels rely on air temperature and sunlight to keep warm, so if they get too hot, you know something’s wrong. The data from the robotic mussels could impact climate change policy, as well as help save ecosystems from erosion, water acidification, and more. You go, little robot mussels!

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