Tag Archives: New Scientist

The Bluetooth Gun

Bluetooth in the line of fire? New Scientist reports of a police gun invention that when fired will automatically send its position to fellow officers who can then, presumably, provide backup.

The idea is that when a police officer is holding his gun correctly — both hands on the weapon — he or she can’t easily reach for the radio. So inventor Kevin Sinha of Georgia, “has come up with a simple way around the problem and Motorola, which has made police radios for many years, has pitched in.” The invention involves a Bluetooth transmitter chip controlled by a sensor in the gun which detects when the firing pin is triggered. Whenever a shot is fired the gun sends out a signal to a GPS radio on the wearer’s belt which determines the wearer’s precise position and transmits a pre-recorded message along with the location.

An interesting use of Bluetooth (and GPS). Of course, knowing how hard it is to couple two Bluetooth devices, and their tendency to need “waking up” even if they are paired, I wouldn’t want to rely on it in hairy situations. Like being shot at, for example.

When Chatbots Go Bad

Richard Wallace of the A.L.I.C.E. AI Foundation, Inc. and creator of the Alice chatbot says his creation (sorry, can’t find a permalink) may have been lured to the dark side:

I have received a multitude of emails recently from subscribers to MSN Instant Messenger services, from people who have chatted with a clone of ALICE on their system who have suspected that this clone is downloading spyware onto their machines. The threat of malicious bots releasing viral software has appeared before, but this is the most serious incident so far. Like many clones of ALICE, this one appears to contain the basic AIML content containing my email address and references to the A. I. Foundation, which of course has nothing to with malicious software. But it directs people to complain to me.

New Scientist quotes Richard as saying that “this is insidious because compared to other bots, she does the best job of convincing people that she is a real person.” I’m not quite clear as to how this happens, but it would appear that anyone chatting with these Rogue Alices would be infected with spyware via MSN chat.

If so, is this the start of something? As chatbots get better, can we expect them to spread through every online social tool, infecting us with their sleaze and reducing our trust levels to zero.

Update: More On Word Orders

 Further to my posting yesterday about how we recognise words, here’s something from Mike Masnick, who runs the excellent Techdirt blog:
I saw your other post on the mixed up letters, which I agree is absolutely fascinating.  I had posted something similar about a year ago. Which also didn’t have a source associated with it, though, it appears to come from the same basic idea.  Someone posted a comment on that post recently, saying it was written in a letter to New Scientist.
At the time, I also wondered if such things could be useful as a sort of  Turing test to fool a computer, but still have a human know perfectly well what you were talking about.
Randomly, I also sent it to my parents when I first came across it.  When I  was a kid, they were very concerned with the way I learned to read, since I apparently would just look at the first two letters of a word and its length and then “guess” at what the word was.  Apparently, that might not be so weird…
Thanks, Mike. I reckon we’re definitely onto something here. Sadly, the only use I can think of for it so far is for spammers, who already misspell words to fool spam filters. I can imagine their pitches: Wroreid aobut szie? Dpesresd by prferaomcne? Ok that took me a couple of minutes to do. This took me two seconds: Werorid by szie? Depersesd by prcaremfone?  Courtesy of a funky site called Lerfjhax which lets you type in text and get a scrambled version out. Watch out for another wvae of sapm.

News: We’re Losing the Virus Arms Race

This week’s New Scientist confirms what readers of this blog already knew about the growing imbalance in the virus arms race. Antivirus specialists, the mag says, are fighting a losing battle against malicious code like viruses and worms. Research undertaken at Hewlett-Packard’s labs in Bristol, UK, is the first to evaluate the effectiveness of antiviral software. It shows that the way we fight viruses is fundamentally flawed, because viruses spread faster than antivirus patches can be distributed. By the time the antivirus software catches up, the damage has already been done.
Hewlett-Packard researcher Matthew Williamson designed a computer model to mimic the way in which viruses spread, based on a model that tracks the spread of biological viruses. He then introduced parameters to represent the way the antivirus software responds to this spread. He found that even if a signature is available from the moment a virus is released, it cannot stop the virus spreading if it propagates fast enough. Should we be worried? Yes.