TechSummit Rewind #023: May 27, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology stories.

Periscope comes to Android

Periscope for Android

Periscope, Twitter’s live-streaming service, is now on Android. Like its iOS equivalent, Periscope for Android lets you watch and record broadcasts from your device.

The app opens to a list of current and recent broadcasts from the people you’re following. If nothing current is happening, you can swipe to the next screen to see broadcasts happening around the world.

The third screen shows you Periscope’s most popular users, judged by the number of hearts sent to them by people tapping on the screen. You can also access your profile and search for people by name.

“When you go into a broadcast, it’s going to be very much like the standard Periscope that you have come to know and love, with the hearts and comments and all of that.”

-Sara Haider, Periscope for Android project leader

Periscope is now available in Google Play, and should work on phones running at least Android 4.4 (KitKat).

Fove betting on eye tracking to compete

Fove

VR headset company Fove is betting on an eye-tracking system to compete with products like the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and Sony’s Project Morpheus.

The eye-tracking system will eventually allow for foeveated rendering, according to the company, which is a way of reducing VR headsets’ processing demands by generating a high-resolution image only for the immediate area that a player is looking at, allowing peripheral areas to be rendered with less definition.

Fove has met its Kickstarter goal of $250,000, which will be spent on producing an SDK headset with a 5.8-inch display with 2560×1440 resolution, and a weight of 0.8 pounds. However, what’s unique here is the infrared sensors that bounce IR light off the user’s retinas to measure the distance between the eyes and the direction they’re pointing. Kickstarter backers secured development headsets for between $300-$400, and the company plans to ship by next spring. The development platform will integrate content from Unity, Unreal Engine, and Cryengine.

Oculus acquires Surreal Vision for 3D scene reconstruction

Oculus has acquired Surreal Vision, a computer vision company that uses technology to interpret the real world in a way that can be visualized and interacted with within virtual reality.

“Over the last three decades, a great deal of work in computer vision has attempted to mimic human-class perceptual capabilities using color and depth cameras.

“At Surreal Vision, we are overhauling state-of-the-art 3D scene reconstruction algorithms to provide a rich, up-to-date model of everything in the environment including people and their interactions with each other. We’re developing breakthrough techniques to capture, interpret, manage, analyze, and finally reproject in real-time a model of reality back to the user in a way that feels real, creating a new, mixed reality that brings together the virtual and real worlds.

“Ultimately, these technologies will lead to VR and AR systems that can be used in any condition, day or night, indoors or outdoors. They will open the door to true telepresence, where people can visit anyone, anywhere.”

-Surreal Vision

The Surreal Vision team will join Oculus Research in Redmond, WA.

Gigaom relaunching in August

Knowingly, an Austin, TX-based startup, has acquired tech news site Gigaom and plans to relaunch it in August, according to a company press release.

The deal was for Gigaom’s website and part of its asset library.

Facebook adds critics’ reviews to restaurant pages

Facebook Critics Reviews

Facebook is rolling out critics’ reviews of restaurants to “select” restaurant pages in the United States. When you browse the social network looking for restaurants, critics’ reviews will now show up alongside reviews left by friends or other people.

To start, Facebook is partnering with Bon Appetit, Conde Nast Traveler, Eater, New York Magazine, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Since reviews are such an important part of helping people make informed decisions about what to do locally, we’re excited to be incorporating a new way for people to use Facebook to find the best real-world experiences.”

-A Facebook spokeswoman

Rubrik gets $41 million to archive company data

Palo Alto, CA-based Rubrik, which backs up and archives company data, has landed a $41 million series B funding round.

The startup sells a hardware appliance that comes loaded with both spinning hard drives and flash memory.

“They are one of the few scale-out architectures. They are the only scale-out architecture in this end of the market that scales the backup process.”

-George Crump, Storage Switzerland analyst

Greylock Partners led the round, along with Lightspeed Venture Partners, Microsoft chairman John Thompson, Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey, and Leslie Ventures’ Mark Leslie.

The company has 40 employees and $51 million in total funding.

Theives stole tax info from 100,000 people: IRS

Thieves used the IRS’ Get Transcript service to access personal tax information from over 100,000 taxpayers as part of an elaborate scheme to steal identities and claim fraudulent tax refunds, according to the agency.

Get Transcript allows taxpayers to get tax returns and other filings from previous years. To access the information, the thieves cleared a security screen that required knowledge about the taxpayer, including a Social Security number, date of birth, tax filing status, and street address, according to the IRS.

“We’re confident that these are not amateurs. These actually are organized crime syndicates that not only we but everybody in the financial industry are dealing with.”

-John Koskinen, IRS commissioner

The IRS has launched a criminal investigation, and the agency’s inspector general is also investigating.

“Eighty percent of the identity theft we’re dealing with and refund fraud is related to organized crime here and around the world. These are extremely sophisticated criminals with access to a tremendous amount of data.”

-John Koskinen

Congress is already pressing the IRS for information about the breach.

“That the IRS – home to highly sensitive information on every single American and every single company doing business here at home – was vulnerable to this attack is simply unacceptable. What’s more, this agency has been repeatedly warned by top government watchdogs that its data security systems are inadequate against the growing threat of international hackers and data thieves.”

-Orrin Hatch, U.S. senator (R-Utah), Senate Finance Committee chairman

The agency was alerted to the thieves when technicians noticed an increase in the number of taxpayers seeking transcripts, according to Koskinen.

The IRS targeted the system from February to mid-May, according to the agency. The service has been temporarily shut down.

While the system is shut down, taxpayers can still apply for transcripts via mail.

The IRS’ main computer system, which handles tax filing submissions, remains secure, according to the agency.

“In all, about 200,000 attempts were made from questionable email domains, with more than 100,000 of those attempts successfully clearing authentication hurdles. During this filing season, taxpayers successfully and safely downloaded a total of approximately 23 million transcripts.”

-IRS

Less than $50 million was claimed this year successfully using information from the stolen transcripts, according to Koskinen.

Thieves can also use the information to claim fraudulent tax refunds in the future. The agency has added filters to its computer system to identify suspicious returns. These filters look for anomalies in the information provided by the taxpayer.

This year, the IRS stopped almost three million suspicious returns, according to Koskinen.

The agency is notifying taxpayers whose information was accessed, according to the IRS.

Uber ordered to discontinue Pop service in Italy

Uber Surge drop

A Milan judge has shut the door on Uber’s ride-sharing business in Italy.

Tuesday’s ruling that Uber’s Pop service creates “unfair competition” effectively holds the private company to the same standard as a public taxi service.

UberPop allows users to order a ride from a driver without a commercial license. To contrast, Italian taxi drivers are highly regulated with severe limits on availability of taxi licenses.

UberBlack, which uses drivers with professional licenses who have been vetted by the company, will continue to be available in Milan and Rome.

“We are obviously very disappointed by today’s decision on UberPop, a decision that we respect but that we do not understand.”

-Zac De Kievit, Uber Europe legal director

Uber will appeal the decision, according to De Kievit.

“[The decision] is a very bad sign of the limitation of innovation [in Italy]. This is the first case that I know of where a single judge – one person – can decide to stop a service at a national level on the basis of an [unsubstantiated] economic and theoretical argument.”

-Carlo Alberto Carnevale Maffe, Bocconi school of management business professor

Philips turns LEDs into indoor GPS for supermarkets

Philips’ lighting division has developed an indoor navigation system that enables your smartphone to direct you through the store.

Rather than using Bluetooth beacons, the company has swapped out traditional lighting for white LED banks above each aisle. Each bulb is equipped with visible light communication (VLC), enabling it to beam out a code that can’t be seen by the human eye. When a user opens its mobile app and holds it horizontally, the front-facing camera reads the VLC. Once the app knows where you are it’ll follow the overhead trail to get you where you need to go.

France’s Carrefour is the first to sign up to the project, which is trialing the technology at its Lille hypermarket. In addition to providing indoor navigation, the tech has slashed its energy bills by 50 percent, according to Carrefour.

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Author: Andrew Okwuosah

I am a technology junkie with a love of writing. Follow me everywhere at about.me/andrewokwuosah

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