5 non-health tech stories you should care about this week

Plus, attack on SWIFT banking network is linked to North Korea and “predictive video” technology gets better — and creepier.

Robot pain

It’s time once again to take a look at what you may have missed this week in the world of technology outside healthcare.

Here, we present this week’s list of five interesting general technology stories  from the past seven days that people in healthcare should pay attention to. These issues could have an impact on health tech in the future.

1. “Researchers Teaching Robots to Feel and React to Pain” (IEEE Spectrum)

Why is it a good idea for robots to feel pain? The same reason why it’s a good idea for humans to feel pain, said Johannes Kuehn, one of the researchers. “Pain is a system that protects us,” he told us. “When we evade from the source of pain, it helps us not get hurt.” Humans that don’t have the ability to feel pain get injured far more often, because their bodies don’t instinctively react to things that hurt them.

2. “Wearable clips onto your steering wheel for eyes-free smartphone control” (Gizmodo)

Through the rotary command dial and tactile buttons, which support multi-click actions, users can effectively interact with mobile devices in a one-handed or -fingered, non-visual way. The orientation-independent design removes the need for having to first determine up or down before using the device. The dial cycles through items/icons on screens, while the buttons provide context-sensitive actions and a means to select options.

The O6 controller features a different type of voice interface, one that addresses the types of interactions used by smartphones. Instead of requiring users to dictate commands, all one has to do is listen to the voice feedback and choose appropriately. Not only does the O6 software narrate emails, directions, texts, news posts, social feeds and more, but it’s designed to analyze content and context in order to present the typical actions people would likely want to perform. Ambitious stuff, indeed.

3. “Malware links SWIFT breaches at banks to N. Korean hackers” (Computerworld)

Malware links suggest that North Korean hackers might be behind recent attacks against several Asian banks, including the theft of $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank earlier this year.

Security researchers from Symantec have found evidence that the malware used in the Bangladesh Bank cyberheist was used in targeted attacks against an unnamed bank in the Philippines. The same malware was also previously linked to an attempted theft of $1 million from Tien Phong Bank in Vietnam.

4. “Environmental Testing at Your Fingertips: Chemistry with Your Smartphone” (PR Newswire)

Agriculture nutrients are in the news these days. The city of Des Moines, Iowa, is running their nitrate removal system on overtime while algal blooms in Lake Erie and coastal regions nationwide are painting the water green. Monitoring these nutrients is key to preventing this widespread issue.

NECi Superior Enzymes, a biotechnology company in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, developed a new, easy to use device that fits in your palm and interfaces via Bluetooth to mobile devices. The handheld photometer determines the amount of nitrate or phosphate by measuring the light that is passed through the sample, following a simple enzymatic reaction.

5. “Brands Want To Predict Your Behavior By Mining Your Face From YouTube Videos” (Motherboard)

The latest in creepy corporate surveillance comes from Chicago-based Mattersight Corporation and its “Predictive Video” system, which claims to analyze speech and facial expressions to “predict behavior based on the emotional state and personality style of any person in a video.”

“Brands can now mine the personality data of a single user by analyzing video data publicly available online via social media channels” like YouTube and Vine, the company brags in a press release announcing its recent patent filing. The goal of the platform is to let companies predict (and thereby, manipulate) people’s behavior by algorithmically studying their speech and facial expressions and developing personality profiles of individual users.

Photo: Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany