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First dogs, now birds: Meet DARPA’s new robot breakthrough (VIDEO)

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Researchers at the Oregon State University (OSU) Dynamic Robotics Laboratory have showcased the latest in the ATRIAS series of robots, a bipedal machine based on the movements of birds rather than humans. This particular approach has enabled the robot to overcome obstacles, a major step in the journey towards running around in the wild.

According to the OSU project documentation, the ATRIAS series is “designed to test and demonstrate theoretical concepts for efficient and agile locomotion,” with the ultimate goal of “walking and running outside in rough terrain.” Researchers hope to accomplish this through the use of the “spring-mass” model of movement, which can allow robots to “both walk and run with remarkable energy economy.”

When this robot gets up to speed for walking...it will be the fastest bipedal robot in the world,” Jonathan Hurst, an associate professor at the OSU College of Engineering, told reporters.

ATRIAS has legs made of lightweight carbon-fiber, mounted to elastic fiberglass springs that act both as a suspension and a means of mechanical energy storage, allowing the robot to run around on a fairly small battery charge.

There are two other ATRIAS robot operations in the US – at the University of Michigan and Carnegie Mellon University – but the OSU robot has captured all the media attention, partly because it has its own Twitter account.

Hello World! Shall we play a game? #RobotClichés

— ATRIAS (@ATRIASrobot) January 15, 2015

Earlier this week, a video of the robot surviving a barrage of dodgeballs was accompanied with a tweet: “The humans are just amusing themselves now. Not my favorite hobby, to be honest.”

And last week, a test saw ATRIAS keep its balance while getting kicked. “Now I’m being kicked. Humans: Time to spread robot abuse awareness.”

Development of the ATRIAS line began in 2009. It is backed by the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO) and DARPA, a US government outfit with the mission of “creating breakthrough technologies for national security.”

DARPA is also funding other robot projects, including the four-legged robot dog “Spot,” showcased last month by the Google-owned Boston Dynamics.

READ MORE: Google’s new robo-dog stalks premises, withstands hard kicks

According to the OSU robotics team, ATRIAS will appear for a live outdoor demonstration at the DARPA Robotics Challenge, scheduled for June 5-6 in Pomona, California.

Canadians Rally to Defend Their Freedom: A Day of Action to Stop Bill C-51

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EFF is encouraging Canadians to join together tomorrow for a day of action against a dangerous bill that’s navigating through the Canadian legislature and threatening to strip its citizens of their rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015, introduces a wide range of sweeping changes to how the Canadian government handles its national security and anti-terrorism efforts. The bill just passed its second reading in the conservative-led House of Commons in late February and the government is now hastily rushing to pass it with less than two weeks of debate.

On the surface, this flawed bill seeks to address terrorist threats, but the reality is that its vague wording and excessive measures allow for overreaching security powers to extend to a range of other, less serious contexts than terrorism. While we’re seeing other overreaching legislation on the table in Canada right now, here’s the breakdown of why Bill C-51, in particular, is so concerning to privacy and security experts.

Prior to 1984, Canada’s national police force (RCMP) had the constitutional authority to conduct both clandestine intelligence-gathering and carry out offensive policing powers. With these capabilities, the RCMP, for decades, repeatedly violated some of Canada’s most fundamental democratic laws and values until it was finally realized that only a separation of powers could stop the abuse. In 1984, the RCMP’s intelligence security mandate was lifted and given to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), which was created in order to safeguard against improper policing activities carried out by the RCMP. Bill C-51 seeks to remove this separation of powers, effectively reverting the country back to an era of repressive domestic policing with very little oversight.

The bill would also authorize open-ended information sharing among Canadian agencies for “security purposes,” by enacting the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act. At present, said agencies are compartmentalized under the country’s Privacy Act, which allows Canadians to provide their information to the state (for census, tax compliance, health services, and a range of other purposes) without fear that the information will be used against them. This compartmentalization will no longer exist if Bill C-51 is put into force. These new open-ended exceptions may form the basis for Canada's own Total Information Awareness initiative. Furthermore, there would be an expanded capacity to share information with foreign governments, even though we’ve seen what lax restrictions on information sharing has led to in the past—the unlawful rendition and torture of innocent Canadian citizens.

The bill provides for various censorship provisions as well, criminalizing the act of advocating or promoting “terrorism offences in general.” Such excessively broad definitions make these provisions dangerously subjective—almost certainly chilling speech and endangering innocent social media users whose posts could be misinterpreted. Even bookstores and online platforms such as Amazon may face liability. The bill further empowers CSIS to take unspecified and open-ended “measures,” which may include the overt takedown of multi-use websites or other communications networks without any judicial supervision. CSIS will also be explicitly authorized to violate the laws of other countries.

Lastly, Bill C-51 is problematic for the powers it implicitly grants CSE. CSE is Canada's most secretive, least transparent agency—Michael Hayden, the former director of the NSA, once said he “envied” the agency for its legal agility. CSE is typically prevented from directing its activities at Canadians and from taking offensive actions. However, CSE is legally allowed to help CSIS. In granting CSIS the power to take unspecified “measures,” the Canadian government is unleashing CSE on innocent and unsuspecting Canadians. Digital “measures” could include the false attribution of disreputable content or commentary to individuals, the takedown of legitimate websites or communications services, and the planting of malware on individual computing devices.

Canadians must rally together in defense of privacy and free expression. Learn more about the legislation here and join the fight by participating in a national day of action tomorrow, March 14, to stop Bill C-51.


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OKCoin Reveals Security Policy: Sets Standard for Operational Transparency

Bitcoin Magazine -

On Friday, Star Xu, CEO of trading platform OKCoin, published his company’s security policy in a Reddit thread.

“OKCoin has decided to openly share [its] cold wallet security information. Through this transparency, OKCoin aims to assure users of the security of their funds,” the post stated.

Xu then encouraged members of the community to contribute feedback.

He began by outlining the company’s security design philosophy, focusing on key vulnerabilities inherent in Internet connections, USB drives and reliance on centralized management.

He went on to explain how the company’s security design protocol addressed concerns surrounding private key generation and backup, depositing bitcoin from an online hot wallet to an offline cold wallet, and retrieving bitcoin from an offline cold wallet.

The post listed key highlights of the OKCoin security protocol:

  1. The cold wallet addresses can only hold a limited amount of bitcoin.

  2. Private keys are stored on completely offline computers.

  3. Certainty that the private key never had any contact with the Internet or USBs.

  4. Encrypted private key paper document requires offsite backup, and is controlled by different people in different places.

  5. AES private key password shall also be controlled by different people in different places, and shall not be the same person with the master of the private key.

  6. Holders of the AES private key password and those with the ability to retrieve the encrypted private key are different people and in different places.

  7. Once a private key has been used to transfer bitcoin out of the address, the address is no longer to be used again for deposits.

In an interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Michael Perklin, president of the CryptoCurrency Certification Consortium (C4) and president of Bitcoinsultants Inc., commended Xu.

“Having a strong security policy is one of five things that every cryptocurrency storage solution should have,” Perklin said, adding that the other four pillars include “procedures, trained personnel, secure hardware and secure software.”

According to C4’s Cryptocurrency Security Standard matrix, it appears that OKCoin’s manifesto covers many, though not all, of the points companies need to include in their security policies to earn Level II and Level III ratings.

Perklin added that by publishing its security policy, OKCoin doesn’t lose anything in terms of security. The move should, in fact, give their clients a degree of confidence.

“Kudos to OKCoin for doing this,” Perklin said.

The post OKCoin Reveals Security Policy: Sets Standard for Operational Transparency appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Is IBM Building a Digital Cash for National Currencies?

Bitcoin Magazine -

IBM is considering adopting the blockchain technology behind Bitcoin to create a digital cash and payment system for major currencies, Reuters reports.

The rumor is attributed to “a person familiar with the matter.” So far, official media representatives at IBM and other possibly involved parties, such as the U.S. Federal Reserve, did not respond to Reuters emails about the story.

“It’s sort of a Bitcoin but without the bitcoin,” the unnamed source said. “These coins will be part of the money supply. It’s the same money, just not a dollar bill with a serial number on it, but a token that sits on this blockchain. We are at a tipping point right now. It’s making a lot more sense for some type of digital cash in the system, that not only saves our government money, but also is a lot more convenient and secure for individuals to use.”

Unlike Bitcoin, where the network is decentralized and there is no overseer, IBMCoin would be controlled by central banks and linked to users’ bank accounts, using wallet software that integrates the banking system with IBMCoin. The unnamed source said that IBM has been talking with a number of central banks, including the Federal Reserve. If central banks approve the concept, IBM will build the secure and scalable infrastructure for the project.

IBM has been doing research on blockchain technology for some time – at CES 2015 it unveiled ADEPT, a system developed in partnership with Samsung that leverages elements of Bitcoin technology to coordinate a decentralized Internet of Things.

If the IBMCoin rumors are true, IBM has chosen the right moment to ride the wave of enthusiasm for Bitcoin fintech in the mainstream financial establishment. From the point of view of states and central banks, the value of Bitcoin lies in its ability to implement cheaper and faster transactions, permanently recorded in a distributed, tamper-proof public ledger.

“We don’t think of bitcoin as being a store of value or an alternative currency or an investment,” said former JP Morgan superstar Blythe Masters, now CEO of digital economy startup Digital Asset Holdings. “We think of it as a medium for exchange and a mechanism for recording information.”

Governments also are warming up to the digital economy, with rumors of “Fedcoin” in the United States and some kind of “Eurocoin” in Europe, especially in financially troubled economies such as Greece’s. In a recent research paper titled “One Bank Research Agenda,” the Bank of England said that Bitcoin could reshape the financial industry and called for further research to devise a system that could use distributed ledger technology without compromising a central bank’s ability to control its currency.

If IBM becomes the preferred partner of governments for next-generation fintech based on blockchain technology, the payoff might be huge. It’s worth noting again that this is not an official announcement, but an unconfirmed rumor.

Speculating on the possible identity of the IBM source, a participant in a Reddit discussion thread suggests that he might be Richard Gendal Brown, Executive Architect for Banking Innovation at IBM UK. Brown edits a personal blog on the future of finance and recently posted several articles highly relevant to the IBMCoin space.

Commenting on the Bank of England research paper, he recently noted that “[T]he identity of the issuer really matters. And this is where I think a central bank digital currency could make sense on a distributed ledger.”

Images via “ulifunke.com / bitcoin.de“, Freepik

The post Is IBM Building a Digital Cash for National Currencies? appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

‘The Age of Cryptocurrency’ is Perfect Introduction to Bitcoin and the Blockchain

Bitcoin Magazine -

Commentary by Jacob Donnelly.

At least twice a week, I get asked about Bitcoin. More people in my network realize I write about it, so they naturally want to know what it is, how it works and whether it’s a Ponzi scheme.

I quickly realized that I had rehearsed the perfect answer to every question. At least, I thought it was the perfect answer to every question.

Then I read The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey. The two are Wall Street Journal writers, and this is their attempt at explaining the history of digital currency, the inception of Bitcoin, its evolution and future.

“Our hope was simply to tell a good story well, to write something that could stand for years as a definitive document. I think we’ve done that,” said Vigna in an email to Bitcoin Magazine. 

This book should be required reading for anyone who has an interest in digital currency or the capabilities of the blockchain.

The book opens with an implemented use case for Bitcoin. Because of Bitcoin young women in Afghanistan are able to write blogs and do social media and video production. In exchange for this work, they are paid in bitcoin. Bank wires required a lot of fees. And PayPal wasn’t supported. With bitcoin, these young women could be paid instantly.

The book then walks through the history of Bitcoin. Even as someone who has covered the digital currency for some time now, it was a refresher on where Bitcoin started, how it had gained its momentum and its tumultuous history.

Wall Street Journal and Bitcoin

Of all the mainstream media companies, The Wall Street Journal has covered Bitcoin better than all others. Earlier this month Bitcoin showed up prominently on the front page of the paper.

Vigna and Casey are leading that charge at the Journal. They’ve effectively become the expert journalists on Bitcoin. When CNBC wants to find out more about Bitcoin, I’ve seen Casey answering those questions.

“Just like at any institution, … individuals inside of it have gotten interested in Bitcoin,” Vigna said of the interest. “In this case, that’s myself and Mike and some others, but it’s the same at Forbes and the (New York) Times and Microsoft and Pantera Capital. At all these institutions, you first need individuals that are interested, that are taken by Bitcoin and its story, and they shape the institutional reaction. Eventually, it looks like an institutional take, but it’s not. It’s about the people first.”

In February, Casey interviewed Larry Summers, the ex-Treasury Secretary, at the Museum of American Finance. After that, Vigna led a panel with a few individuals to answer questions about Bitcoin.

The continuous coverage of Bitcoin can serve only as a positive for the entire community. As more people know about it, more can join in the experience. On March 4th, The Wall Street Journal published some of their readers’ comments on Bitcoin. They found that 83 percent of people polled believed there is a future for digital currencies.

“Bitcoin is one of the most important innovations of our generation — and comparable in impact to railroads, automobiles, telephony, Internet, etc., if not more,” said a person in Chicago.

“Four billion global citizens will finally have modern financial services,” said a person in San Francisco.

“I think that’s because Bitcoin is (among other things ) a finance story. Our editors realize that, and telling finance stories is what we do, so they gave us a long leash to chase the story,” Vigna said.

The way Bitcoin takes off

Vigna and Casey offered the best route for Bitcoin to take off. If a business paid its vendors in bitcoin, adoption would explode. They citied Wal-Mart, noting that when the retail giant started sourcing in China the surrounding region saw tremendous growth in manufacturing.

The same could happen with Bitcoin. If one of the big buyers offered to pay their vendors in bitcoin and it were shown to cut the time it took to pay by days, if not weeks, then those vendors would be more willing to accept bitcoin as payment. That would ultimately result in widespread adoption.

As businesses increasingly view it as a valid form of payment, more will accept it. And that will then trickle down into employees being paid in bitcoin.

In the end …

 Bitcoin continues to cement its existence in society. This site is a testament to all that has occurred. But what The Age of Cryptocurrency does is to succinctly explain, without unneeded jargon, a huge amount of history and potential for Bitcoin, all packed into 368 pages. The next time someone asks me about Bitcoin I’m going to hand him or her this book. Even if you know a tremendous amount about Bitcoin, this book will remind you about all the potential that is out there.

The post ‘The Age of Cryptocurrency’ is Perfect Introduction to Bitcoin and the Blockchain appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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