All posts by Lucy Ingham

Team behind Star Wars’ BB-8 robot launches company to bring personal robots to the masses

Sphero, the company behind the much sought-after Star Wars BB-8 robot, has announced that it has created a new company to develop personal robots for both the home and office.

The company, Misty Robotics, has bagged $11.5m in funding and, according to a press release announcing its formation, plans “to put a personal robot in every home and office”.

With early examples of personal robots now on sale, the technology looks to be the next major gadget category to enter our lives, performing tasks for us, helping to keep us safe and proving friendly and supportive interaction.

“We see tremendous opportunity for the personal robot market, and the creation of Misty Robotics will allow the new company to focus on these efforts,” said Paul Berberian, CEO of Sphero.

Sphero’s BB-8 robot. Image courtesy of Sphero and © & ™ Lucasfilm Ltd. Lead image courtesy of Misty Robotics

While no details have been revealed as to exactly what these personal robots will look like, the company has said that it plans to initially release one robot, alongside a “collaborative ecosystem” for further robots to be developed.

“Soon robots will be a constant touchpoint throughout our lives, becoming commonplace and serving a variety of purposes that are very different than what exists today. We have a rough idea as to what this will look like from science fiction and glimpses of brilliance that have happened in this space,” said Ian Bernstein, co-founder and CTO of Sphero and head of product at Misty Robotics.

“My vision is for Misty Robotics to lead this charge toward delivering the future we were all promised. We’ve already started to build an amazingly passionate team of roboticists and are looking for more talent to help us build the future.”

Pepper is one of the few personal robots already on the market. Image courtesy of Jake Curtis / Alderbaran Robotics

At present the leader in the personal robot market is Pepper, a humanoid robot developed by Softbank-owned Aldebaran Robotics. Having been launched in Japan, Pepper has now found its way into some homes in the country, however is largely been marketed to companies as a greeter for stores and hospitals.

However, it is clear that if a personal robot can be developed that is within financial reach of the average consumer, it has significant potential to be a success. Pepper attracted significant attention when it was first announced, and other products have since been developed that have also proved popular.

Nevertheless, the market is undoubtedly young, and the killer product for the Western market has yet to emerge. If Misty can develop an engaging personal robot at an affordable price, they could become a leader in the field.

198 million Americans hit by voter records leak should get immediate credit freeze: experts

The 198 million US voters whose personal data was left on an unsecured server for anyone to access should request an immediate credit freeze to avoid having their identities stolen as a result of the breach, security experts have said.

“The members of the electorate involved in this incident should immediately request a credit freeze with the major credit bureaus, and keep close track of account activity through commercial credit monitoring services, or monitoring of their own accounts,” advised Robert Capps, VP of business development at NuData Security.

The data, which includes personal data and information on who each person is set to vote for and why, is thought to be the largest ever exposure of voter data, covering the vast majority of the 200 million people registered to vote in the US.

It was left on an open Amazon S3 storage server by Deep Root Analytics, a Republican data analytics company, and was discovered by Chris Vickery, a cyber risk analyst from UpGuard.

At present there does not appear to be a way in which individuals can check if they were affected, but anyone registered to vote in the US is likely to be at risk.

Graphic courtesy of UpGuard

While the focus of the data was voting behaviour, containing information on the subject that goes back over a decade, voters should be more concerned about how their data could be used for more malicious purposes.

“This is a serious data leak, which allows nation states to target ordinary US citizens for additional attacks and surveillance, as well as detailed voting information,” said Capps.

“If this wasn’t bad enough, this highly detailed data could potentially be combined with stolen personal data from other data breaches already available on the dark web to create rich profiles of these individuals.

“Such profiles can be leveraged by cybercriminals and nation-state actors to not only track voting habits, but also use their identities for account takeovers, apply for new credit, and much more.”

People cast their votes in the 2012 presidential election in Ventura Country, CA. Image courtesy of Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

While the risk to those affected is similar to previous leaks, this is not a leak or hack in the classic sense, but instead a matter of poor security practices.

“It sounds to me that this is another case of incorrectly secured cloud based systems,” explained Terry Ray, chief product strategist at Imperva.

“Certainly, security of private data – especially my data, as I am a voter – should be of paramount concern to companies who offer to collect such data, but that security concern should ratchet up a few marks when the data storage transitions to the cloud, where poor data repository security may not have the type of secondary data centre controls of an in-house, non-cloud data repository.“