News Roundup: Pirate parties, Microsoft Rift, and driverless armies

A roundup of the week’s news including people who talk dirty to digital assistants.


It might be Halloween soon, but this month could all be about pirates. Icelandic ones to be more precise. Political Icelandic Pirates to be super precise. The party is currently leading the polls with the country’s parliamentary elections due to be held tomorrow.

The pirate party, formed just four years ago, captured around 5% of the vote in 2013 (equating to three seats in parliament), but is on track to win closer to 20-25% this time round, meaning it would be the biggest single party in the country (with around 18-20 seats). It wouldn’t be enough for an outright majority, but the party could well be the largest part of a coalition. 


Microsoft seems to like throwing money at things. This year they’ve bought LinkedIn and tried to buy Salesforce. Former CEO Steve Ballmer recently said that while he’s never been interested in acquiring Twitter (but who is these days?) Microsoft once made overtures towards acquiring Facebook. According to Ballmer, the Redmond company offered $24 billion for the social network back “when the company was itsy-bitsy.”

Chip giant Qualcomm has acquired NXP, Google has snapped up Eyefluence, IBM has bought Sanovi Technologies, Samsung has swallowed Tachyon, LDiscovery now owns Kroll Ontrack, Tenable has got its hands on Flawcheck, and Flexera has purchased Palamida.

Twitter is killing off Vine. But it’s ok, PornHub has offered to buy it because “six seconds is more than enough time.”


-          It’s now super easy to hack 2G.

-          French courts have ruled the country’s new surveillance laws are illegal.

-          3D printers can be very insecure, and some researchers downed a drone through propeller sabotage.

-          Drones with cameras are now illegal in Sweden.

Yahoo! this week released its first transparency report since being accused of helping the NSA spy on user’s emails. “We have long advocated and fought for increased transparency by governments,” Ron Bell, Yahoo’s General Counsel wrote in an accompanying blog post, as well as asking for the NSA to speak up about the allegations.

The company saw 12,666 government requests for data (as is often the case, the US accounted for a large portion) in the first half of 2016, and disclosed at least some data in around half of cases.

Microsoft & Apple gizmos

This week saw Apple announce a new MacBook Pro with a touchscreen function bar of sorts, and announce that it made a huge (if slightly less huge than last time) amount of money.

Microsoft, meanwhile, announced its own version of the Oculus Rift. The as-yet-unnamed device includes room sensing tech borrowed from HoloLens, will be tethered to a computer, but will cost just $299. Companies including Dell, Lenovo, HP and Acer are said to be partnering with the company to ship the device, which is due out next year.

Google, meanwhile, has created some sort of collaborative white board called Jamboard.

Driverless army

There’s few modes of transport that aren’t getting a driverless makeover, and the armed forces are no exception. The Ukrainian KrAZ Spartan looks a hell of a lot more intimidating that your average Google four-wheeler. Based on a Ford F-550 pick-up truck, this heavily-armoured autonomous machine could be used to transport supplies and carried wounded troops away from the frontlines.

Drone making homes smart

How many drones does it take to change a lightbulb? Just one apparently. It does take a fair few attempts though. And nine lightbulbs. The future is terrifying.

Talk dirty to me, Siri

2016 has seen a lot of companies going hard on promoting chatbots. Turns out quite a few guys are doing the same. According to Ilya Eckstein, the CEO of Robin Labs, around 5% of interactions with his company digital assistants are categorized as clearly sexually explicit, though that figure could be higher.

“This happens because people are lonely and bored.... It is a symptom of our society,” he said. “[They] want to flirt, they want to dream about a subservient girlfriend, or even a sexual slave.”

Apparently this is also a problem the team behind Microsoft’s Cortana have come across [no pun intended] as well.

If you’ve seen the film Her, where Joaquin Phoenix falls for an intelligent Operating System voiced by Scarlett Johansson, this might be worryingly familiar. What is it with weird sci-fi coming true?


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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