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Tesla reportedly modifying Autopilot driver-assistance software

In the wake of a May fatal crash in which a Model S operating on Autopilot collided with a semi trailer, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has said he will not disable the system.

However, it appears the electric-car maker is working on modifications to the company’s Autopilot driver-assistance software.

Those changes will likely focus on Autopilot’s existing hardware, rather than adding components to the current mix of radar and cameras.

Last week, Musk tweeted about “working on using existing Tesla radar by itself (decoupled from camera)” along with “temporal smoothing” to achieve performance similar to Lidar.

The tweet dropped two possible hints about Musk’s plans for future iterations of Autopilot.

Lidar uses light waves to ascertain the distance between objects, much the way radar does with radio waves.

Tesla reportedly modifying Autopilot driver-assistance software

2016 Tesla Model S

It’s also considered essential by many companies that are developing autonomous cars, although Musk has a different opinion.

In a separate tweet, the Tesla CEO noted that Lidar is rendered ineffective by snow, fog, rain, or dust.

If Musk did want to add Lidar to Autopilot, cars would also have to be physically retrofitted with the sensors — which just a few years ago were as large as a rotating coffee can.

Musk also discussed decoupling Autopilot’s radar from its cameras, which might indicate how he plans to improve the system without adding Lidar.

In the fatal May 7 crash, the Model S collided with the side of a tractor trailer, passing underneath the trailer.

Tesla noted at the time that “neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky.”

Tesla reportedly modifying Autopilot driver-assistance software

2016 Tesla Model S

Just after the crash was made public, on June 30, Musk indicated in a tweet that greater reliance on radar might have allowed Autopilot to spot the trailer, according to The Mercury News.

That statement — which has since been removed from Twitter — said Autopilot typically “tunes out” overhead objects, like signs, that are detected by the radar, to prevent cars from braking for no reason, according to the paper.

While the Autopilot’s camera apparently failed to spot a crucial obstacle, Musk and his team suggest that perhaps the car’s radar could have seen the trailer if the system had been programmed to acknowledge it.

Despite its name, Autopilot in its current state is far closer to the bundles of driver aids offered by other carmakers than a fully autonomous system.

In his updated “Master Plan” for Tesla, Musk defended the system, saying it is already much safer than an unassisted human driver — when properly used.

This post first appeared on Green Car Reports.

Why you should upgrade to Windows 10 before July 30

If you’re a Windows 7 or Windows 8 user reading this article before July 30, 2016, you have less than one week to get Windows 10 for free. At 11:59 p.m. UTC-10 on July 29 (2:59 a.m. Pacific and 5:59 a.m. Eastern on July 30), the free Windows 10 upgrade will no longer be available. After that time, you’ll have to get Windows 10 the old fashion way: buy it outright ($120 for Home and $200 for Pro) or buy a new computer that comes with it.

There’s really no reason not to upgrade. In fact, if you upgrade and you don’t like Windows 10, you can simply downgrade back. Within the first month of upgrading to Windows 10, you can go back to your previous version of Windows (Settings => Update & security => Recovery) quite easily. And even if you wait more than a month, you can often choose to restore your device to factory settings or simply reinstall an older version of Windows with the original installation media.

So if you’re biggest deterrent to upgrading is that you’re worried about hating Windows 10, get a better reason. Give Windows 10 a shot yourself and decide by actually using it.

As for why you should upgrade, there are plenty of reasons, all of which depend on what you use your PC for. Windows 10 is the latest and greatest from Microsoft, so naturally it has the smoothest performance, latest features, best security, and so on.

Furthermore, Windows 10 is a service. As we wrote in our deep dive on how Microsoft is still building Windows 10, this means it is constantly getting new features and improvements, long after it launched back in July 2015.

In fact, the biggest Windows 10 update is just on the horizon. The Windows 10 Anniversary Update is scheduled for release on August 2.

As such, if you upgrade for free before July 30, you’ll soon get even more new features and improvements. And you’ll still have paid nada.

If you don’t upgrade before July 30, you won’t get any of that without handing over wallet.

For your reference, here’s everything you need to know about upgrading to Windows 10.

5 psychological rules you should follow when building a bot

B.J. Fogg is a behavioral scientist who has written extensively about how computer products influence people.

He coined the term “Captology,” which is an acronym for computers as persuasive technologies. When people view a product as having a life, the computer system inside the product can leverage the principles of social influence to motivate and persuade.

In his book, Persuasive Technology, Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do, Fogg proposes five types of social cues that can cause people to make inferences about the living presence in a computing product.

My advice? Consider these social cues when designing and building your bot. Here they are, with my comments.

1. Physical rule

When we find someone or something attractive, the “halo effect” kicks in. We view the attractiveness of the entity as having other positive traits. Thus the face or look of your bot should be well researched during the design phase. Is a robot face really resonating with your target demographic? Does it have some appeal?

The concept of attractiveness extends to voice, too. Think about what Apple did with Siri. Users can choose the accent which they find most appealing. We are also more forgiving to entities which we interpret as more attractive. So as you work through the bugs within your bot, at least make sure your target demographic finds it attractive.

2. Psychological rule

Robert “The Botfather” Hoffer says we should inject attitude into chatbots as a way to establish a genuine sense of connection with the user. Cues hinting to your bot’s emotion can cause a user to subconsciously feel the personality of your bot. This is best achieved through well-researched conversational copy. It should seem genuine and real.

Think through the range of the conversational experience. How does your bot respond when a user expresses positive sentiment? How do they respond when a user needs help? These are all great opportunities to inject a flavor of branding. You can even add a little moxie to your bot by adding a few Easter eggs. The bots with a well-personified brand are best positioned to influence decisions.

3. Language rules

The language of your bot should never be neutral. Words rule everything in the world of conversational software and messaging design. They are the only asset you have to establish the voice and tone of your bot. Investing into well-written and well-researched conversation copy should never go overlooked.

If your bot is built to create strong engagement overtime, consider offering periodic praise. According to Fogg, this is one of the most powerful persuasive tactics that can ultimately lead the user towards a desired action.

4. Social dynamics rule

We are more easily persuaded by those who we view as similar to us. This is another powerful persuasion principle highlighted by Fogg.

For your bot to be an effective persuader, the user should feel as if the bot is similar to them. A great way to experiment which conversational traits of your bot work best is to leverage multivariate testing through However, at the time of this writing, that’s only available to enterprise companies and major brands.

5. Social roles rule

Bots can also assume roles of authority. Fogg says that “for computers that play social roles to be effective in motivating or persuading, it’s important to choose the role model carefully or it will be counterproductive.” Your bot doesn’t need to necessarily pass the Turing Test, but the sooner it can establish credibility, its authority and subsequent ability to persuade will grow.

As bots continue to make the leap outside of the Silicon Valley bubble and into the minds of the mainstream, I see a future where well-designed bots full of personality and interactivity will become a persistent force influencing our decisions via persuasion.

Hearthstone’s D&D, Magic vet Mike Donais dishes designing Blizzard’s market-leading giant

Mike Donais knows a thing or two about card games. After all, he worked on the granddaddy of them all — Magic: The Gathering. He’s also done a turn on Dungeons & Dragons and board games. This makes him a natural for his role as the senior producer of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Blizzard Entertainment’s market-leading digital card game.

GamesBeat interviews Donais at an event at Blizzard’s headquarters in Irvine, California, before the launch of the Whispers of the Old Gods expansion. As he talked, the veteran talked about topics light and heavy — selecting expansion themes, making Hearthstone cards, how his long background with fantasy games help shape his approach to game design, and how the dark lore of Lovecraft is such a great fit for gaming.

This is an edited transcript of our interview.

Hearthstone’s D&D, Magic vet Mike Donais dishes designing Blizzard’s market-leading giant

Above: The Hobgoblin buffs cards with 1 attack in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft,

Image Credit: Jason Wilson/GamesBeat

GamesBeat: Which of the cards ineligible for Standard will you miss the most?

Mike Donais: I’ve thought about this. There’s a lot I’m going to miss. Obvious ones are like Sludge Belcher and Healbot. But my personal favorites, since I played so many games, are more like Webspinner and Unstable Portal. Once you play like 50 games a day, you really want to have variety. I’ll miss those cards.

GamesBeat: I’m going to miss Hobgoblin the most. I love the Hobgoblin.

Donais: Yeah, I’ve played some Hobgoblin. I like Hobgoblin, too. Sometimes you get certain build-around cards that you won’t be able to play again. Some other cards were build-around, but they never quite made the perfect decks. There weren’t enough cards. Like Feign Death is a Hunter card that’s like, wow, I can’t wait to make a good Feign Death deck, but you need one or two more cards to go with it and support that theme. But then I realized, oh, I can play that still. I just have to play it in Wild. And that’s fine. When the next Feign Death card comes out, I’ll build the deck in Wild and have plenty of fun there.

GamesBeat: I know that sometimes your expansions are in the works for a long time, and they come from ideas that have been around—senior game producer Yong Woo said that when you were coming up with the first expansion, the Old Gods were mentioned. But how long has this one officially been in development?

Donais: They mentioned that years ago. One of the ideas was Old Gods. More specifically, this expansion has been about a year since we started the design concepts. We would pick a few different ideas and write a couple pages on each idea and see which one we liked the best. Then we’d go with that and brainstorm. Mechanically, how’s that going to work? Make a big list of words that epitomized it flavor-wise. Either Old Gods or Cthulhu-esque words. We look at the WoW lore and see if there’s stuff there. We put it all together so we have a good understanding before we start deciding specific cards. Here’s 20 different mechanical identities a set could have. Which one or two or three do we like the best? That’s how we got the idea of worshippers and followers. Those were buzzwords in our initial lists. We wanted to know how to work that into the set. That’s part of how we came up with C’thun. It’s nice the way that feels, like something you’d see in an Old Gods set.

GamesBeat: I’m probably the type of Hearthstone player you’re going for. Not the guy who played World of Warcraft for years, but someone who likes card games, hasn’t played card games a long time, and then totally snapped and spent a lot of money on Hearthstone. But what’s amazing about this is how much I’ve gone back to learn lore since Warcraft III, because I didn’t play WoW at all. It’s fascinating. Approaching the Old Gods, the one thing I wanted to know was, did your Old Gods all have roots just in something like the Cthulhu Mythos before you brought it into WoW, or did some of it come from something like Dungeons & Dragons as well?

Donais: I’m a big fan of that kind of lore, Warcraft history and D&D as well. I played and worked on D&D for many years.

GamesBeat: That’s why I asked. [Laughs]

Donais: That whole dark fantasy all sort of comes together and they overlap a lot. We thought about that in our brainstorms from different directions. We didn’t copy any specific one, but we tried to grasp the flavor of all of them. By playing those games and, say, the Cthulhu board games, and different zones in WoW, it got us on the right track lore-wise. It all built up to how we ended up where we are.

GamesBeat: Whether it comes from Lovecraft or wherever else, what is it that makes that attractive to you as a game designer?

Donais: One big part of it is the difference. We had some fun light stuff with League of Explorers. This lets us explore a different direction. It’s fun to design with some specific direction in mind. It’s easier to design when I have a direction instead of just “design whatever you want.” This gave us a solid design direction with a lot of flavor and a lot of mechanics. It felt open to anything. What’s the craziest idea? When we designed the Old Gods, we were like, what’s the craziest thing we can possibly do? These guys are the most powerful thing in WoW. They cost 10 mana and they’re even more powerful than 10 mana. C’thun, normally we wouldn’t make a guy who’s 20/20 and fires 20 missiles, but because of all the buildup involved we can do that and feel a bit better about it. It’s cool to be able to make things that are more powerful than you could ever imagine. The other part about the set that I like is the corruption theme. That’s been working out well. It has existing cards that you recognize—having cards you recognize is important, because a lot of people don’t recognize the Old Gods themselves. What are all these apostrophes and funny letters in jumbled order? I don’t understand those words. Oh, but I understand these other cards that are from the core Hearthstone set, like Healbot or whatever. Doomsayer. That’s helped balance the set out.

GamesBeat: Were you disappointed that The Mistcaller — a Shaman legendary from The Grand Tournament set — didn’t get more play?

Donais: We just try to put a bunch of tools out there when we design sets. The tools should be interesting in their own right. But we don’t always know exactly which ones are going to happen to be the ones that are most played. Shaman had been in a bit of a lull right around when Mistcaller came out, but I think it’s been picking up and getting popular again. We’re going to have a bunch of cool new Shaman cards in this set, which I think will help. It’ll be on the upswing again.

Hearthstone’s D&D, Magic vet Mike Donais dishes designing Blizzard’s market-leading giant

Above: The Mistcaller buffs every card in your draw pile and hand — it sounds powerful, it hasn’t seen regular play.

Image Credit: Jason Wilson/GamesBeat

GamesBeat: When you’re making these themes and cards, how difficult is it to make them and then say, OK, now what do we do to counter that?

Donais: That is something that’s part of design. A lot of people think you need specific answers that call out the card name. I like having that sometimes, some of those, so that players who don’t know exactly how to answer a situation can look for that. But I think it’s usually more subtle than that. Oftentimes, if the deck is a rush deck, then the answer is an area-of-effect card. More AoE cards to play against rush decks. Or more one-mana cards to play against rush decks. Those are the real answers. The answers aren’t, if there’s a bunch of small demons in play, kill them. It takes people a while to figure that out, but I think it’s a good experience, a good learning process for them.

GamesBeat: That’s part of what makes card games fun. They’re puzzles.

Donais: Right.

GamesBeat: I assume the design team approaches it as, it’s not just cards, it’s puzzles.

Donais: We like people to discover things. We leave a lot of things open. We don’t know what the best C’thun deck is going to be. We don’t know what class it’ll be played in. We just gave players a bunch of tools. Here’s 32 exciting C’thun cards. Figure it out. Every class is going to play differently because of their class cards and because some of the C’thun cards are specific to a class. But we don’t know if it’ll be fast or slow or whatever. We leave that open and let them decide.

10 jobs that A.I. and chatbots are poised to eventually replace

If you’re a web designer, you’ve been warned.

Now there is an A.I. that can do your job. Customers can direct exactly how their new website should look. Fancy something more colorful? You got it. Less quirky and more professional? Done. This A.I. is still in a limited beta but it is coming. It’s called The Grid and it came out of nowhere. It makes you feel like you are interacting with a human counterpart. And it works.

Artificial intelligence has arrived. Time to sharpen up those resumes.

Today, A.I. researchers can mine a mountain of Internet usage data. In the past, technological leaps primarily sent blue-collar workers packing. Recent progress with artificial intelligence, however, has put a shocking amount of professional, salaried careers on the chopping block.

Studies show that almost every other thing professionals do on an average workday can already be automated by A.I. The BBC even predicted that nearly half of the most commonly held careers are above a 50 percent risk of automation before 2035.

What follows are 10 of the professions A.I. is already gearing up to take down. Is there a target on your forehead?

1. Web Designer/Web Developer

Tech that will replace it: The Grid

Maybe we expected computers to “get” other computers, but the A.I. behind The Grid will take designing, coding, re-designing, and re-coding (not to mention the re-re-designing) out of the hands of both web designers and web developers. Based on simple pointers, it can turn a business’ idea and a few photos into a marketing masterpiece, and it makes changes based on human feedback.

2. Online Marketer

Tech that will replace it: Persado

Persado has the potential to replace at least half of your PR department. It generates pitches for advertising campaigns and personalized messages to target individual clients and move them to action. With an A.I. that’s been taught everything there is to know about persuasion techniques, few could claim Persado’s approach is uninformed.

3. Office Manager

Tech that will replace it: Betty

A.I. is not only working in your office. Now it’s managing it. Betty is an intelligent bot currently on trial as office manager in England, but it appears to be highly functional and effective. She’s in charge of greeting guests and staff, tracking employees’ hours and overtime, and stocking office materials. Through unique and adaptive machine learning, she can keep a live “mental” map of the office, meaning she not only knows how to navigate the place independently, but also knows when someone has snatched a stapler from a coworker’s desk.

4. Accountant

Tech that will replace it: Smacc

Humans are no longer needed for crunching numbers — or punching them, for that matter. Smacc has fully automated the accounting process, and could potentially leave the United States’ 3 million accounting-related workers out of a job. Simply hand in your receipts, and the A.I. will handle prepare and examine all of your (or your business’) financial records.

5. HR Professional

Tech that will replace it: FlatPi

FlatPi is the ultimate headhunter. While the hiring process can be tedious and exhausting, the artificial intelligence in FlatPi will sift through and rank candidates in seconds. (FirstJob also recently released a chatbot named Mya that directly interacts with candidates, letting them know if their application is under review or just not going to cut it.)

6. Journalist

Tech that will replace it: Wordsmith

Breaking News: Your creativity is no longer needed! Major news outlets are already publishing articles written by A.I. programs like Wordsmith. A human writer’s work can require several stages of editing. Wordsmith can read through large amounts of data, pick out what’s interesting, and then spin a concise, effective report.

7. Editor

Tech that will replace it: Bold

Speaking of editing, why not lose the editor along with the journalists? Bold’s artificially intelligent assistants suggest revisions as you write to improve sentence structure, clarity, word choice, and more.

8. Lawyer

Tech that will replace it: Ross

I fought the law and the…bot won? Don’t bother worrying that your company will hire a robot, this one already has. Ross is a lawyer A.I. that is good for answering questions, doing research, and keeping up to date on recent cases that may be useful in helping yours.

9. Doctor

Tech that will replace it: Babylon

What’s up, doc? Babylon has its eyes on you too. It can understand simple language in order to diagnose symptoms as they arise. Then it goes one step further, keeping track of your general health in order to prevent illnesses in the future. It’s even got the British National Health Service taking it for a test run now.

10. Psychologist/Therapist

Tech that will replace it: Ellie

Ellie is an AI therapist that seems nearly emotionally aware. Using something similar to the Kinect sensor you use to play Just Dance, she reads clients’ body language and responds like a human would, doing things such as smiling, nodding, shrugging, etc. via her screen’s human avatar. And get this — people prefer opening up to her over her human rival.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance games hit consoles and PC next week

Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 will debut on consoles as a bundle as early as July 26, according to a Marvel announcement at a panel at San Diego Comic-Con.

Marvel will sell the action role-playing games for $40 each or bundled for $60. They will launch on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC. Previously, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 was not available on the PC.

Executive producer Mike Jones and creative director Bill Roseanne from Marvel Games said both titles will be available for PS4 and PC next Tuesday, with an Xbox One version coming a week later. Marvel said the new versions will have graphic and user interface improvements.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance originally debuted in 2006 on the PS3, Xbox 360, PS2, Xbox, Wii, and PC. The second game hit in 2009.

An open letter to the new Federal CISO

In February of 2016, President Obama released his Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP) and with it announced the creation of a new federal Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). Though the job has not yet been filled (job post is here), I thought the new CISO might appreciate some advice from private industry on the importance of the human element to cybersecurity once he or she settles in.

To the new federal CISO:

Congratulations on your recent appointment as our nation’s first federal CISO. Your appointment is long overdue, and I don’t just mean that it sure has taken a long time to find the right person for the job!

No, it’s long overdue because cybersecurity is far too important to let stand today’s model of siloed management and oversight among the various branches and agencies within government. The country needs a champion for the role of information security. Not just in the public sector, but across all walks of American life, from business to school to home. You have the opportunity to be that champion.

Your first months on the job will be busy, to be sure. You must first understand and win the trust of the existing CISOs from the various agencies. This will be no small task, and it will be deeply colored by the contentious political environment. You will also face the immediate task of directing the largest budget ever dedicated to cybersecurity, targeted at more than $19 billion in President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget.

Luckily, there is broad agreement about where to spend a large chunk of this money: updating what everyone agrees is a disgracefully outdated federal IT infrastructure. You likely bring great technical acumen to this job, and you’ll need it as you shop for solutions in a fast-growing and incredibly innovative cybersecurity market. I hope that you’ll receive advice and counsel from the CISOs of the nation’s largest companies, who have long had the resources to make meaningful investments in building secure IT environments.

But even as you face the challenges presented by politics, technology, and money, I urge you to look to the great opportunity you have to change the culture of cybersecurity.

As I’m sure you’ve heard again and again, all the policies and all the technical controls in the world will do you no good if you have not enlisted your employees as avid participants in the sustained fight to protect information. Even the most advanced cybersecurity fortress cannot protect against an employee accidentally leaving the gates open by clicking on a link in a phishy email.

Building a security-aware culture is no small feat, but it’s possible. How? You can start by following some of the best practices of America’s most risk-aware companies. Here are some ideas:

1. Start at the top

For better or worse, people look to leaders to set the tone for their organization. That’s why you, the federal CISO, and every executive at every private and public sector organization must understand and publicly communicate about cybersecurity risks.

We have seen cybersecurity risk become a board- and executive-level concern in the last several years, but too few people at this level understand or speak personally and directly about the impact this risk has on their lives and their organizations. We need to do a better job of educating leaders about the nature of risks, and get them to incorporate this understanding into the regular communications to their employees and citizens.

Recommendation: Educate all executive-level personnel in cybersecurity best practices and ensure they’re committed to giving cybersecurity a regular place in communications both to their employees and to the public.

2. But make it for everybody

Employees may look to leaders to set the tone, but they will not make substantive changes in behavior unless they can directly connect cybersecurity risks to their work and personal lives. That’s why it’s so critical that you reach people where they are:

  • Managers and executives need to understand that their heightened access to information makes them targets
  • Those handling financial information need to practice the skills involved in securing credit card data and all sources of financial data, just as nurses and healthcare professionals need to protect confidential health information
  • IT staff need special training, not just on their privileged access to data but also on the role they play as ambassadors in understanding and using information technology

But you shouldn’t stop with work roles. People need to know cybersecurity also applies to their lives outside of work. Look for ways to connect cybersecurity to their personal lives with content that is relevant to people like:

  • School-aged children, who need to understand what information they should and shouldn’t share online and via social networks
  • Mom and dad, who need to develop some real skepticism about email pleas from long-lost relatives

No matter our age or our job, we all face cybersecurity risks. But these risks take different forms, and what we need to know and do to protect ourselves differs across our roles. The way you educate must reflect those differences, or it will be irrelevant and ultimately ineffective.

Recommendation: Tailor all cybersecurity-related training and communication to roles (whether they be job roles or phases in life) to ensure the information is relevant and actionable.

3. Make it engaging

If we ever expect cybersecurity knowledge to become a foundational element in our culture, we need to take our cues from advertising, communications, and PR. (And not, I’m sorry to say, from conventional training practices). Look what Smokey the Bear did for preventing wildfires or what “Where’s the Beef?” did for hamburgers.

Simple slogans or interactive experiences, clearly and repeatedly delivered in fun and relevant ways, do far more to build awareness than the long, dry training courses that are so frequently hailed as the solution when it comes to cybersecurity. Even the now-common simulated phishing attacks can be made fun and engaging (and not punitive) if they are made part of an ongoing quest to see which employees can spot the phishing lures. Is there a risk in using humor or games or shock tactics to communicate about cybersecurity? Sure. Some people won’t get it or may be put off by a particular approach. But the risk of boring people is much greater. If people are bored, they’ll never learn.

Recommendation: Engage in a comprehensive campaign to get people talking about cybersecurity with features like games, phishing simulation, posters, and videos. The more varied ways you can present your message, the better.

4. Use technology for good (or, don’t be big brother)

The technical capacity in today’s cybersecurity marketplace is staggering. Within just a few years, artificial intelligence will likely be able to identify, predict, and prevent nearly all nefarious behavior within our IT infrastructure.

With these advances, though, we face the risk of so over-controlling and over-restricting behavior that we throttle individual initiative and innovation, alienating the very employees and citizens we seek to protect. Already today, some organizations so restrict employee behavior within the IT environment that people feel like they are stranded on a desert island. The employees of such organizations resent such restrictions and seek ways around them, leading to the exact opposite of what these tools are trying to achieve: increased risky behavior.

Restriction and control are not the answer. We have an opportunity to use technical wizardry for good, however, if we pursue a people-centric security strategy that recognizes that technology is there to facilitate human innovation and then deploy technical controls that don’t unnecessarily restrict behavior. Examples of the latter are behavioral analytics tools that identify risky behavior and provide relevant education at the time of the action. Such tools free employees to act for the good of the organization while also identifying and restricting persistent dangerous behavior.

Recommendation: Deploy technical solutions that enable innovation while protecting information.

5. Share

I’ve presented at and attended meetings of the Federal Information Systems Security Educators’ Association (FISSEA), a group of information systems security professionals in the federal government dedicated to educating employees about cybersecurity. They are some of the smartest people I’ve met in this field, easily as capable as their peers in the private sector. And yet because of budgetary constraints and lack of available technology, they must beg, borrow, and steal to create meaningful and relevant awareness programs. Again and again, I heard these professionals lament their inability to make progress due to these constraints, which reflected the lack of emphasis on cybersecurity from the top down. It’s time to support a risk-aware culture across the federal government with a significant investment in education and communication.

Recommendation: Invest in the creation of a federal level cybersecurity curriculum that includes multi-faceted and modular training, games, videos, posters, and more, and then make that curriculum available to all federal agencies. Also, fund the capacity to customize the content for the individual organization.

My advice ultimately comes down to this: All the technical investments in the world won’t solve your cybersecurity problem unless you get the attention of all employees and ultimately all citizens, and then provide them with positive models for protecting information. It’s being done already at companies throughout the nation. Now it’s time for you to lead the effort at a federal level.

I wish you the best.

Tom Pendergast is Chief Strategist of Security, Privacy, and Compliance at security awareness company MediaPro.


Chatbots will take over customer service? Not so fast

The artificial intelligence (A.I.) race is on, as the major tech companies offer to help save consumers valuable time with a new wave of virtual assistants and bots.

On a weekly basis, I receive multiple sales emails from chatbot companies trying to sell me bots for marketing and customer service. Allegedly, more than 285,000 chatbots have been created by various bot studios around the globe.

The recent buzz around chatbots is continuing to grow, however the team here at Teckst speak on a daily  basis with customer service leaders from Fortune 500s who believe chatbots add more problems than they solve.

In most instances, when people contact customer service, they have an issue that needs fixing or a question about a product. This generally requires interaction with a live person, rather than a chat with a bot that serves up automated responses.

Some of those questions are very simple, like “Where’s my food?” or “How do I return something?”

Although it would be great to have a bot to help solve these issues for the customer, the decision tree of responses a chatbot would have to know to solve a simple question grows exponentially with every interaction. What if a customer has multiple orders or ordered from a different account? If they need a return, which item specifically? Would the customer prefer to exchange it? The options are as annoying as “Press 1 for account history, 2 for account balance…”

While A.I. brings tremendous innovation and a way for brands to connect with their customers — as a novelty — don’t expect chatbots to replace customer service anytime soon.

Where chatbots can help

The perfect usage of bots is not to replace customer service agents, but rather to enhance them.

We call this Bionic Customer Service, or BCS ,for short. Companies like utilize this concept perfectly. Amy is’s personal assistant that can schedule meetings to give you time to do more important things. Although Amy effortlessly schedules the meetings, she doesn’t attend the meeting for you or your coworkers. She’s a support, not a replacement.

Dutch airline KLM is another example of a brand that’s using messaging apps for customer service manned by humans. The company is testing the use of blending answers from human customer service agents and automated bots.

At Teckst, we see tremendous potential for this human plus A.I. approach. Customer agents become quicker, have more information at their fingertips, and receive supplemental help from bots.

Brands are recognizing that customer service is an integral part of the customer journey, and they’re upping their game. Those who are still in the Dark Ages in terms of customer experience will either improve or go the way of Blockbuster. New services are now available to bridge the wave of A.I. technologies for businesses that care about connecting in real time with their customers.

At the airport, for example, when a flight gets cancelled, a massive line of people queue at the help desk, their blood pressure rising with every minute they spend in line. Allowing them to communicate in real time with a bionic customer service app would be the best possible outcome and could result in passengers being placed on other flights within a few minutes. Texting and messaging apps are integral as inputs to the bionic customer service agent, who conducts an orchestra of bots to solve the issue of redistributing 200 passengers.

But as exciting as chatbots have become, they are not ready for prime time when it comes to customer interaction — the A.I. just isn’t as intelligent as it needs to be. However, bots bring tremendous potential to customer service agents who can manage them and oversee the inputs and outputs.

The secret is to make life easier for the customer service agents. If you can achieve that, you will reduce wait times for customers and solve issues faster. Rather than trying to replace the agent, replace the manual tasks the agent has to do. Focus on their goals, and use bots to automate the mundane.

We’ve been analyzing the use cases in which bots can best help customer service teams for more than a year. Similar to Slackbot’s approach, the best scenario is when a bot engages with customer service agents directly, as well as with other customer-centric teams, such as those in product and marketing. For example, an agent can respond to a ticket, and in real time we can update the ticket with recommended replies, read time, expected response time, and other metrics. If a customer asks about a return, the bot can help the agent facilitate that more easily.

This is the immediate goal for chatbots. The future of A.I. is incredibly bright and will continue to help us with the everyday tasks that take up our precious time. The chatbot revolution, on the other hand, is still a work in progress.

Meet Israel’s new cybersecurity hub

Jerusalem and Tel Aviv may be the most well known Israeli cities, but a new one is quickly gaining international acclaim. An ancient-made-modern city in southern Israel, Be’er Sheva, has become the center of Start-Up Nation’s quickly growing cybersecurity arm.

A major push by the government and private sector has transformed the desert town into a high-tech center with a special emphasis on cybersecurity. Dozens of startups have joined multinationals such as EMC/RSA, Lockheed-Martin (LM), and others in opening R&D labs there, and they have drawn in impressive talent. The result, to date, is a budding ecosystem of bright minds, dedicated to a common goal of developing world-class cybersecurity technology.

Dubbed the “Capital of the Negev Desert,” Be’er Sheva has been locally known as a dusty pit stop between Tel Aviv and tourist destinations in the south of Israel. However, that’s no longer the case. Low real estate prices and new transportation options, including advancements to railway and highway systems, are facilitating a southbound migration. Making the move are ordinary Israelis and tech gurus, as well as some government offices and parts of the Israeli Army (IDF). And then there is Ben Gurion University (BGU), which offers Israel’s top graduate program in cybersecurity. Housing its own cybersecurity research institute, BGU has emerged as a top Israeli center for engineering, sciences, computers, and technology. With this mix of people, energy, facilities, and resources in place, sooner or later, something was going to spark a cyber-tech revolution.

That spark was lit in 2013, with the opening of the Gav-Yam Negev Advanced Technologies Park, a billion dollar facility, funded mostly by the Israeli government and Ben Gurion University. Almost immediately, companies large and small – many of them in the cybersecurity space – established themselves in the new innovation center, even when it was still in the planning stages. Among the first to head south was EMC/RSA. In 2014, the company signed a deal with US defense firm Lockheed Martin and BGU to seek out promising Israeli cybersecurity startups and help them develop their technologies into commercial products.

Other multinationals that have opened R&D labs and facilities in Be’er Sheva include Deutsche Telekom (which established its Israeli T-Labs branch in Be’er Sheva to collaborate with BGU), Mellanox, and IBM. Several incubators have sprung up at the site as well, including one run by Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), Israel’s largest and best performing venture capital firm, which is also the most active investor in early stage Israeli cybersecurity startups. For these reasons, there are dozens of startups, which now call Be’er Sheva home, including many cybersecurity firms. This swarm of startups also led coworking-space operator WeWork to choose Be’er Sheva as its third location in Israel.

When my cofounder and I created our own startup, SCADAfence, we were drawn to Be’er Sheva’s community. Together we have succeeded in creating a sense of synergy in our blooming cybersecurity hub. Worth noting in the mix are MorphiSec and Secret Double Octopus, which were founded based on BGU research, and also Coronet and SecBI. Be’er Sheva’s best known and most successful startup so far, CyActive, is no longer a startup. In 2015, PayPal acquired the barely 18-month-old company for an estimated price of more than $60 million. The company now serves as PayPal’s global cybersecurity R&D center, making PayPal the latest multinational to call Be’er Sheva its Israeli cybersecurity home.

There is much to be impressed by in Be’er Sheva: the facilities, the people, and the companies. However, what has made Be’er Sheva special for us is the ecosystem of camaraderie and altruism. Unlike almost any other community I have seen, the people and companies in Be’er Sheva seek to actively make each other successful. We introduce each other to investors, share time with visiting delegations, collaborate on go-to-market opportunities, and offer constructive critiques of each other’s ideas.

The government has continued to invest here — the prime minister regularly visits and has made clear that the technology sector has the government’s backing. Additionally, plans have been set for many of the IDF’s technology units, including the famous Unit 8200 intelligence corps and its cybersecurity arm, to relocate to Be’er Sheva in the coming years. When people are here for their army service, they will find themselves surrounded by army intelligence alumni and a world of opportunity to leverage their skills from the army into a professional career. They will also easily transition from teamwork in the army to the strong culture of collaboration we have developed in Be’er Sheva.

Yoni Shohet is CEO of SCADAfence.

Warner Bros. unveils Fantastic Beasts, Sonic, and E.T. add-ons for Lego Dimensions

Toys-to-life game-toy hybrid sales have weakened this year, forcing Disney to shutter its Infinity line. But Warner Bros. is still investing in its Lego Dimensions product, and it unveiled a series of expansion packs for release on November 18.

At San Diego Comic-Con, Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) unveiled the upcoming Wave 7 expansion packs for the Lego Dimensions video game, which work with accompanying toys.

The expansion packs open up new Adventure Worlds and multiplayer action for nostalgic brands, including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Sonic the Hedgehog, Gremlins, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, and Adventure Time.

Warner Bros. unveils Fantastic Beasts, Sonic, and E.T. add-ons for Lego Dimensions

Above: Lego Dimensions has a Sonic the Hedgehog expansion.

Image Credit: Warner

Lego minifigures included in all of the wave 6-9 expansion packs will come with special, golden Toy Tags which unlock a Battle Arena within the Adventure World of the corresponding entertainment brand. All-new Battle Arenas will offer first-to-Lego video games competitive split-screen local gameplay for up to four players. Each Battle Arena has four gameplay modes and comes with its own traps, special powers and interactive environments that make every battle arena unique.

The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Story Pack will provide a complete movie-based gameplay experience with six action-packed levels and new Lego Gateway bricks to build the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) atop the Lego Toy Pad.

Developed by TT Games and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Lego Dimensions is now available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and the Wii U.

Warner Bros. unveils Fantastic Beasts, Sonic, and E.T. add-ons for Lego Dimensions

Above: Lego Dimensions has an A-Team expansion with Mr. T.

Image Credit: Warner