Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality

NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]

Thousands of Disney+ Accounts Are Being Cracked and Sold. Here's How to Protect Yourself

Disney+
Disney+

With an estimated 10 million sign-ups during its debut last week and positive reviews for its marquee original Star Wars series The Mandalorian, Disney’s new Disney+ streaming service has been a resounding success. But making such a high-profile splash is apparently coming at a price. According to CNBC, thousands of consumer accounts are being hijacked and their login information is being shared illicitly online. 

The report, published by ZDNet, alleges that hackers were able to breach usernames and passwords for the service within hours of launch and began distributing them for free or for a fee of $3 to $11—the economy of the black market making a one-time purchase cheaper than paying the standard $6.99 monthly for access to the Disney+ library.

The idea wasn’t to co-opt the accounts but to seize them entirely, using the login to change the email and password associated with the account and locking the consumer out.

A spokesperson for Disney told CNBC that they weren’t aware of any security breach. It’s possible that accounts from unrelated sites were compromised and hackers were able to cull from a database of existing passwords to see if consumers used them for their Disney+ account.

The best way to secure your account for Disney+ or any other service requiring a log-in is to use a unique password for each and avoid obvious parallels to the content. If you’re using “mickeymouse” as part of your login, don’t be shocked if you find yourself locked out of your account one day. Ideally, experts say, the service will eventually incorporate a multi-factor authentication process to make compromising logins—and watching Freaky Friday for free—more difficult.

[h/t CNBC]

Stuck in a Never-Ending Group Chat? Here's How to Stop It

grinvalds/iStock via Getty Images
grinvalds/iStock via Getty Images

The more contacts on your phone, the more likely you will be periodically pulled into the dreaded group chat—a meandering, pestering chain of communication on apps like Facebook or WhatsApp that keeps your cell in a constant state of alert. While some group chats start out informative, they can quickly devolve in utter banality. (One warning sign: a funny nickname for the chat.) How can one free themselves from this chorus and get on with their lives?

David Nield at Gizmodo recently broke down the steps you can take to pull yourself free, though it depends on which chat app you’re using. If it’s WhatsApp, for example, you can go to Settings, Account, Privacy, Groups, and then set who can add you to a group chat. That way, only people in your inner circle can loop you in. If someone who isn't on your approved list adds you to a chat, you'll get a direct message inviting you to join, which you can accept or ignore. If you’re already in group chat hell, WhatsApp will allow you to mute notifications by tapping on the Menu button and selecting Mute Notifications.

Facebook Messenger doesn’t allow you to pre-emptively opt out, but you can exit existing group chats by tapping “i” inside the thread and selecting “Leave Group” in Android or tapping the chat thread and clicking “Leave Group” in iOS.

The same is true of Apple’s iMessenger—you can’t insulate yourself from chats. Once it starts, though, you can leave by tapping the top of the conversation, selecting “i,” and selecting either Hide Alerts (which mutes the chat) or Leave This Conversation. If people in the chat are using SMS, the messages will still come through, however. They have to be either muted or removed from your phone and life entirely.

For tips on how to deal with group chat pain on Twitter and other platforms, head over to Gizmodo.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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