New Software is Looking to Crack Down on Netflix and Hulu Password Sharing

iStock.com/wutwhanfoto
iStock.com/wutwhanfoto

Not everyone who binge-watches Stranger Things is paying for the privilege. In 2017, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 21 percent of streaming service viewers aged 18 to 24 accessed a service like Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Go using someone else’s account and password.

Thanks to a combination of technology and an appetite for subscriber growth, you might be forced into a Netflix password reset.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, UK-based technology company Synamedia announced a software program that uses artificial intelligence to track account activity for streaming subscriptions. If login behavior is atypical—for example, an account sign-in at another home with substantially different tastes in content—the account can be flagged for review. The content provider would then have the choice of offering the user an account upgrade allowing for multiple users or disallowing the sharing activity.

Synamedia is banking on the idea that popular streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime might be interested in the technology, though past comments by executives have indicated the opposite—the companies find account sharing, even outside the household, to be an effective form of advertising.

“We love people sharing Netflix,” CEO Reed Hastings said in 2017. “That’s a positive thing, not a negative thing.”

What could change their tune? If new subscriber growth slows down. Industry analysts believe any significant drop in new account sign-ups could prompt investors to urge streaming companies to curtail sharing. That may become more of an issue as more of these content providers crop up, inching closer toward a monthly billing amount that users may compare unfavorably to expensive cable packages. If you pay for three services, you might be more tempted to borrow the password for the fourth.

Netflix has yet to comment on Synamedia’s efforts.

[h/t WTOC]

Charge Your Gadgets Anywhere With This Pocket-Sized Folding Solar Panel

Solar Cru, YouTube
Solar Cru, YouTube

Portable power banks are great for charging your phone when you’re out and about all day, but even they need to be charged via an electrical outlet. There's only so much a power bank can do when you’re out hiking the Appalachian Trail or roughing it in the woods during a camping trip.

Enter the SolarCru—a lightweight, foldable solar panel now available on Kickstarter. It charges your phone and other electronic devices just by soaking up the sunshine. Strap it to your backpack or drape it over your tent to let the solar panel’s external battery charge during the day. Then, right before you go to bed, you can plug your electronic device into the panel's USB port to let it charge overnight.

It's capable of charging a tablet, GPS, speaker, headphones, camera, or other small wattage devices. “A built-in intelligent chip identifies each device plugged in and automatically adjusts the energy output to provide the right amount of power,” according to the SolarCru Kickstarter page.

A single panel is good “for small charging tasks,” according to the product page, but you can connect up to three panels together to nearly triple the electrical output. It takes roughly three hours and 45 minutes to charge a phone using a single panel, for instance, or about one hour if you’re using three panels at once. The amount of daylight time it takes to harvest enough energy for charging will depend on weather conditions, but it will still work on cloudy days, albeit more slowly.

The foldable panel weighs less than a pound and rolls up into a compact case that it can easily be tucked away in your backpack or jacket pocket. It’s also made from a scratch- and water-resistant material, so if you get rained out while camping, it won't destroy your only source of power.

You can pre-order a single SolarCru panel on Kickstarter for $34 (less than some power banks), or a pack of five for $145. Orders are scheduled to be delivered in March.

Watch Ford's Sweaty-Butt Robot Put a Car Seat to the Test

iStock.com/gargantiopa
iStock.com/gargantiopa

Buyers tend to look at price, safety, and gas mileage when shopping for a car; a question that rarely comes up at the dealership is how well a car seat stands up to years of butt sweat. But even if it isn't a priority for car owners, the vehicle testers at Ford work to ensure the cars that leave the factory can accommodate the sweatiest passengers.

The secret to Ford's durable seats is a device called the Robutt. This video from the car company shows a Kuka robotic arm pushing a buttocks-shaped cushion into a car seat. To replicate a person sitting in the car after exercising, the dummy butt is heated to approximately human body temperate and pumped with half a liter of water. The average person produces about 0.7 to 1.5 liters of sweat in one hour of intense exercise, and people who are especially fit perspire 1.5 to 1.8 liters in the same time.

The sit test is repeated 7500 times over three days—simulating one decade of someone driving their sweaty behind home from the gym. If the surface of a car seat can make it through all that abuse without any wear and tear, the design is good enough for a Ford vehicle. Robutt-approved seats were first introduced in the 2018 Ford Fiesta and are now being built into all Ford vehicles in Europe.

You can watch the messy process play out below. Here are some more robots that, like the Robutt, were designed for oddly specific tasks.

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