FTC launches ‘Robocall Challenge’ to end telemarketing nightmare

ftc launches robocall challenge to end telemarketing nightmare robomarketerJust how much do you hate those robo marketing calls that you get when you’re trying to relax at night? Are they a nuisance? A problem? Worse? Just how bad can robocalls even get, when it comes down to it, anyway? That’s when the Federal Trade Commission wants to know – and, even moreso, it wants to know what you’re prepared to do about it.

The FTC has announced a public contest entitled the FTC Robocall Challenge to find the best way to identify and block robotic marketing calls. The contest is described as something that challenges the general public to “create innovative solutions that will block illegal robocalls on landlines and mobile phones,” noting that the “vast majority of telephone calls that deliver a pre-recorded message trying to sell something to the recipient are illegal.”

David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, told the Washington Post that the Commission is “attacking illegal robo-calls on all fronts, and one of the things that we can do as a government agency is to tap into the genius and technical expertise among the public… We think that this will be an effective approach in the case of robo-calls, because the winner of the challenge will become a national hero.”

If the gratitude and admiration of your fellow Americans isn’t enough for you, there’s also a cash prize available; the FTC is putting up $50,000 in prize money for the best ideas, with proposals being scored by a panel of judges who will be looking for three main areas of interest: Workability, ease of use, and potential for mass production or roll out (The first of those will carry twice as much weight as the other two, according to the Challenge’s official rules). If no-one manages to hit all three marks, according to the FTC, there will be no prize awarded; if multiple proposals are deemed to be equally worthy, the $50,000 will be split amongst as many winners as necessary.

(There will also be a separate award, the Federal Trade Commission Technology Achievement Award, but that carries with it only bragging rights; the official rules of the Challenge list that prize as “recognition only,” somewhat sadly.)

Those entering the contest are inviting to submit proposals to block robo calling on landlines, cellphones or both, although the FTC points out that an entry that manages to stop calling on both will automatically be scored higher, so bear that in mind when thinking of your particular solution.

The Challenge “opens” in six days, with proposals being accepted between October 25 and January 17, 2013. For those wondering what to do with their next few months who also happen to be technical wizards, it would be unfair to tell you how to spend your time… and yet, we humbly submit that there’s nothing wrong with trying to better humanity through small things like this, when it comes down to it.


Apple loses battle to use Intel modems in Germany in latest clash with Qualcomm

Apple is following the Federal Trade Commission's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.

Need a date for Valentine's Day? Cozy up with the best dating apps of 2019

Everyone knows online dating can be stressful, time-consuming, and downright awful. Check out our top picks for the best dating apps, so you can streamline the process and find the right date, whatever you're looking for.

T-Mobile says Sprint merger will boost 5G speeds by up to 6 times

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (February 2019)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Emerging Tech

Photosynthesizing artificial leaf may be the air-cleaning tool we’ve dreamed of

Engineers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have invented an artificial leaf which could both clean up our air and provide a cost-effective type of fuel. Here's how it works.

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Emerging Tech

Global Good wants to rid the world of deadly diseases with lasers and A.I.

Global Good, a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and Bill Gates, aims to eradicate diseases that kill children in developing nations. It tackles difficult problems with high-tech prototypes.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-powered website creates freakishly lifelike faces of people who don’t exist

No, this isn't a picture of a missing person. It's a face generated by a new artificial intelligence on the website ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com. Here's how the impressive A.I. works.
Emerging Tech

China’s mind-controlled cyborg rats are proof we live in a cyberpunk dystopia

Neuroscience researchers from Zhejiang University, China, have created a method that allows humans to control the movements of rats using a technology called a brain-brain interface.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s MAVEN orbiter has a new job as a communication relay for Mars 2020

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter has been collecting atmospheric readings but now is taking on a new job as a data relay satellite for the Mars 2020 mission that launches next year.
Emerging Tech

Underground volcanoes could explain possible liquid water on Mars

Last year scientists discovered there could be liquid water on Mars. Now a research team argues that for there to be liquid water, there must be an underground source of heat -- and they believe underground volcanoes could be responsible.
Emerging Tech

The 10 most expensive drones that you (a civilian) can buy

OK, these drones may be a bit beyond your budget: Check out the most expensive drones in the world, from industrial giants to highest-end filming tools.
Emerging Tech

Of all the vape pens in the world, these 5 are the best

Vaping concentrates has become significantly more popular, especially among those that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. But don’t use just any vape pen: we found these five devices to be our favorites in 2018.

The HoloLens 2 will be announced at MWC. Here's what we know about it so far

The HoloLens 2 is ripe for an announcement. Here's what Microsoft has revealed so far, what's likely in store for the next generation HoloLens, and everything that we know about this mixed reality headset.