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Tinder to charge over-28s more

Written By andika jamanta on Rabu, 04 Maret 2015 | 23.58

2 March 2015 Last updated at 21:28 By Leo Kelion Technology desk editor

Tinder has announced it is adding much anticipated premium features to its dating app, including the ability to reconsider rejected profiles.

In a surprise move, it announced the pay-to-use add-ons would cost more for older people to use.

In the UK, people over the age of 28 years old face paying nearly four times the price of their younger counterparts. In the US, the over-30s have to pay double the basic rate.

One expert said the move was "sleazy".

But Tinder has defended its business plan, saying its rates were based on "extensive" tests.

"We've priced Tinder Plus based on a combination of factors, including what we've learned through our testing, and we've found that these price points were adopted very well by certain age demographics," said a spokeswoman.

"Lots of products offer differentiated price tiers by age, like Spotify does for students, for example.

"Tinder is no different; during our testing we've learned, not surprisingly, that younger users are just as excited about Tinder Plus, but are more budget constrained and need a lower price to pull the trigger."

UK users face a £3.99 monthly fee for the service if they are aged between 18 and 27, and £14.99 a month if they are aged 28 and above.

In the US, the corresponding figures are $9.99 (£6.50) and $19.99 (£13).

Tinder added that members in emerging economies would be charged an average of $2.99 a month for the premium features.

Swipe to reject

Tinder has become one of the most popular dating services since its launch in 2012.

The smartphone app uses its members' Facebook profiles to source photos and show basic information about them.

Members then swipe to the right to pick someone they would like to date or swipe to the left to reject a profile.

Users can only send messages to each other if they have each picked the other party.

Until now, there were no charges to use the app.

But a common complaint was that an accidental swipe in the wrong direction could thwart a potential match and there was no way to undo this. The Rewind feature now provides a solution.

In addition, the premium service has also added a facility called Passport.

This allows users to search for singles in a different city from where they are based, letting them set up dates for holidays, business trips or other travel in advance.

'Creating a barrier'

The matchmaking industry generated $2.2bn in sales in the US alone in 2014, representing 4.8% growth since 2009, according to a study by the Ibisworld research group.

Tinder is majority-owned by the US media company InterActiveCorp, which also owns the paid subscription dating services OKCupid, Meetic and Match.com.

Company watchers had always assumed that Tinder would start charging fees at some point, not least because its computer server bills are mounting.

But one tech venture capitalist was surprised by the model the firm had chosen to adopt.

"It's true that Microsoft, for example, sells its Office software to university students for considerably less than it sells it to corporations - and it justifies that on an ability to pay," said entrepreneur Paul Kedrosky, who writes the Infectious Greed blog.

"But that seems highly unlikely to be the same case here.

"It seems more likely it's a way to get the [younger] demographic that Tinder wants on the service, and using price as a way to create a barrier to others.

"I just think it's - for want of a better word - sleazy."


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Sony VR helmet set for 2016 launch

4 March 2015 Last updated at 00:44 By Leo Kelion Technology desk editor

Sony has revealed an upgraded version of its virtual reality helmet, which it says it plans to put on sale in 2016.

The new edition of Project Morpheus now features an OLED display, rather than an LCD one, letting it show more vibrant colours. That brings it in line with Facebook's rival Oculus Rift.

It is also capable of showing graphics at 120 frames per second (fps).

That beats the figure given by HTC for its recently unveiled Vive virtual reality (VR) headset.

The frame rate is important as the higher the number, the smoother moving objects appear. It also reduces the risk of nausea.

HTC said on Sunday that its helmet provided a refresh rate of 90fps.

Oculus has not confirmed its specifications, but recent demonstrations of the recent Crescent Bay version of its kit have also been reported to run at 90fps.

Sony's announcement is a surprise, because until now, the PlayStation console - which Morpheus depends on to play games - had not been thought to be able to render games at this rate.

However, speaking at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, PlayStation executive Shuhei Yoshida revealed that a software update would allow the machine to create an "in-between frame" to double its current maximum of 60fps.

"Higher frame rates are definitely important because they are going to translate into higher responsiveness of the gaming environment," explained Brian Blau, an analyst at the Gartner tech consultancy who previously worked in the virtual reality industry.

"That's going to mean people who are wearing the device aren't going to feel as sick. 120fps approaches the range where you don't notice the changes in the graphics - they will be smooth and fluid."

Other details revealed at GDC include:

  • Morpheus now has a 0.018 second latency rate - the gap in time between the user moving their head and the headset responding. It was previously 0.04 seconds. Mr Yoshida suggested this meant the lag had now become imperceptible
  • The headset's screen is now 5.7in (14.5cm) - up from 5in before - and provides a 100-degree field of view, which should cover most of what the user sees
  • The number of LEDs used to track head movement has been increased from six to nine. Sony says this will improve the stability of the 360-degree tracking provided by its separate PS4 camera
  • A quick-release button has been added to make it easier for users to remove the headset

The screen resolution remains at 1080p high definition, providing 960 pixels by 1080 pixels per eye.

Mr Yoshida said the current version was "near final", suggesting there were further improvements to be made before it goes on sale, which is scheduled to happen within the first six months of 2016.

He added that more details would be unveiled at the E3 video games expo in June.

The release date is later than that of HTC's Vive headset - a collaboration with video games publisher Valve - that is set to launch before the end of this year.

HTC's kit is expected to be designed for games sold via Steam's PC-focused Steam online marketplace, meaning it may not directly compete with Sony's machine. PCs can generate higher quality moving images than the PS4 if fitted with special graphics cards.

Lighthouse tracking tech

Valve also released more details about how its VR system would work.

It said a tracking-system called Lighthouse would let users explore a virtual space and the objects within it from different angles by moving about in real life.

"In order to have a high quality VR experience, you need high-resolution, high-speed tracking," said Valve's Alan Yates in a statement released by the firm.

"Lighthouse gives us the ability to do this for an arbitrary number of targets at a low enough bill-of-materials cost that it can be incorporated into TVs, monitors, headsets, input devices, or mobile devices."

The firm said it would allow manufacturers to build Lighthouse into their products without charging them a fee.

It also announced the Source 2 games engine - software used to create video games with 3D graphics - which it is making available to third-party developers.

The original version, which is 10 years old, was used to make games including Half-life 2, Portal and Titanfall.

Valve may provide more details about its VR platform later this week when selected GDC attendees will be among the first to try out the HTC Vive.

'Seminal year'

Oculus has yet to set a release date for its PC-connected virtual reality helmet.

However, Samsung already sells Oculus-branded VR kit that uses its smartphones as screens.

"I think 2015 and 2016 are going to be seminal years for VR," said Mr Blau.

"There's a lot of products coming to market, which is going to mean consumers get to experience it in a way they haven't been able to do before: at home and in high quality.

"Here at GDC, there are a lot of developers who are interested in VR.

"But the big issue is, will the helmets be affordable or expensive. The early adopters will probably pick one up and pay whatever price is asked, but a higher price will limit sales for mainstream gamers."


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Xiaomi launches cheap action camera

2 March 2015 Last updated at 12:22

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has launched a cheap action camera that costs only 399 yuan (£41).

The Yi Action Camera shoots video in 1080 high-definition, has a 16 megapixel camera and a wide-angle lens.

The device can also be used to make time-lapse films and is waterproof to depths of 40m.

The gadget could provide competition for Go Pro whose entry-level devices cost more than twice as much but are not as well equipped.

The device can be paired with a smartphone so it can be controlled remotely and to help share any video or images it captures.

However, available accessories for the Yi suggest it is more designed for domestic use than for people keen to film themselves taking part in extreme sports. So far, extras for the Yi include a selfie stick and a harness that allows it to be attached to a helmet, bike or even a cat.

In addition, the Yi's case is not toughened to withstand the knocks common when cameras are used outdoors or for sports.

The device is currently only available in China but Xiaomi is planning to open an online store that will let people outside the country buy some of its products directly.

Stuart Miles, founder of gadget site Pocket-lint, said the device was entering a market that was full of Go Pro "wannabes" and could struggle to find buyers.

"Go Pro has brilliant traction within the action junkie audience, and more importantly its devices work amazingly whether that's being attached to someone going for a run or jumping out of a spaceship," he said.

"That loyalty isn't something that can be replaced with a cheaper price," he added.


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Ikea debuts phone-charging furniture

2 March 2015 Last updated at 12:44 By Zoe Kleinman Technology reporter, BBC News

Furniture giant Ikea has unveiled a range of furniture fitted with wireless charging spots for mobile devices.

The Home Smart range will initially include lamps, bedside tables and a coffee table as well as individual charging pads for any surface.

Ikea has used the wireless charging standard QI, which is also supported by Samsung in its latest handset, the S6.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth urged caution over the recyclability of such products.

The Swedish furniture firm will sell charging covers for incompatible iPhone and Samsung models.

There are currently more than 80 QI-compatible handsets and 15 QI-enabled cars on the market according to QI's backers the Wireless Power Consortium, an industry body whose members includes Belkin, Motorola, Panasonic and Sony.

Multiple choice

However it is not the only charging standard in development.

The S6 will also be compatible with PMA, a rival wireless charger solution provided by the Power Matters Alliance, whose members include Starbucks, Duracell Powermat, Huawei and Lenovo.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January a firm called Energous demonstrated WattUp, a non-inductive system which it claims can charge gadgets that lie in a 9m (30ft) radius around the charger.

Green goal

Environmentalists said they hoped recycling was a priority for designers incorporating wireless charging equipment into their work.

"A key principle that manufacturers of furniture with built-in wireless charging technology should consider is that the furniture is designed to be easy to disassemble for upgrade, reuse, repair or recycling," Julian Kirby, resource use campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told the BBC.

"Disposable electric toothbrushes are one example of a terrible product design in those respects - it's virtually impossible to separate out the tech from the batteries and plastic casing which means valuable and often toxic materials are dumped in landfill or burnt in incinerators."

Ikea said in a statement that its wireless charging products are "easy to fraction at end of life".

"By adding wireless charging to home and office furniture, we minimise the amount of separate chargers needed," it added.

Hot stuff

Additionally some existing users have reported on forums that their devices get hot while charging wirelessly.

"The wireless charging standards are evolving," said Ian Fogg from analysts IHS.

"The industry has no incentive to allow devices to go hot because it means the charging isn't as efficient as it might be.

"If a device gets hot, power is being lost through heat rather than being efficiently added to the battery."

The Ikea range will go on sale in the UK and North America in April 2015, the firm said.


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Plane battery ban over safety concern

3 March 2015 Last updated at 13:13

United Airlines has become the second major US airline to announce it will no longer carry bulk shipments of lithium-ion batteries.

Delta Airlines stopped bulk shipments of the batteries in February.

Aviation officials believe lithium-ion batteries contributed to fires that destroyed two Boeing 747 cargo planes, killing all four crew members.

Federal Aviation Administration tests found overheating batteries could cause major fires.

In its tests, the FAA filled a cargo container with 5,000 lithium-ion batteries and a cartridge heater, which was added to simulate a single battery overheating.

The heat from the cartridge triggered a chain reaction in other batteries, with temperatures reaching about 600C.

This was followed by an explosion, which blew open the container door and set the cargo box on fire.

A second test, some months later, produced similar results, despite the addition of a fire-suppression agent.

"Our primary concerns when transporting dangerous goods are the safety of our customers, our customers' shipments and the environment," United Airlines said in a statement.

Plane crashes

Experts think that batteries have contributed to several cargo plane fires in recent years.

In 2010, a Boeing 747 cargo plane operated by UPS Airlines developed an in-flight fire and crashed in an unpopulated area in Dubai. Both crew members were killed.

In the subsequent investigation, the FAA highlighted the fact that a large quantity of lithium-ion batteries had been on board.

In 2011, an Asiana Airlines cargo plane carrying 880lb (400kg) of lithium batteries crashed into the Korea Strait, killing both crew members.

The cause of the fire was never determined, but the International Civil Aviation Organisation did recommend new safety standards for the carriage of such batteries.

And back in 2006, a UPS cargo plane made an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport, following a fire. In that case, all crew members escaped unharmed.

The cause of the fire was never determined, but the recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board included advice about the transport of lithium-ion batteries.

Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was also reported to have been carrying 440lb of lithium-ion batteries in its cargo, adding yet another theory to the mystery surrounding its disappearance last year.

New rules

The increasing focus on battery safety will put pressure on other airlines to follow suit, as well as on the technology industry to come up with safer ways of transporting them.

Lithium-ion batteries power mobile phones, laptops and other digital devices. An estimated 4.8 billion lithium-ion cells were manufactured in 2013 and production is forecast to reach eight billion by 2025.

Shipments of rechargeable batteries on passenger planes are supposed to be limited to no more than a handful in a single box, under safety standards set by the UN's International Civil Aviation Organisation.

But a loophole permits many small boxes to be packed into one shipment, meaning that thousands of the batteries may be packed into pallets and loaded into the cargo holds of passenger planes.

No cargo fires aboard passenger airlines have been attributed to batteries.

American Airlines stopped accepting some types of lithium-ion battery shipments in February. It continues to accept small packages of batteries grouped together or packed into a single cargo container. But this has raised safety concerns because of the large number of batteries in one container.

FAA tests also revealed that lithium-metal batteries, which are not rechargeable and power devices such as cameras and calculators, could catch fire much faster than other versions.

The UN banned shipments of these batteries on passenger planes last year, and the ban came into effect in January.

About 10% of the 2.5 billion lithium-metal batteries manufactured annually are shipped by air.

Lithium-ion batteries are far more frequently shipped by air.

All three US airlines will continue to accept shipments when the batteries are packed inside or with equipment such as laptops or power tools.


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Blackberry Leap has no physical keys

3 March 2015 Last updated at 13:40

Blackberry has announced a touch-screen phone without physical keys, at the Mobile World Congress trade show.

The Blackberry Leap is not the company's first all-touch phone - but it may come as a surprise, since its chief executive said last March his focus was going to be "very keyboard-centric".

The Canadian company has also revealed it is bringing more of its software to rival platforms.

Sales of Blackberry phones are falling.

The company shipped 7.9 million devices last year, according to research firm Gartner.

That was a big drop on 2013's figure of 18.6 million units, which in turn was well down on 2011's tally of 51.5 million handsets.

A separate study by research company eMarketer indicates the number of UK-based Blackberry users is set to dip to 700,000 this year, having been as high as 2.5 million in 2013.

Crowded market

Blackberry's Leap runs on its proprietary 10.3.1 operating system and features:

  • a 5in (12.7cm) 720p HD resolution display
  • an eight megapixel rear camera
  • 16GB of internal storage and a micro-SD card slot
  • built-in anti-malware protection

The specifications place it firmly as a mid-range, rather than premium, handset.

Blackberry says it believes the phone will appeal to "career-building" young professionals and businesses that value security and privacy.

But one expert thought the device might struggle to find a market, bearing in mind Microsoft, LG, Motorola and Sony were among other companies to have released rival mid-range phones over recent days, adding to an already crowded market.

"Looking at how Blackberry sales have fallen off a cliff, it seems to me difficult to see how it will come back from that, particularly when you're at an event like Mobile World Congress and seeing so many other mid-range, middle-of-the-road handsets," said eMarketer analyst Bill Fisher.

"Blackberry is not doing enough to differentiate itself at a time [when] we're seeing a plethora of such phones in this space."

Ben Wood, from the CCS Insight consultancy, was only slightly more positive.

"Blackberry will find it tough to compete with the iPhone and Android devices, but the Leap will be essential to offer a more rounded portfolio of phones," he said.

Blackberry also briefly teased a more distinctive device at its press conference - a curved-screened phone with a keyboard that slides out from below its screen. However, it did not name the model or provide further details.

Software bundles

The other part of Blackberry's strategy is to provide access to its services to rival platforms.

The company announced it would offer three new different bundles of services - called Experience Suites - for a fee, to iOS, Android and Windows Phone handsets.

These provide access to its calendar, secure email, Universal Search, password management and virtual-keyboard tools, among others.

"[Customers] want Blackberry's legendary security and core productivity and collaboration capabilities while still being able to choose a device that matches their lifestyle and personality," said the company's chief executive John Chen.

The pitch comes at a time when Google, Microsoft and Apple are touting their own apps and services as being business-friendly. But one expert said the Blackberry Experience Suites could prove popular.

"There's definitely still a demand and fondness from the business community for Blackberry products," said Chris Green, from the Davies Murphy Group consultancy.

"You can't underestimate how much the business world likes the Blackberry platform, so doing more to integrate it with their back-end systems to run apps on other devices will go down well."

Mr Fisher added that it might even bring some users back to the company's own phones.

"Blackberry's software is good, so potentially there could be a halo effect if people see they like the apps and are then attracted back to the hardware," he said.

"There's money to be made in software, but if you can monetise that in your own operating software and hardware, there's even more to be earned.

"But is it too late for that [for Blackberry]? Possibly."


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HTC apologises for Half-life comment

3 March 2015 Last updated at 14:05 By Dave Lee and Leo Kelion Technology reporters

HTC's chairwoman has apologised for suggesting a Half-life video game was being developed for her firm's virtual reality helmet.

Cher Wang told the BBC on Monday that HTC was "co-operating with Half-life".

The lauded video game's creator Valve co-developed the VR headset, so Ms Wang's comment fuelled expectations that a new game in the franchise was being made.

However, the BBC later learned that Valve had been surprised by the claim.

A source close to the US company indicated that it was not in fact working on a virtual reality Half-life game at this time, and believed Ms Wang must have been confused.

Ms Wang has since provided further clarification.

"Regarding my BBC interview with Dave Lee yesterday, I would like to apologise for any confusion caused when I referred to individual games titles," she said.

"In response to a question on specific games, I misspoke when I referred to our working together with Valve on a particular game, when instead I meant our collaboration with Valve on developing next-generation virtual reality experiences for gaming.

"I am very excited about the work we are doing with Valve, and look forward to bringing our HTC Vive to market later this year."

Transcript of the original interview:

Cher Wang

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WATCH: Cher Wang spoke to Dave Lee at the Mobile World Congress trade fair in Barcelona

BBC: One of Valve's most famous games is the Half-life series, and I know there are millions and millions of gamers that are desperate for a new Half-life game to come out. Is the new Half-life going to be on the virtual-reality headset? Is that what Valve is going to do with this machine?

Cher Wang: I think Valve's best game is Dota, right, and Portal and [Team Fortress] and I think they are very keen to have them.

BBC: But how about Half-life - is that going to be on there?

Cher Wang: We are co-operating with Half-life, and I think... I hope, you know, it will be on it.

The wait continues

Half-life and its sequel Half-life 2 are sci-fi action titles set in a future in which an experiment goes wrong, resulting in aliens taking over the planet.

Players control the main protagonist, Dr Gordon Freeman, who resists the invasion.

Valve made two add-on episodes for Half-life 2, the last of which was released in 2007

The last instalment ended on a cliff-hanger, and Valve co-founder Gabe Newell hinted at the time that the story would be continued.

Virtual reality experience

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WATCH: HTC's headset surprised attendees at its Mobile World Congress press conference

Despite strong sales and high review scores, Valve opted not to release further chapters. Rumours that it had instead decided to work on a third core title - Half-Life 3 - have since taken on a near-mythical status.

Valve is expected to provide more details about its virtual reality platform at a presentation at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco later.


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Ford launches e-bikes at mobile show

3 March 2015 Last updated at 14:54
Ford's MoDe: Pro e-bike

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WATCH: The BBC's Dave Lee talks to Ford's chief design engineer Tom Thompson about the company's electric bike project

Motor company Ford has launched electric bicycles at Mobile World Congress, as part of its plans to extend its footprint beyond cars.

Increasingly car manufacturers are looking to new ways to make money with many developing so-called smart transportation systems.

Ford's e-bikes come in two flavours - one for use by commuters and one as a commercial bike for couriers.

Both are linked to a smartphone app that provides step-by-step navigation.

The experiment with e-bikes is part of Ford's smart mobility plan - it is keen to study how such bicycles integrate with cars and public transport.

"There are so many ways to get around a city, but what is really needed is a way to connect all of these transport options together," said Ken Washington, vice president of Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.

"Being able to seamlessly move between cars, buses, trains and e-bikes and react to changing traffic situations can make a big difference both for commuters and for those delivering goods, services and healthcare."

Traffic problems and overly long commutes have been proved to have a significant economic and social impact on cities. According to the European Commission, congestion within the European Union costs about 100bn euros each year.

A study by the UK's Office for National Statistics found that each minute added to a commute affects anxiety, happiness and general well-being among commuters.

Both Ford's e-bikes are equipped with a 200-watt motor with a 9-amp-hour battery that provides electric pedal assistance for speeds of up to 25km/h (15mph). Both can also be folded.

Rear-facing sensors offer riders an alert system that warns the cyclist when a vehicle is overtaking by vibrating both handlebars. Sensors also alert motorists to the presence of the e-bike by lighting up the handlebars.

An app - currently only available on the iPhone 6 - provides step-by-step navigation - it plans an entire route for commuters, from driving to a train station to taking a train and completing a journey via an e-bike. It also offers information about the routes - so if a train service in cancelled it may offer an alternative method of transport.

It also provides navigation for riders, via a Bluetooth headset that uses haptic touch technology to notify the rider of whether to turn left or right.

David Bailey, professor of industrial strategy at the Aston Business School believes that e-bikes are going to become popular in cities.

"A lot of city authorities are concerned about pollution so we will see more e-bikes around," he said.

But he is less convinced that the e-bike revolution will be led by car manufacturers.

"There are a few companies already doing it. They are trying to show they are environmentally friendly but also, in some cities, it is no longer possible to drive to the centre of town in a car."


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Tablet video game combats lazy eye

3 March 2015 Last updated at 20:54 By Leo Kelion Technology desk editor

Ubisoft has announced it is working on a video game to combat an eye disorder that can cause reduced vision.

Dig Rush is designed to be played on tablets by people diagnosed as having Amblyopia - also known as "lazy eye".

The condition affects an estimated one in 50 children, according to the NHS, and often causes them to see less clearly out of one eye than the other.

Ubisoft said it hoped the game would be "more engaging and enjoyable" than existing treatments.

The technique involved was developed by researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who initially carried out tests using a version of the blocks-turning game Tetris before publicising their discovery in 2013.

French developer Ubisoft is best known for making entertainment-focused video games including the Assassin's Creed and Far Cry series, as well as the choreography-focused franchise Just Dance.

Its announcement was timed to coincide with the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco.

Blocked objects

Dig Rush requires the patient to wear blue-red stereoscopic glasses - similar to the ones used for old 3D movies - while playing.

It works by showing some of its graphics in blue and some in red at differing levels of contrast, so that each of the objects they represent becomes harder to see by one of the eyes.

This forces the player to use both their dominant and weaker eyes together in order to make progress, rather than just relying on their stronger one or only seldom using the weaker one.

Through repeated training, the player's brain should learn to improve co-ordination of both eyes, helping the weak eye relearn how to see and potentially improving their sense of depth as a result.

Ubisoft said doctors would have the ability to adjust the game's settings to suit specific patients' conditions.

Eye patch alternative

Left untreated, Amblyopia can result in the central vision of a person's "lazy eye" never reaching normal levels.

Studies carried out by the McGill team suggest two-thirds of people who play such games regularly should experience improved vision in their weaker eye.

Amblyotech - a company that bought the researchers' invention and licensed it to Ubisoft - said it believed the game was more effective than alternative techniques.

"Current treatments options, such as eye patching, provide limited relief and have poor patient compliance due to discomfort and social stigmas," said Joseph Koziak, Amblyotech's chief executive.

He suggested that both children and adults could benefit from the treatment.

Amblyotech is currently seeking permission from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market the therapy in the US. It acknowledges it will have to go through similar approval processes elsewhere before the game can be made available.

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists - which represents eye doctors in the UK - said it would need to see further evidence before being able to support the idea of medics prescribing the title.

"The use of digital media is and has been researched and studied and shown to have some benefit," said a spokeswoman.

"As with all treatments, their use must be based on scientific research and evidence to ensure a safe and effective benefit for patients."


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China and US clash over backdoors

4 March 2015 Last updated at 13:22

Beijing has rejected President Obama's criticism of its plan to make tech companies put backdoors in their software and share their encryption keys if they want to operate in China.

On Monday, Mr Obama told the Reuters news agency he had "made it very clear" China had to change its policy if it wanted to do business with the US.

But Beijing said it needed the powers to combat terrorism and tackle leaks.

It also suggested the West was guilty of having double standards.

"The legislation is China's domestic affair, and we hope the US side can take a right, sober and objective view towards it," said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.

"On the information-security issue, there was a [recent] media revelation that a certain country embedded spying software in the computer system of another country's Sim card maker, for surveillance activities. This is only one out of the recently disclosed cases.

"All countries are paying close attention to this and taking measures to safeguard their own information security, an act that is beyond any reproach."

The case she was referring to involved allegations that US cyber-spies had hacked a Dutch Sim card manufacturer in order to help decrypt their targets' communications.

At another press conference, parliamentary spokeswoman Fu Ying drew attention to the fact that the US government had imposed restrictions on Chinese companies including Huawei and ZTE.

And she suggested that Beijing's proposals were in line with the same kind of access to internet correspondence sought by the US and British governments.

"We will definitely continue to listen to extensive concerns and all the parties' views, so we can make the law's formulation more rigorous," she added.

The rules are part of a proposed counter-terrorism law set to be discussed by China's annual parliament session, the National People's Congress (NPC), which opens on Thursday.

'Paranoid espionage'

President Obama's comments had followed the publication of a fresh draft of the proposed law, which was made public last week.

It "would essentially force all foreign companies, including US companies, to turn over to the Chinese government mechanisms where they can snoop and keep track of all the users of those services", the US leader said.

"As you might imagine tech companies are not going to be willing to do that," he added.

Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle and IBM are among firms that would potentially be affected.

While the comments by Chinese officials were measured, the government's press service, Xinhua, was more critical.

It accused the US leader of arrogance and hypocrisy, noting that the FBI had criticised Apple and Google last year for building encryption into their smartphone operating systems, and again drew attention to allegations about the US National Security Agency's activities made public by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"With transparent procedures, China's anti-terrorism campaign will be different from what the United States has done: letting the surveillance authorities run amok and turn counter-terrorism into paranoid espionage and peeping on its civilians and allies," Xinhua wrote.

"Contrary to the accusations of the United States, China's anti-terror law will put no unfair regulatory pressures on foreign companies, because the provisions will apply to both domestic and foreign firms."

Insecure systems

The Conservative party has indicated it wants to expand the UK's cyber-spies' surveillance powers it if wins the May election.

"Our manifesto will make clear that we will... use all the legal powers available to us to make sure that, where appropriate, the intelligence and security agencies have the maximum capability to intercept the communications of suspects while making sure that such intrusive techniques are properly overseen," Home Secretary Theresa May told Parliament in January.

One expert said it should be no surprise that the West was finding it difficult to prevent China seeking greater cyber-surveillance powers of its own, but added there were good reasons to fear its proposals.

"Either behind the scenes or increasingly openly, the US and UK are justifying similar behaviour for their own purposes, but are extremely concerned when China asks for its own capabilities," said Dr Joss Wright, from the Oxford Internet Institute.

"But what we don't want to see is a world in which internet-based products and services are riddled with backdoors by every state that says it needs to act against terrorism.

"A backdoor is always a concern because the moment it can be exploited, you have an insecure system by default, and that could make everyone less safe."


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