In today’s Bulldog wrapup of technology and life science news:
- Facebook is testing its own digital assistant
- Microsoft says Windows 10 now on 75 million machines
- Ashley Madison faces lawsuits after hack
- Booze arrives at the international space station
- For the first time a diabetes drug is said to be cutting complications associated with the disease
- Facebook’s assistant
Facebook is the latest technology company to offer users a virtual assistant service.
Facebook is testing the artificial intelligence-powered service, called simply “M,” inside its messaging app, Messenger, with some users.
David Marcus, the head of messaging products at the Menlo Park, California company, says in a Facebook post that M can do things like buy items for you, get gifts delivered and book restaurant reservations or appointments.
Apple’s Siri is the most well-known virtual assistant. Microsoft and Amazon also have options.
Marcus says M aims to do more than other digital assistants on the market by completing tasks on the user’s behalf.
With more than 700 million users, Messenger is one of the world’s most popular messaging apps.
- Windows 10 hits 75 million
Microsoft said Wednesday that its new Windows 10 software is running on more than 75 million computers, tablets and other devices — in just under a month since the operating system was released.
Analysts say that’s a good start, although the company is hoping to get the software installed on a billion devices over the next three years. Microsoft Corp., which is best known for making software for personal computers, is hoping Windows 10 will help it rebuild loyalty among users who are increasingly relying on tablets, smartphones and other devices.
PC sales have been shrinking in recent years and that trend is likely to continue, according to a new forecast from International Data Corp. Analysts at IDC predicted Monday that 2016 will mark the fifth consecutive year of declining PC sales worldwide.
Computer-makers are hoping to get a boost from consumer interest in Windows 10, which manufacturers are making available on new machines being sold this fall. But IDC noted in its report that Microsoft is also offering the new software as a free download for people who want to install it on their existing PCs.
The free upgrades probably account for the bulk of the 75 million devices now using Windows 10, said analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy, although he said more new models will likely be sold this fall.
- Ashley Madison users in US sue cheating website
Eight people across the U.S. who registered to use Ashley Madisonare suing the cheating website after hackers released personal and detailed information on them and millions of other users, including credit card numbers and sexual preferences.
The lawsuits were filed between last month and Monday by Ashley Madison users in California, Texas, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee and Minnesota. They all seek class-action status to represent the estimated 37 million registered Ashley Madison users.
The lawsuits, which seek unspecified damages, claim negligence, breach of contract and privacy violations. They claim Ashley Madison failed to take reasonable steps to protect the security of its users, including those who paid a special fee to have their information deleted.
Ashley Madison is offering a $500,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a group that hacked the site.
- Booze in space
Spirits arrived at the International Space Station on Monday. Not the ghostly ones, but the kind you drink — distilled spirits.
The six astronauts won’t be sneaking a sip. It’s all for science.
A Japanese company known for its whiskey and other alcoholic beverages included five types of distilled spirits in a space station cargo ship. The station’s big robotic arm — operated by Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui — grabbed onto the supply craft launched Wednesday by his homeland. Flight controllers helped anchor it down.
The supply ship contains nearly 10,000 pounds of cargo, including the six liquor samples. Suntory Global Innovation Center in Tokyo wants to see if alcoholic beverages mellow the same in space as they do on Earth.
The samples will be used for experiments and will spend at least a year in orbit before being returned to Earth. An identical set of samples will be stored on the ground in Japan.
The experiment has NASA’s blessing. Spokesman Dan Huot said all research flown to the space station is agreed upon by everyone involved. It’s not the first liquor-related space study.
Japan also sent up 12 mice aboard the Kounotori vessel, Japanese for white stork, as part of an aging study.
- Diabetes drug reduces complications
For the first time, there’s evidence that a diabetes medication, Jardiance, reduces risk of the complications that are the top killer of diabetics: heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular damage.
Preventing those is a long-elusive goal for the millions of diabetes patients and their doctors, and one analyst who’s also a trained physician even called Thursday’s news of a possible groundbreaking advance a “holy grail.”
Analysts are predicting a windfall for the makers of Jardiance, anticipating a big shift in which diabetes drugs doctors prescribe most. U.S. investors liked the news, too, driving up Lilly shares more than 5 percent.
Jardiance, a once-a-day pill, was approved in the U.S. last August for patients with Type 2, on noninsulin dependent, diabetes.
Despite the excitement, the drug’s two manufacturers — Eli Lilly and Co. of Indianapolis and German partner Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH — have announced only that a three-year study they conducted showed the drug delayed the time until patients died of cardiovascular disease or suffered a heart attack or stroke.
That brief summary, known as the top-line result, is meant to inform investors promptly that the closely watched study met its main goal, a result likely to affect Eli Lilly’s financial prospects and stock price.