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Google will block embedded browser log-ins to fight phishing
Embedded browsers within apps can be useful if you want to use an existing account from another service -- say, your Gmail log-in -- to access their features. However, they're also really easy to weaponize for man-in-the-middle types of phishing atta...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 19 Apr 2019 | 3:48 am

Instagram test visualizes hiding 'Like' counts from viewers
Everyone has their own opinion about what specifically is wrong with social media, but the currency of likes is a commonly-cited issue. The latest grab bag of Instagram test features dug up by Jane Manchun Wong includes a version that doesn't let the...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 19 Apr 2019 | 3:24 am

Uber’s self-driving car unit raises $1B from Toyota, Denso and Vision Fund ahead of spin-out

Uber’s has confirmed it will spin out its self-driving car business after the unit closed $1 billion in funding from Toyota, auto-parts maker Denso and SoftBank’s Vision Fund.

The development has been speculated for some time — as far back as October — and it serves to both remove a deeply-unprofitable unit from the main Uber business: helping Uber scale back some of its losses, while giving Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group (known as Uber ATG) more freedom to focus on the tough challenge of bringing autonomous vehicles to market.

The deal values Uber ATG at $7.25 billion, the companies announced. In terms of the exact mechanics of the investment, Toyota and Denso are providing $667 million with the Vision Fund throwing in the remaining $333 million.

The deal is expected to close in Q3, and it gives investors a new take on Uber’s imminent IPO, which comes with Uber ATG. The company posted a $1.85 billion loss for 2018, but R&D efforts on ‘moonshots’ like autonomous cars and flying vehicles dragged the numbers down by accounting for over $450 million in spending. Moving those particularly capital-intensive R&D plays into a new entity will help bring the core Uber numbers down to earth, but clearly there’s still a lot of work to reach break-even or profitability.

Still, those crazy numbers haven’t dampened the mood. Uber is still seen as a once-in-a-generation company, and it is tipped to raise around $10 billion from the IPO, giving it a reported valuation of $90 billion-$100 billion.

Like the spin-out itself, the identity of the investors is not a surprise.

The Vision Fund (and parent SoftBank) have backed Uber since a January 2018 investment deal closed, while Toyota put $500 million into the ride-hailing firm last August. Toyota and Uber are working to bring autonomous Sienna vehicles to Uber’s service by 2021 while, in further proof of their collaborative relationship, SoftBank and Toyota are jointly developing services in their native Japan which will be powered by self-driving vehicles.

The duo also backed Grab — the Southeast Asian ride-hailing company that Uber owns around 23 percent of — perhaps more aggressively. SoftBank has been an investor since 2014 and last year Toyota invested $1 billion into Grab, which it said was the highest investment it has made in ride-hailing.

“Leveraging the strengths of Uber ATG’s autonomous vehicle technology and service network and the Toyota Group’s vehicle control system technology, mass-production capability, and advanced safety support systems, such as Toyota Guardian, will enable us to commercialize safer, lower cost automated ridesharing vehicles and services,” said Shigeki Tomoyama, the executive VP who leads Toyota’s ‘connected company’ division, said in a statement.

Here’s Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s shorter take on Twitter

Excited to announce Toyota, Denso and the SoftBank Vision Fund are making a $1B investment in @UberATG, as we work together towards the future of mobility. pic.twitter.com/JdqhLkV7uU

— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) April 19, 2019

Uber files for IPO

Source: TechCrunch | 19 Apr 2019 | 1:17 am

Uber's self-driving unit gets its own CEO and a $1 billion investment
As Uber finally closes in on its IPO, its self-driving car unit is getting a big cash infusion and some independence. The company announced tonight that Toyota, Denso and Softbank are investing a total of $1 billion in its Advanced Technologies Group...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Apr 2019 | 11:58 pm

Ransomware interrupted a 'The Weather Channel' morning show
On Thursday morning, from 6AM to 7:39AM, viewers weren't able to learn any useful weather information from The Weather Channel. The TV network had to show a taped program instead of airing its morning show AMHQ, because it suffered a security breach...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Apr 2019 | 10:51 pm

Teen YouTubers who faked a pregnancy apologize — and offer bad sex ed advice
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Two teenage YouTubers were the subject of concern this week after they announced they were expecting a baby and had gotten "married" in Las Vegas. After dragging their followers through a four-part, monetized series, they revealed that it was just a "prank" and issued a very YouTuber non-apology for coming off as insensitive.  

Danielle Cohn, who goes by Dani, is 15 years old. Her boyfriend and fellow influencer, Mikey Tua, is 16. After dropping cryptic hints throughout the weekend, Mikey posted a hidden camera video of the couple telling their families that Dani was pregnant. 

They raised eyebrows when the two posted a later video of their "wedding" in Las Vegas — which Dani's mother clarified in a statement to BuzzFeed as only the two making a "promise" since Dani is too young to be legally married, even with parental consent. In the third installment, they visited a questionable doctor's office for an "ultrasound" to find out the sex of the hypothetical baby and listen to Mikey's father lecture them on responsibilities.  Read more...

More about Influencers, Culture, and Web Culture

Source: Mashable | 18 Apr 2019 | 8:49 pm

Original 'Burnout Paradise' servers shut down August 1st
All good things must come to an end, and that includes multiplayer support for the original Burnout Paradise. Emails sent to players and a tweet from Criterion confirm that the game's servers -- which have been in operation since it launched in 2008...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Apr 2019 | 8:40 pm

Elon Musk has some advice about charging your Tesla battery
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Elon Musk has explained to Tesla owners why they shouldn't charge their Tesla batteries to 100% even if they are concerned about range. Read more...

More about Tech, Technology, Cars, Transportation, and Mashable Video

Source: Mashable | 18 Apr 2019 | 8:06 pm

The Game of Thrones queens’ advisors argue it out in the first morning show in Westeros — Good Day Westeros
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Bob and Proma discuss who is "rightful heir" to the throne with Grey Worm, Lord Qyburn and Lady Mormont. Read more...

More about Funny, Game Of Thrones, Mashable Video, Comedy, and Arts Culture And Entertainment

Source: Mashable | 18 Apr 2019 | 8:05 pm

Boston Dynamics debuts the production version of SpotMini

Last year at our TC Sessions: Robotics conference, Boston Dynamics announced that SpotMini will be its first commercially available product. A revamped version of the product would use the company’s decades of quadrupedal robotics learnings as a basis for a robot designed to patrol office spaces.

At today’s event, founder and CEO Marc Raibert took to the stage to debut the production version of the electric robot. As noted last year, the company plans to produce around 100 models this year. Raibert said the company is aiming to start production in July or August. There are robots coming off the assembly line now, but they are betas being used for testing, and the company is still doing redesigns. Pricing details will be announced this summer.

New things about the SpotMini as it moves closer to production include redesigned components to make it more reliable, skins that work better to protect the robot if it falls and two sets of cameras on the front and one on each side and the back, so it can see in all directions.

The SpotMini also has an arm (with a hand that’s often mistaken for its head) that is stabilized in space, so it stays in the same place even when the rest of the robot moves, making it more flexible for different applications.

Raibert says he hopes the SpotMini becomes the “Android of robots” (or Android of androids), with navigation software and developers eventually writing apps that can run in and interact with the controls on the robot.

SpotMini is the first commercial robot Boston Dynamics is set to release, but as we learned earlier, it certainly won’t be the last. The company is looking to its wheeled Handle robot in an effort to push into the logistics space. It’s a super-hot category for robotics right now. Notably, Amazon recently acquired Colorado-based start up Canvas to add to its own arm of fulfillment center robots.

Boston Dynamics made its own acquisition earlier this month — a first for the company. The addition of Kinema will bring advanced vision systems to the company’s robots — a key part in implementing these sorts of systems in the field.

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Apr 2019 | 7:27 pm

Why the hell is The Daily Caller 'fact-checking' for Facebook?
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Nothing goes together like "fact checking" and "Tucker Carlson," right?

Facebook has a new fact-checking partner, Axios first reported Thursday: CheckYourFact.com, the fact-checking arm of The Daily Caller, a right-wing website founded by conspiracy theorist peddler Tucker Carlson.

SEE ALSO: Twitter wants advertisers to ditch Tucker Carlson after his latest xenophobic remarks

CheckYourFact.com describes itself as "editorially independent" from The Daily Caller. Its funding comes from The Daily Caller's operating budget, ad revenue, and from a grant that's ultimately funded by conservative political groups, according to Media Matters, a watchdog organization of conservative media.  Read more...

More about Facebook, Fake News, Fact Check, Tucker Carlson, and Tech

Source: Mashable | 18 Apr 2019 | 7:10 pm

Netflix to open a production hub in New York and invest up to $100 million in the city

Start spreading the news. Netflix is coming to New York City in a big way.

The streaming media service has committed to invest up to $100 million to build a production hub and hire hundreds of new staffers in the Big Apple, according to a statement from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Netflix’s new production hub will include an expanded Manhattan office and six sound stages in Brooklyn that could bring hundreds of executive positions and thousands of production crew jobs to New York within the next five years, according to a statement from the Empire State Development Corp. 

“New York has created a film-friendly environment that’s home to some of the best creative and executive talent in the world, and we’re excited to provide a place for them at Netflix with our production hub,” said Jason Hariton, director of Worldwide Studio Operations & Real Estate at Netflix, in a statement.

The new corporate offices Netflix has planned will occupy 100,000 square feet in Manhattan at 888 Broadway, housing 127 new executive content acquisition, development, production, legal, publicity and marketing positions. They’ll join the 32 employees Netflix currently has in New York.

Netflix already produces Orange Is the New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, She’s Gotta Have It, The Irishman, Someone Great, Private Life and Russian Doll in New York and has leased 161,000 square feet to build sound stages and support spaces in Brooklyn’s East Williamsburg neighborhood.

To sweeten the pot for Netflix, the Empire State Development Corp. has offered $4 million in performance-based Excelsior Tax Credits over 10 years, which the corporation says are tied to real job creation. To receive the incentive, Netflix must create 127 jobs by 2024 at its executive production office and retain those jobs for another five years.

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Apr 2019 | 6:36 pm

Russian hacked ‘at least one’ Florida county prior to 2016 election

Russian operatives successfully targeted and hacked “at least one” Florida county government in the run up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to new findings by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The report, published Thursday by the Justice Department, said the county was targeted by the Russian intelligence service, known as the GRU. The hackers sent spearphishing emails to more than 120 email accounts used by county officials responsible for administering the election, the report said.

According to the findings:

In August 2016, GRU officers targeted employees of [REDACTED], a voting technology company that developed software used by numerous U.S. counties to manage voter rolls, and installed malware on the company network… the spearphishing emails contained an attached Word document coded with malicious software (commonly referred to as a Trojan) that permitted the GRU to access the infected computer.

The findings are a significant development from previous reporting that said Florida’s election systems were merely targets of the Russian operatives.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) was derided after he claimed just days before his eventual re-election that hackers had gained access to the state’s election systems. According to NBC News, some of Nelson’s assertions were based off classified information that was not yet public.

Nelson’s remarks came almost a year after The Intercept published a classified document — later discovered to have been sent by since-jailed NSA whistleblower and Reality Winner — showing that intelligence pointed to a concerted effort by the GRU to target election infrastructure. The NSA said the hackers sent emails impersonating voting technology company VR Systems to state government officials.

The Orlando Sentinel confirmed Thursday following the release of Mueller’s report’s that Volusia County was sent infected emails containing malware, suggesting Volusia County — north of Orlando — may have been the target.

Mueller’s report confirmed that the FBI investigated the incident.

The office of Florida’s secretary of state said that Florida’s voter registration system “was and remains secure,” and “official results or vote tallies were not changed.”

Two years later following the 2018 midterm elections, the Justice Department and Homeland Security said there was “no evidence” of vote hacking or tampering.

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Apr 2019 | 6:27 pm

Google’s Ivan Poupyrev shows off Jacquard, which connects his Levi’s jacket to the cloud

Ivan Poupyrev, the technical projects lead at Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects division, just gave a TED talk that was simultaneously a presentation and a demo of new technology.

Poupyrev was showing off Jacquard, a device that allowed him to use the sleeve of his jacket as a controller for his presentation slides. Google has talked about this work before, and there’s even a $350 Levi’s jacket available for purchase.

But today, Poupyrev actually used Jacquard to control his presentation, and laid out the vision behind the project. Although it didn’t quite work at first, once Poupyrev fixed things backstage and restarted his presentation, he could swipe forward on his sleeve to advance the presentation, or swipe back and revisit the previous slide.

Poupyrev didn’t offer many details about the Jacquard device itself, but he said it can be connected to clothing and other objects with just “a few electrodes,” and that it can recognize the object and then “reconfigure itself” to offer the right kinds of interaction.

The device he held up onstage was small and grey — I could have mistaken it for the key fob that I used to swipe into my old apartment. According to Poupyrev’s website, Jacquard also involves a conductive thread that can be woven on a standard loom.

Ivan Poupyrev

Ivan Poupyrev speaks at TED2019: Bigger Than Us. April 15 – 19, 2019, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Why would you want to control a presentation from your jacket sleeve? Poupyrev (who’s also worked as a researcher for Walt Disney Imagineering and Sony) described our current options for computer interaction as “disappointing,” so he’s been looking to “hack into the things you use every day and make them interactive.”

“We need to make technology that changes makers of things into makers of smart things,” he said.

As these everyday objects become more interactive and connected, Poupyrev said it’s important to avoid fragmentation: “We have to create a single computing platform, which powers all those things.” In his view, the cloud is that platform, with Jacquard serving as the connection between everyday objects and the cloud.

Poupyrev suggested that Google could give Jacquard tags to manufacturers to incorporate into their products. It’s rolling out first through the aforementioned partnership with Levi’s, and Poupyrev was wearing a Jacquard-powered Levi’s jean jacket onstage.

“This jacket I’m wearing can control my mobile phone and presentation, but it remains a jacket,” he said. In other words, you can add new interactivity to clothing or furniture without interfering with their core function — just as a smartphone can now browse the internet, take photos, install apps and more, while still allowing you to make phone calls.

Ivan Poupyrev

Ivan Poupyrev speaks at TED2019: Bigger Than Us. April 15 – 19, 2019, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

“We would like to let people who make those things — artists and engineers, brands and craftsmen — to imagine and create this new world where things are connected, where you don’t need keyboards and screens and mouses to interact with a computer,” he said.

After the presentation, TED’s Chris Anderson joined Poupyrev onstage. Anderson sounded impressed by the demo, but he also pointed out that it could “terrify some people,” since it potentially creates “the biggest ever surveillance network” for Google or another company.

When asked why Google would bring such a device to market, Poupyrev said, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a researcher.” Anderson pressed him on whether there needs to be “some kind of contract” ensuring that this data isn’t abused, to which Poupyrev replied, “I completely agree.” He said that in Google’s initial partnerships, “the data is completely locked in.”

“We’re trying to figure out what exactly are we going to do with this data,” he said. “We’re sensitive to this particular concern.”

Google and Levi’s ‘connected’ jacket will let you know when your Uber is here

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Apr 2019 | 6:23 pm

Breeze Automation is building soft robots for the Navy and NASA

San Francisco soft robotics startup Breeze Automation made its debut today onstage at TechCrunch’s TC Sessions: Robotics + AI event at UC Berkeley. Co-founder and CEO Gui Cavalcanti joined us onstage at the event to showcase the contract work the company has been doing for organizations like NASA and the U.S. Navy.

Cavalcanti last joined TechCrunch onstage in September 2016, decked out in aviator sunglasses and full American flag regalia as a co-founder of fighting robot league MegaBots. These days, however, the Boston Dynamics alum’s work is a lot more serious and subdued, solving problems in dangerous settings like under water and outer space.

Developed as part of San Francisco R&D facility Otherlab, Breeze leverages the concept of highly adaptable soft robotics. The company’s robotic arms are air-filled fabric structures.

“The concept Otherlab has been developing for around seven years has been this idea of Fluidic Robots, hydraulic and Pneumatic Robots that are very cheap,” Cavalcanti told TechCrunch in a conversation ahead of today’s event. “Very robust to the environment and made with very lightweight materials. The original concept was, what is the simplest possible robot you can make, and what is the lightest robot you can make? What that idea turned into was these robots made of fabric and air.”

Breeze separates from much of the competition in the soft robotics space by applying these principles to the entire structure, instead of just a, say, gripper on the end of a more traditional robotic arm.

“All of that breaks down the second you get out of those large factories, and the question of how do robots interact to the real world becomes a lot more pressing,” Cavalcanti says. “What we’re trying to do is take a lot more of the research around soft robotics and the advantages of being fully sealed systems that are moved with really compliant sources of actuation like air. It turns out that when you’re trying to interact with an environment that’s unpredictable or unstructured, and you’re going to bump into things and you’re going to not get it right because you don’t have full sensing of the state of the world. There’s a lot of advantages to having entire manipulators and arms be soft instead of just the end effector.”

Breeze showcased several works in progress, including a system developed for the Navy that uses an HTC Vive headset for remote operation. The company’s work with NASA, meanwhile, involves the creation of a robotic system that doesn’t require a central drive shaft, marking a departure from more traditional robotic systems.

“You’re now looking at robot joints that can handle significant loads, that could be entirely injection molded,” explains Cavalcanti. “You don’t need a metal shaft, you don’t need a set of bearings or whatever. You can just have a bunch of injection mold, or plastic pieces that’s put together and there’s your robot.”

Most of the company’s funding is currently coming from federal contracts from places like the Navy and NASA, but going forward, Breeze is shifting more toward commercial contracts. “Our mission right now is to harden our technology and prepare for real-world application, and that is pretty much 100 percent our focus,” he says. “Once we do harden it, there are a variety of options for going commercial that we’d like to explore.”

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Apr 2019 | 6:20 pm

Instagram could start hiding like counts
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Instagram might be changing up one of the most fundamental parts of its service: likes.

New screenshots suggest the company is testing a way to hide like counts in Instagram posts. Images uncovered by researcher Jane Manchun Wong reveal Instagram feed posts that no longer show exact like counts. Instead, you see that a post was liked by a few named handles "and others."

"We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get," Instagram says in an in-app message explaining the change. "During this test, only the person who shared a post will see the total number of likes it gets." Read more...

More about Tech, Facebook, Instagram, Tech, and Social Media Companies

Source: Mashable | 18 Apr 2019 | 6:14 pm

Alexa owners can listen to Amazon Music for free -- with ads
Rumors started circulating last week that Amazon was exploring a free, ad-supported tier of its streaming music service. Turns out there was something to those rumblings. Today, the commerce giant announced that Alexa device owners in the US will be...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Apr 2019 | 6:14 pm

‘Child’s Play’ trailer gets a smart home makeover, giving Chucky control over connected devices

Oh golly does the new trailer for “Child’s Play” look good.

Not only does it have appearances by Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill (as the voice of Chucky) and Bryan Tyree Henry (who’s awesome in Atlanta), but it’s giving Chucky a smart home makeover.

The demonically possessed doll now has the power to control networked devices like thermostats, drones, doors and pretty much any gadget in a connected home (from the looks of the trailer).

However horrifying the thought may be of a demon-possessed doll — imagine the damage it could do by taking over your trusty Alexa. Now that’s truly terrifying.

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Apr 2019 | 5:57 pm

Artists on Twitter are drawing their favorite shipping dynamics for this new meme
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Once you've binge-watched enough Netflix shows, you start to see a pattern in the characters you get invested in. You might even notice that certain types of romances have you hitting the "Next Episode" button faster than you can say "I ship it." 

Even if you don't actually read fanfiction in which romantic tropes are clearly defined and amped up to 11 (just check any of the tags on AO3.org or Fanfiction.net), there's at least one fictional dynamic that hits ya right in the feels, every time. 

SEE ALSO: Artist recreates her Pokémon fan art from childhood

Enter the latest meme going around Twitter, which has artists drawing visual depictions of their favorite ships. Would you like a scoop of some unspoken mutual pining? How about a helping of rivals who actually admire each other? Or, my personal favorite, a cup of punlord versus someone who pretends to hate their puns but secretly loves them?   Read more...

More about Twitter, Memes, Art, Culture, and Culture

Source: Mashable | 18 Apr 2019 | 5:54 pm

Microsoft is making VR better for those with vision problems
Virtual reality can be a rush to the senses, but not if you have vision problems. Microsoft researchers are trying to solve that problem via a tool kit for Unity VR developers to help players with low vision. Since vision problems vary by individual,...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Apr 2019 | 5:38 pm

JUUL Under Pressure

Source: Mashable | 18 Apr 2019 | 5:34 pm

The internet banded together to find a homeless man's lost pet rat. It worked.
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Good news, everyone: The homeless man whose pet rat was stolen has been reunited with his beloved fur baby!

Chris and Lucy are inseparable. The pair are often spotted around Sydney, Australia — while Chris chats with passerby, Lucy snacks on vegetables and naps. But on Apr. 6, Chris left Lucy on a milk crate while he used a nearby restroom. When he returned, Lucy was gone. 

A heartbreaking photo of a devastated Chris sitting on the street without Lucy was posted across social media. 

"My pet rat Lucy was stolen on Saturday," his sign read. "Lucy is black and white with a bite of brown." 

In a screenshot of an anonymous Facebook post posted to the subreddit r/trashy, a passerby said they were "genuinely distressed" to see Chris without Lucy.  Read more...

More about Pets, Wholesome, Culture, and Web Culture

Source: Mashable | 18 Apr 2019 | 5:32 pm

Index Ventures, Stripe back bookkeeping service Pilot with $40M

Five years after Dropbox acquired their startup Zulip, Waseem Daher, Jeff Arnold and Jessica McKellar have gained traction for their third business together: Pilot.

Pilot helps startups and small businesses manage their back office. Chief executive officer Daher admits it may seem a little boring, but the market opportunity is undeniably huge. To tackle the market, Pilot is today announcing a $40 million Series B led by Index Ventures with participation from Stripe, the online payment processing system.

The round values Pilot, which has raised about $60 million to date, at $355 million.

“It’s a massive industry that has sucked in the past,” Daher told TechCrunch. “People want a really high-quality solution to the bookkeeping problem. The market really wants this to exist and we’ve assembled a world-class team that’s capable of knocking this out of the park.”

San Francisco-based Pilot launched in 2017, more than a decade after the three founders met in MIT’s student computing group. It’s not surprising they’ve garnered attention from venture capitalists, given that their first two companies resulted in notable acquisitions.

Pilot has taken on a massively overlooked but strategic segment — bookkeeping,” Index’s Mark Goldberg told TechCrunch via email. “While dry on the surface, the opportunity is enormous given that an estimated $60 billion is spent on bookkeeping and accounting in the U.S. alone. It’s a service industry that can finally be automated with technology and this is the perfect team to take this on — third-time founders with a perfect combo of financial acumen and engineering.”

The trio of founders’ first project, Linux upgrade software called Ksplice, sold to Oracle in 2011. Their next business, Zulip, exited to Dropbox before it even had the chance to publicly launch.

It was actually upon building Ksplice that Daher and team realized their dire need for tech-enabled bookkeeping solutions.

“We built something internally like this as a byproduct of just running [Ksplice],” Daher explained. “When Oracle was acquiring our company, we met with their finance people and we described this system to them and they were blown away.”

It took a few years for the team to refocus their efforts on streamlining back-office processes for startups, opting to build business chat software in Zulip first.

Pilot’s software integrates with other financial services products to bring the bookkeeping process into the 21st century. Its platform, for example, works seamlessly on top of QuickBooks so customers aren’t wasting precious time updating and managing the accounting application.

“It’s better than the slow, painful process of doing it yourself and it’s better than hiring a third-party bookkeeper,” Daher said. “If you care at all about having the work be high-quality, you have to have software do it. People aren’t good at these mechanical, repetitive, formula-driven tasks.”

Currently, Pilot handles bookkeeping for more than $100 million per month in financial transactions but hopes to use the infusion of venture funding to accelerate customer adoption. The company also plans to launch a tax prep offering that they say will make the tax prep experience “easy and seamless.”

“It’s our first foray into Pilot’s larger mission, which is taking care of running your companies entire back office so you can focus on your business,” Daher said.

As for whether the team will sell to another big acquirer, it’s unlikely.

“The opportunity for Pilot is so large and so substantive, I think it would be a mistake for this to be anything other than a large and enduring public company,” Daher said. “This is the company that we’re going to do this with.”

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Apr 2019 | 5:18 pm

Google to serve up rival apps to Android users as part of EU deal
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It's not every day when a tech company recommends you check out its rival's product. But Google is being forced to do just that in Europe.

To comply with an EU antitrust ruling, the tech giant will show Android users alternative browser and search engine apps on Google Play. The store will serve up two pop-ups: one for search apps, the other for browsers. For each category, users will see a list of the top five apps.

Google's blog post on the upcoming update includes an example of what the pop-ups will look like. The image shows Google search and Google Chrome at the top of each list, followed by rival products such as Mozilla's Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and DuckDuck Go. However, the actual app recommendations will be shown in random order, and will vary depending on the country, the company said. Read more...

More about Google, Android, Eu, Tech, and Consumer Tech

Source: Mashable | 18 Apr 2019 | 5:14 pm

Industrial robotics giant Fanuc is using AI to make automation even more automated

Industrial automation is already streamlining the manufacturing process, but first those machines must be painstakingly trained by skilled engineers. Industrial robotics giant Fanuc wants to make robots easier to train, therefore making automation more accessible to a wider range of industries, including pharmaceuticals. The company announced a new artificial intelligence-based tool at TechCrunch’s Robotics + AI Sessions event today that teaches robots how to pick the right objects out of a bin with simple annotations and sensor technology, reducing the training process by hours.

Bin-picking is exactly what it sounds like: a robot arm is trained to pick items out of bins and used for tedious, time-consuming tasks like sorting bulk orders of parts. Images of example parts are taken with a camera for the robot to match with vision sensors. Then the conventional process of training bin-picking robots means teaching it many rules so it knows what parts to pick up.

“Making these rules in the past meant having to through a lot of iterations and trial and error. It took time and was very cumbersome,” said Dr. Kiyonori Inaba, the head of Fanuc Corporation’s Robot Business Division, during a conversation ahead of the event.

These rules include details like how to locate the parts on the top of the pile or which ones are the most visible. Then after that, human operators need to tell it when it makes an error in order to refine its training. In industries that are relatively new to automation, finding enough engineers and skilled human operators to train robots can be challenging.

This is where Fanuc’s new AI-based tool comes in. It simplifies the training process so the human operator just needs to look at a photo of parts jumbled in a bin on a screen and tap a few examples of what needs to be picked up, like showing a small child how to sort toys. This is significantly less training than what typical AI-based vision sensors need and can also be used to train several robots at once.

“It is really difficult for the human operator to show the robot how to move in the same way the operator moves things,” said Inaba. “But by utilizing AI technology, the operator can teach the robot more intuitively than conventional methods.” He adds that the technology is still in its early stages and it remains to be seen if it can be used during in assembly as well.

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Apr 2019 | 5:13 pm

Ubisoft pledges its support to the Notre-Dame Cathedral
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The French gaming company plans on donating over $500k for the restoration and reconstruction of the historic cathedral. Read more...

More about Mashable Video, Ubisoft, Assassins Creed, Notre Dame Cathedral Fire, and Notre Dame

Source: Mashable | 18 Apr 2019 | 5:05 pm

Amazon’s one-two punch: How traditional retailers can fight back
Aaron Rinberg Contributor
Aaron Rinberg is an associate with Battery Ventures in Herzliya, Israel.
Scott Tobin Contributor
Scott Tobin is a general partner with Battery Ventures in Herzliya, Israel.

If you think physical retail is dead, you couldn’t be more wrong. Despite the explosion in e-commerce, we’re still buying plenty of stuff in offline stores. In 2017, U.S. retail sales totaled $3.49 trillion, of which only 13 percent (about $435 billion) were e-commerce sales. True, e-commerce is growing at a much faster annual pace. But we’re still very far from the tipping point.

Amazon, the e-commerce giant, is playing an even longer game than everyone thinks. The company already dominates online retail — Amazon accounted for almost 50 percent of all U.S. e-commerce dollars spent in 2018. But now Amazon is eyeing the much bigger prize: modernizing and dominating retail sales in physical locations, mainly through the use of sophisticated data analysis. The recent reports of Amazon launching its own chain of grocery stores in several U.S. cities — separate from its recent Whole Foods acquisition — is just one example of how this could play out.

You can think of this as the Amazon one-two punch: The company’s vast power in e-commerce is only the initial, quick jab to an opponent’s face. Data-focused innovations in offline retail will be Amazon’s second, much heavier cross. Traditional retailers too focused on the jab aren’t seeing the cross coming. But we think canny retailers can fight back — and avoid getting KO’d. Here’s how.

The e-commerce jab starts with warehousing

Physical storage of goods has long been crucial to advances in commerce. Innovations here range from Henry Ford’s conveyor belt assembly line in 1910, to IBM’s universal product code (the “barcode”) in the early 1970s, to J.C. Penney’s implementation of the first warehouse management system in 1975. Intelligrated (Honeywell), Dematic (KION), Unitronics, Siemens and others further optimized and modernized the traditional warehouse. But then came Amazon.

After expanding from books to a multi-product offering, Amazon Prime launched in 2005. Then, the company’s operational focus turned to enabling scalable two-day shipping. With hundreds of millions of product SKUs, the challenge was how to get your pocket 3-layer suture pad (to cite a super-specific product Amazon now sells) from the back of the warehouse and into the shippers’ hands as quickly as possible.

Make no mistake: Amazon’s one-two retail punch will be formidable.

Amazon met this challenge at a time when automated warehouses still had massive physical footprints and capital-intensive costs. Amazon bought Kiva Systems in 2012, which ushered in the era of Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGVs), or robots that quickly ferried products from the warehouse’s depths to static human packers.

Since the Kiva acquisition, retailers have scrambled to adopt technology to match Amazon’s warehouse efficiencies.  These technologies range from warehouse management software (made by LogFire, acquired by Oracle; other companies here include Fishbowl and Temando) to warehouse robotics (Locus Robotics, 6 River Systems, Magazino). Some of these companies’ technologies even incorporate wearables (e.g. ProGlove, GetVu) for warehouse workers. We’ve also seen more general-purpose projects in this area, such as Google Robotics. The main adopters of these new technologies are those companies that feel Amazon’s burn most harshly, namely operators of fulfillment centers serving e-commerce.

The schematic below gives a broad picture of their operations and a partial list of warehouse/inventory management technologies they can adopt:

It’s impossible to say what optimizations Amazon will bring to warehousing beyond these, but that may be less important to predict than retailers realize.

The cross: Modernizing the physical retail environment

Amazon has made several recent forays into offline shopping. These range from Amazon Books (physical book stores), Amazon Go (fast retail where consumers skip the cashier entirely) and Amazon 4-Star (stores featuring only products ranked four-stars or higher). Amazon Live is even bringing brick-and-mortar-style shopping streaming to your phone with a home-shopping concept à la QVC. Perhaps most prominently, Amazon’s 2017 purchase of Whole Foods gave the company an entrée into grocery shopping and a nationwide chain of physical stores.

Most retail-watchers have dismissed these projects as dabbling, or — in the case of Whole Foods — focused too narrowly on a particular vertical. But we think they’re missing Bezos’ longer-term strategic aim. Watch that cross: Amazon is mastering how physical retail works today, so it can do offline what it already does incredibly well online, which is harness data to help retailers sell much more intelligently. Amazon recognizes certain products lend themselves better to offline shopping — groceries and children’s clothing are just a few examples.

How can traditional retailers fight back? Get more proactive.

Those shopping experiences are unlikely to disappear. But traditional retailers (and Amazon offline) can understand much, much more about the data points between shopping and purchase. Which path did shoppers take through the store? Which products did they touch and which did they put into a cart? Which items did they try on, and which products did they abandon? Did they ask for different sizes? How does product location within the store influence consumers’ willingness to buy? What product correlations can inform timely marketing offers — for instance, if women often buy hats and sunglasses together in springtime, can a well-timed coupon prompt an additional purchase? Amazon already knows answers to most of these questions online. They want to bring that same intelligence to offline retail.

Obviously, customer privacy will be a crucial concern in this brave new future. But customers have come to expect online data-tracking and now often welcome the more informed recommendations and the convenience this data can bring. Why couldn’t a similar mindset-shift happen in offline retail?

How can retailers fight back?

Make no mistake: Amazon’s one-two retail punch will be formidable. But remember how important the element of surprise is. Too many venture capitalists underestimate physical retail’s importance and pooh-pooh startups focused on this sector. That’s extremely short-sighted.

Does the fact that Amazon is developing computer vision for Amazon Go mean that alternative self-checkout companies (e.g. Trigo, AiFi) are at a disadvantage? I’d argue that this validation is actually an accelerant as traditional retail struggles to keep up.

How can traditional retailers fight back? Get more proactive. Don’t wait for Amazon to show you what the next best-practice in retail should be. There’s plenty of exciting technology you can adopt today to beat Jeff Bezos to the punch. Take Relex, a Finnish startup using AI and machine learning to help brick-and-mortar and e-commerce companies make better forecasts of how products will sell. Or companies like Memomi or Mirow that are creating solutions for a more immersive and interactive offline shopping experience.

Amazon’s one-two punch strategy seems to be working. Traditional retailers are largely blinded by the behemoth’s warehousing innovations, just as they are about to be hit with an in-store innovation blow. New technologies are emerging to help traditional retail rally. The only question is whether they’ll implement the solutions fast enough to stay relevant.

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Apr 2019 | 5:00 pm

Samsung updates Galaxy Buds with Bixby voice controls
Thanks to a recent firmware update, Samsung's Galaxy Buds now work with the company's Bixby voice assistant. In addition to having hands-free control of music and audio, users can now use voice controls to request a battery status update, change to a...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Apr 2019 | 4:30 pm

'Overwatch' travels to Havana for its latest map
Overwatch's Storm Rising brawl kicked off this week in a new locale: Havana. As with last year's edition of the Archives event, which saw the debut of Rialto, Blizzard is bringing its gorgeous take on the Cuban capital to the standard modes. It's the...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Apr 2019 | 4:11 pm

Netflix will invest up to $100 million in a NYC production hub
Netflix films many of its productions in New York City (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is just one example), so it only makes sense to have a large presence there, doesn't it? The company certainly thinks so. It's establishing an NYC production hub that w...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Apr 2019 | 3:49 pm

This smart grid program could save millions of tons of CO2 annually
smart-grid-energy

Ofgem, the U.K. government’s regulator for gas and electricity, has revealed that projects trialled under the Low Carbon Networks Fund (LCNF) could save 215 tonnes of CO2.

The program ran for six years, ending in 2015, with the aim of helping Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) develop cost effective and energy efficient solutions for the smart grid of the future.

Implementation of some of the smart grid projects could see benefits of between $6 billion to $10 billion, according to the Ofgem review.

See Also: Will autonomous microgrids drive IoT in smart cities?

“Today’s review has found that network companies have improved their innovation, which is significant progress,” said Jonathan Brearley, a senior partner for networks at Ofgem.

“However, there is great potential to go further. Our challenge to the companies is to build on this progress and become high-level innovators, while delivering more for less. Involving third parties in the projects will help network companies take this next step,” he added.

Looking out for a new energy grid

The LCNF provided $750 million over the six years to companies large and small that were developing innovative solutions for the energy grid.

“It is important that companies take this opportunity. We need a more innovative grid which will allow consumers to get the most out of their smart meters which are being rolled out across the UK,” said Brearley.

Ofgem will now run a Network Innovation Competition (NIC) each year, a successor to the LNCF, which will provide £70 million per year for innovative projects.

Several reports have said that Britain will not be able to achieve the goals set out at the Paris Agreement earlier this year, if it continues to pollute the Earth with the same amount of carbon as its using currently. This fund could be one way to reduce the country’s usage, without effecting the consumer in any way.

The post This smart grid program could save millions of tons of CO2 annually appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 14 Dec 2016 | 10:00 pm

3 benefits a smart city can gain from smart infrastructure
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The Internet of Things is sweeping across the globe at breakneck speeds, and before we know it, our entire lives will be facilitated by connected technology.

We’re already seeing the IoT make an incredible impact on how the industrial world operates, and we’re seeing it seep into household goods to bring convenience and efficiency to consumers’ lives.

However, one less-explored (but fast-growing) area where connected technology is poised to make a big splash lies in the public sector: Specifically, how municipalities incorporate smart technology into their environments to save money, enhance the lives of their constituents, and entice the best and brightest businesses to set up shop within their borders.

Living in a Smart City

Imagine using a digital voice assistant like Siri to buy tickets for a big concert. Then, as your autonomous vehicle chauffeurs you to the venue, the streetlights lining the road form a cocoon around you, turning on as you approach and turning off soon after you pass. City-sponsored drones zip around overhead, looking out for any traffic bottlenecks that might impact your journey.

Then, when you pull up to the municipal garage outside the arena, a kiosk tells you exactly where the nearest vacant parking spot is, making the experience a stress-free breeze.

This is just a small sampling of what life will be like in a smart city. But even in this simple example, several key details went into creating the smooth experience. Among them: The streetlights must respond to the presence of a vehicle, the drones flying overhead must know how to identify and report traffic patterns, the municipal parking lot must be able to track each spot’s occupancy, and so forth.

Coordination is key

Too often, city departments dive headfirst into the realm of connected technology without coordinating their efforts. For example, the utilities department will deploy one network for its smart meters, while the department of transportation uses a different one for its energy-efficient streetlights. Ultimately, this results in a variety of compatibility issues that leave cities with headaches and high costs.

On top of that, with this uncoordinated approach, key day-to-day data ends up siloed off within departments. This makes it difficult for city leaders to fully capitalize on the treasure trove of insights made possible by the IoT. Unnecessary resources must be devoted to connect this siloed information, which results in a slower analysis process and could lead to accuracy issues.

Also, due to the fact that network longevity concerns have plagued the IoT throughout its existence, a city utilizing more networks than necessary is only making things more difficult (and costly) for itself once the next sunset comes around. Therefore, city departments must work in tandem when deploying IoT technologies, keep network longevity in mind, and strive to keep things as streamlined as possible.

The perks of a cohesive Smart City

When properly built, smart cities reap countless benefits that include:

1. Sustainability. Cities that embrace IoT technology can optimize their use of resources, including water, fuel, energy, and even waste. The city of Los Angeles, for example, installed LED bulbs in its streetlights and successfully cut its energy use by 60 percent. The Dutch city of Eindhoven took things even further by installing streetlights similar to the ones I described earlier — they turn on and off depending on how busy the street is.

Aside from saving the environment, smart cities save big bucks thanks to their IoT initiatives. Los Angeles’ LED bulbs save the city $8 million per year, and the city of Barcelona saved more than 75 million euros in 2014 by adopting IoT-driven smart water, lighting, and more.

2. Community. A city that illustrates a commitment to improvement through smart initiatives is more likely to build strong, well-informed, and healthy communities.

For example, by creating an autonomous smart bus network and offering free citywide Wi-Fi, Barcelona has effectively encouraged its residents to drive less, walk more, and get out and explore the area. As a result, pollution levels have decreased, obesity rates have dropped, and residents feel engaged with their hometown.

In America, Atlantic City, N.J., is embracing smart technology by installing LED streetlights that feature charging stations and display screens that keep citizens informed of current events and emergency announcements.

3. Growth. Smart cities don’t just save municipalities money and improve the lives of current residents; they also attract new residents. Who wouldn’t want to live and work in a city with great air quality, low utility costs, reliable public transit, and free-flowing Wi-Fi?

Businesses in particular flock to cities that take care of their smart infrastructure because it lowers operating costs. One study predicts the global business community will spend more than $18 billion incorporating smart technology into buildings in 2017 — which far surpasses the $5.5 billion it spent back in 2012.

The energy savings in smart buildings make the move worthwhile, typically paying for itself on an enterprise level within a year or two. Smart windows alone can save up to 26 percent on cooling and 67 percent on lighting costs.

In order for a smart city to truly bring its IoT-driven features to life and see long-term value in its investment, it must create a cohesive and holistic smart infrastructure. Every department must be involved and understand how IoT-driven solutions can benefit them, and they must work together to create a seamless, streamlined experience that optimizes life for its current (and future) residents.

When smart cities operate in harmony, their citizens, industries, and environments all thrive.

John Horn joined Ingenu after serving as president of RacoWireless, a leading provider of machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity solutions. He led the company to record growth and multiple awards for its accomplishments, including recognition as the “Most Innovative Company” and “Entrepreneurial Company of the Year.” Before joining RacoWireless, Horn was a leader at T-Mobile for more than nine years.

The post 3 benefits a smart city can gain from smart infrastructure appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 14 Dec 2016 | 9:15 pm

PARC secures federal funding to develop peel-and-stick sensors
parc-xerox-sensors

PARC, the research and development arm of Xerox, announced on Tuesday that it has secured part of $19 million in federal funding from the Energy Department to develop peel-and-stick sensors for homes, businesses, and other buildings.

The peel-and-stick sensors will be able to detect air quality, temperature, humidity, occupancy, and more, according to PARC. Instead of using batteries, which are hard to recycle, the sensors will be powered using RF energy.

See also: Xerox beacon technology brings retail to commuters

“Sensors need to be low-cost, easily deployed, require little or no maintenance, and be able to store enough energy to do their job. PARC’s flexible, printed and hybrid electronics enable the unique peel-and-stick form factor, provide affordable, plug-and-play installation, and allow for remote radio frequency power delivery,” said David Schwartz, project lead and manager of Energy Devices and Systems at PARC.

PARC thinks that the peel-and-stick functionality will give the sensors compatibility in all scenarios, since it removes the hard installation process and provides more a deeper and more accurate understanding of the building environment.

PARC sensors could be adopted to other markets

The peel-and-stick sensors could be adopted in other markets, including building efficiency applications, smart cities, industrial and resident safety, and wearables.

“Distributed, networked sensing and data collection is the basis of the IoT. PARC is poised to provide a variety of the IoT sensors given our deep and rich history in printed electronics,” said Schwartz.

PARC is one of 18 selected projects by the U.S. Department of Energy to improve the efficiency of America’s buildings. Earlier this year, the Energy Department revealed the annual energy bill for the entire country was $430 billion.

“Improving the efficiency of our nation’s buildings presents one of our best opportunities for cutting Americans’ energy bills and slashing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “These innovative technologies will make our buildings smarter, healthier, and more efficient, driving us toward our goal of reducing the energy use intensity of the U.S. buildings sector by 30 percent by 2030.”

The post PARC secures federal funding to develop peel-and-stick sensors appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 14 Dec 2016 | 8:30 pm

Get My Parking launches smart city pilot in India
Get My Parking

Studies of traffic congestion regularly point much blame at cars circling for parking. To tackle this perennial problem, Get My Parking is joining a smart city initiative to launch a smart parking pilot in India.

As reported in Firstpost, the Delhi-based startup’s technology is being tested in government smart city initiatives.

“We are getting a lot of traction from various municipal corporations,” said Get My Parking CEO Chirag Jain. “We have started a pilot project in Jaipur.”

See also: Greek startup Sammy guides boats to shore — and parking

Jain describes his company as providing a technological solution that allows the smart location of free parking spots through a smartphone app. The technology was the brainchild of alumni from IIT Madras and FMS Delhi.

He explained that the need for his company’s solution came from examination of how chaotic parking systems lead to many vehicles driving slower than the normal flow of traffic as they seek a spot to leave their cars.

“Just imagine when hundreds of cars are doing that at the same time,” said Jain.

Get My Parking received recent kudos from senior government figures including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The praise came from the successful use of the startup’s technology that helped ease traffic chaos during Kumbh Mela, the mass Hindu pilgrimage where members of the faith travel to bathe in a sacred river.

Get My Parking attracting investor interest

The company is also attracting the attention of investors. Recently the startup drew a first funding round from Chennai Angles and is hoping to close its second round of financing soon.

One of the areas that Jain says is of key importance is ensuring the parking technology integrates into smart city infrastructure in a secure way to keep citizens safe.

“Security is of prime concern as we work with a lot of consumer data,” he said. “The security is taken care of accordance to utmost privacy for our consumers.”

The interest in developing such smart city technology comes as India is expanding its internet infrastructure to facilitate growth in Internet of Things technology.

The post Get My Parking launches smart city pilot in India appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 14 Dec 2016 | 7:27 pm

Do fitness wearables need an affordability upgrade?
tomtom-wearable-bluetooth-headset

According to a recent Gartner survey, almost a third of fitness tracker or smartwatch owners end up ditching them. The survey studied about 9,000 users from the U.S., Australia and the U.K. Reasons for the dropped tech use vary from wearables breaking, to just becoming bored of them.

“Dropout from device usage is a serious problem for the industry,” said Angela McIntyre, Gartner research director. “The abandonment rate is quite high relative to the usage rate.”

See also: How to use your wearable’s VO2 max feature in your fitness routine

According to McIntyre, it is time for wearable devices to get creative and offer consumers something they cannot typically find on their IPhones or Android handsets.

“To offer a compelling enough value proposition, the uses for wearable devices need to be distinct from what smartphones typically provide.  Wearables makers need to engage users with incentives and gamification,” she explained.

As it stands, the smartwatch adoption rate is only 10 percent. However, fitness wearables have reached the early mainstream categorization, sitting at 19 percent.  Virtual reality headsets like the Oculus rift are currently at 8 percent.

Most owners of fitness trackers and smartwatches tend to buy their own. Thirty-four percent of fitness wearables are given as gifts, and only 26 percent of smartwatches, such as Apple Watches, are gifted.

Most users wear their health tracking devices all day, yet not all enjoy putting them on. Fitbits and other health monitoring gadgets are also more popular in the U.S. than in Australia.  They are a bit more popular in Australia than they are in the U.K.

And looks could also be part of the problem

Of those surveyed by Gartner, 29 percent believe fitness trackers are ugly. Finding one that looks nice can be costly, said Mikako Kitagawa, principal research analyst at Gartner. “Fitness tracker cases and wristbands designed by fashion brands are sold as higher-priced upgrades, which may be a barrier to purchase,” she explained.

The U.S. currently is the leader in actual smartwatch purchase rates, followed by the U.K and then Australia.  A majority of owners are 44 years of age or younger, and more than half use their smartwatches on a daily basis.

 

The post Do fitness wearables need an affordability upgrade? appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 14 Dec 2016 | 3:00 pm

Using IoT to help farmers to protect livestock from fires
Nare IoT

An increasing number of farm fires are being caused by electrical arc faults, a high-power discharge of electricity between two or more conductors. Nare IoT Labs, a South Korean startup, has developed a cost effective solution to prevent and warn farmers of any faults, before the fire starts.

The system, called “Prevention System for Electrical Arc Fires,” is bundled into a small Internet of Things (IoT) module that can recognize the difference between a harmless arc and a dangerous one that could spiral into a fire.

See Also: How Honeywell and the post office are making Christmas bright

With that knowledge, Nare IoT is able to send warnings to a farmer’s smartphone and let the farmer turn off a power grid near the electrical arc to avoid further damage. Inside the module is an alarm, which goes off when a dangerous electrical arc happens.

“The rise Internet of Things was an opportunity for us. Affordable modules and network fees allow vendors like us to create more sophisticated systems cheaply,” said CEO Choi Seoung Wook, the founder of Nare IoT Labs.

Started with farm security cameras

Choi has previously built security cameras for farmers to spot robbers and report them to the police, a crime that was become more commonplace in South Korea. The startup sells a bundle for farmers to receive the complete security package, but Nare’s technology can also be bought al-a-carte if farmers only want a certain module.

Nare IoT is only available in South Korea at the moment, though there are plans to bring it to Japan as an OEM. Choi said to ZDNet that he plans to export the system to European and Asian markets, albeit with different marketing and sales practices.

This is another example of IoT providing meaningful solutions to customers that do not have large budgets. The system has already been installed in 500 farms in South Korea, and is already reducing insurance costs for farmers.

The post Using IoT to help farmers to protect livestock from fires appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 14 Dec 2016 | 2:13 pm

Google’s Waymo to put big car firms in the robot car driver’s seat
waymo

A new report says Google has spun out its self-driving unit — now called Waymo — and is undertaking a major pivot away from making its own autonomous vehicles, instead moving to become a provider of self-driving car tech for major automakers.

These Google car revelations revealed in a lengthy report on tech site The Information.

See also: Google self-driving project set to graduate from labs

If the suggestions prove true, Google and its parent company Alphabet are undergoing a major shift away from developing their own self-driving cars. The Google cars were eventually to get rid of traditional user control mechanisms like foot pedals and steering wheels.

“Google Car executives had long made clear the company’s true mission of building a car that didn’t have a steering wheel or pedals, and the two-person prototypes in fact had what were considered to be temporary gear given that a safety driver is required to test self-driving tech,” recounted the USA Today article.

Instead, the tech giant is now reportedly refocusing its efforts on developing self-driving vehicle technology that can be incorporated into traditional cars.

This would represent a major scaling-back of Alphabet’s ambitious eight-year project to develop autonomous vehicles requiring no traditional user control mechanisms.

Furthering the speculation of Google’s change in focus is The Information’s news that the “Chauffeur” self-driving car team is being moved out of Google X’s future technology focused “moonshot” division.

The Information suggested increasing competition in the self-driving car space prompted Google Co-Founder Larry Page to reconsider the autonomous vehicle program focus.

Self-driving field is getting crowded

In recent years, many new players have rushed into the self-driving car field, including startups like Drive.ai and processor-maker Nvidia. As well, traditional carmakers are also diving deep into the technology to develop new versions of their vehicles.

This apparently sparked Google’s fear of being left behind in an increasingly aggressive race to commercialize the new car technology. And hence the move to become a  technology provider for traditional car manufacturers became the preferred option.

Industry experts suggest that the goal for both car makers and technology firm is to develop autonomous transportation for ride-sharing services rather than individual consumers. Ride-sharing based business models include increased profit potential from the vehicles being in constant service unlike private robotic cars.

As evidence, drive-sharing colossus Uber has recently proven to be among the most aggressive companies in the race to develop self-driving cars.

The post Google’s Waymo to put big car firms in the robot car driver’s seat appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 13 Dec 2016 | 9:30 pm

Aye! Smart city projects squirrel away $31m in Scotland
Mountain view point over Edinburgh city.

Scotland’s seven major cities are teaming up to develop a number of smart city projects, backed by a $31 million war chest.

According to Scottish Construction Now, the seven cities will springboard off the funding to collaboratively develop themselves into future-capable digital hubs.

See also: Outdated thinking on wireless could doom UK smart cities

The smart cities program is under the mantle of the Scottish Cities Alliance, which includes Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth and Stirling along with the Scottish government.

European Regional Development Funding will contribute $13 million to smart cities initiatives, with another $18 million chipped in by the seven cities.

“By working together Scotland’s cities are utilizing economies of scale to learn individually and share that knowledge collectively, to be at the cutting edge of Smart City technology and the benefits that brings,” said Andrew Burns, Chair of the Scottish Cities Alliance. “Our inter-city approach to developing Smart City solutions has been praised publicly by the European Commission and we have attracted the attention of other nations who are looking to emulate our collaborative model.”

A variety of smart city programs have already been given the green light to begin development in Scotland.

Intelligent Street Lighting projects are being piloted in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Perth and Stirling. The lighting technology will incorporate LED bulbs and connected sensors, and is expected to provide energy savings and improved safety for the public and drivers.

Now the bins are smart, too

Smart waste management services will be developed in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Stirling and Perth. The waste projects will incorporate smart bin technology that improve efficiency by alerting workers to empty the garbage cans only when full.

Besides these infrastructure-related projects, Scottish cities will see the development open data initiatives under the smart city programme. The cities will build data publication platforms that incorporate data analytics capabilities.

The cities expect to the open data projects sparking better decision-making on urban issues which will improve services and efficiencies.

The Scottish initiatives come amidst a global rush to develop smart city programs. However, experts suggest that early stage smart cities often struggle to develop clearly defined entry points.

The post Aye! Smart city projects squirrel away $31m in Scotland appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 13 Dec 2016 | 8:30 pm

5 futuristic connected car technologies that are here now — or will be soon
city-cars-road-traffic (1)

With trends like ride sharing, autonomous vehicles, and the connected car, the auto industry is increasingly in the spotlight. As drivers contemplate letting computers take over control of the wheel for them, it brings up some important questions. What will cars of the future look like? What things will drivers be able to accomplish on their rides to work? And most importantly, what cool features will they be able to enjoy now that their attention doesn’t have to be on the road?

1. No parking skills? No need to fret

Parking sucks, especially the dreaded parallel. It’s often tricky in congested areas, it sometimes leads to smashed alloy wheels and it’s deeply embarrassing when not done correctly, which is why most are happy to hand over valet duties to a robot. Ford, Renault and many premium brands already own a system that will hunt down parallel and reverse parking spots and then use sensors and cameras to correctly steer the vehicle into the space, only calling upon a human for throttle inputs.

But things are about to get a whole lot easier, as BMW and Mercedes-Benz now boast tech that simply requires a prod of a smartphone for perfect parking results. BMW’s Remote Control Parking is already on the 7 Series  —  and due to be rolled out on more models next year — and sees the car autonomously reverse into and pull out of spaces, while Mercedes’ Remote Parking Pilot does a similar thing but also caters for perpendicular parking. The latter will appear on the new E-Class, which is due out late this year or early 2017.

2. Connected from the road to the kitchen

When your car knows to open the garage door and turn the AC on as you head down the road, you know you’ve hit peak connectivity. The ease of access for drivers as cars become a tool to become your personal assistant is rapidly advancing. The latest multimedia systems allow for emails to be read and sent, hands-free calls to be made and Twitter to be updated on the move by some of the largest car manufacturers like Nissan. Some even know to power themselves!

The cars of the future will be an extension of your home. As the auto industry combines to meld with the IoT revolution, we’ll see connectivity that we’ve never had before. Wouldn’t it be great to record your favorite television show when you’re running late by communicating with your vehicle? The cars of the future and you will end up being quite the team. Can’t wait or don’t want to buy a new car? Adapters from companies like Autobrain, Automatic and Vinli will turn your car (as long as it’s built after 1996) into the 4G connected, Wi-Fi enabled, connected car of the future.

3. A mobile living room

When car owners are no longer required to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel because computers are in the driver’s seat, the journey will be just as important as the destination. To the discerning 21 century mediaphile, this means HD screens, on-demand content streaming and one-kick ass, next-generation audio system to experience it with, just like one might in their living room but with the bonus of a smaller space and killer surround sound. Companies such as Auro-3D have partnered with companies like Porsche to introduce three-dimensional spatial sound patterns that replicate real-life sound experiences that are reminiscent of the best concert halls, but all in the comfort of your own car. This set up delivers the best-possible music playback to make every trip a new driving experience, not just a ride.

4. Goodbye dials, hello gestures

Why touch, when you can wave? Rear-view mirrors, radios, and more are moving away from the antiquated dial system to understand hand gestures through infrared cameras. Touch screens are increasingly becoming the easiest way to communicate with your vehicle over fumbling with dial switches. But the cars of the futures don’t want to have you even deal with potential smudges to that chrome finish. Thanks to leadership from Audi and Volvo, in efforts to de-clutter the dashboard to make you safer and more efficient, we’re going to see even touch screens get the boot as swipes and gestures will be the simplest and safest way to control functionality. Wave goodbye to those dials.

5. Never lose your keys again

We’ve seen in recent years the shift from key to keyless entry but next-generation cars take this one step further by completely removing them altogether. In the future, drivers will be able to unlock and start their cars using a fingerprint, retina scan or voice activation—similarly to how we access our smartphones today. And with how much time drivers save by not tearing the house apart looking for lost keys, they might be able to finish that book or learn a new language—or not. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about your teenager taking your car out without permission ever again. “Open the driver door, Tesla!” “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that.”

With all the cool new car technology on the horizon, it’s enough to make anyone want to give up public transit to commute in bumper-to-bumper traffic to catch up on shows, listen to the hottest new album release or just hang out with friends.

The post 5 futuristic connected car technologies that are here now — or will be soon appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 13 Dec 2016 | 7:30 pm

Tech world aims to tackle the mental health issue next
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Several months ago, CCS Insight surveyed 2,000 people in the US and UK about what they would most like to have tracked about themselves, and a large portion of them answered with, “stress levels.” It looks as though their requests are being answered.  Mental health is a big focus in the tech industry right now.

According to George Jijiashvili, an analyst at CCS Insight who focuses on wearable tech, “It has been suggested that by using galvanic skin response (GSR) technology, a user’s stress levels can be determined.”

See also: New mental health technology tells your doctor what you won’t.

Interestingly enough, computer vision is 82% accurate at reading human emotions, which is better than humans themselves. So it is no wonder that what are coming next in the tech world are wearables that read exactly what is going on in a person’s emotional health, not just physical, and align it with what is going on in the individual’s life.

One way to look at what is in store for sensing emotions is to break it down into analysis and algorithms, input and output in the form of apps. Some innovations have already been looked at, like temporary tech tattoos that can read facial expressions, but there is more interest in practical emotion sensing gadgets that could easily go mainstream and assist in monitoring mental health.

“Jawbone and Basis have previously used GSR technology in their wearables to determine perspiration levels and heart rate, but I believe that its potential hasn’t been fully explored yet. I continue to believe that next year Fitbit and other major players in the wearables space will start expanding the capabilities of their device by adding additional sensors,” says Jijiashvili.

Several million users have been added to the mobile app, Headspace, over the past few months.  Several others have started using manual mood-watching Apple Watch apps, such as Thriveport. Pebble is a company that has users enter their mood levels throughout the day via its Happiness app. However, the fate of the Pebble Happiness study is in questions, after the Fitbit buyout. Apparently, Fitbit is interested in the software, and it might just show up in future Fitbit trackers.

How emotion tracking works

The most difficult parts of emotion tracking are the algorithms behind how biometric sensors and manual mood diaries work to provide insights given based on breathing and changing lifestyle habits. Any company focused on this will probably not be interested in sharing their algorithms, but a couple of companies such as Vinaya and its upcoming Zenta, along with the makers of the Feel wristband, have discussed the basics of their science.

Zenta is a biometric bracelet that measures galvanic skin response, along with heart rate and heart rate variability, and combines this with a person’s digital life — calendar, social media — to construct a picture of his or her emotional life.  Vinaya’s algorithms match physiological signals to emotions like affection, anger and melancholy based on an academic model.

“What technology can enable us to do today is truly amazing. But as we let our devices and virtual realities distract us from the present and negatively impact our wellbeing, we should recognize that this is an unbalanced relationship,” says Kate Unsworth, Vinaya’s co-founder. “We’ve built a lab in London, where our team conducts research and experiments into things like stress, anxiety, sleep, happiness, peace and fulfillment.”

There are some other pretty interesting things being offered in this new world of mental health tracking.  Intel and British-Cypriot fashion designer, Hussein Chalayan, have collaborated to turn emotions into art. They use brainwaves, heart rate and breathing tracking “smart glasses” to gather data on emotions such as nerves, stress and attraction. Then they analyze them and turn them into videos. In each case, the visualizations change as respiration or heart rates change in real time.  This project will be featured in the Design Museum in London until April.

It looks as though 2017 is set to be a big year for wearable tech that focuses more on our mental health. Monitoring health can play a big part in preventing many diseases. Our emotional wellbeing is critical, and the tech world is noticing.

The post Tech world aims to tackle the mental health issue next appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 13 Dec 2016 | 6:30 pm