Lets talk about Cambridge Analytica

Last week the U.K.’s Channel 4 News exposed data mining company Cambridge Analytica in a series of hidden camera videos. The videos show Cambridge Analytica employees admitting to stealing Facebook data as well as offering to send prostitutes to the opposition to obtain blackmail material.

Cambridge Analytica obtained the Facebook data by getting it from an academic claiming to be producing a study. 250k users were paid to take a personality quiz and allow access to their data, however the company scraped data from all of their friends, leaving 50M exposed to the breach.
This firm is funded by Trump ally, hedge fund billionaire, Robert Mercer, and was the brain child of Steve Bannon. That the Trump Campaign was possibly using illegally obtained data is now a big topic of discussion.
Turns out Facebook new about this breach since 2015. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg were notably quiet in the first few days of this news cycle and Facebook’s stock lost $59 billion in value in the first few days. Zuckerberg came forward with an apology. 

I want to share an update on the Cambridge Analytica situation — including the steps we've already taken and our next…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Why it’s hot?
We continue to talk about how our unregulated internet is booth a boon and a detriment to humanity. Facebook seems in this case to be asking itself to be regulated (literally “I’m not sure we shouldn’t be regulated”). We should be thinking about how we should put some limits on what can be done by these social behemoths.

AI Births The First White Collar Criminal

The Brazilian edition of business magazine Forbes has created a provocative strategy to spotlight the issue of corruption, which is flourishing while the nation continues to struggle economically.

Working with Ogilvy Brazil, Forbes has personified the issue by creating a fictional character to represent the estimated $61bn that corruption costs the nation annually. The result is Ric Brasil, an AI-generated avatar whose aggregated ‘earnings’ from white collar crime would place him at number 8 in the upcoming Forbes 2018 billionaire list.

The features and persona of Ric Brasil have been developed by technology companies Nexo and Notan drawing on existing data and images held on convicted corporate criminals. Over the last eight months this material has been analysed along with information sourced from media reports, witness statements, interviews and books covering two of Brazil’s most infamous corruption cases.

According to the magazine’s CEO, Antonio Camarotti, ‘Forbes wants to take a stand against corruption. We thought of this campaign as a way not only to raise public awareness to the extent of the issue, but also to value honest business people—those who comply with their duties, pay taxes, and shun taxpayer’s money as a way to make a fortune. Someone who won’t let himself be lured into corruption practices.’

Members of the press will be able to interview Ric Brasil in the run up to the launch of the billionaires list on April 16.

Source: Contagious

Why It’s Hot:

Part of the problem with corporate crime is that while it has a cost, it’s often hard to find a way to channel public anger against what can feel like a victimless crime. By literally putting a face on an intangible, distributed crime – vividly ‘bringing the problem to life’ – Forbes has a better chance of getting people to connect with the issue.

gesture control comes to amazon drones…

Amazon has been testing drones for 30 minute or less deliveries for a couple of years now. We’ve seen their patents for other drone-related ideas, but the latest is one describing drones that would respond to both gestures and commands. In effect, they’re trying to make the drones more than sentient technological vessels, and more human-friendly, so if the drone is headed toward the wrong spot you could wave your hands to indicate its error, or tell it where to set your item down for final delivery. As described in the source article:

Depending on a person’s gestures — a welcoming thumbs-up, shouting or frantic arm waving — the drone can adjust its behavior, according to the patent. As described in the patent, the machine could release the package it’s carrying, change its flight path to avoid crashing, ask humans a question or abort the delivery.

Among several illustrations in the design, a person is shown outside a home, flapping his arms in what Amazon describes as an “unwelcoming manner,” to showcase an example of someone shooing away a drone flying overhead. A voice bubble comes out of the man’s mouth, depicting possible voice commands to the incoming machine.

“The human recipient and/or the other humans can communicate with the vehicle using human gestures to aid the vehicle along its path to the delivery location,” Amazon’s patent states.”

Why it’s hot:

This adds a new layer to the basic idea of small aerial robots dropping items you order out of the air. The more they can humanize the robots, the more they mimic actually deliverymen. And given the feedback we have seen on social about Amazon’s own human delivery service, this could be a major improvement.


A Drone That Understands You

Amazon is filing for new patents. Not for a therapy drone, but a delivery drone that responds when you call or wave at it. The concept drone is designed to recognize human gestures, and then respond accordingly. Gestures the drone would recognize include, for example, waving arms, pointing, the flashing of lights, and speech.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/22/17150868/amazon-drone-patent-delivery-wave-speech-recognition

“The human recipient and/or the other humans can communicate with the vehicle using human gestures to aid the vehicle along its path to the delivery location,” the patent states. The patent gives an example of a “shooing” motion, which the drone would recognize and stop moving closer. The drone would also then adjust its speed and the direction it’s moving in. If a person waves their arms in a welcoming manner, the drone can interpret the gesture as an instruction to deliver the package.

There’s no word on when or even whether the gesture-recognition system might debut. Amazon declined to comment.

Why it’s hot:

  • It’s the evolution of drone delivery. Human-machine interaction is changing as devices need to cater to individual needs.

AI is helping hospitals in China cope with a doctor shortage

AI is quickly becoming a promising technology for healthcare around the world, but China is gearing up to become THE global leader in AI in healthcare in the coming decades.

Why China, and why now? Three reasons:

  1. China has a low doctor-to-patient ratio – 1.5 doctors for every 1,000 people in China, compared with 2.5 for every thousand in the US, so the need is pronounced
  2. The Chinese government announced last summer that they are pursuing global dominance in AI by 2030 through heavy investments in the industry
  3. The restrictions on AI tools and data in healthcare are fairly relaxed, allowing for quick approval and implementation

This market is also being targeted by China’s big tech companies. Both Alibaba and Tencent have research units for developing AI diagnostic tools, and a Beijing-based consultancy reported 131 companies currently working on applying AI to China’s healthcare industry. Per IDC, the AI healthcare market in China will reach nearly a billion dollars (USD) by 2022.

Though there are many different types of AI tools being developed, image processing is the biggest category now. The tools, which rely on image classification, play to the strength of the latest deep-learning algorithms. And, it’s one of the things doctors need the most help with from a volume POV. For example, next month, a hospital in Beijing that treats a jaw-dropping 10,000 outpatients every day will start running all its lung scans through an algorithm that expedites the screening process. The algorithm, developed by a Beijing-based startup called PereDoc, can quickly spot nodules and other early signs of lung diseases. It allows doctors who are overwhelmed by patient volume process these scans in an accurate and expedited way.

Why It’s Hot: The general consensus around AI, in the US at least, is that it’s COMING FOR OUR JOBS! But this is a wonderful example of how emerging technologies can actually fill urgent gaps in critical industries, allowing for faster and more effective treatment and a better patient experience.

Learn More: Engadget | Technology Review

sell my old clothes, i’m off to the cloud…

In the latest episode of life imitating art is a Y Combinator startup whose proposition is essentially uploading your brain to the cloud. Per the source: “Nectome is a preserve-your-brain-and-upload-it company. Its chemical solution can keep a body intact for hundreds of years, maybe thousands, as a statue of frozen glass. The idea is that someday in the future scientists will scan your bricked brain and turn it into a computer simulation. That way, someone a lot like you, though not exactly you, will smell the flowers again in a data server somewhere.”

Why It’s Hot:

What’s not hot is you have to die in order to do it, but what’s interesting is the idea of exploring our consciousness as almost iPhone storage. That reincarnation by technology could be possible.


Bring me to life (wake me up inside)

Now to those who believe in prophecies this may seem like the end of the world. To be frank, a lot of people think that this may be a step too far … but it’s for science! Apparently someone at Swedish funeral agency, thought it would be brilliant if they can create an AI “replicate” of deceased loved ones so that families can have them back in their lives. They’re asking for donations (yes they’re asking for all the corpses) so that they can try to create a synthetic replica of the deceased’s voice.

Why it’s not hot:
Basically The world is going to end and we’re just going to be replaced by the AI replicas of the dead. Fun.

source: https://www.outerplaces.com/science/item/17942-dead-loved-ones-black-mirror-style-ai-copies

Robots find new way to suck the fun out of living

A couple of dudes named Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo “have smashed the previous record for solving the Rubik’s cube robotically. Their machine solved the puzzle in 0.38 seconds—a 40-percent improvement over the previous record of 0.637.”

Story on Gizmodo

Below is the old record from 2016. Slackers.

Why It’s Hot

This has obvious implications for the future of work. Imagine how many iPhones this thing will be able to crank out in the future.

3D Scale Is The Future Of Your Body Complex

The ShapeScale, a 3D body scanner that can provide enough information for even the thirstiest data fanatic. The ShapeScale, which cost $499 pre-order, uses body scanning to create a 360-degree, 3D digital avatar of you, complete with measurements and body composition stats.

The round scale looks like any other, but there’s an arm extending from it that has a camera. This arm circles around you about four times, taking extremely detailed photos of your body. Using the combination of these images and your actual weight, ShapeScale creates the avatar. The entire process is supposed to take about 30 seconds.

Then, on an app, you see the data. It shows your weight, of course, alongside measurements — hips, waist, thighs, arms, and so on. It also gives you body composition and even provides body fat percentage by body part, so you can know if your torso is 20 percent fat. You’re supposed to do it wearing form-fitting clothing, which I was not, so I didn’t receive my measurements. But I did see my avatar, and it looked extremely accurate.

The co-founders say that ShapeScale’s technology could work well with e-commerce; they’re among those collaborating with some clothing companies to explore the idea of letting people virtually try on products.

Why It’s Hot

  • One of the big reasons why people fall of the exercise wagon is because they can’t see results. This could be a strong motivator to stay onboard.
  • One more example of brands/services that are providing uber individualized services, which is a trend we have been seeing.
  • This has interesting retail implications, especially with the rise of e-commerce and the growing amount of returns


Source: The Verge


Microsoft launches app that helps the visually impaired navigate cities

Microsoft launched Soundscape, a new app that aims to help people who are visually impaired navigate better by giving them 3D cues.

They don’t want to replace guide dogs or canes but enrich people’s perception of their surroundings. A guide dog can’t tell you that there’s a Nike Store just around the corner. Using GPS and the built-in compass on the phone, the app can give people audio cues.

“Obstacle avoidance is not the problem, we have a dog, a cane and our blindness skills for that,” said Erin Lauridsen, Access Technology Director, LightHouse for the Blind.“The gap is knowing where things are and being able to decide what’s of interest.”

The app offers three possible actions: ‘locate’ tells you where you are, ‘around me’ calls out four points of interest around you and ‘ahead of me’ provides the names of five landmarks in front of you.

Why it’s hot:
It might not be a groundbreaking innovation and in terms of technology, it might not be the most advanced thing. But there’s nothing better than seeing technology been used to improve the quality of life of people.

Source: TechCrunch

Voice AORs are here

“We want to get organized around having voice as a core part of our marketing efforts and marketing campaigns,” says JPMorgan ChaseChief Marketing Officer Kristin Lemkau. “Voice is not only coming; it’s here, and in a multitasking world, it’s really significant,” she adds.

JPMorgan Chase has brought on VaynerMedia as their Voice agency of record. They’ve seen how other brands have invested heavily into Facebook and Snap, but they see Voice as a whitespace where they can be one of the first brands to really be ahead of the curve.

So what will the work look like (or sound like)?

An example could be someone asking JPMorgan a quick question via Alexa, like “What’s my balance?” A skill could be someone asking: “If I keep saving the way I am now, how long would it take for me to buy this house?” or “What can I spend on vacation next week?”

When it comes to the more personalized questions, like checking an account balance, JPMorgan’s internal team will work to figure out all of the data security and cyber protection issues, with counsel from VaynerMedia, says Lemkau. The company is looking at all voice platforms right now – not just Alexa – and is looking to release its first voice activations later this year.

Why it’s hot: This legitimizes Voice as a real channel that brands (outside of the parent companies like Amazon for Alexa) can leverage to connect with their customers. I expect this to be the first of many brands putting a much larger focus on Voice.

Read more: http://adage.com/article/agency-news/jpmorgan-chase-brings-vaynermedia-voice-aor/312150/

Improved AI-powered photo stylization

A team of students and researchers has developed an improved algorithm for stylizing the content of one photo using another photo as a style reference. According to the research paper, “experimental results show that the stylized photos generated by our algorithm are twice more preferred by human subjects in average. Moreover, our method runs 60 times faster than the state-of-the-art approach.”

Previous methods at automated photo stylization have focused on matching color statistics and while they “[show] impressive performance for artistic style transfer (converting images to paintings), [they] often [introduce] structural artifacts and distortions (e.g., extremely bright colors) when applied to the photorealistic image style transfer task.” The new method, diagrammed in the image below, involves two discrete steps, stylizing and smoothing. The styling step (F1) maps the content photograph (Ic) to an intermediate image (middle) with the style of the style photograph (Is). The second smoothing step (F2) then removes artifacts and anomalies introduced by the first step, producing a more photorealistic result (right).

Why it’s hot

While there are certainly some Black Mirror-ish implications that come along with the ability to manipulate images to create fake photorealistic photos, this development is also an exciting move in our understanding of neural networks and accommodating for their limitations. It’s exciting to think of the creative possibilities of bringing new life to old photographs and possibly, eventually, movies?

Read the full report and see more amazing examples

IndieCade East Recap

This past weekend there was a festival for indie games at the Museum of Moving Images in Queens. There were a ton of amazing talks and indie games doing all sorts of interesting and unique things, but here are a few I saw that stood out to me:


During the festival there was a 10 hour game jam going on where game designers had to create a new alt-ware game using an unreleased platform, Blinks, inspired by the work of the indie game designers, Jason Rohrer.

Blinks is a new alt-ware gaming platform where there are multiple hexagon tiles that can “talk” to each other. Games can be programmed on one tile and then transfer data about the game to others.The designers of the platform needed more games for the platform so they made it extremely easy to code new games on it and sponsored this game jam. A few teams were able to finish making games in a couple of hours so they decided to make more. Here’s a video and instructions for a game on the platform:

  1. The players take turns.
  2. On your turn, you break the array of tiles into two chunks and put them back together in another formation. 
  3. When a tile has at least two neighbors but none match its color, it blinks with happiness.
  4. The first player whose tiles are all happy at once wins.

Getting Over It:

The creator of the popular frustrating game QWOP and GIRP is back with a new ridiculously challenging game called Getting Over It.  The user plays as a man stuck in a pot trying to get over a trash mountain using a giant hammer. Just like Foddy’s other games, this one involves very unintuitive controls making the interaction of controlling the avatar the challenge of the game. The best part about seeing it at the expo is that the creator was there giving encouraging commentary to users as they failed miserably at playing his game. It was hilarious.

You can buy it on Steam here for Windows and MacOS.

You can buy it on the iOS App Store here.


Beyond the screen:

Oh man, this talk was so good! Here’s the description from the schedule:

Ubiquitous computing, Internet of Things, Immersive Theater, Physical Computing, Augmented Reality – the stunning growth of technological and artistic possibility for interaction design is driving games, play, and interaction out of our flat screens and into the truly interactable space of the real world. IndieCade co-founder Celia Pearce explores this brand new world of play in a talk for designer and players alike.

One of the cofounders of indieCade, Celia Pearce, went through a presentation that highlighted dozens of the great games that broke away from using a screen as the interface. I’ll try to hunt down the full deck and see if she’s maybe able to come in to demo a few of them to us if that’s something we think is useful, but here’s the one I thought was most unique.

Fear Sphere is a horror game played in a pitch black inflatable sphere. One person crawls inside an inflatable dome with a projector with a gyroscope inside of it, to help them find their way out of a virtual maze. Other players stay outside with a map to guide them. The projector is used like a flashlight to give a sense of being in a pitch black world.


Thoughts and Prayers the Game:

This game wasn’t at the expo but I was told about it while there. It’s a great example of how games can include political opinions and have messages within them. The idea of the game is that you send thoughts and prayers after mass shootings and your score is how many lives you’ve saved. Spoiler: it’s always zero.



More info about IndieCade here

You can’t buy me love…but you can buy loyalty

Spending on loyalty programs is through the roof – experiencing an annual compounded growth rate of nearly 21 percent. And no wonder – returning customers spend up to 67 percent more than first-time customers.

But most loyalty programs don’t generate loyalty. One recent study found that customers of retailers that offer a loyalty program were not more loyal than customers of those that don’t. Another recent study found that only 42 percent of loyalty program members are active or engaged. While it pays to have loyal customers, you can’t simply pay customers to be loyal.


What if instead of paying customers to be loyal, those same customers actually paid the companies they want to be loyal to?

It’s a concept Amazon understands well. In the latest quarter, Prime membership grew by 47 percent. Prime members spend 250 percent more a year than non-members. And while standard loyalty programs tend to bleed engagement over time, Prime members actually become more engaged.

What companies like Amazon, GameStop, Sephora and Restoration Hardware understand is that there’s a difference between loyalty and love. Loyalty simply means you’ve managed to put a card in the customer’s wallet. Paid membership means you’ve secured a place in the customer’s heart. At the same time, charging a membership fee creates an onus on the part of the company to deliver value against the heightened expectations the fee creates.

Read more: Business of Fashion

Why It’s Hot
Expanded notions of loyalty in CRM can benefit both the company and consumer – a mutual value exchange that can breed longer-lasting brand love.

The Next-Gen Clothing Brand: Everlane

Since launching the company in 2011 as a direct-to-consumer clothing brand committed to “radical transparency,” Preysman and his team have been strategically expanding its scope. Defying the reign of fast-fashion heavyweights like Zara and H&M, Everlane has used its website and social media handles to offer customers a glimpse into its factories around the world, give voice to the workers making its garments, and share a price breakdown of each product it sells. Shoppers can see that Everlane’s original $15 American-made tee costs $6.50 to produce—and that the company’s markup is significantly less than the $45 that traditional designer brands tack on.

Everlane’s forthright messaging, coupled with its spare, fashion-forward aesthetic, has turned customers into emissaries—and inspired a slew of upstart fashion brands, such as shoemaker M.Gemi and technical clothier Aday. “Everlane provided a model for how to communicate that our quality is what we say it is,” says Scott Gabrielson, founder of accessories startup Oliver Cabell. Preysman is also pioneering new approaches to retailing, making use of steady product launches, waiting lists, and limited inventory to both predict and drive demand. “Everlane created a sense of urgency and exclusivity [around its products],” says Marshal Cohen, an analyst with market research firm NPD.

Everlane uses its waiting lists, along with real-time data and customer feedback, to make inventory decisions. When in doubt, it stocks less. And when items sell out—which happens a lot—Everlane can restock quickly, thanks to its close relationships with its more than two dozen factories worldwide. All of this generates the specter of scarcity, which Preysman leverages: Customers sign up for early access to new clothes and to be notified when popular ones are back. Last year, when Everlane’s new ballet-inspired heels sold out within three days, 28,000 people added their names to the waiting list. This steady communication with customers is so important to Preysman that, until a few weeks ago, he was involved in drafting every single email.

To avoid the appearance of discounting, Preysman developed a Choose What You Pay model for overstocked items, where customers can pick up, say, a dress shirt for one of three different prices. The website explains that the lowest one lets Everlane recoup its costs, while paying more allows it to invest in future product development. Twelve percent of shoppers opt to pay more.

Why it’s hot?

(1) Transparency, transparency, transparency!

Everlane is the definition of championing transparency – and it pays off! They clearly articulate their brand values of ethics, price and design that differentiate them from other competitors. They market their brand values first, products second.

(2) Agile inventory management  

Everlane is also smart about how to leverage inventory data. They strategically stock less and use wait lists, early access data and customer feedback to determine if/when they should stock more resulting in a strong pricing model and reduction of wasted inventory.


  • https://www.fastcompany.com/40525607/how-everlane-is-building-the-next-gen-clothing-brand
  • https://www.everlane.com/

Welcome to your dystopian future

Hiding behind a locked door won’t save you from rogue killer robots anymore thanks to Boston Dynamics’ new innovation. These new models can handle a doorknob pretty well as evidenced by the company’s new teaser video.

Story on TechCrunch

Why It’s Hot

It’s hot from the perspective of technological achievement. It’s not so hot if you ever need to hide from one of these.

The Future of Access

Latch, a competitor in the smart-lock space, revealed today that they will be the lock maker of choice for Airbnb’s newest housing experiment Niido. Latch is a patent lock system that would allow e-commerce orders to be delivered directly into a home – while offering access credentials to any service.

Latch is only sold to managers running apartments and condos, for the simple fact that those managers buy in bulk and also face more complex problems related to building access. Users can use a key pad, phone or key card to get in to a building. The app allows for residents and managers to send out access codes to whoever they like that expire however long they designate. The delivery of hardware and service is the appeal for Niido – building managers can centrally manage all the Airbnb guest and create an accurate activity log. Every tenant using the service is charged $5 – as the lock itself is only an aspect of Latch’s business model.

What is Niido?

Niido is a new residential design concept specifically for home sharing. Tenants will sign annual leases and will be permitted to home share individual rooms or their entire units through Airbnb for up to 180 nights per year. Tenants who choose to share their homes will be part of Airbnb’s Friendly Buildings Program, in which hosts and landlords share revenues generated from home sharing.

Why It’s Hot

In a sea of smart locks, Latch stood out by targeting real estate developers rather than the average consumer – helping property managers navigate the operational burden with ease. Latch is demonstrating their value as more than a hardware or software company, and instead positioning the brand as a service that offers security, seamless access and simple management to consumers and customers alike. We’re moving towards a future where your user profile replaces your key.


  • https://www.fastcodesign.com/90160614/the-future-of-airbnb-and-amazon-might-hinge-on-a-smart-lock
  • https://press.atairbnb.com/airbnb-niido-to-partner-to-support-home-sharing-in-apartments/
  • http://fortune.com/2017/12/19/airbnb-niido-branded-apartments-investment/

What would Steve Jobs do?

“Apple’s HomePod is a great-sounding but ideologically flawed speaker, and it turns out there’s another major problem with the smart speaker aside from its lack of support for Spotify. Apparently the silicone base of the HomePod can damage wooden furniture, with multiple outlets (including Wirecutter and Pocket Lint) reporting that leaving the speaker on top of wooden surfaces can cause a white ring to form.

Apple has confirmed the issue to Wirecutter, stating that “the marks can improve over several days after the speaker is removed from the wood surface,” with the company also recommending that users “try cleaning the surface with the manufacturer’s suggested oiling method” if the white rings don’t fade. Given that HomePods aren’t meant to be put on a soft surface (the tweeters fire down, so putting it on cloth messes with the reflectivity of the sound), it’s not the sort of problem you can solve by just putting down a cloth underneath it, either.”

Source: The Verge



What Amazon, JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway have in common?

“JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway have joined forces with Amazon to form a new healthcare company for all U.S. employees. Right now details are so sparse there’s not even a name associated with the new company. However, this is big news for the industry, and it could possibly have ramifications not only for health insurance giants, but also smaller tech companies that are open to either partnering with the company — or even being acquired by it.

The decision didn’t come overnight. According to reports, the heads of each company — Jamie Dimon, Warren Buffet and Jeff Bezos — have chatted for years about how to fix the problem of high costs and a broken healthcare system.

‘The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,’ Buffet said in a statement out this morning. ‘We share the belief that putting our collective resources behind the country’s best talent can, in time, check the rise in health costs while concurrently enhancing patient satisfaction and outcomes.”

Why it’s hot:
If the system is not working, you have to break the system – probably that’s what these companies and its leaders have in mind.

Source: TechCrunch

No Food Left Behind

An average restaurant might waste 100,000 pounds of food a year. Of the 50 billion pounds wasted en masse by restaurants across the U.S., only 1.4% is donated. Most edible food ends up in dumpsters. Any attempts to donate food might have involved multiple calls and complicated coordination, taking time that restaurant workers and short-staffed shelters/food banks didn’t have.

To solve the problem, a collaboration between DoorDash and Feeding America was born.

Using MealConnect, a Feeding America app, restaurants can now snap a photo of extra food, and the platform finds a nearby food bank, shelter, or other nonprofits that need it. Then DoorDash uses its delivery algorithm to find the most efficient way to transport it. DoorDash drivers who donate their time then come to collect and deliver the food.


Why It’s Hot:

-It’s not only a solution for the shelters, but also for the restaurant who are able to clear space as well as limit their waste

-It’s a great example of tech-for-good vs for profit

-It’s a plug and play solution that runs itself (more or less)

Source: FastCo.

GM planning on selling cars with no steering wheel in 2019

Cruise, General Motors’ autonomous vehicle unit, plans to mass produce a self-driving car without a steering wheel or pedals by 2019. GM says it has submitted a safety report as well as an application to regulators to approve the design, its fourth-generation model.

Along with the omission of driver-centric features, Cruise’s next-generation car is designed for ride-hailing passengers in mind. Riders will be able to summon one via a mobile app and adjust settings like interior temperature.It has no controls whatsoever, not even buttons you can push — it 100 percent treats you as a passenger, no matter where you sit. The car can even open and shut doors on its own.

The company describes it as “the first production-ready vehicle built from the start to operate safely on its own, with no driver, steering wheel, pedals or manual controls.”

Why It’s Hot:

Though 2019 is a year away, only seven states currently allow for driverless cars, and Cruise’s home state of California is in the process of passing a bill to allow for this. It has also applied for needed exemptions to federal regulations. If the company is able to get the green light, they will be the first successful company to have a mass-produced autonomous vehicle cruising the streets of the U.S.

MIT Engineers Design Chip That Works Like Brain Synapses

MIT engineers have engineered a chip that mimics the human brain’s synapses, in a big development for the field of neuromorphic computing (aka computing that’s structured like neurons) and a step forward toward developing portable neural networks.

This chip is a big deal because human brains are, for now anyway, much more powerful than any computer. They contain 80 billion neurons, plus 100 trillion synapses that connect and control the flow of signals between the neurons. This vast network is remarkably hard to manifest in a computer chip because until neuromorphic computing, chips have always communicated in binary, with two signals: On and Off.

Brain synapses, however, can precisely control communication between neurons by adjusting their activation depending on the amount and kind of ions crossing the synapses. Essentially, communicating with chips is like painting in black and white (no mixing!), and communicating with brain synapses is like painting with an endless palette of colors.

Here’s a comparison: in 2013, a supercomputer using 83k processors and a petabyte of memory took 40 minutes to simulate one second of 1% of neural activity in a brain. (!!!)

The chip developed by the MIT engineers isn’t the first neuromorphic chip to be announced – Intel and IBM have tried to do so in the past, but their construction materials caused inconsistent synaptic activity, so the chips were unreliable. This MIT-created chip is using a new approach, designing the artificial synapses with a material called silicon germanium. This material allows for a precise control of the strength of the electrical current flowing between them, just as synapses can control the flow of ions between neurons. Unlike previous chips, this one thus far has proven to be incredibly reliable.

And the chip works: in a simulation, it recognized handwriting samples with 95% accuracy, compared to the 97% accuracy of existing software. The next step is to actually build a chip that is capable of carrying out the handwriting recognition task, with the end goal of creating portable neural network devices.

Why It’s Hot: Developing a chip that can successfully mimic synaptic communication would be a massive leap forward for the future of AI. Tasks and processes that we currently need supercomputers to execute would be possible to run from the phone in your pocket. The ramifications for medicine, science, and surely lots of goofy and sinister tech developments alike are endless.

Learn More: Engadget | Science Alert

Walmart’s latest grocery war tactic

Walmart has filed a patent application for a system that would allow customers to view individual fresh items remotely before purchasing them.

The “Fresh Online Experience,” or FOE, would allow customers to order produce, meat and bakery items online using stock photos, but then have the opportunity to approve the actual items being purchased via image scans (either two- or three-dimensional) sent to them by Walmart store workers. Once an item is approved by the customer, an “edible watermark” could be applied to the item before it was packaged for pickup or delivery to verify that it was the item the shopper had selected.

Walmart Perishables

The system could also be automated to reduce the involvement of store personnel, according to the filing.

The patent application is one of several that Walmart has filed related to e-commerce. Last year, the company filed an application for a patent on a blimp-style drone for delivery, and another for a mini-store build into consumers’ homes that could be stocked from outside by Walmart delivery workers and accessed by shoppers inside the home.

All this is part of Walmart’s fight for grocery dominance; grocery already representing over half of Walmart’s revenue. Outside of patents, in December 2017 Walmart unveiled a meal kit option and a partnership with Buzzfeed that will integrate Buzzfeed recipes with Walmart groceries.

Source: Supermarket News

Why It’s Hot
With online grocery sales predicted to grow to $100 billion by 2025, it’s fascinating to watch how players big and small try to get their share.

Welcome to Gattaca – or Meet the real Okjas.

After a year of trying, a lab from the University of California that is led by the Australian Geneticist Van Eenennaam, had just used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to add a gene called SRY to some bovine skin cells.

What does it mean?

CRISPR: gene editing tool that enables scientist to make changes on the DNA in the embryo phase,  so they can remove or edit bad genes or just make animals more profitable. It has been used to create pigs that are immune to viruses and sheep whose wool grows longer.

SRY: a bit of DNA that can make a female turn out to be essentially male—with bigger muscles, a penis, and testicles (but unable to make sperm).

It means that the industry will be able to have only male animals and in this case, male cattle – Van Eenennaam likes to call this the “ Boys only” project.

But, why would the industry take advantage of that? Basically, males grow bigger and faster, which means…more steak.

Why it’s hot:
This is scary. Of course, we can discuss the positive effects that editing bad parts of DNA can have on animals and people.  But do we need that? What are the risks of it? How can it change the way we live together?

Source: MIT Technology Review

Astronomers Using AI to Analyze the Universe – Fast

The next generation of powerful telescopes will scan millions of stars and generate massive amounts of data that astronomers will be tasked with analyzing. That’s way too much data for people to sift through and model themselves — so astronomers are turning to AI to help them do it.

How they’re using it:

1) Coordinate telescopes. The large telescopes that will survey the sky will be looking for transient events — new signals or sources that “go bump in the night,” says Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Tom Vestrand.

2) Analyze data. Every 30 minutes for two years, NASA’s new Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will send back full frame photos of almost half the sky, giving astronomers some 20 million stars to analyze. Over 10 years there will be 50 million gigabytes of raw data collected.

3) Mine data. “Most astronomy data is thrown away but some can hold deep physical information that we don’t know how to extract,” says Joshua Peek from the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Why it’s hot:

Algorithms have helped astronomers for a while, but recent advances in AI — especially image recognition and faster, more inexpensive computing power —mean the techniques can be used by more researchers. The new AI will automate the process and be able to understand and identify things that humans may not even know exists or begin to understand.

 “How do you write software to discover things that you don’t know how to describe?There are normal unusual events, but what about the ones we don’t even know about? How do you handle those? That will be where real discoveries happen because by definition you don’t know what they are.” – Tom Vestrand National Laboratory




Ikea Brings New Life To Print

Ikea creates products for your everyday life. But as we know life comes at you fast. Sometimes it can all change in an instant and rather than just acknowledging these moments, IKEA took action.

In their latest ad in Amelia magazine, which is hailed as one of  Sweden’s most influential magazines for women the call to action is not “visit our store or website” but asks the female reader to pee on the ad, as it could change their life.

The IKEA Crib that is prominently featured has a strip along the bottom where the woman can apply urine. With a next level “pregnancy strip” embedded into the paper a positive test will reveal a new and discounted price for the crib – offering the holder the IKEA family discount.

Why It’s Hot

With the attitude that “print is dead” this ad literally and figuratively brings new life into the medium. By engaging with their consumers, and offering a reason to shop – IKEA may achieve what all marketers want: a connection with the consumer that drives them to purchase.


Could genetic testing help thwart the opioid crisis?

Why some people become addicted to oopiods and some do not has become somewhat of a mystery in the medical community. But the story is familiar; patient gets prescribed an opioid pain killer, and by the end of their course of treatment, they have developed a dependency (knowingly or not). But what if a genetic test could signal whether a person is more likely to develop an addiction, and therefore at higher risk from the moment they enter the doctor’s office?

That’s exactly what the medical analytics company Prescient Medicine has set out to do with their LifeKit Test- a genetic test that determines within 97% sensitivity how addictive your genetic response to opioids will be. Using an algorithm they developed based on genes that signal addiction in neural pathways, they give each test subject a score out of 100, with anything 52 or higher showing an elevated risk of addiction.


Perhaps LifeKit and advancements in genetic testing could be the preventative measure needed to stop this national health crisis, and even aid with substance abuse of all kinds. As genetic testing becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, it may arm doctors with the knowledge to offer alternatives that could saves millions of lives.

SOURCE: https://www.fastcompany.com/40513391/is-genetic-testing-part-of-the-solution-to-the-opioid-crisis

Justin O’Beirne on Google Maps Moat

Justin O’Bierne, a cartographer from San Francisco, has a great article about the huge distance between Google Maps, and Apple Maps. Mr. O’Beirne writes a lot about maps, especially online maps. His most recent article centers around buildings. Namely, how is it possible that Google has so many buildings on their maps, even in very small towns?

Gif by Justin O’Beirne

This is something that Google has been adding in the last few years. Mr. O’Beirne notes that Google isn’t just adding addressed places, but they’re adding garages and other structures as well.

Gif by Justin O’Beirne

Not only are they doing that, their buildings are highly detailed..

Image by Justin O’Beirne

He goes on to examine a full range of buildings across the US, that show up as highly detailed models in Google Maps. He also shows that Apple and Bing have nothing even close to this imagery, so what’s going on? How are they doing it?

The answer lay in an old press release, dug up by Mr. O’Beirne. The models are coming from computer vision analysis of Google Earth satellite imagery. So, as summed up in a gif:

Gid by Justin O’Beirne

Not only is Google doing this, but it’s doing it FAST, and much faster than it’s competitors. As Mr. O’Beirne notes:

Just two years after it started adding them, Google already had the majority of buildings in the U.S. And now after five years, it has my rural hometown—an area it still hasn’t Street View’d (after 10+ years of Street View).

Graph by Justin O’Beirne

Finally, Google has also introduced another feature into Maps: Areas of Interest. Area’s of Interest are known by another name is academic research: Commercial Corridors. They’re typically defined by locations with densely packed shops and restaurants. This may seem simple, but it presents a problem to Google: how do you display all of those places on a map without the place names overlapping? If you can’t show all of the businesses, which businesses get picked? How will the user know, at a glance, which areas of the city are areas of interest?

As you can see in this screenshot of my neighborhood, Google has solved this by creating areas of lightly shaded orange.

Not a fancy gif

Justin O’Beirne notes that these areas are not smoothly defined, they seem to be form by conglomerations of actual buildings, and when you zoom in, Google is actually locating where physically the businesses sit in each building.

Also not fance

So how do they do THAT?

Well, this post is very long now so I’ll just show you a couple more gifs that Mr. O’Beirne made:

As Mr. O’Beirne notes:

…so this makes AOIs a byproduct of byproducts:

To sum up: Google made a map of the entire Earth available on Google Maps, and then used computer vision to create detailed models of precisely located buildings. It also sent a car with a camera around the world to all the road’s that it could to give street view imagery, and then analyzed that information for signs and other details. It then combined all of that information to create precisely detailed, located buildings with precisely accurate location information for businesses and areas of interest in cities. As Mr. O’Beirne notes, Google is making data out of data.

And that’s why Google is so far ahead.

Germany is Taking Hate Speech Online to Task

As of 1/1 Germany’s new anti-hate-speech law has come into effect. The new law promises fines of up to 50 million euros ($60 million, £44 million) for non compliance.

The law requires social networks to remove hate speech in under 24 hours from when it’s flagged by a user. Networks are given one week to deal with less clear cases.

Hate speech has seen a recent up tick online. YouTube stars accused of anti-Semitism; Trumps tweets against immigrants and Muslims.

Why it’s hot?

The real question is whether this has a positive effect on the rest of the internet.  With geolocation, it’s possible to keep the hate speech ban specific to Germany and German citizens. Depending on how tight the laws were written….the rest of us just might be in luck….

Also, fun fact. There’s a word in german for this kind of speech Volksverhetzung, in English “incitement of the masses”, “instigation of the people”