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07.17.17 | 5:43 am

Elon Musk warns that AI represents “a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization”

Musk made the comments to U.S. governors attending the National Governors Association Summer Meeting on Saturday, reports Engadget. Musk warned:

"I have exposure to the very cutting-edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned about it. I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don't know how to react, because it seems so ethereal."

"AI is a rare case where we need to be proactive about regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it's too late."

07.26.17 | 3 hours ago

Why Amazon is getting into AR

Patents don't necessarily mean products, but they can certainly give an indication of the direction a company is taking, or that it wants its customers and/or partners to take. So an Amazon patent published yesterday gives us a little insight into how the e-commerce behemoth thinks augmented reality could boost its business.

The patent, first filed in 2013, is titled "Augmented Reality Presentation," an entirely anodyne way of saying that Jeff Bezos's company–which, remember, just spent billions on Whole Foods so that it can build out its brick-and-mortar business–thinks customers could one day use AR to try on clothing or other accessories, like rings or watches. It "describes using product data from an e-commerce website to generate highly realistic augmented reality images of products, including jewelry, glasses, watches, and furniture," wrote CBInsights about the patent. "The shopper could 'try on' the products before buying, which the patent argues could reduce returns (a major expense for many online retailers) and reduce the 'logistical issues and corresponding costs' of 'maintaining a storefront.'"

07.26.17 | 6:19 pm

Demonstrators rally outside Times Square Army office to protest Trump’s transgender military ban tweet

It wasn't long ago that protesters swarmed the U.S. Army Recruitment Center in New York's Time Square to pressure President Obama to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell," which he did in 2011.

But this morning Trump tweeted that he's banning transgender Americans from serving in the military "in any capacity," and now activists are back on the scene, protesting a commander-in-chief who's proved far less receptive to LGBT rights than his predecessor. 

07.26.17 | 6:00 pm

45% of Republicans would be cool with closing media outlets for inaccurate or biased reporting: poll

It's an understatement to say that the United States is polarized politically and that there's animosity toward the media. A lot of this has to do with news slant and rampant claims of "fake news." Whatever the reason, a new poll from the Economist and YouGov illustrates with data that, yes, there is a lot of animosity toward the media.

As part of a much larger survey conducted over the web, one poll asked 1,500 Americans if they were for or against "permitting the courts to shut down news media outlets for publishing or broadcasting stories that are biased or inaccurate." While 28% of the total respondents said they approved of this, 18% of Democrats and 45% of the self-identified Republicans were totally okay with the courts shutting down media organizations. 

A majority of Republicans, 55%, also said they support fines for media outlets that put out biased or inaccurate news reports, compared to just 12% who opposed the move. 

If you're looking for a good thermometer reading on the state of the news media—especially as it suffers regular attacks by Trump—look no further. Things are so polarized that nearly half of the Republicans asked said they'd be okay with the courts infringing on the right to free press. Somewhere, Peter Thiel is chuckling to himself

07.26.17 | 4:27 pm

Even as it runs out of space to show you ads, Facebook revenues surge 45% over last year

There had been some rumblings that Facebook's ad revenue growth was starting to slow (due to running out of places to put ads on your News Feed), and it may be. Still, Mark Zuckerberg's company continues to mint money, as its second-quarter earnings show. The company reported revenues of $9.32 billion, up 45% year-over-year, and ad revenues of $9.16 billion, up 47%. (That was more than twice the rate of Google's second quarter ad sales growth of 19 percent.) Facebook beat analysts' prediction of $1.13 a share, reporting EPS of $1.32.

The numbers also show that Facebook continues to be a mobile-first phenomenon for its 2.01 billion monthly users. It said 87% of its revenue came from mobile ads

07.26.17 | 4:00 pm

Car wash hack could be the first to cause the Internet of Things to “physically attack someone”

Amid widespread concerns about the security of connected devices, security researchers have demonstrated that internet-connected car washes can be hacked to trap drivers, soak them with water, or even attack them with the wash bay doors, Kim Zetter reports at Motherboard.

Researchers from WhiteScope and QED Secure Solutions found a way to hijack internet-enabled automated car washes and tested their tactic on an actual system, using their own vehicle. The machines, PDQ LaserWashes—increasingly popular in the U.S. in part because they don't rely upon attendants—run Windows CE and are connected to the internet so technicians can remotely service them. While they require a username and password, the default password is easily guessed, the researchers said. Once in through the web interface, they can take control of the whole system.

The car wash's software tracks where a carwash is in its cycle, making it easy to know when the wash is about to end and a vehicle to exit. An attacker can send an instantaneous command to close one or both doors to trap the vehicle inside, or open and close one door repeatedly to strike the vehicle a number of times as a driver tries to flee.

They plan to present the attack at this week's Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, but say they've already shared the details of the vulnerability with the system maker and the Department of Homeland Security. "We believe this to be the first exploit of a connected device that causes the device to physically attack someone," Billy Rios, the founder of Whitescope security, told Motherboard.

07.26.17 | 3:59 pm

This luxury shoe brand uses 3D technology to create the perfect-fitting heel 

Customization has been a big trend in the luxury fashion market. Brands like Shoes of Prey and Alive Shoes allow you to design shoes from start to finish. 

But a startup called True Gault, which comes out of beta next week, takes the process a step further by creating shoes that are customized to the biomechanics of a customer's foot. The brand has an iPhone app that allows customers to take three photos of each foot that are then processed using 3D measuring technology. The customer selects a particular heel style, which is then handmade in Spain to adapt to the unique characteristics of her foot. 

The company was founded by Sandra Gault, who spent her career at IBM and Kodak, before launching this startup. It was one of eight companies chosen to be part of the Google Accelerator program. Nina Garcia, the creative director of Marie Claire, has just signed on to be a consultant at the brand. 

07.26.17 | 3:20 pm

Viagra, sports, bad camo, and other things the military spends more money on than transgender health

Today, in a series of morning tweets, President Trump said the military will reimplement a ban on transgender people, and that the government "cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."

So just how much is the military spending on transgender people? According to a Rand study, cited by the Washington Post, it comes to between $2.4 million and $8.4 million every year. That may sound like a lot, but it's important to put that in perspective.

Here are a few other things the military spends even more on:

 • $84 million for Viagra & Cialis: The Post writes that the military currently spends $41.6 million every year on Viagra alone. That number balloons to $84.24 million when you add in all erectile disfunction medications.

 • $49 million for sports sponsorships: In 2014, the National Guard spent $49.1 million on sports partnerships that seemed frivolous to many people (including John McCain). This includes millions of dollars that went toward programs where the sports teams honor the military. 

 • $486 million on planes that couldn't be flown: In 2009, the Pentagon, the State Department, USAID, and other agencies spent billions on projects and items for the Afghan military that simply couldn't be maintained

 • $1.6 billion for tobacco use impact: While transgender health care costs a few million dollars, the cost of tobacco use in the military costs the Department of Defense over a billion dollars every year.  

 • $93 million on camouflage that doesn't work: The military shelled out millions of dollars to pay for dark green camouflage in Afghanistan called "HyperStealth Spec4ce Forest." The only problem is that 2% of the country is forest-covered, meaning these outfits are essentially useless. The effort, the head of U.S. oversight for Afghanistan testified, resulted in $28 million in excess costs to the U.S. taxpayer and, if unmodified, could cost an additional $72 million over the next decade. 

Undoubtedly there are many more examples. So keep this in mind when people try to explain that transgender healthcare is bloating the military budget, because that's just not true. 

["HyperStealth Spec4ce Forest" camouflage. Photo: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena]

07.26.17 | 2:28 pm

iPhone assembler Foxconn expected to announce Wisconsin factory–should we believe it?

The Chinese manufacturing giant (and Apple's biggest manufacturing partner) will reportedly announce plans today to build a new display factory in Wisconsin. If real, the facility would be a job creator and a big political bragging point for unpopular president Donald Trump and unpopular Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. 

But before you read the victorious tweets from Trump and Walker, know that Foxconn chairman Terry Gou is known as a deal-maker, willing to bargain down to the very end to get favorable tax incentives and legislative changes. Foxconn said it would build a $30 million factory in Pennsylvania back in 2013 but didn't follow through. In 2014 the company said it would invest $5 billion in India, but has so far not done so. Similar commitments in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Brazil have fallen far short of promises.

I truly hope this deal goes through, and I imagine the people at Apple would, too. But I'll wait until Foxconn lays down the money for Wisconsin land and starts hiring people (not robots) to start the "USA! USA!" chant.

07.26.17 | 1:35 pm

Here’s John McCain’s statement on Trump’s abrupt transgender military ban tweets

A day after delivering a win to Trump by casting a crucial vote on health care, Arizona Senator John McCain is blasting the president's abrupt tweets about banning transgender service members from the military.

"The President's tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter," McCain wrote on his Facebook page. Crucially, he added that the Department of Defense "has already decided to allow currently serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today." 

Check out the full statement here.

07.26.17 | 1:27 pm

Laid off by SoundCloud? This company wants to give you $10K to start something new

Executives at file transfer site WeTransfer just sent letters to everyone who was recently laid off at SoundCloud with an unusual offer: Don't accept a new job just yet, and we'll give you $10,000—minimal strings attached. The only other requirement for receiving the cash is a legit proposal outlining how they will use the money to further innovation in music in some way. The ideas just need to be original and compliant with the law. WeTransfer will accept submissions for about a month–up until August 21. 

Ten grand isn't much, but the company hopes it can at least give people some breathing room to work on their ideas before they make their next move. Why do this? For one, it's a fine P.R. stunt. Just look at this article I'm writing, for example. But the company says it also aligns with their quest to support creativity; WeTransfer says it has given away over 5 billion advertising impressions to artists and musicians in the last year. 

07.26.17 | 12:58 pm

Airbnb teams up with the NAACP to try to boost diversity on the platform—and in the company

Airbnb may be reeling from accusations of racism, both from its rivals and a hard-hitting survey, but it now has a powerful ally in its corner—the NAACP. The two household names have teamed up on a project to reach out to communities of color providing economic opportunities and bolstering Airbnb's supplier diversity.

"This groundbreaking partnership with Airbnb will help bring new jobs and economic opportunities to our communities," said interim president and CEO of the NAACP Derrick Johnson, in a statement. While details are still being worked out, the groups have hashed out a few key points, including planned community meetings and educational campaigns, working to boost the number of U.S.-based Airbnb employees who are from underrepresented populations (right now at a paltry 9.6%). The partnership will also include a revenue-sharing program where Airbnb will give 20% of the earnings it receives as a result of these new community outreach efforts to the NAACP. Sounds like a win-win, especially as Airbnb tries to fight those lingering racism charges.

07.26.17 | 12:44 pm

LinkedIn just announced a smart but spooky new tool

LinkedIn is now offering a new free reporting tool to companies. Website demographics let marketers see what types of professionals are clicking through to their websites. It's "a powerful way to tune your marketing to those visitors, and develop better targeting and content for your campaigns," according to the LinkedIn announcement. 

They'll be able to see members' job title, industry, company, location, and more so they can target their efforts accordingly. 

While it makes sense for marketers, it's just another way that data that you put in online profiles is up for grabs. 

[Photo: Nan Palmero/Wikimedia Commons]