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06.01.16 | 5:56 am

Facebook is using AI to block harmful images so humans don’t have to

Normally the job of browsing potential harmful images was done by a group of human content moderators, a job that "is notoriously terrible, psychologically injuring workers who have to comb through the depths of depravity, from child porn to beheadings," reports TechCrunch. But now Facebook's director of engineering for Applied Machine Learning Joaquin Candela has revealed that the company is putting its powerful AI to work on the front lines, scanning and spotting harmful images as they are being uploaded by a user, allowing the company to block them before any human ever sees it.

"We have more offensive photos being reported by AI algorithms than by people," Candela told TechCrunch. "The higher we push that to 100%, the fewer offensive photos have actually been seen by a human."

09.26.16 | 38 minutes ago

Check out the BBC’s new “holographic” TV

The British broadcaster made the TV using a standard 46" flat screen television with an acrylic pyramid built above it, reports the BBC. The finished product projected "holograms" onto the acrylic pyramid, giving an appearance something similar to R2D2's Princess Leia hologram in Star Wars. The BBC has no plans to commercialize the product right now. Instead it was just an experiment to see what television technology might be like in the future.

09.26.16 | an hour ago

SpaceX test-fires Raptor engine that could take humans to Mars

The company's founder Elon Musk tweeted a series of pictures of the Raptor "interplanetary transport engine" in action early this morning. Though Musk has been secretive about the engine in the past, he also revealed that the engines will use liquid methane instead of kerosene and will have a thrust of 500,000 pounds for lift-off. Musk has previously stated that he wants to send humans to Mars by 2024.

09.26.16 | an hour ago

California passes law requiring movie database sites to remove an actor’s age if requested

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed law AB 1687, which requires subscription-based movie database sites, like IMDb, to remove an actor's age if removal is requested by the actor, Variety reports. Opponents of the bill said the removal of factual ages violates free speech, but many in Hollywood and the film industry say the bill is an important step to fight age discrimination. "Age discrimination is a major problem in our industry, and it must be addressed," SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said earlier this month. "SAG-AFTRA has been working hard for years to stop the career damage caused by the publication of performers' dates of birth on online subscription websites used for casting like IMDb."

After the passage of the bill, the organization put out a statement saying "currently, many websites used for casting proactively present birthdates and ages to casting decision makers who often can't avoid seeing this information even if they try. This law will help improve the working lives of all SAG-AFTRA members and aspiring performers."

[Image: IMDb]

09.25.16 | 9:04 pm

Marc Andreessen deletes all his posts on Twitter, sparking plenty of rumors

Yet another powerful Silicon Valley investor is abandoning Twitter. Marc Andreessen, famous for some epic tweetstorms, abruptly quit the platform on Saturday night. Andreessen, who's not known for his reticence, didn't provide a reason for his departure—unlike Y Combinator's Sam Altman, who quit Twitter in June, claiming that it "rewards negativity and snark."

Some of Andreessen's tweets have stirred up controversy, including last February's criticism of officials in India for blocking Facebook's Free Basics service, in which he seemed to imply that the country would be economically stronger if the British still ran their former colony: "Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?" 

Needless to say, the Twitterverse responded with shock, glee, and disappointment, including some suggestions that his departure might be tied to Twitter's much-rumored imminent sale:

09.24.16 | 10:59 am

Snapchat changes name to Snap, unveils first hardware: Spectacles video-sharing sunglasses

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel just dropped two bombshells—changing the company's name to Snap, Inc., and unveiling the company's first bit of hardware: Spectacles, video-sharing sunglasses, available this fall for $129.99 in black, tea, or coral. How do they work? When you press a button close to the hinge, the glasses record up to 10 seconds of video. The camera uses a 115-degree-angle lens, which is wider than most smartphone lenses and is closer to our eyes' natural field of view, explains the Wall Street Journal.

And why launch such a product [insert obligatory Google Glasses joke here]? Spiegel has a quick answer: "Because it's fun."

Spiegel waxes rhapsodic when telling the WSJ about testing a prototype of Spectacles while hiking with his supermodel fiancée, Miranda Kerr:

It was our first vacation, and we went to Big Sur for a day or two. We were walking through the woods, stepping over logs, looking up at the beautiful trees. And when I got the footage back and watched it, I could see my own memory, through my own eyes—it was unbelievable. It's one thing to see images of an experience you had, but it's another thing to have an experience of the experience. It was the closest I'd ever come to feeling like I was there again.

09.24.16 | 9:57 am

Stories to read this weekend

• The New York Times's BlackRock story from last weekend has one of the best interview moments I've read in a long time. – Ainsley O'Connell, "At BlackRock, Shaping the Shifts in Power" 

 "So Is Writing A Job or Not?" (The Awl, recommended by Claire Dodson)

• "How the FDA Manipulates the Media" (Scientific American, recommended by Cale Weissman)

• Denis Johnson, who wrote the short classic Jesus's Son, wrote a ton of long-form journalism in the 1990s, and this book collects it. Among the amazing pieces is one about traveling to Liberia for the New Yorker to interview the dictator Robert Johnson. But he never gets to meet Johnson, The New Yorker kills the piece, and he recounts the whole ordeal in Harper's. Is like "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" except Frank Sinatra is a mass murderer. There's also this beautiful essay about doing drugs for the first time in 30 years (Johnson's addict years were fodder for Jesus's Son), in which he describes mushrooms as "Bugs Bunny shooting you in the head with a rainbow." It's pretty wonderful. Highly recommended. — Cliff KuangSeek: Reports from the Edges of America & Beyond

[La Lecture au Cafe, by Alexandre-Auguste Hannotiau]

09.24.16 | 9:19 am

We asked top advertising execs what they thought of Hillary Clinton’s newest ad

Yesterday, the Hillary Clinton campaign launched a new commercial that edited together images of young girls looking in the mirror, with quotes and video of Donald Trump talking about women, then asking if Trump is the president we want for our daughters. 

We decided to ask advertising executives what they thought of the commercial as a piece of marketing. 

Keith Cartwright, executive creative director at Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners: "It's not about policy. It's about morality, which I think is her biggest play against Trump. To hit his character stretches her campaign beyond party lines allowing Hillary to speak to her base while attracting the undecided. This ad plays to that huge contingency of voters who struggle with whether or not Donald Trump has the moral fiber to represent our country as president. It may be her best ad to date. "

Margaret Johnson, chief creative officer at Goodby Silverstein & Partners: "This is powerful because it's scary. As a mother, I never want my son to speak about women that way and I would never want my daughter to question the way she looks. For anyone who cares about kids, which is everyone, this ad should stop them from making a big mistake in November."

09.23.16 | 10:10 pm

Palmer Luckey “sorry” for harming Oculus’s reputation, says he’s just funder of anti-Hillary meme org

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey this evening acknowledged he had given $10,000 to a group that creates pro-Donald Trump, anti-Hillary memes known as "shitposts," and apologized for "negatively impacting the perception of Oculus and its partners."

He added that his perception of media stories about the situation "do not accurately represent my views."

If that's true, it must be noted that that's in part due to his and Facebook's silence on the matter, other than telling some news organizations that Luckey was still an Oculus employee, for a full day after the Daily Beast first broke the story. To be sure, Luckey himself did maintain in that Daily Beast article that he was only the "money man" for the organization, known as Nimble America.

But Luckey said in his Facebook post this evening that while he "thought the organization had fresh ideas on how to communicate with young voters through the use of several billboards," he wasn't the group's founder. In fact, though the group, Nimble America, appears to be pro-Trump, Luckey said he plans on voting for Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson.

"I am committed to the principles of fair play and equal treatment. I did not write the 'NimbleRichMan' posts, nor did I delete the account. Reports that I am a founder or employee of Nimble America are false. I don't have any plans to donate beyond what I have already given to Nimble America.

"Still, my actions were my own and do not represent Oculus. I'm sorry for the impact my actions are having on the community."

09.23.16 | 6:03 pm

And now straight from Media Twitter, here are the best Chris Ziegler-Apple tweets

Not that any context is needed, but in case you haven't heard, an editor at the Verge allegedly took a job at Apple without bothering to tell the Verge. Clearly we don't know the whole story here, but Twitter can always be counted on for weighing in, especially when the story involves media. Or tech. Or in this case both:

 

09.23.16 | 4:52 pm

One of the Verge’s top editors secretly worked at Apple for two months

Here's a doozy of a story: Chris Ziegler, a founding member and editor of the Verge, began working at Apple in July. One problem, however: He still worked at the tech-news website and didn't tell his colleagues. 

According to a blog post written by the site's editor-in-chief, Nilay Patel, Ziegler accepted the role at Apple in July and continued working at the Verge. In August, Ziegler stopped being in contact with people at the site, which is what led them to discover his dual employment. His position at the Verge was terminated this month.

Patel writes that the site performed an independent review to snuff out any conflicts of interest. So far they've found nothing questionable editorially. 

You can read Patel's blog post here, delivered on a Friday afternoon, of course, for minimum exposure.

09.23.16 | 4:33 pm

VR developers threaten Oculus boycott unless Palmer Luckey resigns

Things just keep getting worse for Oculus.

A day after revelations that founder Palmer Luckey has allegedly been funding a pro-Trump/anti-Hillary "shitposting" meme factory, a number of of virtual reality developers are expressing anger at, or saying they will boycott, the Facebook-owned Oculus unless Luckey resigns.

"Insomniac Games condemns all forms of hate speech," Motherboard quoted the console games maker as saying. "While everyone has a right to express his or her political opinion, the behavior and sentiments reported do not reflect the values of our company. We are also confident that this behavior and sentiment does not reflect the values of the many Oculus employees we work with on a daily basis."

Others, too, have stood up to denounce Luckey's actions. Among them: NewtonVR, Polytron, Tower Underworld Online, and others, Motherboard noted. No doubt many developers will continue to support Oculus, however. Still, while Luckey is of course within his rights to support any cause he desires, it's worth questioning how much damage his positions will do to the company's fortunes given the furor they've caused in the last 24 hours. 

Oculus representatives did not immediately respond to a Fast Company request for comment.

09.23.16 | 3:46 pm

FDA to mobile health community: “Help us be a partner”

Federal regulators are not particularly well liked by many in Silicon Valley. The FDA is often described as a "roadblock" or a "big bad wolf" in the press, and viewed as an enemy to the explosive growth of so-called innovative medical startups. 

But FDA's Bakul Patel, the agency's ‎associate center director for digital health, is no stranger to health conferences frequented by startup founders. At USC's Body Computing conference today, he provided some clarity in noting that the agency is most concerned with ensuring that the health data analyzed by companies is accurate (not just the step counts themselves). 

He also shared that the agency is coming up with a "new paradigm" to accommodate mobile medical apps that make updates every few weeks. 

Finally, he asked for startups to get involved with the agency as it adapts. "Help FDA be a partner in this journey," he urged.