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05.23.16 | 10:42 am

Google asks: Can robots create their own art and music?

Google is exploring the nature of creativity with its new Magenta artificial intelligence project. Magenta will explore whether computers can truly create original art and music. Google research scientist Douglas Eck wrote in a blog post that the project's goal "is to produce open-source tools and models that help creative people be even more creative."

Magenta raises some fascinating questions about the science of learning and creativity. How is it that humans have creative ideas? And what can we learn from computers about the creative process?

09.26.16 | 31 minutes ago

African elephants will likely be extinct when our kids are adults

Did you know that thee United States is the world's second-largest ivory market, after Asia? The thriving trade in elephant tusks has resulted in a spike in poaching in Africa. There are only 400,000 on the continent, but 30,000 to 40,000 are killed every year, the latest African Elephant Status Report says. This is the steepest decline in 25 years.

According to ThinkProgress, climate change is accelerating the extinction of the African elephant population. Temperature change and changes in water supply and vegetation all impact elephants. 

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]

09.26.16 | 2 hours ago

Up, up and away! Uber researches vertical-takeoff planes for short-haul city rides

Speaking at the Nantucket Conference over the weekend, Uber products head Jeff Holden told the audience that Uber is seriously looking into creating flying vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicles to usher people around cities in as few as 10 years, reports Recode. Holden says VTOL aircraft would allow people to travel short distances around a city "in a three-dimensional way" and that taking to the skies was "an obvious thing to look at." He imagines landing pads on top of buildings, which would reduce commuting times and congestion dramatically. Holden envisages a flying VTOL Uber as just another way the company could work toward its goal of eliminating personal car ownership. "[VTOL technology] could change cities and how we work and live," he said.

[Photo: USAF via Wikipedia]

09.26.16 | 3 hours ago

Ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing seeks new transportation market: bicycles

The Chinese taxi-hailing giant, which is in the final stages of acquiring Uber's business in China, has made an investment in a new startup called Ofo, which lets people borrow bikes, reports TechCrunch. In China 30 million students ride bicycles every day. Ofo is tapping into that large market pool by allowing those students to hire a cheap bicycle for the day. Though exact specifics aren't known, Didi's investment in Ofo is said to be "tens of millions" in size and will provide the foundation for "a multi-layered partnership."

09.26.16 | 3 hours ago

Here’s how to live-stream tonight’s presidential debate

Who knows what could come out of their mouths? The good news is you have plenty of options for viewing all the one-liners, quips, and slips as they happen, reports Recode. Here are all the ways you can watch the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, which begins at 9 p.m. ET tonight.

Mobile apps

• The CBS News app will have full coverage across platforms including iOS, Android, games consoles, and more.

NBC will have coverage of the event through its multi-platform NBC News apps.

• Not to be left out, ABC will live-stream the event through its ABC News apps.

• Reuters will be live-streaming the debate through its mobile app.

Social media

Facebook will be offering free streams via Facebook Live from various news organizations including ABC News, BuzzFeed, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox News, the New York Times, PBS, Telemundo, and Univision.

Twitter will be offering free streams of Bloomberg's coverage of the debates on its website here. You won't need a Twitter login to view the stream.


• Besides live streams on the major network news sites, a host of news organizations will be live-streaming the debate on their YouTube channels, including Bloomberg, Fox News, NBC News, PBS, Telemundo, and the Washington Post.

[Photos: Flickr users Max GoldbergABC/Ida Mae Astute]

09.26.16 | 5:50 am

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 | 5:36 am

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 | 5:26 am

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."