Google wants to teach computers to make art. While a goal that lofty isn't likely to be met anytime soon, this is a start: A.I. DUET is a simple, browser-based piano interface that lets you play notes and chords as Google's artificial intelligence algorithms attempt to play along and improvise. It's a somewhat crude implementation, but serves as an early example of what the team at Google Magenta (a division of Google Brain) is trying to achieve: creating tools that can use AI models to generate art and assist human artists in real time.
Google’s virtual piano lets you play a duet with a computer
I’m super ambivalent about Thinx
I've been reporting about Thinx for a year. I've been impressed with the company's product, and it's commitment to eradicating the social taboo around menstruation. But I'm also horrified to hear former staff members talk about the terrible working conditions they faced at the company.
In today's issue of my weekly fashion newsletter, Moving the Needle, I write about how I'm wrestling with these two images of Thinx. You can read the letter here. And if you're interested in signing up, you can do so using this link. (Just click the option for "Fashion Weekly.")
When a business leader comes under fire, it's easy to dismiss the entire company and mission. But I've found that things are rarely black and white, and I'm left with mixed feelings. Do you feel the same way? Tell me more at firstname.lastname@example.org or @LizSegran. ES
Bob Iger agrees to stick around. Disney magic ensues.
Shares of the Walt Disney Company jumped today on the news that CEO Bob Iger has extended his contract to July 2019. Iger had planned to step down a year earlier. His imminent departure and the lack of an apparent successor are worrying investors at a time when Disney-owned ESPN and the rest of the legacy cable business are facing challenges from the rise of streaming. CZ
Zuri makes it easier for Americans to wear fabulous African prints
Zuri is a startup based in Nairobi, Kenya, founded by two American expats. The company works with East African craftsmen who create fabrics using a wax-printing technique called kitenge–similar to batik–to create clothing. Or rather, a single piece of clothing.
Zuri's founders, Sandra Zhao and Ashleigh Miller, created a pattern for an outfit that can be worn as a dress, a skirt, a tunic, and a coat. Their idea was to have one versatile garment that would be easy to pack on a trip and would reduce your need for so many clothes. The design has been popular in Kenya, where it is different from traditional clothing silhouettes there, and also in the U.S., where women are drawn to the colorful patterns. Each garment retails for $145.
The brand, which launched last year, has been growing fast in both continents, selling several hundred products a month. They've recently had to move into a larger factory to keep up with the demand. ES
Senate votes to allow Verizon, Comcast, et al., to collect your personal information without permission
The Senate Thursday voted 50-48 to repeal an Obama administration FCC rule limiting the gathering of customer data by internet service providers. Big ISPs like Verizon and Comcast will now be able to collect personal browsing data on the users they connect to the internet without first asking their permission. The resolution must now be voted on by the GOP-controlled House.
Research shows that Americans are increasingly concerned about the privacy and security of their personal information, as data theft by hackers continues to accelerate. The bulk collection of browsing data provides another massive target for hackers, who steal large blocks of data and sell it on the dark web to those who combine it with other data to complete the identities of potential victims.
Wireless and wired internet service providers have for years sought to buffer their low-growth broadband businesses by selling user data to data brokers who sell ad-targeting data to advertisers. MS
With reactions and mentions, Facebook Messenger will feel even more like a social network
Facebook's Messenger—which recently introduced Messenger Day, a share-your-life feature akin to "Stories" as seen on Snapchat and Instagram—is adding two additional capabilities aimed at optimizing the service for group conversations rather than just chatting with one friend at a time:
• Similar to their counterparts in Facebook's own app, reactions let you quickly respond to a specific message with an emoji-like icon, representing "love," "smile," "wow," "sad," "angry," "yes," or "no." (That last one isn't available on Facebook itself.)
• Mentions let you reference friends by typing an @ sign and their user name, just as you can on Twitter and Facebook. If you do, they'll receive a notification so they can join the discussion.
After hitting a few speed bumps, Hyperloop One hires some Republicans to lobby the Trump administration
The high-speed transport company still reeling from a nasty lawsuit involving allegations of harassment and threats recently hired a few former GOP congressional staffers with Jochum Shore & Trossevin to lobby for them in Washington, D.C., reports Recode's Tony Romm.
Cambridge Satchel Co.’s founder is committed to British manufacturing in a post-Brexit world
The choice to leave the European Union impacted British manufacturing because it reduced the access to the European market, one of Britain's most important trading partners. Cambridge Satchel Company's founder and CEO, Julie Deane, is working hard to highlight the value of British manufacturing. The brand's classic leather bags, which suddenly became a fashion icon in the last decade, are all made in the U.K. The brand has recently partnered with Brompton Bicycles, which also manufactures in the U.K., on a collaboration of bags and fold-up bikes in matching colors. ES
School is in: NBCUniversal is going to teach YouTubers how to create viral content
Sometimes you need to show the kids how it's done. NBCUniversal is reportedly going to be the first major media company to take part in YouTube's NextUp educational program, a weeklong training session for qualifying YouTube creators. Variety reports that NBCU execs will help teach emerging YouTubers how to create content that drives more engagement. Now, before you laugh, remember that SNL has being going viral since 1975. Read more from Variety here.
Analyst: New safety features could make Tesla’s Model 3 ten times safer than the average car on the road
The highly anticipated car will feature hardware and software that "provide a level of active safety that could significantly lead all other cars on sale today and could, if the company achieves its goal, be an order of magnitude (i.e., 10x) safer than the average car on the road," writes Morgan Stanley's Adam Jonas. "Look for safety to be the 'ah-hah!' moment for this car due to launch this year."
He also predicts that Tesla's Model Y (small SUV) will "very likely" be its highest-selling model. Maybe anticipating the positive note, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk bought 95,420 shares of the company's stock on Friday.
Photo: Tesla MB
Here’s what happened when a U.K. journalist tried to help a refugee open a bank account
U.K. journalist Simon Neville took a refugee to banks, hoping to help him maneuver the bureaucracy. He's been live-tweeting the saga, which is at once depressing and infuriating. Here are a few tidbits from the saga:
I'm about to go try help a refugee open a UK bank account. I can't foresee us being fobbed off, ignored and given wrong advice at all…— Simon Neville (@SimonNeville) March 23, 2017
"Does he have anything from the benefits office for proof of address?" Me: "no. He can't get benefits until he gets an account"— Simon Neville (@SimonNeville) March 23, 2017
Was told refugee fleeing for his life can't get an account without passport & he should go apply for one. Application process takes 4 months— Simon Neville (@SimonNeville) March 23, 2017
Next! Surely a bank majority owned by the state will be able to help? Right?… pic.twitter.com/rMUfemnB45— Simon Neville (@SimonNeville) March 23, 2017
Refugee tells me: "every bank says something different. The job centre was the same. Three people told me three different things". Yep— Simon Neville (@SimonNeville) March 23, 2017
Still waiting to be seen at Barclays. Thanks for suggestions on sitting tight for Nationwide+HO letter. Keen to try and sort today, if poss— Simon Neville (@SimonNeville) March 23, 2017
Hopefully it'll get fixed. Sad to think we'll only get there because I'm a journalist…— Simon Neville (@SimonNeville) March 23, 2017
I'd also encourage you to read the entire thread from the beginning. Fast Company's Ainsley Harris recently wrote about the perils of migrants seeking bank accounts. There are some tech solutions for this problem, she writes. CGW
Bedsheet startup Syona Home goes to extreme lengths to ensure its cotton is ethical
The cotton supply chain is full of devastating stories, as I describe in my recent article,"Did People Suffer For Your Cotton Shirt?" And even brands that want to source ethical cotton often can't be sure what they're getting, since the global supply chain is so fragmented and complicated.
Syona Home, a company founded by an Indian couple who have spent the past few decades working for Microsoft in Seattle, wanted to make sure their cotton bedsheets were suffering-free. They ended up partnering with Chetna Organic, a co-op that helps thousands of farmers harvest cotton without harmful chemical pesticides and pool their resources to create schools and hospitals that benefit the community. But they weren't content to take the co-op's word for it: They spent months in India going through each step of the supply chain, asking workers about their lives and workings conditions. "As Indians ourselves, we were equipped to verify the conditions on the ground, and so we felt the responsibility to do so," cofounder Sukanta Nanda, explains. ES
The UN’s HeForShe movement just made feminist dolls for boys
HeForShe, a UN initiative to bring boys and men into the fight for gender equality, just partnered with a toy startup called Boy Story to create two dolls for boys. They're using the term "doll" rather than "action figure" strategically, to challenge prejudices around boys playing with dolls. The two figures, named Billy and Mason, encourage boys to learn nurturing, emotional intelligence, and empathy. They are 18" tall, about the size of a large American Girl doll, and cost $99 each.