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06.26.17 | 12:25 pm

Here are some MIT drones that can fly and drive to get you through your Monday

Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab have created a new prototype drone that can both fly and drive, and will undoubtedly rule the earth—or at least make sure your copy of Rise of the Robots is delivered from Amazon in a timely fashion.

The engineers were inspired by birds and bugs that can both walk and fly, TechCrunch reports. The eight quadcopter drones can currently only drive for up to 252 meters (275 yards) or fly for 90 meters (98 feet), so they still have a way to go, but it's a pretty cool and/or frightening feature depending on how you feel about these things. The new drones are designed to assess both air and car traffic and decide whether it is faster to drive or fly, which could be a hint of how flying cars could work in the future. Frankly, though, they should have just modified duck boats, so they could drive and sail and fly.

07.25.17 | 3 hours ago

India won’t allow driverless cars if they take away jobs

In language that is sure to frighten the likes of Google, Tesla, and every other company with a foot in the driverless car game, India's road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari has said that driverless cars will not be allowed in the country if they take away jobs, reports the HindustanTimes. Speaking on Tuesday, Gadkari said:

"We won't allow driverless cars in India. I am very clear on this. We won't allow any technology that takes away jobs. In a country where you have unemployment, you can't have a technology that ends up taking people's jobs."

India is one of the top destinations tech companies are focusing their resources on for growth. With a consumer market of 1.2 billion people, if India actually ends up not allowing driverless cars in the country it will effectively seal off one-sixth of the world's population from the autonomous car market.

07.25.17 | 3 hours ago

Language-learning app Duolingo is almost a unicorn

Duolingo is the funny little app that could. With cute illustrations, playful chatbots, and humorous practice phrases, such as "Your bear drinks beer," the foreign-language learning app has gained over 200 million users. Most of them pay nothing—other than a flicker of attention to occasional ads. (The paid version has a few bonus features, like that ability to use it when the phone is offline.) But investors are paying a lot. A new funding round of $25 million led by Drive Capital brings Duolingo's total take to $108.3 million, the company said today, giving it a $700 million valuation.

Founded by Carnegie Mellon computer science professor and MacArthur "genius award" winner Luis von Ahn five years ago, Duolingo has grown to support 27 languages, mostly crowdsourced from bilingual volunteers. It also provides an English certification exam and a flashcard-making app called Tinycards. By the end of the year, the Pittsburgh-based company says it will nearly double its staff from 80 to 150.

07.25.17 | 4 hours ago

Michael Kors just bought Jimmy Choo for $1.2 billion

Michael Kors, which has pitched itself as an "affordable luxury" brand, is hoping to improve its fortunes with the acquisition of Jimmy Choo, a high-end shoe brand that targets an upmarket consumer.

Michael Kors has been struggling over the last few years. The company's strategy of discounting has backfired, severely hurting the brand's image, and causing its share price to plummet by 20% in 2017. It is now planning to shutter as many as 125 stores. Jimmy Choo, on the other hand, has been thriving, largely due to strong sales in Asia. 

Michael Kors is following in the footsteps of Coach, another "affordable luxury" brand which recently acquired the high-end shoe brand Stuart Weitzman and accessories brand Kate Spade in an effort to better compete. 

Read more in the New York Times.

07.25.17 | 6:02 am

Hey, Apple and Google: iRobot wants to sell its Roomba vacuum indoor mapping data

The Roomba 900 series doesn't just clean your floors, it collects valuable indoor mapping data by doing so, thanks to its use of simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technology. SLAM enables the high-end Roomba to build a map of the room it's operating in, which is what allows it to do things like automatically return to its docking station when it needs a recharge.

As much of the outside world has already been mapped by Google and Apple, the two companies are now turning to mapping indoor locations, which makes iRobot's mapping data potentially very valuable, as iRobot CEO Colin Angle told Reuters, "There's an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared." Angle said he thinks iRobot could reach a deal to sell its indoor mapping data to "one or more" of the "Big Three" (Amazon, Apple, and Google) in the next few years, but notes he would not sell a Roomba user's room data without their permission.

[Image: iRobot]

07.25.17 | 5:45 am

Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are having a spat about whether AI will kill us all

It's recently come to light how the two tech titans disagree on how badly things could go wrong with artificial intelligence. When asked by a Facebook user during a recent Facebook Live broadcast about his thoughts on AI and Musk's assertion that it could pose a threat to humanity, Zuck said Musk's doomsaying was "irresponsible" (via Business Insider):

"I have pretty strong opinions on this. I'm really optimistic. I'm an optimistic person in general. I think you can build things and the world gets better. With AI especially, I'm really optimistic and I think that people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios … I don't understand it. It's really negative and in some ways I actually think it's pretty irresponsible."

"Whenever I hear people saying AI is going to hurt people in the future I think: 'Yeah technology can generally always be used for good and bad and you need to be careful about how you build it and you need to be careful about what you build and how it's going to be used. But people who are arguing for slowing down the process of building AI, I just find that really questionable. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that. If you're arguing against AI then you're arguing against safer cars that aren't going to have accidents and you're arguing against being able to better diagnose people when they're sick."

Not having any of that, the Tesla CEO took to Twitter to respond:

We'll let these two tech luminaries continue to fight it out amongst themselves. But just one note to Zuck: No one believed Sarah Connor's warnings either.

07.25.17 | 5:31 am

Microsoft Paint will avoid its brush with death

Yesterday the internet nostalgia machine freaked out when it was reported that Microsoft would soon be killing off its much-mocked Paint program–an app that has been around for 32 years. The news was based on the fact that in the next release of Windows 10, Paint would be moved to the "deprecated" features list, which includes apps that are "not in active development and might be removed in future releases." But due to yesterday's outpouring of love–like the kind you suddenly find when you discover your longtime girlfriend is getting ready to walk–for the seemingly doomed app, Microsoft has clarified that Paint will stay around for a bit longer–it just will have a new home. In a blog post, Microsoft revealed:

Today, we've seen an incredible outpouring of support and nostalgia around MS Paint. If there's anything we learned, it's that after 32 years, MS Paint has a lot of fans. It's been amazing to see so much love for our trusty old app. Amidst today's commentary around MS Paint we wanted to take this opportunity to set the record straight, clear up some confusion and share some good news: MS Paint is here to stay, it will just have a new home soon, in the Windows Store where it will be available for free.

[Image: Microsoft]

07.24.17 | 5:37 pm

Google says your living room is YouTube’s biggest growth area right now

During Alphabet's second-quarter earnings call, Google CEO Sundar Pichai took a few minutes to talk about YouTube. Pichai says the video service currently has 1.5 billion monthly users that watch on average 60 minutes of video each day. The fastest-growing area for YouTube is the living room, where YouTube has seen nearly double the number of viewers watching on a television year-over-year. Without getting specific, Pichai said advertiser feedback on ad-supported YouTube Originals has been "extremely positive."

07.24.17 | 4:41 pm

Alphabet Q2 profits dinged after hefty EU fine

Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., reported its second-quarter earnings today. The company's revenue was $26.01 billion for the quarter, up from $21.5 billion last year. However, profits took a hit due to a record $2.74 billion fine the company had to pay European antitrust regulators. Quarterly net income was $3.52 billion, compared to $4.88 billion last year.

Other interesting tidbits from today's report: Users are clicking on advertisements more. The company reported a 52% gain in the number of paid clicks over last year. However, the cost of those clicks (what an advertiser will pay for them) has dropped 23% from last year. Alphabet employed 75,606 people at the end of the quarter, up from 66,575 last year. Earlier today Alphabet announced it had added Sundar Pichai to its board.

07.24.17 | 2:06 pm

Snopes says its website is being held “hostage” in contract dispute

Today, the long-standing and venerated fact-checking website Snopes sent a plea to its readers. The site says it's currently in the midst of a confusing ownership dispute and legal battle with an outside vendor that has frozen the revenue it receives from digital ads. As a result, Snopes says it has no money coming in. 

In the post, Snopes described the vendor as holding the "website hostage." Today, it asked people to donate to help keep things afloat.

Snopes explains:

As misinformation has increasingly threatened democracies around the world (including our own), has stood in the forefront of fighting for truth and dispelling misinformation online. It is vital that these efforts continue, so we are asking the community to donate what they can. 

The campaign was published just a few hours ago, and money quickly began to flow in. With over 2,000 donors, Snopes has already received over $55,000. That number is going up steadily every minute, with the site hoping to hit a goal of $500,000. At this rate, it's looking like the fact-checking destination may be staying around for now. 

07.24.17 | 1:18 pm

That company microchipping its employees is owned by a major prison vendor

Three Square Market drew the internet's attention this weekend with plans to offer voluntary microchip implants to its employees to let them access vending machines and unlock doors in its offices. 

The company makes automated vending kiosks called "micro markets" for corporate break rooms, but its corporate parentage may not help with the Orwellian associations: Three Square is owned by TW Vending, which also sells supplies to jails and prisons, including automated inmate commissaries similar to the vending devices its employees will soon activate with their chips.

"While much of the micro market technology is two years old or less, our system is built on the same backbone and processes of our corrections industry kiosk system that has been in place since 2002," Three Square VP Patrick McMullan said back in 2013.

[Photo: vetkit/iStock]

07.24.17 | 12:49 pm

This Danish town is using a network of Bluetooth sensors to monitor traffic

The Danish town of Aarhus has set up a system of Bluetooth sensors to collect traffic pattern information around the city, Ars Technica reports. As people go about their daily lives, their connected cars emit Bluetooth signals, allowing the sensors to log and track their movements. The city uses that information to monitor traffic patterns and look for any issues that need to be addressed, like a broken traffic light causing a slow down or, say, extra congestion resulting from a production crew filming a Black Mirror episode. While privacy advocates and traffic enthusiasts may balk at the monitoring, it's an interesting tool for urban planners to have in their arsenal.

07.24.17 | 11:27 am

DNA-based diet apps are a thing

People have been trying to make DNA-based diets a thing since at least 2012. However, instead of dying out like your beloved Tamagotchi, they just keep evolving. Now, as Engadget reports, weight loss app Lose It just introduced embodyDNA, a new take on the DNA-based diet plan. All you have to do to take part is give them sample of your DNA, a payment of $189.99, and download their app. In just "six to eight weeks" they'll analyze your DNA and send diet recommendations directly to your Lose It app based on your genetic profile, which sounds fairly similar to the service DNAFit already offers, but competition is probably good for burning calories. Go ahead and sign up for the app and send in your saliva sample, but even without sampling your DNA, we can guess they'll suggest eating more vegetables, cutting down simple carbs and refined sugar, and increasing exercise.

[Image: Lose It]