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02.23.17 | 6:28 pm

In lawsuit Waymo claims Uber is using its self-driving car technology

Alphabet's self-driving car company, Waymo, is suing Uber for "misappropriating Waymo trade secrets and infringing our patents," the company said in a blog post

Waymo says it has evidence that Uber and its subsidiary Otto, which was started by former Google employees, has Waymo's proprietary LiDAR technology. First, Otto's LiDAR circuit boards, as revealed to Waymo via an email from one of its suppliers, looked very similar to Waymo's. Secondly, the company says it discovered that former employee and Otto cofounder Anthony Levandowski had downloaded 14,000 confidential design files before leaving. Another former employee allegedly downloaded information about the supply chain needed to build Waymo's LiDAR. 

When reached for comment an Uber spokesperson said, "We take the allegations made against Otto and Uber employees seriously and we will review this matter carefully."

02.16.17 | 4:44 pm

Google’s virtual piano lets you play a duet with a computer

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. 

02.13.17 | 6:44 am

Google’s Valentines doodle wants you to save an endangered species

This year's V-day doodle also features an interactive video game trying to save the Chinese pangolin, the world's only scaly mammal—and also the most trafficked mammal in the world.

[Image: Google]

02.08.17 | 12:25 pm

Google announces two new Android Wear smartwatches to take on Apple Watch

After Apple sold an estimated 6 million smartwatches in the holiday quarter it's become increasingly clear that the smartwatch space is a one-horse race. The field of Android Wear-powered watches have not been able to compete, so far. Seeking to make a game of it, Google worked closely with LG to create the ultimate embodiment of its new Android Wear 2.0 operating system (also released today). The result is the LG Watch Sport and the LG Watch Style. 

The larger Sport (the two watches on the right above) is the Swiss Army Knife of the two watches, supporting mobile payments and GPS, among other things. The Style is smaller and more basic, designed for people who want a wearable that does message notifications and fitness tracking well. You can get full details on the watches and the new OS here. The Verge has a full review here

02.01.17 | 2:37 pm

Waymo logged 635,868 autonomous miles in California last year

Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving car outfit, says it significantly lowered the number of times that a driver had to take over from autonomous mode in 2016. In the last year, it dropped its "rate of disengagements" from .80 per 1,000 miles to .20. Also interesting, the company logged 635,868 autonomous miles in 2016 on California roadways. That's more than any other company testing self-driving car tech in that state. 

You can see reports for BMW, Honda, Ford, GM, Nissan, and Mercedes here. Of course, these figures are not necessarily an indication of who's ahead. The numbers don't account for testing done on private property or the various other ways these companies are vetting their tech. It's still interesting to see just how much Alphabet is putting its cars to the test on public streets.

[Image: Waymo]

01.30.17 | 6:46 am

Google Doodle honors Fred Korematsu, the Japanese-American activist who fought profiling and internment

Today is the 98th birthday of Fred Korematsu, who defied U.S. government orders to move to an internment camp during World War II. 

01.04.17 | 3:16 pm

A revenge porn victim wants Google to permanently remove her name from the internet

A college student in New York has an interesting request for Google, Yahoo, and Bing: She wants her name to be permanently deleted from their search engines.

The woman, who has a unique four-word West African name, was the victim of revenge porn after an ex-boyfriend posted sex tapes of the duo on several X-rated sites. While those sites took the videos down, at least one has since gone viral, and appears on numerous other sites. Currently, whenever a search is done for the woman's name, four pages of results appear with X-rated material. The results have made it difficult for the woman to get work, or even find an internship, her lawyer told the New York Post.

The case is currently in front of a Manhattan court. All three sites offer a way for victims of revenge porn to report non-consensual pornography and ask for it to be removed. The woman's attorney says she has requested help from all there sites, but so far those requests have been ignored.

New York does not have a law against posting non-consensual pornography, so while the woman reported her ex-boyfriend's actions to the police, he was never charged with a crime. There is currently a proposed federal law to allow for prison sentences for revenge porn posters.

12.28.16 | 12:46 pm

Verily and Nikon will develop machine learning tools to screen for vision loss

Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences) and Nikon's retinal imaging unit, Optos, are teaming up to build machine learning algorithms that can detect signs of retinopathy in patients with diabetes. 

These tools are useful in helping doctors prioritize the patients that are most urgently in need of care. Diabetic retinopathy affects 40% to 45% of people with diabetes. Without treatment, it often leads to severe vision loss. 

Verily isn't the first technology company to develop new tools to detect the disease. Last year, data science startup Kaggle launched a competition sponsored by the California Healthcare Foundation to develop a sophisticated algorithm that can read medical images of the retina. Read more about Verily's algorithm in JAMA

[Photo: Flickr user Dino Quinzani]

12.14.16 | 6:09 am

Google has published eight National Security Letters for all to see

The company published the additional NSLs on its blog after publishing a single NSL in its most recent transparency report, reports TechCrunch. NSLs are letters Google received from various government security agencies requesting access to a user's account and information. The eight letters Google published came from the FBI and were received over the five-year period from 2010 to 2015. In the blog post, Google's director of law enforcement and information security said the publication of the NSLs were an attempt to be more transparent about government surveillance of Google users:

As we have described in the past, we have fought for the right to be transparent about our receipt of NSLs. This includes working with the government to publish statistics about NSLs we've received, successfully fighting NSL gag provisions in court, and leading the effort to ensure that internet companies can be more transparent with users about the volume and scope of national security demands that we receive . . . 
We are now making copies of those NSLs available. Our goal in doing so is to shed more light on the nature and scope of NSLs. We minimized redactions to protect privacy interests, but the content of the NSLs remain as they were when served. We are also publishing the correspondence reflecting the lifting of the nondisclosure restrictions.

12.13.16 | 5:56 am

Now Google is shelving its plans to build its own self-driving vehicles

Recently Apple was reported to have abandoned plans to make its own branded self-driving cars in favor of working on a software platform that other self-driving car manufacturers can build upon. Now Google is following suit, according to a report from The Information. The reports says that Chauffeur, as the search giant's autonomous car unit is known internally, is abandoning plans to make its own self-driving vehicles in favor of working with established car manufacturers who will include Chauffeur's self-driving features. However, this switch does not affect Google's reported plans to bring a self-driving fleet of taxis into service in 2017, the Information reports.

12.09.16 | 9:19 am

As a test, Google is including movie and TV ratings within search results

Now maybe you'll think twice about seeing Office Christmas Party after searching for movie theaters in your neighborhood. Google is testing a new feature that includes movie and TV ratings—from Rotten Tomatoes (which gave the aforementioned comedy a 43% rating) and IMDb within search results, reports Search Engine Land. It's a little crude, so don't expect those types of numerical ratings. With Google, you can expect just two choices: like or dislike.

12.01.16 | 10:11 am

To fend off Google Home, Amazon lends Alexa and other AI superpowers to app developers

For a while, the tech world was reeling from the surprise hit of Amazon's Echo device and its erudite voice assistant, Alexa. But Google Home, released in early November, has proven itself as a worthy contender when it comes to cost ($130 vs. $180) and compatibility (access to most of the web via Google Search and Chromecast vs. access to mostly Amazon-contained services). 

This morning, though, Amazon struck back by opening its AI engine—which of course includes Alexa—so that other developers on Amazon Web Services can build smart, machine-learning features into their own apps. At a broad level, this means Netflix, for example, could start using Alexa to talk with users in real time about what they feel like watching, or that Airbnb, another AWS customer, might enable users to find the perfect booking with just a few phrases. 

Google might be more integrated within the Internet than any other company, but now, with more than one million AWS customers at its disposal, Alexa isn't too far behind.