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06.21.16 | 7:54 am

This IBM smart bus comes with a Watson-powered assistant

The Olli is a collaboration between IBM and Local Motors and can seat up to 12 people at a time, as Co.Design reveals. The bus not only drives itself but offers a built-in digital assistant powered by IBM's Watson. This allows the bus to answer questions from riders ("Where's the closest McDonald's?") and also to learn from a rider's patterns and environment. For example, if the weather is bad and your commute will take longer because of it, Olli will alert you that you probably don't have time to nip in for your pre-work Starbucks that morning. The Olli will start making journeys in National Harbor, Maryland, this summer.
[Image: Local Motors]

03.28.17 | 2 minutes ago

Amazon acquires Middle East retailer

The company announced that it will buy the popular Middle East retailer for an undisclosed sum. During its last funding round Souq was valued at more than a billion dollars. In a statement Russ Grandinetti, Amazon's Senior Vice President of International Consumer, said:

"Amazon and share the same DNA – we're both driven by customers, invention, and long-term thinking. pioneered e-commerce in the Middle East, creating a great shopping experience for their customers. We're looking forward to both learning from and supporting them with Amazon technology and global resources. And together, we'll work hard to provide the best possible service for millions of customers in the Middle East." 

03.27.17 | 5:45 pm

Here’s the most ominous quote from Maureen Dowd’s deep dive into Elon Musk’s fear of AI

Elon Musk is scared of artificial intelligence, and Vanity Fair looked into why. In a very long piece written by Maureen Dowd, we get a rare glimpse into Musk's years-long crusade to quell this rapidly expanding facet of the technology industry.

Why is he so scared? Here's a quote from Dowd's story from Eliezer Yudkowsky, a famed AI researcher, who provided a truly frightening thought experiment:

"If you want a picture of A.I. gone wrong, don't imagine marching humanoid robots with glowing red eyes. Imagine tiny invisible synthetic bacteria made of diamond, with tiny onboard computers, hiding inside your bloodstream and everyone else's. And then, simultaneously, they release one microgram of botulinum toxin. Everyone just falls over dead… Only it won't actually happen like that. It's impossible for me to predict exactly how we'd lose, because the A.I. will be smarter than I am." 

You can read the full story here. 

03.27.17 | 4:04 pm

HTC partners with Warner to bring Ready Player One to Vive VR

Do you love Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, the best-selling book about a rich virtual world that Steven Spielberg is turning into a film for Warner Bros.? Wouldn't diving into main character Parzival's world in virtual reality be awesome?

Soon, you'll be able to. Today, HTC said it has struck a deal to be Warner's exclusive VR partner on all things "Ready Player One." According to terms of the deal, numerous types of content will be available for HTC's high-end Vive VR system. Unfortunately, the companies did not reveal any other details about what they'll be building. One can only hope it'll be as immersive as the fantastic world Cline imagined and which moviegoers will be able to see on the silver screen starting March 30, 2018. 

03.27.17 | 3:45 pm

Longtime Apple vet to run Oculus’s hardware division

Facebook has been rapidly revamping the top of the org chart at Oculus, its in-house virtual reality operation. Recently, it brought in former Xiaomi head of international operations Hugo Barra to run all of Facebook's VR–despite Barra's lack of any professional VR experience. And that was after Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe stepped down from the big chair in order to run PC VR operations.

Now, according to Bloomberg, Facebook has hired 15-year Apple vet Michael Hillman as head of Oculus's hardware operations. At Apple, Bloomberg wrote, Hillman had senior roles in engineering and design and was involved in the development of products such as the iMac. That experience is no doubt worth a lot at Oculus, which is bidding to be the consumer VR industry leader

[Photo: Flickr user BagoGames]

03.27.17 | 3:39 pm

Waymo is testing self-driving minivans in the snow

CEO John Krafcik tweeted a photo this morning of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans in the snow at South Lake Tahoe, California. It's an important step forward for Waymo, considering that last fall Carnegie Mellon's Stan Caldwell said that automated vehicles weren't yet ready to handle heavy rain and snow

03.27.17 | 3:23 pm

Angry about politics? Facebook wants to connect you to your representatives

One thing that has become clear over the last couple of months is that political activism really does work. Just since President Trump's inauguration, there have already been numerous examples of massive phone-calling campaigns actually convincing politicians to take (or not take) positions on issues. Those range from axing a plan to sell off public lands, to scuttling repeal of Obamacare, to convincing Congressional Republicans to slow down the pace of cabinet confirmation hearings.

There are lots of new tools that have launched in order to aid people connecting with their representatives. And now Facebook wants to get in on the action. Today, it launched Town Hall, which locates representatives based on where a user is located and provides a contact button, as well as a button to follow them. However, rather than actually facilitating the contact, the tool simply provides the politician's phone number and address. In this, Town Hall is not as sophisticated as some other systems out there, but for those just starting to think about getting involved, it's certainly better than nothing.

03.27.17 | 2:19 pm

Did this iPad bomb plot lead to the laptop ban on U.S. and U.K. flights?

The new ban on electronic devices larger than cellphones was prompted in part by an undisclosed bomb plot involving a fake iPad, according to a security source cited by the Guardian. The ban, announced last week, restricts the use of laptops and other devices on flights from some countries in north Africa and the Middle East. The alleged bomb plotters apparently thought they could take down an airplane with explosives planted in an iPad-like device that was indistinguishable from a real iPad. No other details of the report were included. Read more from the Guardian here

03.27.17 | 11:53 am

Uber’s self-driving cars are already back on the road after Arizona crash

Look both ways if you're crossing the street in San Francisco today. Uber has resumed testing its self-driving cars in the city after one of its vehicles was involved in a collision in Tempe, Arizona. The company had suspended its program after the crash, which follows a slew of bad PR for the ride-hailing company. Cars remain grounded in Pittsburgh and Arizona, but were expected to resume testing soon. Read more from Reuters here.

Photo: Uber

03.27.17 | 11:00 am

Like Google Maps, Facebook Messenger now lets you share your location

The idea of using a GPS-enabled smartphone to let friends and family know exactly where you are—especially when you're on your way to meet them—is at least as old as Glympse, an app that debuted in 2009. Lately, though, it's turning into a standard little bit of functionality in a variety of apps. Last week, for instance, it arrived in Google Maps.

And now Facebook Messenger is adding its own Live Location feature. Like Google's version, it's opt-in and lets you choose who gets to see where you are. But Messenger's variant only shares your coordinates for an hour (or less, at your discretion), with no option to transmit it indefinitely—a limitation that might allay any fears that you might forget it's on and accidentally disclose your whereabouts forever.

03.27.17 | 10:33 am

When it’s finally released, Magic Leap’s headgear is likely to cost more than $1,000

It's been over a year since the secretive company's CEO, Rony Abovitz, promised that its AR eyewear would launch "very soon." Since then, Magic Leap has made headlines for some high-profile executive departures, raising doubts about the production status of the highly anticipated product, and sparking plenty of fresh rumors. Now, the Financial Times reports that the company is planning to release the "light-field" eyewear later this year. It will be smaller than Microsoft's HoloLens "with a wider field of view, but larger than a regular pair of glasses. The headgear will be tethered to a small pack that provides battery and processing power, to put in a pocket or attach to a belt, and is likely to cost in excess of $1,000." 

Read the full story here (paywall).

03.27.17 | 9:47 am

Amazon’s cashier-free convenience store is delayed amid technical glitches: report 

Cashiers, you can breathe easy for now. Amazon was apparently forced to postpone the opening of its automated convenience store in Seattle as the location grapples with technical issues, the Wall Street Journal reports. The store, which uses cameras, algorithms, and sensors to figure out what people are buying, was initially set to open at the end of this month. According to the report, the automated checkout system is prone to glitches when the store gets too crowded. Our Noah Robischon wrote last month about how Amazon has been doubling down on efforts to reimagine the physical shopping experience, although some investors remain skeptical that high-tech automated stores will be a cost-effective alternative to traditional retail. Read more from WSJ here.

03.27.17 | 7:11 am

Ivanka Trump will attend a German summit on the economic empowerment of women

The first daughter was personally invited to the W20 summit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, reports the Associate Press. The summit focuses on how to economically empower women within the Group of 20 countries, which include the U.S., Japan, Germany, U.K., France, Italy, Canada, Russia, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, and the EU.