On Monday President Trump met with his American Technology Council for the first time to discuss ways to "transform and modernize" the government's use of IT services. The council includes Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, among others. You can read some of the advice the tech execs gave Trump here, or now you can watch much of the meeting thanks to this 20-minute video the White House has released.
Watch Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, and other tech execs give Trump advice on how to modernize government
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] MG
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:
I've talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2017
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. MG
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] MG
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."
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.
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.
As misinformation has increasingly threatened democracies around the world (including our own), Snopes.com 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 Snopes.com 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. CGW
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] SM
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. ML
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] ML
Facebook’s cafeteria workers, barely making ends meet, are now trying to unionize
Not everyone working at Facebook is living the dream. In fact, most of the contracted facility workers at the company's Menlo Park, California, headquarters are having trouble making ends meet. That's why about 500 of Facebook's cafeteria employees are banding together to join a union, reports the Guardian.
While cafeteria workers do make wages above the $15/hour minimum wage, they are not provided benefits to help them stay afloat. With the price of living in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area rising to staggering levels, these employees are unable to afford adequate housing or health care.
One family of Facebook cafeteria workers, profiled by the Guardian, lives in a garage. Facebook employees are given access to amenities like onsite doctors, but these workers are not allowed access to such perks.
The big union push is to help these employees get the adequate support they need. While neither Facebook nor the food service contractor they work for opposes the union, the cafeteria workers likely have a long fight ahead. You can read the full profile here.
Julia Roberts to star in Gimlet’s latest podcast-turned-TV show
Homecoming—Gimlet's Peabody Award-nominated podcast—just kicked off its second season today, and now it may have more to celebrate than just another chapter in the dark psychological thriller. Deadline is reporting that Julia Roberts will star in the show when it makes the jump from podcast to Amazon drama.
It was previously reported that Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail was turning Homecoming into a TV series. The podcast, which was created by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg, was one of the first podcasts to head into the Hollywood pipeline, following shows like Limetown and Gimlet's Startup, which inspired a forthcoming series called Alex, Inc. starring Zach Braff. Homecoming already made headlines when well-known actors Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, and David Schwimmer joined the cast, proving that podcasts could attract serious star power. According to Deadline, Homecoming has already been picked up for two seasons by Amazon. The only bummer is that they are reporting that Roberts will play a caseworker at a secret government facility that uses an experimental therapy protocol to help a soldier rejoin civilian life, which is the role originated by Keener. While Roberts is great and all, she's no Catherine Keener.
If the rumors are true about Roberts, that's some serious A-list talent for little old podcasts and could be a boon for the format. ML
KKR is buying WebMD so it can continue its reign of symptom-Googling terror
TechCrunch reports that private equity group KKR is buying WebMD for $2.8 billion (that's $66.50 per share), and just in case Western medicine isn't working for them, Forbes reports that KKR is also buying The Nature's Bounty Co., a wellness company that sells fish oil supplements, vitamins, protein bars, and the like.
KKR is trying to corner the market on internet-based health information dissemination at a time when Googling random symptoms to see if they explain that weird rash has become a very common practice. As TechCrunch notes, WebMD has a lot of competition in its quest to horrify, er, provide answers to anyone Googling their symptoms—including Google, which has started including health information on its main search app. Plus, any aspiring hypochondriac knows to also check out the Mayo Clinic's site, as well as those from the Cleveland Clinic, Everyday Health, and eHealthForum.com, and HealthBoards.com, which just so happen to be part of a KKR-owned company called Internet Brands, too. WebMD will be rolled into Internet Brands, which houses B2B sites like MedScape, as well as consumer-focused sites, and ever-popular web destinations like VeinDirectory.org. ML