Bloglikes - Tech en-US Sat, 06 Jun 2020 07:50:27 +0000 Sat, 06 Apr 2013 00:00:00 +0000 FeedWriter Theranos documentary review: The Inventor’s horrifying optimism A blood-splattered Theranos machine nearly pricks an employee struggling to fix it. This gruesome graphical rendering is what you’ll walk away from HBO’s “The Inventor” with. It finally gives a visual to the startup’s laboratory fraud detailed in words by John Carreyrou’s book “Bad Blood”.

The documentary that premiered tonight at Sundance Film Festival explores how the move fast and break things ethos of Silicon Valley is “really dangerous when people’s lives are in the balance” as former employee and whistleblower Tyler Shultz says in the film. Theranos promised a medical testing device that made a single drop of blood from your finger more precise than a painful old-school syringe in your vein. What patients ended up using was so inaccurate it put their health in jeopardy.

But perhaps even more frightening is the willingness of Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes to delude herself and everyone around her in service of a seemingly benevolent mission. The documentary captures how good ideas can make people do bad things.

“The Inventor: Out For Blood In Silicon Valley” juxtaposes truthful interviews with the employees who eventually rebelled against Holmes with footage and media appearances of her blatantly lying to the world. It manages to stick to the emotion of the story rather than getting lost in the scientific discrepancies of Theranos’ deception.

The film opens and closes with close-ups of Holmes, demonstrating how the facts change her same gleaming smile and big blue eyes from the face of innovative potential to that of a sociopathic criminal. “I don’t have many secrets” she tells the camera at the start.

Though the film mentions early that her $9 billion-plus valuation company would wind up worth less than zero, it does a keen job of building empathy for her that it can tear down later. You see her tell sob stories of death in the family and repeat her line about building an end to having to say goodbye to loved ones too soon. You hear how she’s terrified of needles and how growing up, “my best friends were books.”

But then cracks start to emerge as old powerful men from professors to former cabinet members faun over Holmes and become enthralled in her cult of personality as validation snowballs. Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney has a knack for creeping dread from his experience making “Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room” and “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.” He portrays Holmes’ delusions of grandeur with shots of her portrait beside those of Archimedes, Beethoven, and her idol Steve Jobs.

The first red flag comes when Holmes names her initial device Edison after the historic inventor the film assures you was quite a fraud himself. Soon, sources from inside the company relay how the Edison and subsequent Theranos hardware never worked right but that demos were faked for customers and investors. Instead of sticking to a firm timeline, Gibney bounces around to hammer home the emotional arcs of employees from excited to dubious, and of Holmes from confidence to paranoia.

Carreyrou’s “Bad Blood” meticulously chronicled every tiny warning sign that worried Theranos’ staff in order to build a case. But the author’s Wall Street Journal day job bled through, sapping the book of emotion and preventing it from seizing the grandeur of the tale’s climactic moments.

Gibney fills in the blanks with cringe-inducing scenes of Theranos’ faulty hardware. A ‘nanotainer’ of blood rolls off a table and fractures, a biohazard awaiting whoever tries to pick it up. The depiction of working in Theranos’ unregulated laboratory scored the biggest gasps from the Sundance audience. Former employees describe how Theranos recruited drifters they suspected of hepatitis as guinea pigs. Their stale blood evaporates into the air surrounding machines dripping with inky red, covered in broken test tubes. Gibney nails the graphics, zooming in on a needle spraying droplets as a robotic arm sputters through malfunctions. I almost had to look away as the film renders a hand reaching into the machine and only just dodging an erratic syringe.

A still from The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley by Alex Gibney, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Drew Kelly.

At times, Gibney goes a bit too melodramatic. The toy music box twinkling foreshadows a dream becoming a nightmare, but it gets maddening after an hour straight. The pacing feels uneven, sometimes bogged down in Holmes’ personal relationships when later it seems to speed through the company’s collapse.

Though elsewhere, the director harnesses the nervous laughter coping mechanism of the former employees to inject humor into the grim tale. With accuracy so low, Shultz jokes that “if people are testing themselves for syphilis with Theranos, there’s going to be a lot more syphilis in the world.” Visual dramatizations of journalists’ audio recordings of Holmes and the eventual legal disputes bring this evidence to life.

Alex Gibney, director of The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The most touching scene sees Fortune’s Roger Parloff on the brink of implosion as he grapples with giving Holmes her first magazine cover story — momentum she used to eventually get Theranos’ useless hardware in front of real patients who depended on its results.

The Inventor succeeds at instilling the lesson without getting too preachy. It’s fine to be hopeful, but don’t ignore your concerns no matter how much you want something to be real. It takes an incredibly complex sequence of events and makes it at once gripping and informative. If you haven’t read “Bad Blood” or found it drab, “The Inventor” conveys the gravity of the debacle with a little more flare.

Yet the documentary also gives Holmes a bit too much benefit of the doubt, suggesting that hey, at least she was trying to do good in the world. In the after-film panel, Gibney said “She had a noble vision . . . I think that was part of why she was able to convince so many people and convince herself that what she was doing was great, which allowed her to lie so effectively.” Carreyrou followed up that “she was not intending to perpetrate a long con.”

Yet that’s easier to say for both the director and the author when neither of their works truly investigated the downstream health impacts of Theranos’ false positives and false negatives. If they’d tracked down people who delayed critical treatment or had their lives upended by the fear of a disease they didn’t have, I doubt Holmes would be cut so much slack.

Some degree of ‘Fake it ’til you make it’ might be essential to build hard technology startups. You must make people believe Inc something that doesn’t exist if you’re to pull in the funding and talent necessary to make it a reality. But it’s not just medical, hardware, or “atoms not bits” startups that must be allegiant to the truth. As Facebook and WhatsApps’ role in spreading misinformation that led to mob killings in India and Myanmar proved, having a grand mission doesn’t make you incapable of doing harm. A line must be drawn between optimism and dishonesty before it leads to drawing chalk outlines on the ground.

Thu, 24 Jan 2019 23:35:06 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Health TC Facebook Hbo Opinion India Tech Oscar Myanmar Silicon Valley Alex Gibney Fortune Wall Street Journal Theranos Elizabeth Holmes Sundance Holmes Edison Sundance Institute Shultz Enron Inc Gibney Personnel John Carreyrou Roger Parloff Drew Kelly Tyler Shultz Carreyrou Archimedes Beethoven
The Cleer Flow Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Headphones

The Cleer Flow Bluetooth equipped noise cancelling headphones.

Ever since 2016 when Apple forced the issue by eliminating the regular headphone jack on its iPhone 7 model, some headphone manufacturers have necessarily responded by offering Bluetooth connectivity on their headphones.

This is, frankly, unfortunate and totally unnecessary, but for Apple’s decision to make things more complicated for us, and clearly motivated by their desire to now sell us expensive headphones to go with their expensive phone.  One can wonder how much of a coincidence it is that Apple’s iPhone sales turned around and started dropping at about the same time.

Apple’s decision has sadly been aped by many other phone manufacturers too.  Although we’ve regularly experimented with Bluetooth headsets (primarily for voice calls, not for music listening), the reality remains that Bluetooth connectivity continues to struggle through compatibility and convenience issues.  In addition, it was never designed as a high-end audio pathway (one of the surprising things about the various developments in audio technology over the last couple of decades is that new innovations such as MP3 and Bluetooth degrade rather than improve sound quality – see our article here).

Furthermore, for us as travelers, much of the time we’ll want to be connecting to audio sources onboard airplanes or to other audio/video players that have headphone jacks but not Bluetooth, which means headphones have to be dual purpose.  Nothing has been simplified by adding Bluetooth.  Everything has been made more complex.

But, with that as a rather ill-tempered introduction, the situation is what it is.  If you’ve a recent phone with no headphone jack, you’re forced to either get some sort of adapter to convert from the USB or Lightning port on your phone to a regular headphone jack or to get a set of Bluetooth (BT) headphones.  Getting a converter might seem like a good idea, but not only is it another connector cable to keep track of and not lose, it also usually means that you can’t simultaneously charge your device and use it.  This is a big problem for tablets in particular, which take a long time to charge.  Usually on a flight, with only low power charging available through the at-seat USB connectors, we need to have our tablet charging continually just to slow the battery drain.  So wireless BT headphones have some advantage – there’s nothing to lose, and you can still be charging while playing/listening.

A number of companies have added a Bluetooth chip to their existing headphone models, and often use the addition of a BT chip (likely cost about $1) as justification for greatly increasing the retail price of their headphones.  Bose, for example, have a new model Quiet Comfort 35 II in their range of excellent noise cancelling headphones that includes BT connectivity, priced at $349.  This is an aggressive $50 more than their earlier standard $299 price for noise cancelling headphones.

As an aside, while the cost of most electronics continues to tumble, year after year, it is curious to note the success with which Bose has managed to keep the price of its noise cancelling headphones so high.  We have seen estimates suggesting that the underlying cost to Bose of a set of headphones it sells for $350 is no more than $30, so there is no underlying reason why the price should be so high, and lots of opportunity for competitors to offer similar products for massively lower pricing.  Because of this disconnect between product cost and selling price, we’re always casting around to find something (almost) as good as Bose, but for much less money.

Bose noise cancelling headphones are a curious mix of excellent and average – their noise cancelling remains the best we’ve ever encountered, anywhere, while their audio capabilities are average to good rather than similarly outstanding.  However, their weaker audio quality has been well compensated for with the interesting Sonarworks sound enhancing software (now available on Android and iOS devices as well as Windows computers – see our review here).

After some searching, we were intrigued by a product from a company we knew nothing about – the Cleer Flow.  The company is relatively new (started in 2015).  It had an earlier model of noise cancelling headphones that were generally well received and which won a CES Innovation award, and now has followed up with what it calls its Flow model, priced at $280.  Did this price indicate a very high quality product, we wondered?

You can change the design-emphasis color of the external circular trim if you wish.

General Impressions of the Cleer Flow Headphones

The headphones are available in either a grey or black finish, and come with a choice of two different flashy cylinder/ring pieces that appear to be nothing other than cosmetic in function.  One is silvery in color, the other coppery.  Swapping these over was a frustrating exercise, because it was hard to locate the alternate ring correctly and then secure it in place.  Indeed, the friction fit that holds it in place feels flimsy and I’d be far from surprised, over the course of some use, to find in a jet lagged stupor some time (perhaps aided by a glass or two of in-flight champagne!) that the rings come off, unnoticed, and get lost.

Much of the cost of a set of noise cancelling headphones these days goes into form, appearance and packaging rather than the underlying functionality.

The headphones seem to be solidly constructed, and indeed, weigh slightly more than my Bose QC25 headphones (11.8 compared to 7.3 ounces).  They are also generally larger, standing out from one’s ear about 0.4″ more than the Bose, and with a larger more boxy type of cup design.

But notwithstanding the greater weight and external size, the internal cup size – the cavity into which one’s ears go, to be then surrounded by the headphone cup – is smaller, primarily in the vertical dimension rather than the horizontal one.  Maybe I have large ears?  The cup size felt a bit small with the Flow headphones, while perfectly adequate with the Bose headphones.

The Flow headphones clamp more firmly to one’s skull than the Bose ones.  This might make them slightly less comfortable for an extended session (eg a 12 hour flight), but it also gives a better seal if you wear glasses.  Seal is very important, because if you don’t have a good seal, outside noises literally leak in, reducing the noise cancelling capabilities.

If you don’t have glasses, the seal is similar with the Bose and Flow headphones, but the extra pressure of the Flow seems to create a better seal if you have glasses running from behind your ears to your face.  However, if you wait a few minutes, what seems to be a type of memory foam in the Bose headphones slowly molds itself to the irregular shape of the side of your head and glasses and improves its seal, too.

You get a nice carry case with the headphones.  If you don’t have some other way of protecting them, you definitely should use the provided carry case.  They also come with a USB (charging) cable, an audio cable that happily uses standard connectors at both ends (so easy to replace if lost or broken, and a two prong to one prong adapter if you’re on a plane that uses the older two-prong type connectors.

It has a built-in rechargeable Li-ion battery, which is not replaceable, so there are no “batteries included” as might be the case with non-rechargeable powered headsets.

The battery is stated to be good for up to 20 hours playing time.  Unfortunately, when you recharge it, you can’t also use the noise cancelling function at the same time, but a five-minute quick charge will buy you another hour of battery life.  We’re not clear what rate of current a quick charge requires, and we’re even less certain if airline USB power adapters will provide that amount of current.  It takes about two hours to fully charge the battery.

Not included was a 1/8″ to 1/4″ adapter such as is often found with other higher-end headphones.  Chances are you already have one, but it was disappointing to see that $280 doesn’t buy you one as part of the total package of goodies you get.

The headphones have a microphone in them so they could be used for a phone call, both via Bluetooth or using the wired cord.  The cord connector worked with a variety of iOS and Android phones and tablets.

The headphones have three press buttons on the side of the left ear cup.  One controls the on/off, one turns the noise cancelling on/off, and the third, labeled “Ambient”, is a complicated way to hear what is happening around you, feeding in outside sounds through the microphone – for example, if the flight attendant asks you what you want for dinner.  To make this Ambient button all the more unnecessarily confusing, it has three settings – off, normal, and voice.

The problem we had with these three buttons is that we were, all the time, bumping them inadvertently while placing the headphones on or taking them off, or adjusting them for comfort.  Slide switches would be less likely to be bumped, or switches on the ear cup’s back (like with Bose) rather than on the side of the cup.  In addition, if for example wishing to turn on the Ambient feature, you really can’t be sure which of the three buttons you are pressing.  It is so much easier to just remove one of the ear cups to hear normally, than it is to fumble and fiddle with the controls.

Another “problem” is that when you press one, a voice confirmation is then given, which delays the immediate effect of your selection, and stops the playing of whatever audio you are listening to until the voice confirmation has been completed.  It is nice to be told what you’ve just done, but in this “instant everything” age, even a second or two of interruption and delay feels frustrating.

The left ear cup also has “invisible” controls for playing/pausing (by tapping the center of the cup), for volume (sliding a finger up or down) or for next/previous track (sliding a finger from side to side) that work with some but not all audio playing devices.  We promptly forgot about these, preferring to simply do what we already knew and control the devices directly using their own built-in controls, rather than trying to remember another interface and set of commands/controls.

Using the headphones for phone calls worked easily and the sound quality was normal.

The headphones come with a one year warranty.


We first tried the Bluetooth aspect of the headphones to see if there was any way we could use it without needing to use the manual.  So we set both an Android and iOS device into discoverable mode, and turned on the headphones.  A voice in the headphones told us “power on” but that was all.  Neither of the two phones reported finding the headphones.

So we had to turn to the manual to try and establish a connection.  This is not unusual with Bluetooth, which seems always to be implemented in an opaque and puzzling manner that requires recourse to the manual, but it is disappointing and adds to the complexity of things.  In theory, once you’ve connected a device you won’t have to go through the connection every time in the future; in practice, that often seems to be necessary with other BT devices we have.

So, looking at the manual, we had to start decoding the meanings of the different colors and states (flashing or steady) of an indicator light.  Ugh.  There’s plenty of space on the headphone cups, why not have a series of separate indicator lights for each thing they are trying to tell us?  (Note that no other BT device designers do this, either.  It is an industry-wide conceit that the end-users will commit their puzzling interfaces to memory.)

We managed to successfully pair to one phone using the automatic NFC pairing option, and to another phone using the regular pairing method.  We also managed to pair to our laptop.  But, surprisingly, we couldn’t pair to our iPhone 6+, and just got a cryptic error message on the iPhone and nothing at all on the headphones.

We wondered also how many different connections the headphones would remember, and how they would choose between multiple connections offered simultaneously.  For example, if we had our laptop, a tablet, and our phone, all on at the same time, and all with discoverable BT connections, which would it connect to?  More to the point, if the device was already connected to one system, how can we switch it to a different one?

These issues and questions are part of the “black magic” of Bluetooth, with the short answer being “it depends”.  We couldn’t find an answer to this in the brief user manual, and our several calls to their Customer Support either got a voicemail message or a person telling us “there’s no-one in at present” and a suggestion we send an email instead.  Our experimenting suggested that the headphones will connect to the most recent Bluetooth connection it was formerly connected to, and to shift them to a different device, you’ll need to turn off the device you don’t want them to connect to.  There’s no way we can tell, on the headphones themselves, to can do this.

Noise Cancelling

We are reviewing these headphones primarily from the perspective of a traveler who seeks noise cancelling as the prime feature, and sound quality as a secondary feature, which is the way we urge you to view your headphone evaluation when in a noisy environment such as an airplane.

These headphones offer up the usual assorted of marketing buzz words and phrases, with their particular claim being “Hybrid noise canceling technology”.  We think that means they offer passive sound blocking (like a set of ear muffs hearing protectors) as well as active noise cancellation.  They also claim on their website

Powerful hybrid noise canceling technology and optimized passive isolation competently suppresses (~30dB) wide-band ambient noise for immersive listening almost anywhere.

So what does this actually mean?  The headphones performed well, and better than most airline supplied noise cancelling headphones, even in Business Class.  But they were not as good as the Bose QC15/25/35 family of noise cancelling headphones, which were clearly and incontrovertibly better.  We had several people try them, and all agreed they could definitely hear the difference, with the Bose as slightly better performers.

So, if noise cancellation is your primary goal, the narrow pricing differential between these ($280) and either the Bose QC 35 II ($350) probably would have us recommending the Bose product.  And if you don’t need/want the Bluetooth, the Bose QC25, currently priced at $180, are hands-down your best choice.

One quirk of these headphones is that if you just want to use them for noise-cancelling and not playing anything, you have to plug in a connecting cord.  Otherwise, the headphones “helpfully” search for a Bluetooth source to connect to, and if they can’t connect to a BT source, they then automatically turn themselves off!  There is no way to override this.  Ugh.

But what say you are insisting on the very best sound quality as well?  How do the Flow headphones compare to the Bose?  Does better sound make up for not-quite-as-good noise cancelling?

Sound Quality

We liked the sound of the Flow headphones.  They weren’t as vibrant as the extraordinary (but sadly now no longer available) Solitude dual-driver noise cancelling headphones, but were good, with a nice clean even sound.  They weren’t quite as crystal clear on higher and transient frequencies such as are sometimes apparent on the best recordings of pianos and violins, where you can sense the hammers hitting the keys as well as the sounds generated, and the rasp of the bow traveling across the string, and overall, we’d describe the sound as a little muted and dull on the higher frequencies, but uncolored, undistorted, and transparent.

We didn’t feel quite as drawn in to the musical experience as we sometimes do with outstanding quality headphones, where we sometimes get distracted and spend hours enjoying music rather than writing a review.  However, for watching a movie on a plane, or enjoying some casual tunes, also on a plane or in another noisy environment, they are perfectly good.

It was hard to fairly compare them to the Bose, because with the Bose, we can feed the headphones through the Sonarworks app and get a very musically accurate experience.  Sonarworks don’t support Cleer headphones at present.

However, if using both headphones with, for example, an airplane In-Flight Entertainment system which doesn’t support the Sonarworks app, the difference is minor, although we still feel we slightly prefer a more engaging and brighter tone in the Bose headphones.

Perhaps the simplest and fairest thing to say here is that there is no clear enormous difference in audio quality between the two.

It seems Cleer is trying to sell their product on its “coolness factor”. If it worked for the generally lackluster Beats, maybe it will work for Cleer too.


As is always the case with Bluetooth, our experience was frustrating.  To be fair to Cleer, they simply follow the same annoying Bluetooth conventions as do all other BT device designers, so while we didn’t enjoy the Bluetooth experience, it is no worse than that provided by any other company.

Noise cancelling is good, but not as good as the Bose headphones.  Sound quality is good but not brilliant.  Overall, and priced at $280 either on their own site or Amazon, we’d probably pay $70 more for the much better noise cancelling of the Bose QC35 II headphones (priced at $350) if we wanted to also have BT capability, or if we didn’t, it becomes a no-brainer to pay $180 for the excellent Bose QC25 headphones.

There’s nothing actively bad about the Cleer Flow headphones, but also nothing outstandingly good.  Perhaps the kindest thing to say is to note they are promising a newer model this year (we believe perhaps June) that appears to have better sound quality, some extra capabilities, and which will be priced at the same $280 level as the current headphones.

The post The Cleer Flow Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Headphones appeared first on The Travel Insider.

Thu, 24 Jan 2019 23:33:51 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Travel Reviews Apple Amazon Tech Bose Cellphones & Wireless Hiqh Quality Music And Myths Li Cleer
Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google ready to reveal extent of decay [Author:]

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San Diego’s DeskHub Snapped Up by Co-Working Company Cross Campus

Cross Campus, a shared office-space provider with five locations in the Los Angeles, CA, region, has snapped up DeskHub in the latest step in a plan to expand its West Coast presence.

DeskHub, one of San Diego’s oldest co-working companies, has about 500 members across two locations: a 23,000-square-foot space in Little Italy and about 15,000 square feet of space in Scottsdale, AZ. Cross Campus has a total of about 185,000 square feet across the Los Angeles area and about 2,500 members.

BisNow first reported the deal. Terms aren’t being disclosed.

Jay Chernikoff, founder and CEO of DeskHub, is joining Cross... Read more »

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Thu, 24 Jan 2019 22:58:50 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Startups Softbank Los Angeles Trends Tech San Diego M&a WeWork West Coast Acquisition Co-working Los Angeles CA Little Italy Bisnow National blog main Xperience San Diego blog main San Diego top stories Coworking DeskHub Cross Campus Early Stage Companies CommonGrounds Jay Chernikoff Ronen Olshansky Scottsdale AZ Cross Campus
Get Android 9.0 Pie on Redmi Note 5 Pro with OxygenOS 9.0 port Xiaomi’s MIUI is amongst the most popular Android skins with more than 300 million worldwide users. MIUI is a heavy skin on top of Android skin that offers various customizations but brings a good amount of bloat as well. Xiaomi's Redmi Note 5 Pro was amongst the best selling devices launched in 2018 but it runs on Android 8.1 (Oreo) based MIUI 10 as of now. As per an official announcement, Redmi Note 5 Pro is expected to get Android 9.0 (Pie) in Q1 2019 but the public beta testing for the MIUI Global ROM hasn't started yet. Earlier, we tried Pixel Experience and Pixel Experience Extended ROM on Redmi Note 5 Pro both of which were based on Android Pie. Oxygen OS is another Android skin that is popular amongst users for the customizations it offers without adding bloat, developers have ported Android 9.0 (Pie) based Oxygen OS to Redmi Note 5 Pro. We tried it on our unit and here are our impressions, Performance and Benchmarks: Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 is capable of delivering a solid day to day performance, we obtained AnTuTu score of 113283 which is slightly lesser as compared to 115397 on Pixel Experience ROM but the day to day performance ... ]]> Thu, 24 Jan 2019 22:31:16 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Android Blogging Xiaomi MIUI MIUI Global ROM Redmi Note 5 Pro Android Pie Whyred Android Pie Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro Android Pie Redmi Note 5 Pro Android 9 Redmi Note 5 Pro Oxygen OS Whyred Android 9 Whyred Oxygen OS Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro Oxygen OS The Marketing Over Coffee Playbook! Buy Now! In this Marketing Over Coffee:
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Bangkok Fights Air Pollution With Water-Spraying Drones

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Apple’s 2019 “Shot on iPhone” Contest Begins Think you’ve got what it takes to beat the competition in an iPhone photography competition?

Then Apple wants to see your pictures “Shot on iPhone” as it gets its 2019 contest underway.

Image via Oleg Magni from

Users of iPhones can submit their best photos between now and February 7th. After that date it will be up to a panel of judges to determine whether or not your work is the best.

Apple's VP of Marketing Phil Schiller and head of the camera software team John McCormack will lead a panel featuring luminaries of the photography world like Pete Souza and Annet de Graaf.

Winning the contest will give you some real exposure, too. Not only will winning photos be used in future Apple ads such as billboards and other media but also your name will be blasted all over the web as being a pro iPhone photographer.

According to DPReview, there are two ways to submit your photos to the contest. You can tag your photos on Twitter or Instagram with #ShotOniPhone and then you should describe which make and model you used to get that shot.

Alternatively, photographers can also email entries in full res to using the file format firstname_lastname_iphonemodel. Photos can be original captures or edited.

As for the contest rules, you can read those here on Apple’s website.

Essentially you’re giving Apple usage rights over your submitted photos.

As DPReview highlights, “[Y]ou retain your rights to your photograph; however, by submitting your photo, you grant Apple a royalty-free, world-wide, irrevocable, non-exclusive license for one year to use, modify, publish, display, distribute, create derivative works from and reproduce the photo on Apple Newsroom,, Twitter, Instagram, in Apple retail stores, Weibo, WeChat, on billboards and any Apple internal exhibitions. Any photograph reproduced will include a photographer credit. …If your photo is selected to be featured on a billboard, you further agree to grant Apple exclusive commercial use of the photo for the life of the license.”

The post Apple’s 2019 “Shot on iPhone” Contest Begins appeared first on Light Stalking.

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Nokia 2 users will get Android Oreo update option soon, but there’s a catch Earlier this week HMD Global revealed Android 9.0 (Pie) roadmaps, but the Nokia 2 was missing from the list. Several users started asking the reason why the phone is yet to get stable Android 8.1 (Oreo) update since it got beta update way back in June last year. Today, HMD Global’s Chief product officer Juho Sarvikas‏ has finally revealed the reason behind the long delay. Nokia 2 that was launched in 2017 running Android 7.1.1 (Nougat) OS, later the company said that the phone will get Android 8.1 Oreo update directly skipping 8.0 update and include memory management improvements, which is needed since the phone has only 1GB of RAM, but it cannot be moved to Android Oreo (Go Edition) program since it was launched with Android. Juho has revealed that the company has worked extensively with Google and Qualcomm to enable Android Oreo for Nokia 2. Since Oreo requires more from the system than Nougat, there is a trade off on snappiness of the experience compared to Android Nougat. Nokia 2 uers will get an option to update to Oreo via a web page soon instead of a normal over-the-air (OTA) update, but those who need a slightly better UI performance can stay on Nougat. Source ]]> Thu, 24 Jan 2019 22:00:06 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Google News Nokia Blogging Qualcomm HMD Global Juho Sarvikas Nokia 2 Nokia 2 Oreo Android Juho Android Nougat Nokia France: Google fined €50 million for breaches of GDPR - Holman Webb Thu, 24 Jan 2019 21:42:54 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Google News France Eu Cnil Holman Webb Is Lack of Sleep a Public Health Crisis?

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Go-Jek makes first close of $2 billion round at $9.5 billion valuation Southeast Asia-based ride-sharing firm Go-Jek is making progress with its plan to raise up to $2 billion in fresh capital to fund its battle with close rival Grab .

Indonesia-headquartered Go-Jek has closed an initial chunk of that round after a collection of existing investors, including Google, Tencent and, agreed to invest around $920 million towards it, three sources with knowledge of the investment told TechCrunch.

The deal, which we understand could be announced as soon as next week, will value Go-Jek’s business at around $9.5 billion, one source told TechCrunch. With existing investors on board, the company is now actively soliciting checks from other backers to take it to its target. The capital is likely to go towards deepening its presence in new markets and furthering its fintech push.

A Go-Jek representative declined to respond when contacted by TechCrunch for comment on its fundraising efforts.

This incoming round excluded, Go-Jek has raised more than $2 billion from investors to date, including a $1.4 billion round that closed last year and valued its business at $5 billion.

Founded in 2015, Go-Jek began in motorbike taxis before expanding to four-wheels, service on demand and fintech. It decided to go after a $2 billion raise last year — having seen Grab gobble up Uber’s local business in Southeast Asia — but it has taken some time to make progress. That’s partially down to an effort to ‘clean the cap table’ by buying out some early investors and longer-serving or former staff with equity, two sources told TechCrunch.

Likewise, there has also been discussion around including the acquisition of’s local business, valued at over $1 billion, in the deal. As far as we know, a resolution hasn’t been found despite lengthy talks.

An acquisition of would not only see’s influence deepen with Go-Jek, but it would give the ride-railing startup a strong position in Indonesia’s e-commerce space, which includes three other unicorns: Alibaba-owned Lazada, Tokopedia — which is backed by Alibaba and SoftBank’s Vision Fund — and Bukalapak, which also recently raised money for growth.

There is some doubt, however. Speaking to Reuters this week, co-founder Kevin Aluwi denied Go-Jek has plans to enter e-commerce.

Fundraising for Southeast Asia’s ride-sharing companies went up a few notches last year after Uber decided to exit the region through a deal with Grab, which saw the U.S. firm pick up a potentially-lucrative 27.5 percent stake in Singapore-based Grab.

Grab raised a $2 billion Series H round, anchored by a $1 billion injection from Toyota, but the company plans to increase that fundraising effort to as much as $5 billion, as we reported at the tail end of last year.

Why all the huge checks? At stake is a dominant position within a fast-growing online market.

Ride-hailing in Southeast Asia is poised to grow from an $8 billion annual business in 2018 to $31 billion by 2025, according to a report from Google and Temasek. Indonesia alone is tipped to account for nearly half of that figure.

The report from Google and Temasek forecasts major growth for ride-hailing in Southeast Asia

With a cumulative population of more than 620 million people and increasing internet access, Southeast Asia has emerged from the shadows of China and India to become an attractive market for startups and tech companies. Chinese giants like Tencent and Alibaba have stepped up investment areas in recent years, with e-commerce, fintech and other ‘ground zero’ infrastructure services among their targets as the region begins to turn digital in the same way China has.

That’s where Grab and Go-Jek get interesting because, beyond simply catering to transportation, both companies have expanded to offer services on-demand, like e-groceries, as well as payments and financial services such as loans, remittance and insurance. The goal is to become the region’s one-stop ‘super app’ like WeChat, Alipay and Meituan in China.

So far, Go-Jek has fanned out beyond ride-hailing to offer fintech and other services in Indonesia, but it is still getting to grips with the regional play. It expanded to Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore last year while the Philippines is a work in progress following a setback after it was denied an operating permit earlier this month.

Already, though, it is making plans for the Philippines after it acquired, a fintech startup that is likely to be the base for a local push into payments and financial services. The deal was officially undisclosed, but sources told TechCrunch that Go-Jek has paid around $72 million — that potentially makes it the company’s largest acquisition to date. That shows how serious Go-Jek is both about its expansion efforts and its fintech business.

Go-Jek CEO Nadiem Makarim worked at McKinsey for three years before starting the companyn[Photographer: Wei Leng Tay/Bloomberg]

In the here and now, Go-Jek claims more than 125 million downloads in Indonesia, over a million drivers and some 300,000 food merchants. It claims to process 100 million transactions per month, while Aluwi told Reuters that total transactions on its platforms crossed $12.5 billion last year. That doesn’t mean net income, however, since the company takes only a slice of customer’s ride-sharing fares and payment volumes.

Grab, meanwhile, operates in eight markets in Southeast Asia. It claims over 130 million downloads and more than 2.5 billion completed rides to date. Grab is assumed to not yet be profitable but it has said that it made $1 billion in revenue in 2018. It projects that the figure will double this year.

The company has raised around $6.8 billion from investors, according to data from Crunchbase, and Grab was last valued at $11 billion.

Thu, 24 Jan 2019 21:05:31 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Google Fundings & Exits TC Uber Asia Indonesia China Southeast Asia Singapore Collaborative Consumption India Softbank Funding Tech Companies Thailand Philippines Alibaba Tencent Toyota Alipay Alibaba Group Vietnam Temasek Crunchbase Mckinsey Reuters Vietnam Thailand Grab Jek Go Jek Co-founder WeChat Alipay Grab Grab Nadiem Makarim Google Tencent TechCrunch Likewise Lazada Tokopedia Kevin Aluwi Temasek Indonesia Wei Leng Tay Bloomberg Aluwi
Google's DeepMind AI Just Beat Two Pros At StarCraft II

Add StarCraft II to the list of increasingly sophisticated games at which well-trained AIs can smash fallible, meat-fingered humans to chunky bits. Google’s DeepMind AI beat two professional players of Blizzard’s StarCraft in two multi-game series that happened in December, the companies jointly announced today.


Thu, 24 Jan 2019 21:00:00 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Google Science Pc Kotakucore Ai Starcraft Starcraft Ii Deepmind AlphaStar
Deep Mind Artificial Intelligence Wins 10 Out 11 Games Versus Pro Human Players [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]] ]]> Thu, 24 Jan 2019 20:55:18 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Science Technology Video Games World Artificial Intelligence Innovation Deep Learning Deep Mind Deep Mind Artificial Intelligence Wins 10 Out 11 Games Versus Best Human Players [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]] ]]> Thu, 24 Jan 2019 20:55:18 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Science Technology Video Games World Artificial Intelligence Innovation Deep Learning Deep Mind Mapping the Overlap of SERP Feature Suggestions Posted by TheMozTeam

From carousel snippets to related searches to “People also ask” boxes and “People also search for” boxes, the Google SERP is jam-packed with features that not only aid in keyword list creation but can help you better understand the topics your unique search landscape is structured around.

In fact, the increase of topics and entities as a way of navigating and indexing the web was one of the biggest developments in search in 2018. This is why we took 40,977 SERPS and stripped out every term or phrase from the aforementioned features — a small, first step toward making sense of Google’s organizational skills.

We wanted to see how much overlap might exist across these different SERP features. Does Google give us a lot of new keywords to work with or just suggest the same stuff over and over again? Do we need to pay attention to each SERP feature when building out our SEO strategy or can we overlook a few? We dug into a bunch of data in STAT to find out.

A little bit on topics and entities and SERP features

In September 2018, Google announced a new layer to its knowledge graph:

“The Topic Layer is built by analyzing all the content that exists on the web for a given topic and develops hundreds and thousands of subtopics. For these subtopics, we can identify the most relevant articles and videos—the ones that have shown themselves to be evergreen and continually useful, as well as fresh content on the topic. We then look at patterns to understand how these subtopics relate to each other, so we can more intelligently surface the type of content you might want to explore next.”

But, even before Google came out with its Topic Layer, Cindy Krum, CEO & Founder of MobileMoxie, was all about what she called “entities” as mobile-first indexing was (finally) rolling out. See if you can spot the similarities:

“Entities can be described by keywords, but can also be described by pictures, sounds, smells, feelings and concepts; (Think about the sound of a train station – it brings up a somewhat universal concept for anyone who might hear it, without needing a keyword.) A unified index that is based on entity concepts, eliminates the need for Google to sort through the immense morass of changing languages and keywords in all the languages in the world; instead, they can align their index based on these unifying concepts (entities), and then stem out from there in different languages as necessary.”

Bringing it back to SEO-specifics, Cindy explains that both domains (traditionally associated with indexing) and the brands that operate them can be considered entities. “Indexing based on entities is what will allow Google to group all of a brand’s international websites as one entity, and switch in the appropriate one for the searcher, based on their individual country and language.”

So, what does any of this have to do with our SERP features of choice? Well, all of the suggested terms packed into them are the direct result of Google’s endless topic analysing and organizing. We might not be privy to every entity Google scrapes but we can certainly take cues from how they choose to express the final product on the SERP.

How we made the magic happen

In order to map the overlap in our particular query space, we took the highly scientific word-bag approach. Operating on a SERP-by-SERP level of analysis, we scooped each feature’s suggestions into its own bag, filtered out any stop words, and then compared one bag’s suggestions to another, looking for a match and tallying as we went.

So, for example, we’d examine all the PAA questions on one SERP against all the related searches on the same SERP. Each PAA suggestion got its own bag, as did each related search, and we removed the search term itself from all of the bags. If any remaining words in the two bags matched, we counted it as an overlap, divided it by the total number of possible overlaps, and got the total entity overlap between these features. Phew!

In the end, after combing through 40,977 SERPs, we made roughly forty-million word bag comparisons. No sweat.

What we found

Ultimately, there’s not a lot of overlap happening with our four features. A measly average of 4 percent of the search suggestions saw any duplication in terms. This tells us that Google’s putting a lot of care and consideration into what each SERP feature’s up to and we’d be wise to keep an eye on all of them, even it means weeding out a few duplicate suggestions now and then.

Here’s how things turned out when we looked at specific pairings:

Carousel snippets

Carousel snippets hold the answers to many different questions thanks to the “IQ-bubbles” that run along the bottom of them. When you click a bubble, JavaScript takes over and replaces the initial “parent” snippet with one that answers a brand new query. This query is a combination of your original search term and the text in the IQ-bubble. For this bit of research, we took the bubble text and left the rest.

It turns out that carousel snippet IQ-bubbles had the least amount of overlap with the other three SERP features. This is likely because the bubbles, while topically related to the original query, typically contain subcategories that live within the high-level category introduced by the search term.

Take the above snippet for example. The query [savings account rates] produces a SERP with organic results and other features that provide general info on the subject of savings accounts. The bubbles, however, name different banks that have savings accounts, making them highly distinct keyword suggestions.

Other reasons to consider these terms when list-building and content strategizing: Google keeps this snippet right at the top of the SERP and doesn’t require clicking of any kind in order to surface the bubbles, which means they’re one of the first things Google makes sure a searcher sees.

The "People also ask" box

The “People also ask” box typically contains four questions (before it gets infinite) related to the searcher’s initial query, which then expand to reveal answers that Google has pulled from other websites and links that guide users to a SERP of the PAA question.

Not only are PAA questions excellent long-tail additions to your keyword set, they’re also a great resource for content inspiration. So we stripped them out and dumped them into our word bags to analyse.

PAA questions ended up returning the second highest level of duplication, though most of that was tied to terms we pulled from the “People also search for” box — the two had a 10.41 percent overlap.

This makes sense as both ostensibly offer up other terms that people either ask or search for. It could also be a result of the longer length of both suggestions, which can create more opportunity for matching.

Related searches

No less than eight related searches sit at the very bottom of each SERP and, when clicked, become the search query of a new SERP. These help to refine or expand on the original query.

We were surprised to see how little duplication related searches had with the other SERP features — they were oddly unique. We say “oddly unique” because these terms are usually shorter and more iterative of the original query, tending to stay on topic and, as a result, we expected them to show up more in the other features (the carousel snippet perhaps being the only exception).

The "People also search for" box

In order to surface a “People also search for” box, you need to do a little pogo-sticking. It’ll materialize after clicking an organic search result and then navigating back to the SERP. Mobile PASFs typically have eight topically-related terms that open up a new SERP, while desktop PASFs usually have six.

Out of all our comparisons, PASF boxes had the most amount of overlap, particularly with PAAs (which we noted above) and related searches. Given that PASF terms are attached, both physically and topically, to the organic result and not the search query, we actually didn’t expect them to share this much.

One possible explanation would be the sheer volume of them. With an average of 8.77 boxes per SERP and six or eight terms per box, this would lead to both a lot of duplication within the box itself and an overall saturation of the topic field. But, when we think about what PAAs and related searches attempt to do, PASFs do seem like a mix of both.

Putting it all together

With not a lot of term overlap happening, it’s a good idea to keep all of these features top of mind. Google may be running out of unique-sounding names for them, but they’re not running out of unique suggestions to stuff into them.

Even if understanding the topic hierarchies that rule your query space is a little outside of your day-to-day concerns, if people click on search suggestions rather than — or even in addition to — organic results, then it stands to reason that you should at least be trying to rank for these terms as well as the base query.

If you’re super pressed for time or don’t have the resources required to wade through each SERP feature’s suggestions and had to pick just one, you could run with the PASF box (though we’d still recommend you throw in any IQ-bubbles that show up) as it returns the highest duplication.

Conversely, since STAT’s got super easy PAA and related searches reports, you could quickly cover about as much ground with those two. Want take those reports (and more) for a test drive? Say hello and request a demo!

This post was originally published on the STAT blog.

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Thu, 24 Jan 2019 20:46:00 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Google Seo Paa Cindy SERP Cindy Krum TheMozTeam Founder of MobileMoxie
Google's StarCraft-playing AI is crushing pro gamers ]]> Thu, 24 Jan 2019 20:43:27 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Google Cnn Deepmind Google's AI is crushing pro gamers ]]> Thu, 24 Jan 2019 20:43:27 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Google News Stories Deepmind 'I Stopped Using a Computer Mouse For a Week and It Was Amazing'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Thu, 24 Jan 2019 20:40:00 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Tech
Ultima Thule shows its lumps in latest images from New Horizons flyby The rendezvous between the New Horizons probe and the distant object known as Ultima Thule was an historic moment, but after the mind-blowing imagery the craft sent back from Pluto, you could be forgiven for being a little disappointed in how indistinct the early imagery was. Those concerns should be partly alleviated by the latest image from the probe, which shows the rocky world in considerably greater detail.

It’s still not exactly poster quality, but remember, this is being beamed back bit by bit from four billion miles away. And it isn’t just sending the best stuff, but a huge series of images it took during the brief flyby on January 1. Not only that, but there are multiple imagers and instruments whose information must be collated and adjusted for human viewing.

In this case the image was taken by the Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera, or MVIC; the previous ones were taken with LORRI, a long-range reconnaissance camera. It was taken from a distance of about 4,200 miles away, just a minutes before the probe’s closest approach.

Earlier imagery wasn’t as clear, but showed the rust-red color of the object.

The lighting is fortuitous, and helps show off the topography of Ultima Thule, or 2014 MU69, as it was previously known. To give you a sense of scale, the big concavity in what you might call the head of the snowman is about 4 miles across. The team writes in a blog post:

Not clear is whether these pits are impact craters or features resulting from other processes, such as “collapse pits” or the ancient venting of volatile materials.

Both lobes also show many intriguing light and dark patterns of unknown origin, which may reveal clues about how this body was assembled during the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago. One of the most striking of these is the bright “collar” separating the two lobes.

Principal Investigator of the New Horizons mission Alan Stern, whom I spoke with about the flyby and other topics some months before New Year’s, says in the same post that we have even more to look forward to:

“This new image is starting to reveal differences in the geologic character of the two lobes of Ultima Thule, and is presenting us with new mysteries as well. Over the next month there will be better color and better resolution images that we hope will help unravel the many mysteries of Ultima Thule.”

Thu, 24 Jan 2019 20:37:18 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Space Science Tech Nasa New Horizons Pluto LORRI Alan Stern Ultima Thule
Intel just gave a revealing clue about how badly Apple's iPhone unit sales may have shrunk (AAPL) Tim Cook (jake using!).JPG

  • Intel Thursday gave Apple watchers some insight into the latter's iPhone sales shortfall during the holidays.
  • The chip maker announced that the revenue it saw from its cellular modems was $200 million less than expected.
  • Apple is the major customer of Intel's modem chips.
  • A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that Apple could have sold 11.8 million fewer iPhones than expected.

Intel may have just given us a better sense of how poor Apple's iPhone sales were over the holidays.

Apple may have sold as many as 11.8 million fewer smartphones than expected in the fourth quarter, based on back-of-the-envelope calculations. The calculations were derived from the shortfall Intel announced in its earnings report Thursday in its sales of modems, the communications chips smartphones use to connect to the cellular networks.

Intel saw "dramatically weakening modem demand" in the holiday period, Bob Swan, the company's interim CEO, said on a conference call with investors. The company's modem revenue, he continued, "fell significantly below our expectations due to weaker smartphone demand."

Read this: Intel's shares plunge 8% as it misses on revenue and earnings and warns trouble in China could mean more pain to come

The chip maker said it saw $200 million less in modem revenue than it expected in the quarter. Intel didn't blame Apple, but the iPhone maker is the major customer for Intel's communications chips (we asked Intel which other smartphone makers buy its modems, but have not received a response).  And Apple has already warned that its holiday iPhone sales were disappointing.

Apple pays $17 per modem for the Intel communications chips that go into the iPhone XS Max, research firm IHS Markit reported last year. Tech Insights estimated Apple pays about $23 for the modems.

$200 million buys a lot of modems

If you assume that the $200 million shortfall was all due entirely to Apple and that Intel charges around $17 a modem, the chip maker would have sold 11.8 million fewer communications chips to the iPhone maker than it expected, which likely works out to be about the same number of phones. If you use the $23 figure for modem costs, the shortfall is about 8.7 million units.

Either figure would represent a significant portion of Apple's quarterly iPhone sales. In the last four holiday quarters, Apple has sold between 74 million and 78 million smartphones. An 8.7 million shortfall would represent about 11% of typical holiday sales for the company. A 11.8 million shortfall would be about 16%.

Earlier this month, Apple CEO Tim Cook told investors that Apple's holiday revenue would be about 7.6% lower than it had previously forecast, thanks in part weak iPhone sales, particularly in China.

Just how many iPhones Apple actually sold last quarter and just how far those sales fell short of expectations may never be exactly known. The company controversially announced in November that it would discontinue disclosing the number of devices it sells.

An Intel representative declined to confirm the price it charges for its modems or to name other customers who purchase them. Representatives for Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

SEE ALSO: Longtime Apple analyst Gene Munster thinks the iPhone maker will reclaim its crown as the best tech stock in 2019. Here's why.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: China made an artificial star that's 6 times as hot as the sun, and it could be the future of energy

Thu, 24 Jan 2019 20:19:26 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Apple Hollywood China Trends Intel Tim Cook Gene Munster Coca Cola Here IHS Markit Longtime Apple Bob Swan
DeepMind AI AlphaStar Wins 10-1 Against 'StarCarft II' Pros

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Thu, 24 Jan 2019 20:00:00 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Google Youtube Tech Deepmind AlphaStar David Silver at DeepMind Dario Wunsch Grzegorz Komincz
Hidden screen in iOS 12.2 beta hints at AirPods that can handle ‘Hey Siri’ It’s a weird quirk of the current generation of AirPods: they support Siri, but only if you double-tap one of the earbuds first. Unlike with iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and HomePods, you can’t just say “Hey Siri” and babble out your request.

Rumors have been floating around for a while suggesting that a new iteration of AirPods — AirPods 2, the rumor mill is calling them — would bring “Hey Siri” functionality. Now a screen hiding in the latest iOS beta seems to suggest the same.

While it’s not a publicly accessible screen, Guilherme Rambo of 9to5mac managed to trigger the following prompt in the just-released iOS 12.2 beta:

(Image Credit: 9to5Mac)

“Talk to Siri with your AirPods or iPhone by saying ‘Hey Siri’,” it reads.

Its absence from the current generation of AirPods presumably boils down to a matter of battery life. Apple figured out how to make “Hey Siri” work with minimal impact on battery life with the iPhone 6s, then broke down how it all works in a post on its Machine Learning Journal in April of 2018. But to pull off the same trick in a tiny earbud — each having a battery capacity of 93 milliwatt hours, or roughly 1 percent of that of an iPhone — is an entirely new challenge. For the first gen, it was just easier to let the headphones wait for that double-tap, queueing it up as a new selling point whenever Apple figured out how to pull it off.

Rumors have also hinted at other features for the eventual AirPods sequel, from waterproofing to sensors that help track health data. Alas, no sneaky hidden prompts hinting at any of that have been found yet.

Thu, 24 Jan 2019 19:54:51 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Apple TC Gadgets Siri Tech Guilherme Rambo AirPods Machine Learning Journal
Google’s Bid to Battle Amazon Suffers Blow as Walmart Withdraws Google’s Bid to Battle Amazon Suffers Blow as Walmart WithdrawsWalmart removed its products from Google’s Shopping Actions service, the internet giant said on Thursday. The retailer also recently dropped out of Google Express, a related delivery service. In March, Google unveiled Shopping Actions, which lets consumers more easily buy goods from retailers through the company’s search engine, digital assistant and Express delivery.

]]> Thu, 24 Jan 2019 19:53:17 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Google Science Walmart Google Express Battle Amazon Suffers Blow StarCraft II-playing AI AlphaStar takes out pros undefeated Losing to the computer in StarCraft has been a tradition of mine since the first game came out in 1998. Of course, the built-in “AI” is trivial for serious players to beat, and for years researchers have attempted to replicate human strategy and skill in the latest version of the game. They’ve just made a huge leap with AlphaStar, which recently beat two leading pros 5-0.

The new system was created by DeepMind, and in many ways it’s very unlike what you might call a “traditional” StarCraft AI. The computer opponents you can select in the game are really pretty dumb — they have basic built-in strategies, and know in general how to attack and defend and how to progress down the tech tree. But they lack everything that makes a human player strong: adaptability, improvisation and imagination.

AlphaStar is different. It learned from watching humans play at first, but soon honed its skills by playing against facets of itself.

The first iterations watched replays of games to learn the basics of “micro” (i.e. controlling units effectively) and “macro” (i.e. game economy and long-term goals) strategy. With this knowledge it was able to beat the in-game computer opponents on their hardest setting 95 percent of the time. But as any pro will tell you, that’s child’s play. So the real work started here.

Hundreds of agents were spawned and pitted against each other.

Because StarCraft is such a complex game, it would be silly to think that there’s a single optimal strategy that works in all situations. So the machine learning agent was essentially split into hundreds of versions of itself, each given a slightly different task or strategy. One might attempt to achieve air superiority at all costs; another to focus on teching up; another to try various “cheese” attempts like worker rushes and the like. Some were even given strong agents as targets, caring about nothing else but beating an already successful strategy.

This family of agents fought and fought for hundreds of years of in-game time (undertaken in parallel, of course). Over time the various agents learned (and of course reported back) various stratagems, from simple things such as how to scatter units under an area-of-effect attack to complex multi-pronged offenses. Putting them all together produced the highly robust AlphaStar agent, with some 200 years of gameplay under its belt.

Most StarCraft II pros are well younger than 200, so that’s a bit of an unfair advantage. There’s also the fact that AlphaStar, in its original incarnation anyway, has two other major benefits.

First, it gets its information directly from the game engine, rather than having to observe the game screen — so it knows instantly that a unit is down to 20 HP without having to click on it. Second, it can (though it doesn’t always) perform far more “actions per minute” than a human, because it isn’t limited by fleshy hands and banks of buttons. APM is just one measure among many that determines the outcome of a match, but it can’t hurt to be able to command a guy 20 times in a second rather than two or three.

It’s worth noting here that AIs for micro control have existed for years, having demonstrated their prowess in the original StarCraft. It’s incredibly useful to be able to perfectly cycle out units in a firefight so none takes lethal damage, or to perfectly time movements so no attacker is idle, but the truth is good strategy beats good tactics pretty much every time. A good player can counter the perfect micro of an AI and take that valuable tool out of play.

AlphaStar was matched up against two pro players, MaNa and TLO of the highly competitive Team Liquid. It beat them both handily, and the pros seemed excited rather than depressed by the machine learning system’s skill. Here’s game 2 against MaNa:

In comments after the game series, MaNa said:

I was impressed to see AlphaStar pull off advanced moves and different strategies across almost every game, using a very human style of gameplay I wouldn’t have expected. I’ve realised how much my gameplay relies on forcing mistakes and being able to exploit human reactions, so this has put the game in a whole new light for me. We’re all excited to see what comes next.

And TLO, who actually is a Zerg main but gamely played Protoss for the experiment:

I was surprised by how strong the agent was. AlphaStar takes well-known strategies and turns them on their head. The agent demonstrated strategies I hadn’t thought of before, which means there may still be new ways of playing the game that we haven’t fully explored yet.

You can get the replays of the matches here.

AlphaStar is inarguably a strong player, but there are some important caveats here. First, when they handicapped the agent by making it play like a human, in that it had to move the camera around, could only click on visible units, had a human-like delay on perception and so on, it was far less strong and in fact was beaten by MaNa. But that version, which perhaps may become the benchmark rather than its untethered cousin, is still under development, so for that and other reasons it was never going to be as strong.

AlphaStar only plays Protoss, and the most successful versions of itself used very micro-heavy units.

Most importantly, though, AlphaStar is still an extreme specialist. It only plays Protoss versus Protoss — probably has no idea what a Zerg looks like — with a single opponent, on a single map. As anyone who has played the game can tell you, the map and the races produce all kinds of variations, which massively complicate gameplay and strategy. In essence, AlphaStar is playing only a tiny fraction of the game — though admittedly many players also specialize like this.

That said, the groundwork of designing a self-training agent is the hard part — the actual training is a matter of time and computing power. If it’s 1v1v1 on Bloodbath maybe it’s stalker/zealot time, while if it’s 2v2 on a big map with lots of elevation, out come the air units. (Is it obvious I’m not up on my SC2 strats?)

The project continues and AlphaStar will grow stronger, naturally, but the team at DeepMind thinks that some of the basics of the system, for instance how it efficiently visualizes the rest of the game as a result of every move it makes, could be applied in many other areas where AIs must repeatedly make decisions that affect a complex and long-term series of outcomes.

Thu, 24 Jan 2019 19:42:51 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Gaming Science Tech Artificial Intelligence Starcraft Protoss Deepmind Zerg MANA AlphaStar
Only 25 Percent of Occupations In US Are At 'High Risk' For Losing Jobs From Automation, Study Finds

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Thu, 24 Jan 2019 19:20:00 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs US Tech Brookings Institution Brookings Mark Muro
Amazon’s cloud is slowly addressing one of its biggest criticisms as it extends another olive branch to open source developers (AMZN) Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, or AWS, the retail giant's cloud-computing business.

  • Amazon Web Services announced a new open source project on Thursday called Neo-AI, which helps developers bring artificial intelligence to hardware like security systems or maybe even self-driving cars. 
  • Amazon has historically had a reputation for using a lot of open source software, without giving much back. But Neo-AI could be a sign that it's ready to be a bigger part of the open source community.
  • Neo-AI is Amazon Web Services' second-ever open source project, after Firecracker, which it launched last November.

Amazon Web Services has a certain reputation for taking a lot from the open source software community, without giving much back.

Now, the cloud giant taking another baby step away from that image by making some of its own artificial intelligence code available for anyone to use for free. It's only the second open source project out of Amazon Web Services, which is largely considered the number-one player in the cloud computing market.

Last November, Amazon Web Services announced a machine learning feature called SageMaker Neo that allows users to train and run artificial intelligence programs on Amazon's cloud. Now, AWS is making much of the SageMaker Neo code  available as open source under the name Neo-AI.

This new project will help developers to program hardware platforms — like home security systems, or even perhaps self-driving cars — to use machine learning models like TensorFlow, the mega-popular AI technology originated at Google. Since Neo-AI is available as open source, anyone can use, download or modify the code for free.

An olive branch from Amazon

Beyond the technology itself, Neo-AI could be an important effort from Amazon Web Services to mend bridges with the open source world.

In recent months, Amazon Web Services has come under fire for taking open source c ode and reselling it to customers as a paid service. Doing so is completely legal — open source software, by its nature, can be used for any purpose, even commercial use. But Amazon's reputation for not contributing back to open source projects has worked against it, as it's percieved as happy to profit from the software, but not to contribute to making it. 

Indeed, some studies have suggested that Amazon contributes very little code to open source projects compared to fellow tech giants like Microsoft, Google, Red Hat and IBM.

Neo-AI isn't the first wave in Amazon's open source charm offensive. Firecracker, announced in November, was taken by developers as a sign that AWS was finally ready to contribute significant projects to the open source world. With Neo-AI, Amazon is releasing even more of its internally-developed technology as open source.

Read more: As tensions with smaller software companies run high, Amazon is extending an olive branch with a new open-source project

Neo-AI helps make hardware smarter

Normally, developers may need to spend weeks or months manually adjusting the program so that it works on whatever hardware device they're using — different types of gadgets have different levels of computing power and even battery life, making for a lot of variables that need to be fine-tuned. 

Not only that, but the software on the device might also be a mismatch with the software the developer is using. Neo-AI eliminates these compatibility issues by converting these programs into a common format, and it also makes these programs run more efficiently on the hardware.

Neo-AI supports hardware platforms from Intel, NVIDIA, and ARM, and in the future will support Xilinx, Cadence, and Qualcomm.

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Trial for valet airport parking robots and other news Thu, 24 Jan 2019 19:08:21 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Tech Bbc Jen Copestake Will lawyers step up after this week’s mass layoffs of journalists?

Yesterday brought word of mass layoffs at Buzzfeed and HuffPost. Today brought news that Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in the country, is slashing jobs across the country. 

Investors are likely looking to reign in losses at the first two and it’s possible Gannett is looking to get more profitable asap now that a hedge fund known to be the death of journalism for its previous acquisitions is looking to acquire them.

No matter how you slice it though, there will be more a thousand more unemployed journalists by the end of the week. And you can add them to the thousands of journalists who have already lost their jobs.

Some are calling this the realization that the business of digital content doesn’t work. I don’t buy it, people want quality journalism. As a society we require it. 

Buzzfeed and HuffPost are getting slapped a bit by relying on SEO too much.  Packing keywords in the story and in title tags in an effort to game Google and rank high in search diminishes the content and gets journalists focused on the wrong thing. And it always catch up with you.

Good journalism, like good legal blogging, gets ranked without focusing on SEO. 

Rather than rely on venture capitalists and other investors looking to invent the future of journalism, why not people who already have a revenue model for their journalism – lawyers included.

There’s no debating that law blogs are providing some of the best insight and commentary on the law. Some law blogs provide news and information on things never covered before. 

It’s never been easier for lawyers to start a nich focused blog and draw a following of readers. If there’s a better way of growing influence, a name and relationships for business development by a lawyer than a good blog, I haven’t seen it. 

Unlike traditional joiurnalists, lawyers don’t need to get paid for their reporting (blogging). They get paid as a result of their blogging – some lawyers, hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and some lawyers, millions of dollars a year from a name and relationships built through blogging. 

We’re not talking content marketing, SEO magnet blogs or, worse yet, ghostwriters putting up content in someone else’s name, we’re talking real and authentic information and insight from a practicing lawyer.

Beyond blogging, lawyers can use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to report and comment on legal developments.

I don’t have to look for immigration news and insight, I get it from immigration Attorney Greg Siskind on Facebook – often on high profile cases he’s involved in. Greg’s been providing the world immigration news via the net for almost twenty-five years.

Like and Google, with Newspack, empowering traditional news reporting companies, LexBlog will do what it can to empower and support law bloggers – they represent the present and future of legal news and commentary.

We’re creating The LexBlog Standard theme (looks just like this blog) for lawyers looking to get up and going on their own blog on their own domain fully supported by LexBlog for $49 a month with no initial fee. 

We’re going to start working with state and metro bar associations to grow the number of law bloggers and to use syndication portals as a way to showcase lawyers blogging and to get the legal news and commentary where it’s most needed. 

And our publishing team is working diligently to get every credible legal blog in LexBlog, as the leading legal news and commentary publication. 

Journalism may not be viewed by most folks as “our business” as lawyers. But it is.

No one is better equipped to report and comment on legal news and developments than a lawyer practicing in a relevant niche. Sure, a lawyer is not going to quit their day job to report, but we’re talking niches (think less news). A post a week is a lot.

A win win for society and lawyers here. Time for a few lawyers to care and step up.

h/t Jared Sulzdorf 

Thu, 24 Jan 2019 18:57:06 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Google Facebook Law Time Journalism Blogging Gannett Lexblog Greg Greg Siskind HuffPost Today
A picture tells a 1,000 words. Pixels pwn up to 5 million nerds: Crims use steganography to stash bad code in ads A strain of malware has been clocked using steganography to run malicious JavaScript on Macs via images in online banner ads, it was claimed this week.…

Thu, 24 Jan 2019 18:56:20 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Apple Software