Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘2019

Amazon’s Delivery Drone

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Amazon still delivers most of the stuff I order from them via truck and human.

But TechCrunch is reporting the company has a new delivery drone, and is indicating it will start making deliveries via drone in the coming months.

The drone is “chock-full of sensors and a suite of compute modules that run a variety of machine learning models to keep the drone safe.”

The drone safe? What about we customers??

I can’t wait for the first redneck video of some doofus shooting the Prime Air drone out of the sky with a .12 gauge.

FYI, the new drone can fly up to 15 miles and carry packages that weigh up to five pounds.

More deets:

There are four traditional airplane control surfaces and six rotors. That’s it. The autopilot, which evaluates all of the sensor data and which Amazon also developed in-house, gives the drone six degrees of freedom to maneuver to its destination. The angled box at the center of the drone, which houses most of the drone’s smarts and the package it delivers, doesn’t pivot. It sits rigidly within the aircraft.

It’s unclear how loud the drone will be. Kimchi would only say that it’s well within established safety standards and that the profile of the noise also matters. He likened it to the difference between hearing a dentist’s drill and classical music. Either way, though, the drone is likely loud enough that it’s hard to miss when it approaches your backyard.

Domino’s Pizza, your move!

Written by turbotodd

June 5, 2019 at 3:17 pm

Posted in 2019, amazon, artificial intelligence, drones

Tagged with ,

Apple Blah

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You know you’ve lost some enthusiasm about technology when the most excited you got at Apple’s “dub-dub” (WWDC) keynote was “dark mode.”

I’ve read lots of folks commentary on Twitter and parts beyond claiming this was the best keynote presentation since Steve Jobs left the stage.

Yeah, I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong, it was competently done, but I saw a lot of nibbling around the edges and not nearly as much new innovation I would have expected.

But I’ve been around this industry for a wee bit, maybe I’m just jaded. 

Or maybe I’m just already pretty happy with the Apple technology I have.  

I do my daily work on a 2013 MacBook Pro, I have my own personal Macbook Air (circa 2011), an iPhone 7+ with a cracked screen that still works fine, a first-gen Apple Watch, and a first-gen iPad Air. I couldn’t be more of an Apple fan boy. 

But I also don’t like doing real work on the iPad (other than email and a little writing) because I miss not having a mouse too much (although Apple intimated that mouse action would be included in the iPadOS soon, and is already in beta), and I don’t like reading books on the MBP because for me, that’s what iPads and iPhones are for!

Last year, we heard at WWDC that Project Marzipan was going to result in a harmonic convergence of iOS and MacOS apps. This year Apple announced it was forking iOS into an iPad-specific system, and now “Project Catalyst” will help port apps over to the Mac.

Catalyst, Marzipan, where and when does this convergence train end?

CarPlay, which circa 2019 I would think be more important an opportunity than ever (for safety reasons, if nothing else), seemed stalled, save for some compatibility with third-party apps like Pandora and Waze.

But if you’re looking for a new Mac Pro, Apple will sell you its top spec new model for up to $35,000!

What I was most excited about?  

Again, I think for the industry and for developers, the interesting stuff comes in with dev toolsets like ARKit 3, which provides new tools to make AR development easier and allows third-party developers to develop really cool AR apps.

The Minecraft demo was cool, but I’m not a Minecrafter, so I’ll be keeping my iPhone peeled for new AR apps I can use.

In the meantime, let’s hope Apple gets back into the inner ideation sanctum and comes up with something new, and innovative, and soon. 

Plugging a thumb drive into my iPad is supposed to be an exciting Apple keynote announce? 

Puh-leez, Steve Jobs would be turning over in his grave.

Written by turbotodd

June 4, 2019 at 12:44 pm

Posted in 2019, apple, apple watch

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Apple WWDC: The China Backdrop

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Happy Monday.  

It’s 6/3/2019, thirty years on from 6/3/1989.

The New York Times has published an editorial explaining why China cannot erase the truth of Tiananmen. And Ian Johnson’s analysis explains that thirty years on, someone always remembers despite the government’s efforts to make them forget.

In some ways, the world is interacting with a different China in 2019. In others, the tiger hasn’t changed its stripes.

And as its annual developer conference gets going in San Jose later this morning, WIRED reminds us that Apple could be a likely target for Chinese retaliation in the increasingly chilly U.S-China trade “Cold War.”

WIRED observes that many in China view the “aggressive US measures” on trade and IP as designed to prevent China from rising further, and the multipronged campaign against Huawei “is largely perceived in China as a naked attempt by Washington to kneecap a serious competitor in everything from mobile devices to networking equipment and especially 5G.”

But China could respond in a way that could take a big bite out of Apple’s profitability:

Beijing could respond by increasing tariffs on US imports into China and by making it more cumbersome for US companies to do business in China, through such moves as permitting delays and holding up shipments in customs. But if China is truly looking for revenge, it need look no further than Apple. The Cupertino company has a vast global business, but China represents a real vulnerability.

China represents 19 percent of Apple’s worldwide sales, with the iPhone making up the bulk of that. While China is not as fruitful a market for Apple’s burgeoning services business, it is and has been a strong and generally growing market for Apple’s devices—until the past year.

Already, without the government doing anything explicit, Apple’s China sales have slowed precipitously. It had 10 percent share of the smartphone market at the beginning of 2018; it now has barely 7 percent. Almost all smartphone makers have seen shipments decline in China. The exception? Huawei, whose market share and sales have modestly increased while its competitors, ranging from Apple to Samsung to Xiaomi, have fallen.

Or, WIRED goes on, the Chinese government “could simply ban the sale of iPhones in China using the same justifications that the US is using against Huawei: national security and data security.”

But with the Google/Huawei Android license dispute looming with an August extension of the original deadline, one imagines Apple could be safe through much of the summer if, for no other reason, they serve as a viable smartphone OS hedge for the Middle Kingdom

So with that as the backdrop, what, exactly, are we hearing that could be announced, shown, unveiled, etc at Apple’s biggest developer event of the year?

Topline: Possibly a new and improved MacPro on the hardware side. macOS 10.15 and iOS 13 on the iPad, with more possible convergence between the Mac OS and iOS through Apple’s Marzipan project (including confirmed new apps that include Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV).

Also expect updates on tvOS and watchOS, new AR, and likely pricing on the Apple Arcade service.

And oh yeah, a Dark Mode for iPhone owners. 

Will there be an upside surprise in today’s keynote or this week’s event?

Tune in a couple of hours and find out.

Written by turbotodd

June 3, 2019 at 10:11 am

Posted in 2019, apple, china, developers

Tagged with , , ,

Broad Spectrum

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Happy Friday.

It appears that Amazon is interested in buying prepaid mobile wireless service Boost Mobile from US carriers T-Mobile and Sprint.

According to a report in Reuters, Amazon is considering buying Boost because the deal would allow it to use the “New T-Mobile” wireless network for at least six years.

New T-Mobile is the name that T-Mobile and Sprint use to refer to the new entity that would result from their merger, one that still requires regulatory approval.

Reuters also reported that Amazon would be interested as well in any wireless spectrum that could be divested as part of the deal.

Analysts estimate that Boost has seven to eight million customers and a transaction could be valued at $4.5 billion if the deal included wireless spectrum and facilities.

Meanwhile, we’re getting some of our first public looks at Uber earnings…the company reported $3.1B in revenue in Q1, which was up 20% year-over-year, and gross bookings of $14.65B dollars, up 34% year-over-year but with a net loss of $1.01B.

From CNBC:

On a call with analysts, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he likes “what we see on the competitor front in the U.S.,” referencing Lyft’s earnings call where executives said they are beginning to compete more on brand.
“I think that competing on brand and product is, call it, a healthier mode of competition than just throwing money at a challenge,” Khosrowshahi said.

If you’re a Chrome user and interested in security, see this piece from WIRED, one entitled “Google is finally making Chrome extensions more secure.”

The improvements come as part of a wider company push to evaluate how much user data third-party applications can access. Google launched the audit, known as Project Strobe, in October alongside an announcement that Google+ had suffered data exposuresand would be shuttered.
Later this year, Google will begin requiring that extensions only request access to the minimum amount of user data necessary to function. The company is also expanding its requirements around privacy policies: Previously, only extensions that dealt with personal and sensitive user data had to post the policies, but now extensions that handle personal communications and other user-generated content will need to articulate policies, as well. Google says it is announcing these changes now so developers have time to adapt before the new rules take effect this fall.

Some funding news: BabbleLabs, which is focused on improving speech quality, accuracy, and personalization in voice apps, has raised a $14M Series A. The round was co-led by Dell Technologies Capital and Intel Capital.

Written by turbotodd

May 31, 2019 at 11:23 am

Crazy Dogs and Tank Men

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This one reminded me of Socks the Puppet.

You remember Socks, the Pets.Com mascot back during the dot com heyday? Go watch one of their TV spots on YT. Good stuff.

Well, China’s “Crazy Dog” is not to be outdone, and recently raised $43.4M in Series B funding. The company was founded in 2014 and is one of China’s leading Internet-based pet supplies brands.

Crazy Dog actually sells stuff, though, including more than 5 million bags of dog food last year. China’s annual pet care market reached some $24.7 billion last year (only 33% of which was dog food).

Also on the Chinese front, a startup called Neolix Technologies is mass producing self-drive delivery vans in Changzhou. Specifically, what are referred to as Level 4 autonomous vehicles, those that a driver does not need to interfere with any driving operations and where autonomous travel is available under specific conditions, like self-driving zones.

And on to more sensitive subjects, we’re less than a week away from the 30th anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown (June 4th). We’ll see just how good those Chinese AI algorithms are, as posts that allude to dates, images and names associated with the protests will be automatically rejected and/or deleted.

Penalties for Internet users and activists who step beyond the bounds of Chinese censorship propriety include fines to jail time.

That means any allusions to “Tank Man” will likely end up in the AI scrapheap of history.

But you can still buy good dog food online in China.

Written by turbotodd

May 28, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Posted in 2019, china

Tagged with , , , ,

AI Distortion

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Happy Friday. 

For those of you in the U.S., are you ready for a longgg holiday weekend?

You’re already on the road, you say?  Well, more power to ya!

I think we had another AI moment yesterday.

WAPO is reporting that there were distorted videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that had been altered to make her sound as if she’s drunkely slurring her words.

The videos spread rapidly across social media, including Twitter, FB, and YT.

One version, posted by the conservative Facebook page Politics WatchDog, had been viewed more than 2 million times by Thursday night, been shared more than 45,000 times, and garnered 23,000 comments with users calling her “drunk” and “a babbling mess.”

WAPO goes on to write that the origins of the altered video remained unclear.

Another video that made the rounds this week: One of now and former world leaders like Trump, Putin, May, Obama, others, singing along to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Their moving lips were totally in synch with Lennon’s lyrics.  Their policies, that’s another story.

This is our future.

If we can’t tell the difference between a Tweet originating at the White House or the Kremlin, what chance do we have with video??

Maybe we could just make up a presidential candidate from AI scratch, give he/she a good neural network, and send them off and running.  They could make decisions 24 hours a day, wouldn’t require food or sleep, and wouldn’t necessarily even need their own Twitter account. 

Because they’re AI, they know and see all, and are omnipotent. 

Happy start to your Memorial Day weekend.  ; )

Written by turbotodd

May 24, 2019 at 11:06 am

Reservation for 5,000

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I read a piece in The New York Times yesterday that provided a recent test of Google’s Duplex technology.

Google Duplex was the technology revealed in May 2018 at the Google I/O developer conference that uses a Google AI engine via Google Assistant to call and make appointments. The original I/O demo, and The New York Times test, partly centered on making restaurant reservations.

In the Times piece, you can listen to a couple of the reservation calls. You should give them a listen. No, really.

Do they pass the Turing Test? Maybe not, but the AI does a really good job of playing the human. And in many cases, Duplex is still using humans, not bots, for making the reservations.

That, presumably, is to better train the bots so that we can get rid of the humans altogether and move the humans up the value chain to a far more interesting job like, say, delivering for Uber eats!

I wonder what happens if one of the algos messes up and tries to make a reservation for 5,000 using someone’s Amex black card for a deposit.

Does the Duplex AI start screaming for help from Dave because the algo doesn’t know what to do with that information? Does Amex reverse the charge when the human calls blaming the mistake on the Duplex AI? Do they try to sue Larry and Sergey!??"

*That* one you can try at home, kids!

Written by turbotodd

May 23, 2019 at 10:02 am

Posted in 2019, artificial intelligence, google

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