A Technique to Help AI Understand Video Better

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Which AI is smarter, Siri or Alexa?

AI technology is improving at an amazing rate. However, video is still a significant challenge. Wired reported on a development that may improve things, whilst also using less processing power.

A group from MIT and IBM developed an algorithm capable of accurately recognizing actions in videos while consuming a small fraction of the processing power previously required, potentially changing the economics of applying AI to large amounts of video. The method adapts an AI approach used to process still images to give it a crude concept of passing time. The work is a step towards having AI recognize what’s happening in video, perhaps helping to tame the vast amounts now being generated. On YouTube alone, over 500 hours of video were uploaded every minute during May 2019. Companies would like to use AI to automatically generate detailed descriptions of videos, letting users discover clips that haven’t been annotated. And, of course, they would love to sell ads based on what’s happening in a video.

Elizabeth Warren is Not Going to Take Any More Big Donations From Tech

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Elizabeth Warren announced Tuesday that she is not going to accept any more big campaign donations from execs at big tech firms. The contender to be the Democratic-presidential nominee said all contributions over $200 will be rejected, Fast Company reported.

The senator from Massachusetts announced on her website today that she will turn away “contributions over $200 from executives at big tech companies, big banks, private equity firms, or hedge funds.” As CNBC notes, the pledge expands on an earlier promise from Warren, a leading contender in the Democratic presidential primaries, not to accept large contributions from execs at pharmaceutical and fossil fuel companies. Few Democrats in the 2020 presidential race have catered to workers at Apple, Google, Facebook, and the like. A Fast Company analysis in September found that more workers at large tech companies donated to the campaigns of President Donald Trump and businessman Andrew Yang than to Joe Biden’s campaign. (Despite this, Biden raised more money from Big Tech in total.) Warren has specifically campaigned to “Break Up Big Tech” and even put that slogan on a billboard in San Francisco.

Patent Suggests Radar System in Bodywork of Apple's Self-Driving Car

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Car with Apple logo

Apple’s much speculated upon self-driving car might have a radar system hidden within the bodywork. That’s according to a patent granted Tuesday and uncovered by AppleInsider.

In Apple’s design, it suggests the use of antennas to transmit a radar beam towards a portion of a field of view, along with a vertical antenna array to receive the bounced-back signal. The receive antenna array can consist of multiple antenna elements grouped into sub-arrays, with each sub-array used to receive scatter signals reflected back at it from a smaller subsection of the field of view. Circuitry is then used to combine the received scatter signals from the antenna array into a combined scatter signal, which is then digitized. A second horizontal receive array performs a similar job, again with sub-arrays and the same process. A signal processor is then used to process the scatter signals from both vertical and horizontal arrays, and to correlate the data from each to give effectively a 3D radar layout.

Luminar 3 Photography Software: $29

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We have a deal on Luminar 3, photo editing software for Mac and Windows. It features Accent AI 2.0, which lets you make dozens of adjustments using one slider; “human-aware” technology that recognizes people and applies adjustments selectively for more realistic results; you can enhance the skies in your photos with AI Sky Enhancer; and, more than 70 instant looks hand-crafted by pro photographers. Luminar 3 is $29 through our deal.

Amazon's Move Into the Elections Market

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U.S. elections are big business. Reuters published a fascinating report into how Amazon moved into the world of politics.

Amazon pitches itself as a low-cost provider of secure election technology at a time when local officials and political campaigns are under intense pressure to prevent a repeat of 2016 presidential elections, which saw cyber-attacks on voting systems and election infrastructure. “The fact that we have invested heavily in this area, it helps to attest to the fact that in over 40 states, the Amazon cloud is being trusted to power in some way, some aspect of elections,” Michael Jackson, leader, Public Health & U.S. Elections at AWS, told prospective government clients in February via a presentation on a webinar, which was viewed by Reuters.

Developer Offers Tips for How to Handle Getting Sherlocked

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Luna Display with iPad Pro as second display for Mac

Savannah Reising of Astropad posted a killer blog post (via Dave Mark at The Loop) offering six tips for how to handle being sherlocked by Apple. Getting sherlocked means that Apple just announced the product, software, or feature that you built your business on, and it’s a known risk for Apple ecosystem veterans. It happened to Astropad when Apple announced Sidecar at WWDC this past June. Her lessons include Know your true competition; Don’t wait to diversify; Build a culture of experimentation; Go where your customers go; Seize the narrative; and, When Apple goes wide — dive deep. It’s a very good read, and I strongly recommend it.

But now that the Sidecar dust has settled, I want to share our experience with other players in the Apple ecosystem. My intent is two-fold: On a personal level, it’s therapeutic to reflect on how this has impacted our work. But more importantly, my hope is that by candidly sharing our story, I can pass along some of the painful insights we learned along the way — like how you can prevent getting sherlocked, and what to do if it happens to you.

North Korea Targets Macs with Fake Cryptocurency Trading Site and App

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North Korean hacking group “Lazarus Group” has been targeting Macs with a bit of fake website used to promote an open source app that served as a trojan horse. The fake site was called JMT Trading, and was designed to look like a trading platform. To use the trading platform, you had to download an app from Github, but even though the app was open source, it contained malware for Macs, with the whole scheme being part of North Korea’s efforts to steal Bitcoin. Check out Forbes‘s report:

The hackers may then go a step further by contacting administrators and users of cryptocurrency exchanges, asking them to test and review their new app, Wardle told Forbes. If they get lucky, they get a bit of leverage in an official cryptocurrency vendor and start infecting targets.

Bitcoin Top Crypto on the Darkweb, but Privacy-Oriented Cryptos Are Gaining Steam

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Cryptocurrency Crime

Bitcoin remains the cryptocurrency of choice on the dark web, according to a report from TheNextWeb. That might be mostly a matter of inertia, however, as privacy-oriented cryptos are gaining steam. Cryptos like Monero and Dash, as well as others, have features baked into their underlying blockchain that can make it much harder to trace transactions. From TheNextWeb‘s coverage:

Bitcoin is still very much the dark web‘s favorite cryptocurrency, but those looking to cover their tracks are slowly learning to use privacy-focused alternatives. […] Authorities say there has been a more “pronounced shift” towards more privacy-orientated cryptocurrencies, and expects this trend to continue as criminals become more security aware.

CuriosityStream 3-Year Subscription: $45

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CuriosityStream

We have a deal on a 3-year subscription for CuriosityStream, the streaming and on-demand service with more than 2,000 documentaries and shows. It works in a browser, iOS, Apple TV 4 and above, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Xbox One, and more. It’s $45 through our deal.

Disney+ Reveals All the Shows Coming to The Service

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One Day at Disney

Disney+ tweeted almost all of the shows and movies coming to the streaming service in a flurry of tweets on Monday. Techcrunch has a good of rundown of what is on the way.

For anyone who grew up on Disney, the list is a nostalgic look back at not just the studio’s hits, but also the titles that had quickly faded from your memory, or those that even make you cringe. While most streaming services today round out their catalog lineup with less popular content in order to claim a larger number of total titles available, they don’t tend to promote their B movies and crappy TV shows in any of their marketing or advertising, for obvious reasons. Disney’s approach, by comparison, is refreshingly transparent.

iPhone SE2 Will be 'Key Growth Driver' in 2020

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Analyst Ming-Ching Kuo believes that the iPhone SE2 will be Apple’s key growth driver next year.  He made the prediction in a new note, sent to investors Sunday, CNBC reported.

In a note to investors Sunday, Kuo reiterated that the iPhone SE2 will have a similar design to the iPhone 8. That suggests Apple will be able to reuse parts from that phone while upgrading some of the internal components, like the processor and camera. It will be offered in silver, space gray and red, Kuo said. Kuo also predicted that the budget iPhone will likely attract people who are still using the iPhone 6 and 6s, which he estimates are still being used by as many as 200 million people, even though those phones launched five years ago. He said the new phone will be a “key growth driver” for Apple next year.

Things Are Not Gong Well for Facebook's Cryptocurrency

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Facebook cryptocurrency has lost a number of big-name backers in recent times. Reuters reported on the problems facing Libra, and looked at where the project might go next.

PayPal (PYPL.O) started the Libra Association exodus this month, leaving Facebook without the backing of any major payments firms for the project, due for launch by June 2020. Libra said this month it would give details after the meeting of the 1,500 “entities” that have indicated “enthusiastic interest” to take part in the project. Members will review a charter and appoint a board at the Libra meeting, which will be held in Geneva, the Wall Street Journal reported this month. A spokeswoman did not immediately respond to enquiries on the meeting of the Libra Association, whose remaining members include Vodafone (VOD.L) and ride-hailing firms Uber and Lyft.

Custom 5G Apple Modem has Goal of 2022 Release

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Reports say that Apple has moved its timeline for a custom 5G Apple modem to 2022.

It won’t be easy. In fact, bringing a new modem to the finish line in two years is really pushing it, my source said. After all the design work is done, and the fabrication of the chips themselves is underway, an arduous testing and certification process still awaits.

Right now I think 5G is overhyped and even the previous rumor of a 5G iPhone in 2020 didn’t make sense.

iOS 13.2 Will Let You Delete Your Siri Audio History

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The latest Apple betas like iOS 13.2 have a feature that lets you delete your Siri audio history in settings.

In addition to offering an explicit opt-in, Apple has promised that only employees, and not contractors, will be involved in reviewing the audio clips. However, this doesn’t stop the automated text transcriptions of your Siri requests from being transmitted to Apple, irrespective of whether you opt-in or -out, although they will pseudonymized and dissociated from your Apple ID. What’s more, these transcripts could be reviewed by employees and contractors.

I’m glad that Apple is adding this feature, and given its privacy stance I’m surprised it’s a feature we don’t already have.

Looking Ahead to the 2020 iPhone

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I know. You’re only just getting used to your new iPhone 11. But Lisa Eadicicco at Business Insider is already looking at what comes next for Apple.

Among the biggest changes that’s expected to come with Apple’s 2020 iPhones is the introduction of a more sophisticated three-dimensional camera, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Debby Wu. Such a camera system would include a laser scanner to create 3D replicas of the real world, boosting the iPhone’s augmented reality capabilities. With the new 3D camera, the iPhone would be better at placing virtual objects in augmented reality and would offer enhanced depth perception, according to Bloomberg. Apple’s iPhones have supported augmented reality applications for years, and the company made its first big push into AR when it launched ARKit in 2016 — a set of tools to help mobile developers build high-quality AR apps.

Harry Potter Takes Over Times Square With Immersive Experience

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Harry Potter

The producers behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child put together an immersive experience that took over Times Square. Fifty-one screens celebrated the play’s expansion into international markets, AdWeek reported.

The producers of Broadway’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, in partnership with entertainment advertising agency AKA NYC, recently put that to the test with a Times Square takeover that used 51 towering screens to promote the play’s expansion to new international markets and reveal its new tagline: “Sometimes, Darkness Comes From Unexpected Places.” The project required the cooperation of eight digital display companies, creating a nearly 360-degree panorama of moving visuals. As attendees watched, a timer counted down to reveal Harry Potter, but the bright and golden imagery was soon clouded into darkness as dementors arrive and herald the ominous return of the Death Eaters via the play’s time-traveling plotlines.

Your Kids' Photos Power Surveillance Technology

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Kids lining up against the wall with smartphones

The New York Times has a nice feature out today about how a mother found photos of her kids in a machine learning database.

None of them could have foreseen that 14 years later, those images would reside in an unprecedentedly huge facial-recognition database called MegaFace. Containing the likenesses of nearly 700,000 individuals, it has been downloaded by dozens of companies to train a new generation of face-identification algorithms, used to track protesters, surveil terrorists, spot problem gamblers and spy on the public at large. The average age of the people in the database, its creators have said, is 16.

I can’t imagine the gross feeling you get when you see your kids in a database like this.

NASA Aiming For Manned SpaceX Mission in Q1 2020

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SpaceX Dragon

NASA is aiming for a manned SpaceX mission in the first quarter of 2020. NASA chief Jim Bridenstine made the announcement Thursday, Reuters reported.

The pronouncement of a revised time frame signaled NASA believes SpaceX is getting the Crew Dragon project back on track following an explosion during a ground test in April and technical challenges with its re-entry parachute system. Bridenstine said successful development of the capsule was key to achieving NASA’s top priority – the resumed “launching of American astronauts on American rockets from American soil” for the first time since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. The NASA administrator spoke to reporters at the end of a visit to the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, just outside Los Angeles, where chief executive Elon Musk led him on a tour of the sprawling manufacturing plant.