Buzz Aldrin Is Raising Money to Send People to Mars – TIME

(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) Forty-eight years after he landed on the moon, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin on Saturday rolled out a red carpet for the red planet at a star-studded gala at the Kennedy Space Center.

Aldrin, 87, commemorated the upcoming anniversary of the 1969 mission to the moon under a historic Saturn V rocket and raised more than $190,000 for his nonprofit space education foundation, ShareSpace Foundation . Aldrin believes people will be able to land on Mars by 2040, a goal that NASA shares. The space agency is developing the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft to send Americans to deep space.

Apollo astronauts Walt Cunningham, Michael Collins and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt joined Aldrin, one of 12 people to walk on the moon, at the sold-out fundraiser.

“I like to think of myself as an innovative futurist,” Aldrin told a crowd of nearly 400 people in the Apollo/Saturn V Center. “The programs we have right now are eating up every piece of the budget and it has to be reduced if we’re ever going to get anywhere.”

During the gala, the ShareSpace Foundation presented Jeff Bezos with the first Buzz Aldrin Space Innovation Award. Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and the spaceflight company Blue Origin, is trying to bring the cost of space travel down by reusing rockets.

“We can have a trillion humans in the solar system. What’s holding us back from making that next step is that space travel is just too darned expensive,” Bezos said. “I’m taking my Amazon lottery winnings and dedicating it to (reusable rockets). I feel incredibly lucky to be able to do that.”

The foundation also honored former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel in space, with the Buzz Aldrin Space Pioneering Award.

“When Buzz says, ‘Get your ass to Mars,’ it’s not just about the physical part of getting to Mars. It’s also about that commitment to doing something big and audacious,” Jemison told The Associated Press. “What we’re doing looking forward is making sure that we use our place at the table.”

Space memorabilia was auctioned at the gala, including an autographed first day insurance “cover” that fetched $42,500 and flew to the surface of the moon. Covers were set up by NASA because insurance companies were reluctant to offer life insurance to pioneers of the U.S. space program, according to the auction website. Money raised from their sale would have paid out to the astronauts’ families in the event of their deaths. The covers were issued in limited numbers and canceled on the day of launch.

The gala is the first part of a three-year campaign leading up to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing to help fund advancements that will lead to the future habitation of Mars.

ShareSpace Foundation on Saturday announced a new nonprofit, the Buzz Aldrin Space Foundation, to create an educational path to Mars. During the past year, the foundation has gifted 100 giant maps of Mars to schools and continues to work with children to advance education in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, or STEAM.

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Buzz Aldrin Is Raising Money to Send People to Mars – TIME

AI Could Revolutionize War as Much as Nukes – WIRED

In 1899, the worlds most powerful nations signed a treaty at The Hague that banned military use of aircraft, fearing the emerging technologys destructive power. Five years later the moratorium was allowed to expire, and before long aircraft were helping to enable the slaughter of World War I. Some technologies are so powerful as to be irresistible, says Greg Allen, a fellow at the Center for New American Security, a non-partisan Washington DC think tank. Militaries around the world have essentially come to the same conclusion with respect to artificial intelligence.

Allen is coauthor of a 132-page new report on the effect of artificial intelligence on national security. One of its conclusions is that the impact of technologies such as autonomous robots on war and international relations could rival that of nuclear weapons. The report was produced by Harvards Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, at the request of IARPA, the research agency of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It lays out why technologies like drones with bird-like agility, robot hackers, and software that generates photo-real fake video are on track to make the American military and its rivals much more powerful.

New technologies like those can be expected to bring with them a series of excruciating moral, political, and diplomatic choices for America and other nations. Building up a new breed of military equipment using artificial intelligence is one thingdeciding what uses of this new power are acceptable is another. The report recommends that the US start considering what uses of AI in war should be restricted using international treaties.

The US military has been funding, testing and deploying various shades of machine intelligence for a long time. In 2001, Congress even mandated that one-third of ground combat vehicles should be uncrewed by 2015a target that has been missed. But the Harvard report argues that recent, rapid progress in artificial intelligence that has invigorated companies such as Google and Amazon is poised to bring an unprecedented surge in military innovation. Even if all progress in basic AI research and development were to stop, we would still have five or 10 years of applied research, Allen says.

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In the near-term, Americas strong public and private investment in AI should give it new ways to cement its position as the worlds leading military power, the Harvard report says. For example, nimbler, more intelligent ground and aerial robots that can support or work alongside troops would build on the edge in drones and uncrewed ground vehicles that has been crucial to the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. That should mean any given mission requires fewer human soldiersif any at all.

The report also says that the US should soon be able to significantly expand its powers of attack and defense in cyberwar by automating work like probing and targeting enemy networks or crafting fake information. Last summer, to test automation in cyberwar, Darpa staged a contest in which seven bots attacked each other while also patching their own flaws.

As time goes on, improvements in AI and related technology may also shake up balance of international power by making it easier for smaller nations and organizations to threaten big powers like the US. Nuclear weapons may be easier than ever to build, but still require resources, technologies, and expertise in relatively short supply. Code and digital data tend to get cheap, or end up spreading around for free, fast. Machine learning has become widely used and image and facial recognition now crop up in science fair projects.

The Harvard report warns that commoditization of technologies such as drone delivery and autonomous passenger vehicles could become powerful tools of asymmetric warfare. ISIS has already started using consumer quadcopters to drop grenades on opposing forces. Similarly, techniques developed to automate cyberwar can probably be expected to find their way into the vibrant black market in hacking tools and services.

You could be forgiven for starting to sweat at the thought of nation states fielding armies of robots that decide for themselves whether to kill. Some people who have helped build up machine learning and artificial intelligence already are. More than 3,000 researchers, scientists, and executives from companies including Microsoft and Google signed a 2015 letter to the Obama administration asking for a ban on autonomous weapons. I think most people would be very uncomfortable with the idea that you would launch a fully autonomous system that would decide when and if to kill someone, says Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and a signatory to the 2015 letter. Although he concedes it might just take one country deciding to field killer robots to set others changing their minds about autonomous weapons. Perhaps a more realistic scenario is that countries do have them, and abide by a strict treaty on their use, he says. In 2012, the Department of Defense set a temporary policy requiring a human to be involved in decisions to use lethal force; it was updated to be permanent in May this year.

The Harvard report recommends that the National Security Council, DoD, and State Department should start studying now what internationally agreed-on limits ought to be imposed on AI. Miles Brundage, who researches the impacts of AI on society at the University of Oxford, says theres reason to think that AI diplomacy can be effectiveif countries can avoid getting trapped in the idea that the technology is a race in which there will be one winner. One concern is that if we put such a high premium on being first, then things like safety and ethics will go by the wayside, he says. We saw in the various historical arms races that collaboration and dialog can pay dividends.

Indeed, the fact that there are only a handful of nuclear states in the world is proof that very powerful military technologies are not always irresistible. Nuclear weapons have proven that states have the ability to say I dont even want to have this technology, Allen says. Still, the many potential uses of AI in national security suggest that the self-restraint of the US, its allies, and adversaries is set to get quite a workout.

UPDATE 12:50 pm ET 07/19/17: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the Department of Defenses directive on autonomous weapons was due to expire this year.

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AI Could Revolutionize War as Much as Nukes – WIRED

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Clara Labs nabs $7M Series A as it positions its AI assistant to meet … – TechCrunch

Clara Labs, creator of the Clara AI assistant, is announcing a $7 million Series A this morning led byBasis Set Ventures. Slack Fund also joined in the round, alongside existing investors Sequoia and First Round. The startup will be looking to further differentiate within the crowded field of email-centric personal assistants by building in features and integrations to address the needs of enterprise teams.

Founded in 2014, Clara Labs has spent much of the last three years trying to fix email. When CC-ed on emails, the Clara assistant can automatically schedule meetings reasoning around preferences like location and time.

If this sounds familiar, its because youve probably come across x.ai or Fin. But while all three startups look similar on paper, each has its own distinct ideology. Where Clara is running toward the needs of teams, Fin embraces the personal pains of travel planning and shopping. Meanwhile,x.ai opts for maximum automation and lower pricing.

That last point around automation needs some extra context. Clara Labs prides itself in its implementation of a learning strategy called human-in-the-loop. For machines to analyze emails, they have to make a lot of decisions is that date when you want to grab coffee, or is it the start of your vacation when youll be unable to meet?

In the open world of natural language, incremental machine learning advances only get you so far. So instead, companies like Clara convert uncertainty into simple questions that can be sent to humans on demand (think proprietary version of Amazon Mechanical Turk). The approach has become a tech trope with the rise of all things AI, but Maran Nelson, CEO of Clara Labs, is adamant that theres still a meaningful way to implement agile AI.

The trick is ensuring that a feedback mechanism exists for these questions to serve as training materials for uncertain machine learning models. Three years later, Clara Labs is confident that its approach is working.

Bankrolling the human in human-in-the-loop does cost everyone more, but people are willing to pay for performance. After all, even a nosebleed-inducing $399 per month top-tier plan costs a fraction of a real human assistant.

Anyone who has ever experimented with adding new email tools into old workflows understands that Gmail and Outlook have tapped into the dark masochistic part of our brain that remains addicted to inefficiency. Its tough to switch and the default of trying tools like Clara is often a slow return to the broken way of doing things. Nelson says shes keeping a keen eye on user engagement and numbers are healthy for now theres undoubtedly a connection between accuracy and engagement.

As Clara positions its services around the enterprise, it will need to take into account professional sales and recruiting workflows. Integrations with core systems like Slack, CRMs and job applicant tracking systems will help Clara keep engagement numbers high while feeding machine learning models new edge cases to improve the quality of the entire product.

Scheduling is different if youre a sales person and your sales team is measured by the total number of meetings scheduled, Nelson told me in an interview.

Nelson is planning to make new hires in marketing and sales to push the Clara team beyond its current R&D comfort zone. Meanwhile the technical team will continue to add new features and integrations, like conference room booking, that increase the value-add of the Clara assistant.

Xuezhao Lan of Basis Set Ventures will be joining the Clara Labs board of directors as the company moves into its next phase of growth. Lan will bring both knowledge of machine learning and strategy to the board. Todays Clara deal is one of the first public deals to involve the recently formed $136 million AI-focused Basis Set fund.

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Clara Labs nabs $7M Series A as it positions its AI assistant to meet … – TechCrunch

Posted in Ai

Comic-Con: Seth MacFarlane’s ‘The Orville’ Brings Unique Fan … – Deadline

EXCLUSIVE:Everyone is looking to stand out from the pack at Comic-Con and Seth MacFarlanes upcoming sci-fi satire The Orville is set to plant a flag with a first of its kind San Diego sweepstake for this life and beyond.

With an aim to snag attention for the latest project from the Emmy winner and Family Guy boss, Fox has built the Orville Space Training Station, which opens Thursday on the Hilton Bayfront Lawn. However, pushing into another final frontier, The Orville activation will also see a cryonics sweepstakes, a first for any entertainment company at SDCC.

Yep, you heard that right, fans can enter for the chance to win a membership to a Cryopreservation program. Along with all the bells and whistles weve come to expect from such SDCC activations, of which FX, Amazon and many more have up this year, one applicant will be randomly selected for the opportunity to be cryopreserved at the end of his or her life and revived in 2417 seriously. Interested applicants can apply in person or online, as of tomorrow.

Applicantscomplete a fictional job application process for a crew member spot on the ship in 2417, with in-person applicants then invited to conquer the stations spinning gyroscope ride. One application will be randomly selected for the cryopreservation.

This all comes as the September 10 and 17th debutingThe Orvillehas a SDCC panel set for July 22 at 4:15 in the convention centers Room 6A. Confirmed to attend are MacFarlane, along with fellow cast members Adrianne Palicki, Scott Grimes, Penny Johnson Jerald, Peter Macon, Halston Sage, J Lee, Mark Jackson and Chad Coleman, and producers David A. Goodman and Brannon Braga. While not expected at SDCC, Transparent star Jeffrey Tambor will be appearing on The Orvilles first season, MacFarlane has revealed.

Set four centuries from now, The Orville followsthe obviously Star Trek inspired adventures in the final frontier of the middling U.S.S. Orville. Its human and alien crew tackles the battles and politics of speed of light galactic travel and the workplace dramas that never change, no matter what century it is.

Fueled by FOX Doubleheaders NFL games, The Orvillewill start with a special two-night series premiere on Sunday, September 10 and a week later. With that double launch date, the series then makes its real time-period premiere on September 28 at 9 PM.

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Comic-Con: Seth MacFarlane’s ‘The Orville’ Brings Unique Fan … – Deadline

My Fire Sets Billboard Chart Ablaze as the New #1 Dance Song in The Country! – HuffPost

Kimberly Davis My Fire, the first collaboration between Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Nile Rodgers and two-time Grammy nominated music producer Tony Moran, nabs the #1 spot on the Billboard Club Play Chart this week. The song jumps over Ed Sheerans Castle On The Hill and takes the spot previously held by Katy Perrys Swish Swish featuring Nicki Minaj.

It is Kimberlys first single to top the Billboard chart, but her third single to place. Get Up reached #12 on the Billboard dance chart in early 2010. With You climbed to the #4 spot in the spring of 2014.

Songwriter Mike Greenly had a hand in all of Kimberly Davis Billboard tracks, co-writing Get Up and With You with composer, Jim Papoulis and My Fire with Tony Moran and Audrey Martells.

My Fire is a song about personal empowerment. Its meant to remind people that even on their darkest days, there is a fire inside that will light a path to where theyre meant to be. The song merges elements from Club, Disco and Nile Rodgers own unique brand of Funk for a next generation fusion of Electronic Music meets Soul.

We spoke with Kimberly Davis the morning she learned her song had taken the #1 position.

Congratulations on #1, Kimberly! Oh my goodness, I cant believe it!

The first thing I have to ask is how do you feel about all of the comparisons to Whitney Houston and Deborah Cox? I am constantly compared to them! I have to laugh.

Of course its meant as a compliment, but do you worry that people may assume you want to follow in their footsteps when the truth is you want to carve your own path as Kimberly Davis? I adore both Whitney and Deborah and have even been lucky enough to sing background for both ladies in the past. I definitely take it as a compliment, who wouldnt? But I also feel that even though we are similar, I am my own artist.

How did My Fire come to be? My Fire was conceived by Tony Moran, Mike Greenly and Audrey Martells. I know all three personally so when it came to “who can we get to sing this song?, they all agreed it had my name on it! I immediately took to the song. It just needed to be touched by Nile Rodgers who is also a big fan and appreciates me as we tour the world together with Chic. And voila, “My Fire” was born!

How has your fire changed through the years as youve fought your way through the music business? My fire has not changed at all. All artists should know that if you want to pursue this business, your fire cannot change. It hasn’t been easy but my passion for music and business has kept me on top of my game.

Describe a time when it was particularly tough to keep the flame burning. I had an opportunity to replace one of the girls in En Vogue for a world tour. The deal was all set until, the next morning, the World Trade Center fell to the ground (9/11). I was distraught and I realized that it just wasn’t meant to be. That has been my mantra ever since: “if it’s meant to be, it will happen”.

What is like touring the country with CHIC? Is every night a time warp back to the 70s? Nile Rodgers and Chic are the best things since sliced bread. Who knew that singing all his songs as a child would take me to an audition where I could sing them for real and continue singing them for eight years now? Its totally a disco party every time we hit the stage. Nothing is better than seeing all the people we affect musically. Its incredibly awesome!

Its an aggressive schedule! Are you doing it old school on a tour bus? Yes, this tour is on a bus and it can be very hectic! Luckily, our band is family and we keep each other sane. Our drummer, in particular, is comic relief during our delirious moments. Also, all the fun places to eat on the road make us happy. Food calms the savage beasts.

Whats your favorite Chic song to perform? I would have to say, I Want Your Love. It has always been my favorite. It was the song I auditioned with. In the new show, we do a slow, soulful version of “Get Lucky” which is becoming one of my faves as well.

Will you be featured on the new Chic album, Its About Time? Absolutely! I am all over the record!

Any plans for a solo album? Yes, a new album is in the works as is finding the perfect follow up to “My Fire”. So many fantastic new doors have opened since the song has been making its way to #1 so stay tuned.

Final words? Stay fierce, but always stay humble.

Nile Rodgers and Tony Morans My Fire featuring Kimberly Davis is being released globally through Mr. Tan Man Music and is available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon as well as all other online retail outlets. Its music video is available on YouTube.

FACEBOOK: Kimberly.Davis.79462

WEBSITE: Kimberlydavisshesangz.com

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My Fire Sets Billboard Chart Ablaze as the New #1 Dance Song in The Country! – HuffPost

The Smartphone Is Eventually Going to Die, and Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook Are Racing to Kill It – Futurism

The Rise of Smartphones

These are the quiet times.

From April toJune, techs biggest companies all held their annual mega-events, laying out their grand visions for the next 12 months or so.

Facebook kicked it off in late April with itsF8 conference, followed byMicrosoft Build, then theGoogle I/O conference, andApples Worldwide Developers Conferencefinished things off. Amazon doesnt really hold events, but it unveiled two new Amazon Echo smart speakers during that period for good measure.

And things will get exciting again, sooner than you know it. This Fall, Apple is expected to reveal a10th-anniversary iPhone, Google will likely reveal arevamped Pixel smartphone, and Microsoft is expected to hold another one of its regular late-October Surface computer press conferences.

In the meantime, theres not much to do but reflect on what weve learned so far this year about the future of tech. And beyond the hype and the hyperbole, were starting to see the very earliest stages of a battle for the next phase of computing.

Because while Apple and Google may dominate the smartphone market today, technologies like augmented reality present whole-new platforms where theres no clear winner. So Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook, having missed out on owning a mobile platform, are doing their damndest tohasten the end of the smartphone and the end of Apple and Googles duopoly, while theyre at it.

Every major technological shift has created big opportunities for the few entrepreneurs who see it coming early in the seventies, Apple and Microsoft made big bets that the PC would be a much bigger market than gigantic room-sized mainframes, while themainframe industry decried the PC itself as a fad. We see who won that one.

Similarly, Microsoft didnt fully realize the potential of smartphones, until well after Google and Apple proved them wrong. Now, Googles Android is the most popular operating system in the world, full stop. And the iPhone has propelledApple torecord profits and to the status asthecompany to beat in tech.

Well, it seems like time is a flat circle. Right now, were seeing the earliest growing pains of augmented reality and virtual reality tech that overlays the digital world onto ourhuman senses. It means information, projected into your eyes and ears, as you need it. Why carry a phone when Netflix and WhatsApp are floating in front of you?

Some call it a fad, or just something thats too new and untestedto be considered a real threat to the smartphone. And yet, theres a veritable arms race to build these augmented reality platforms of the future.

Amazons Alexa is primarily thought of as a digital voice assistant, but having a virtual person tell you the time and weather definitely qualifies as augmented reality. Microsoft has its reality-bending HoloLens hologram goggles.Facebookand Snapchat have both built augmented reality straight into the camera. Even Google-backed startupMagic Leap thinks its yet-to-released goggles have a shot at becoming a new platform.

The net result is arace to build whatever is going to do the smartphone what the PC did to the mainframe. What these companies all have in common is that they missed the boat on building smartphone operating systems of their own. Now, its on them to build whatever comes next.

Apple and Google are well aware of the threat and are not standing still.

Apple has ARkit, a system for building augmented reality into iPhone apps, using the phones built-in camera. Its technologically robust enough and easy enough to use that developers love it, givingApple a nice foothold in augmented reality. If and whenApple releases smart glasses, those apps will come right over.

Google has various augmented reality effortsin the works, including Project Tango. And although the first version of the Google Glass headset flopped, if Google figures out how to revamp the device, it will have a vehicle to extend Android into the AR realm.

In a weird way, going on the defensive like this almost gives Apple a perverse incentive to replace the iPhone: IfApple can build the next great hardware platform itself, it means that Amazon cant do it with Alexa, and Microsoft cant do it with HoloLens.

In the meantime, as we appreciate all the new hardware and software goodies coming out later this year, keep the perspective that everything were seeing now is the first salvo in a computing war that will rage forthe next decade and beyond.

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The Smartphone Is Eventually Going to Die, and Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook Are Racing to Kill It – Futurism

The future of robotics means robots and humans will work side by side, experts say – Metro US

Right now, roboticist Daniela Rus main aspiration is to have a world where anyone can have a robot, where anyone can use a robot, the MIT professor told TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics on Monday.

Rus, who is also the director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, said that though the world of robotics has certainly made recent advancements, her dream isnt possible quite yet.

But just remember that only two decades ago, computation was a task reserved for an expert few, because computers were large, expensive and hard to use, she said. All that changed now everyone uses computers and I believe in the future, tasks will be equally changed by artificial intelligence.

What followed throughout the one-day robotics event organized by tech media company TechCrunch was the musings of many immersed in the robotics world as to where we are exactly in the timeline of robot advancement, and how that advancement will affect humans.

Basically, were just at the beginning of developing robots, and were still pretty far from many developments and from the sci-fi situation of robots taking over the world.

In a talk about robots, AI and humanity, experts discussed the difficult goal of creating a robot consciousness, which would allow artificial intelligence to make ethical decisions and follow social cues.

If you look at theology, humans are born without common sense, said Dr. David Barrett, a professor of mechanical engineering at Olin College. Its an acquired skill a little bit is better than none, a little bit more is better than that, until you get to a level of confidence to perform a job and interact with people. Computers and AI are far from that baseline point.

Even though the tech behind robots still has a long way to go, people are already thinking about how robots and humans will coexist. If you fear robots taking over the world, or just all your job options, dont worry.

I think there is sometimes a misconception that automation is all about a direct line march from all people to all robots, said Clara Vu, VP of engineering at Veo Robotics. Really, in many ways, humans and robots have very complementary strengths: Robots can be fast and strong, but humans have flexibility and judgment.

When people are looking for robotic solutions to problems, Vu said, theyre looking for ways robot and humans can work together.

There are already more than 80,000 robots working in Amazons warehouses and fulfillment centers, said Tye Brady, chief technologist for Amazon Robots, at TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics on Monday.

Though the robotics world is still developing, Brady doesnt expect or want robots to replace humans completely at Amazon.

Humans are really great at creative problem-solving, abstraction and generalizations. Robots are really good at crunching numbers, pulling data, lifting heavy objects and moving with precision, he said. We have to think about how we can build systems that bring the strengths of each of these components together.

To Brady, that collaboration will look like a symphony of humans and robots fulfilling orders in a way the world hasnt seen.

That collaboration will extend into other businesses as well, like helping first responders or law enforcement officials react to a crisis.

Heather Ames of Neurala, a Boston-based deep learning software company, unveiled at the TechCrunch event a partnership between Neurala and Motorola Solutions in which artificial intelligence can help find a missing child.

The description of a missing child can be sent to body cameras on the uniforms of officers, she said, so that thousands of eyes are scanning the crowd looking for a lost child. The same system could also be applied to finding suspicious packages.

Drones can help first responders assess a catastrophic event, said Buddy Michini of Airware.

They can take a drone for getting an overview of whats happening and put [help] at, say, the most crashed building, he said, adding that Airware sent drones to assist with a recent earthquake in Italy.

And robots can even be integrated right onto the human body, to augment human skills. David Perry from Harvard Labs demoed an exosuit at the event that straps robotics right onto someones legs.

This has two main applications, he said: to enhance the natural ability of healthy people and to restore ability that those with a physical impairment may have lost. For the first use, Harvard Labs has been working with the military to put these robotic pants onto soldiers, so they dont get as tired while walking and carrying packs that often weigh more than 100 pounds.

The machine doesnt control the user, Perry explained, but follows his moves, whether walking up a hill or stepping over rough terrain, combining the strengths of both robots and humans together in one use.

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The future of robotics means robots and humans will work side by side, experts say – Metro US

Who’s Winning the Fight for the Best In-Car Technology? – NBCNews.com

BMW’s new Connected Plus service uses real-time traffic reports to give you a heads-up when it’s time to leave and even sends out an alert to the folks you’re meeting to let them know when they can expect you. BMW

BMW is by no means the only maker racing to introduce such high-tech features into your car, truck or crossover. Ford, for example, now lets you access Amazons Alexa with a tap of a button on the steering wheel. Among other things, you can use that digital voice assistant to have your favorite beverage waiting at Starbucks for your morning commute.

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We think our cars need to play well with the digital lifestyle owners choose, Tom Brenner, head of BMWs digital services, told NBC News during a tour of the companys technology center in downtown Chicago.

The facility more closely represents what youd expect to find in Silicon Valley than a typical automotive development center. Filled with young, latte-drinking cyber-geeks, it works at a pace that sees new products, services and updates of existing software roll out, on average, every two weeks. Consider that the average BMW vehicle has a life cycle of about six to seven years, with only a modest update halfway through.

BMWs intense focus on digital technology might seem an oxymoron considering the brands long-running advertising tagline, The Ultimate Driving Machine. But Brenner and other company officials say there should be no surprise. Why, they ask, would you expect that the typical Americans increasingly digital lifestyle be interrupted once they slip behind the steering wheel?

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BMW began its foray into technology with the launch of the 2001 7-Series. Its flagship sedan introduced the concept of an iDrive, a sort of mobile mouse that controlled an array of onboard functions, including navigation, audio and climate control. The list of features built into todays cars has rapidly escalated, especially with the debut of driver assistance technologies like Blind Spot Detection, as well as the addition of hands-free Bluetooth phone and audio pairing.

“The new asset in the automotive business is data.”

BMW Connected Plus will go several steps further. It tracks appointments in an owners calendar and, if there is driving involved, it calculates not only driving time but how long it might take to walk to your car and then help you find where to park. Youll get an alert 10 minutes before you should leave to give you time to get ready.

You can then ask your Alexa device to turn the car on and, on the sort of sweltering summer day that Chicagoans faced this week, turn on the air conditioning.

There are plenty of other services coming, including the ability to access e-mail on your Microsoft Exchange server, even dictating a voice reply.

(Some functions, BMW and Microsoft stress, will be disabled when the car is in motion to avoid compounding the already serious issue of driver distraction.)

Such functions are likely to become even more desirable in the years to come, explained Brenner. According to various studies by organizations like the Boston Consulting Group, one-third or more of the miles Americans travel by 2030 are likely to be in driverless automobiles. That will provide plenty of time to watch content, Brenner said, work, or catch up on some sleep.

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It takes only a little imagination to think about all the possible services and features that will migrate into the automobile in the coming years, Gerri Martin-Flickinger, the chief technology officer for Starbucks, said during a joint news conference with Ford last March.

Meanwhile, auto manufacturers are racing to pair your car with all the digital devices in your life. Chevrolet on Friday announced owners can operate the MyChevrolet app through their Apple watches to lock or unlock a vehicle, find directions to where it was parked or sound the horn.

One of the challenges will be to add new functionality to vehicles already on the road. Tesla has addressed that by incorporating over-the-air, or OTA, updates that can be used to install new services, replace old software or even diagnose vehicle problems. Honda launched OTA capabilities with its new Odyssey minivan, and BMW is working on similar technology for Connected Plus.

Its difficult to find an automaker that isnt working on in-car technologies, and theyre partnering with the obvious list of major Silicon Valley and other tech companies: Google, Apple, Microsoft, Nvidia, Amazon, as well as major restaurant chains, digital service providers, and an endless list of smaller tech firms and start-ups.

Some manufacturers are offering their services at no charge at least for an initial period that can run from one to three years. But all are looking for the right business equation. General Motors has developed a steady revenue stream from its OnStar service, with an la carte menu of safety, convenience and service features.

Theres another pay-off. BMW believes it can boost its loyalty rates measured in returning customers by several percent, which is worth millions of dollars, explained Dieter May, the head of digital products and services. Thats on top of potential revenue streams from various paid services.

Yet as with other access points to the connected world, there is a potential downside.

Data is becoming a currency, with actual value, and it must be protected,” Danny Le, principal and automotive leader, at KPMG, told NBC News. “Security needs to be invested in.

In-car technology is the single biggest source of complaints about todays vehicles.

Indeed, the threat of hacking has become an all-consuming conversation within the automotive digital community, as it has throughout the tech world.

There are other risks. BMW took a lot of heat early on for the cumbersome operation of the original iDrive. Only with recent iterations have consumers given strongly positive reviews. Ford was similarly thrashed for problems with its early Sync in-car system. According to David Sargent, head of automotive practice at J.D. Power and Associates, in-car technology is the single biggest source of complaints about todays vehicles.

The new asset in the automotive business is data, said Le.

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Who’s Winning the Fight for the Best In-Car Technology? – NBCNews.com

‘The Daily’: A Fatal Blow to the Health Care Bill? – New York Times

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‘The Daily’: A Fatal Blow to the Health Care Bill? – New York Times

Humans and AI will work together in almost every job, Parc CEO … – Recode

Artificial intelligence is poised to continue advancing until it is everywhere and before it gets there, Tolga Kurtoglu wants to make sure its trustworthy.

Kurtoglu is the CEO of Parc, the iconic Silicon Valley research and development firm previously known as Xerox Parc. Although its best known for its pioneering work in the early days of computing developing technologies such as the mouse, object-oriented programming and the graphical user interface Parc continues to help companies and government agencies envision the future of work.

A really interesting project that were working on is about how to bring together these AI agents, or computational agents, and humans together, in a way that they form sort of collaborative teams, to go after tasks, Kurtoglu said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. And robotics is a great domain for exploring some of the ideas there.

Whereas today you might be comfortable asking Apples Siri for the weather or telling Amazon’s Alexa to add an item to your to-do list, Kurtoglu envisions a future where interacting with a virtual agent is a two-way street. You might still give it commands and questions, but it would also talk back to you in a truly conversational way.

What were talking about here is more of a symbiotic team between an AI agent and a human, he said. They solve the problems together, its not that one of them tells the other what to do; they go back and forth. They can formulate the problem, they can build on each others ideas. Its really important because were seeing significant advancements and penetration of AI technologies in almost all industries.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

Kurtoglu believes that both in our personal lives and in the office, every individual will be surrounded by virtual helpers that can process data and make recommendations. But before artificial intelligence reaches that level of omnipresence, it will need to get a lot better at explaining itself.

“At some point, there is going to be a huge issue with people really taking the answers that the computers are suggesting to them without questioning them, he said. So this notion of trust between the AI agents and humans is at the heart of the technology were working on. Were trying to build trustable AI systems.

So, imagine an AI system that explains itself, he added. If youre using an AI to do medical diagnostics and it comes up with a seemingly unintuitive answer, then the doctor might want to know, Why? Why did you come up with that answer as opposed to something else? And today, these systems are pretty much black boxes: You put in the input, it just spits out what the answer is.

So, rather than just spitting out an answer, Kurtoglu says virtual agents will explain what assumptions they made and how they used those assumptions to reach a conclusion: Here are the paths Ive considered, here are the paths I’ve ruled out and heres why.

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

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Humans and AI will work together in almost every job, Parc CEO … – Recode

Posted in Ai

UBS Revisits Amazon Ecosystem, Raises Price Target To $1,200 … – Benzinga

UBS analyst Eric Sheridan is eyeing nearly 20 percent in shares of Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), as he maintained his Buy rating and raised his price target from $1,100 to $1,200.

In our newly published & rebuilt Amazon financial model, we take a fresh approach at modeling some of the long-tailed opportunities that can drive overall Amazon ecosystem value, Sheridan wrote Monday. He specifically highlighted four components he believes will drive growth for shares of Amazon.

Overall, Sheridan remains bullish on Amazon especially after channel checks raised his short/medium-term estimates.

As a result of that, we feel comfortable recommending Amazon as a Buy despite its strong YTD stock performance,” Sheridan concluded. “With many avenues of growth ahead, we think that investors are much more likely to remain focused on topline opportunities vs. the quarterly cadence of profit margins.”

To read the latest and exclusive financial news, check out the Benzinga Pro news wire.

Image credit: By lvaro Ibez from Madrid, Spain (Amazon Espaa por dentro) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

View More Analyst Ratings for AMZN View the Latest Analyst Ratings

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2017 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

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UBS Revisits Amazon Ecosystem, Raises Price Target To $1,200 … – Benzinga

Technology Will Change the Entire Ecosystem of What We Do: BlackRock’s Fink – TheStreet.com

BlackRock (BLK) CEO Larry Fink said that “markets have been resilient to political shocks,” but even as they anticipate policy normalization, “negative yields remain a reality in some countries.”

Fink’s comments were made on an earnings call highlighting the company’s adaptation to a shifting geopolitical environment and a new wealth management industry centered on implementing technology.

Technology will change “the entire ecosystem of what we do,” Fink said. BlackRock will spend $1 billion on technology and data solutions this year with over 3,500 employees in related roles including programming and quant analytics.

Fink also spoke at length about BlackRock’s Aladdin Platform investment operating system. Aladdin will be a “transformation” for BlackRock to excel in portfolio construction and risk management. The margins are “subdued” during Aladdin’s implementation process, but increased utilization and subsequent revenues will shift Aladdin to the front of BlackRock’s operations.

BlackRock stock traded down almost 2% at Monday’s open.

What’s Hot on TheStreet

Amazon wants to upend every business, or so it seems: New day, a new business Amazon (AMZN) wants to dip its toes in. The latest looks to be the meal kit space, TheStreet reports.

In a July 6 trademark application, Amazon subsidiary Amazon Technologies Inc. revealed it’s planning “prepared food kits composed of meat, poultry, fish, seafood, fruit and/or and [sic] vegetables…ready for cooking and assembly as a meal,” as well as primarily grain-based offerings.

The product’s tagline: “We do the prep. You be the chef.” Amazon already sells other companies’ meal kits, including Tyson Foods Inc.’s (TSN) Tyson Tastemakers. Martha Stewart is even offering meal kits on Amazon Fresh, the company’s grocery delivery service. But, this may be the first hint of something bigger for Amazon, which would put it in direct competition with newly minted IPO Blue Apron (APRN) .

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Technology Will Change the Entire Ecosystem of What We Do: BlackRock’s Fink – TheStreet.com

Artificial intelligence is going to change every aspect of …

AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani

You’ve probably heard of artificial intelligence by now. It’s the technology powering Siri, driverless cars, and that creepy Facebook feature that automatically tags your friends when you upload photos.

But what is AI, why are people talking about it now, and what will it mean for your everyday life? SunTrust recently released a report that breaks down how AI works, so let’s tackle those questions one at a time.

What is AI?

AIis what people call computer programs that try to replicate how the human brain operates. For now, they only can replicate very specific tasks. One system can beat humans at the complicated and ancient board game called Go, for example. Lots of these AI systems are being developed, each really good at a specific task.

These AI systems all operate in basically the same way. Imagine a system that tries to identify whether a photo has a cat in it. For a human, this is fairly easy, but a computer has a hard timefiguring it out. AI systems are unique because they are set up like human brains. You feed a cat photo in one end, and it bounces around a lot of different checkpoints until it comes out the other end with a yes or no answer just like your eyes passing your view of a cat through all the neurons in your brain. AI is even talked about in terms of neurons and synapses, just like the human brain.

AI systems have to be trained, which is a process of adjusting these checkpoints to achieve better results. If one checkpoint determineswhether there is hair in the photo, training an AI system is like deciding how important the presence of hair in a photo is to decide whether there is a cat in the photo.

This training process takes a huge amount of computer process to fine tune. The better a system is trained, the better results you can get from it and the better your cat photo system will be able to determine whether there is a cat in a photo you show it. The huge amount of processing power required to run and train AI systems is what has kept AI research relatively quiet until recently, which leads to the next question.

DeepMind

Why are people talking about AI all the time now?

There is a famous AI contest where researchers pit computers against humans in a challenge to correctly identify photos. Humans usually are able to identify photos with about 95% accuracy in this content, and in 2012, computers were able to identify about 74% of photos correctly, according to SunTrust’s report. In 2015, computers reached 96% accuracy, officially beating humans for the first time. This was called the “big bang” of AI, according to SunTrust.

The big bang of AI was made possible by some fancy new algorithms, three specifically. These new algorithms were better ways of training AI systems, making them faster and cheaper to run.

AI systems require lots of real-world examples to be trained well, like lots of cat photos for example. These cat photos also had to be labeled as cat photos so the system knew when it got the right answer from its algorithms and checkpoints. The new algorithms that led to the big bang allowed AI systems to be trained with fewer examples that didn’t have to be labeled as well as before. Collecting enough examples to train an AI system used to be really expensive, but was much cheaper after the big bang. Advances in processing power and cheap storage also helped move things along.

Since the big bang, there have been a number of huge strides in AI technology. Tesla, Google, Apple and many of the traditional car companies are training AI systems for autonomous driving.Google, Apple and Amazon are pioneering the first smart personal assistants. Some companies are even working on AI driven healthcare solutions that could personalize treatment plans based on a patient’s history, according to SunTrust.

What will AI mean for your life?

AI technology could be as simple as making your email smarter, but it could also extend your lifespan, take away your job, or end human soldiers fighting the world’s wars.

SunTrust says AI has the capability to change nearly every industry. The moves we are seeing now are just the beginnings, the low hanging fruits. Cities can become smarter, TSA might be scanning your face as you pass through security and doctors could give most of their consultations via your phone thanks to increased AI advancements.

NVIDIA

SunTrust estimates the AI business will be about $47.250 billion by the year 2020. Nvidia, a large player in the AI space thanks to its GPU hardware and CUDA software platform, is a bit more conservative. It only sees AI as a $30 billion business, which is four times the current size of Nvidia.

There is no doubt AI is a huge opportunity, but there are a few companies you should watch if you’re an investor looking to enter the AI space, according to SunTrust.

One is for sure. AI is exciting, sometimes scary, but ultimately, here to stay. We are just starting to see the implications of the technology, and the world is likely to change for good and bad because of artificial intelligence.

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Artificial intelligence is going to change every aspect of …

AI Is Already One of the Largest Industries on Earth and It’s Going to End Us All – Geek

Major tech companies are investing in AI and machine learning at an alarming rate. According to a new report, companies spent between $26 and $39 billion on AI research (with giants like Google, Facebook, and Baidu contributing more than two-thirds of that) in 2016 alone. While thats not nearly on the scale of, say, global oil trade (which cracks a trillion most years), its still enough to make it one of the largest sub-industries on Earth. Thats put it well above many very large numbers like Hollywoods box office takings from last year ($11 billion) or the GDP of Iceland ($16 billion).

On its face, this isnt too surprising. Silicon Valleys wealth is among the greatest in the world, easily dwarfing whole regions (and its kinda messed up how that isnt even an exaggeration), of course, theyd invest a sliver of that money into hyper-advanced autonomous software. What this shows, though, is that the race for AI has officially kicked off. Contrast this figures, for example, to those from 2013, and we find that investment in AI has more than tripled. Its also shifted almost entirely to research, development, and, most importantly, deployment.

Those sectors adopting AI fastest are, of course, the automobile, tech, and telecom industries. The McKinsey Global Institute for Artificial Intelligence concludes that these are the industries that have the most to gain. Each of these areas (as well as finances and health care) benefit tremendously from AI adoption, with the earliest consumers of machine learning tech in those fields yielding profits that can be 10% or more higher than the industry average year-on-year.

Now, I know all that sounds super-boring, but, in short: smart businesses are making billions thanks to AI. And thats going to get faster and faster as things go. As those businesses employing AI out-compete their rivals over the next few years, were going to start seeing the beginning of the end of us. Higher profits are awesome, and all, but a good chunk of that is coming from human workers who are becoming obsolete. Obviously, we should keep using AI to make our lives awesome, but even the Patron Saint of wacky Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Elon Musk, is certain that the day will soon come when we need to change up how we conceive of our entire economy if we want to keep the world intact.

Amazon might be the best example of a modern business profiting by cutting out humans. The tech company bought Kiva, a robotics company that specializes in automated packaging. The investment and subsequent deployment of Kivas tech has decreased the time it takes from the moment the customer clicks to the moment the package ships down from about an hour to just 15 minutes. And thats with a boost to inventory capacity and a massive operating cost drop. With that kind of advantage, its not hard to see why rumblings of an Amazon-dominated retail future are so prevalent.

Its not quite all doom and gloom though. Netflix has dramatically improved their algorithms for helping users find movies they might like. The algorithm was already pretty great enough that I recall wanting to punch the sun anytime my roommates would like random shows or movies on my account. But that, and many other minor issues have been smoothed out, and Netflix projects that this has helped that save $1 billion in subscription cancellations annually.

I guess, though, if you think about it, Netflix is really just the replacement for brick-and-mortar movie rental shops and the clerks who would give you recommendations there. So I guess there is no silver lining. Were all going to be funemployed in a decade or two. Better hope we figure out our collective shit.

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AI Is Already One of the Largest Industries on Earth and It’s Going to End Us All – Geek

Posted in Ai

MIT creates an AI to predict urban decay – TNW

Facebook volunteers and work-at-home moms might be making city planning decisions, thanks to AI research conducted by MIT scientists. Researchers from MITs media lab have been feeding computers a steady stream of data for the last four years to build an AI capable of determining why some cities grow and others decay.

The data the researchers are using has been compiled from people, regular Joes and Janes, who choose between two randomly selected pictures to determine which one seems less dangerous or more appealing. Currently its all common-sense driven: most of us would agree a typically beautiful environment will foster growth better than a landscape of derelict buildings.

Finally, with enough data, the AI has been returning results which have been compared with human responses to the same image pairings. The researchers proofed their data by comparing responses from Amazon Mechanical Turk workers. According to MIT the robots got it right a little more than 70% of the time, which was better than expected. In the future MIT researchers plan on increasing the number of people contributing data, going so far as to say they may need to advertise on Facebook to draw more participants.

At first-glance it doesnt sound very impressive theyre just feeding data into an algorithm by hand based on thousands of different human interpretations. People decide which Google Map image in a pair looks like a nicer neighborhood, scientists determine if the machine agrees, and vice-versa.

The ultimate goal is for us to glean insight into our problems by learning what the machines can teach us about ourselves. ProfessorCsar Hidalgo, the director of the Collective Learning group at the MIT Media Lab, told Co.Design:

I do hope that this research starts helping us understand how the urban environment affects people and how its affected by people so that when we do policy in the context of urbanplanning, we have a more scientific understanding of the effect different designs have in the behaviors of the populations that use them

Until the machines learn to define beauty for themselves which is a scary thought well need to explain to them why one citys streets are lined with despair and another shows the promise of growth and renewal. Once AI is up to speed, however, well be able to start saving dying communities with machine-learning. Computers can draw exponentially more patterned-based conclusions than humans.

The better we can understand an issue, the more connections we can determine and the better our solutions will be. Thanks to MIT we may be on the verge of solving decades-old urban rejuvenation problems.

AI Is Reshaping What We Know About Cities on Co.Design

Read next: Parents, social media isnt turning your kids into robots

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MIT creates an AI to predict urban decay – TNW

Posted in Ai

IBM is Challenging Congresss Apocalyptic Perceptions of …

In BriefIBM representatives are meeting with congress to challenge thelawmakers apocalyptic perceptions about artificial intelligence(AI). IBM paints a different picture of the future in which AI willcreate jobs, drive progress, and help us develop as a species. IBM to Meet Washington

IBMis taking a stand for artificial intelligence (AI). The technology giant islobbying Washington with the hope of challenging the view of fearful prophets envisioning massive job loss, or even an eventual AI overlord that controls humanity as David Kenny, the vice president for IBM Watson, wrote in an open letter to congress.

He went on towritethat the real disaster would be abandoning or inhibiting cognitive technology before its full potential can be realized. Kenny is also participating with the bipartisan Artificial Intelligence Caucus.

Kennys arguments center around three core principles. The first is that past technologies likethe bar code scanner and ATM have vastly improved efficiency and drove job creation. The second is that taxing or otherwise inhibiting the process of AI will cost the U.S. its competitive advantage. Instead, there should be a change in education and training to prepare the country for the technology. The third is any AI company should be transparent about their systems decision-making process and promote a principle of individual data governance.

IBM isweaved into the history of AIs development. Its engineerspioneered some of the earliest AI systems, including Deep Blue, which was responsible for beating world chess champion Gary Kasparov one of AIs greatest achievements to date. Currently, IBMs Watson is one of the leading cognitive computing systems in the world, with applications stretching from diagnosing disease, to writing cookbooks and creating recipes, to tackling the data-heavy tasks of the federal government.

IBMs proposal to inform congress about AI is not the first high-profile venture to do so. Numerous think tanks, meetings, and summitshave occurred to discuss the ethics of AI and promote responsible integration of the technology.

Last year, representatives from Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, and Facebook formed the Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Societywith the goal of developing a possible set of guidelinesfor AI development. There have also been more individual attemptsto investigate AI such as those by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, and Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, both of whom have invested millions in AI research.

Despite the minds and the money devoted tosolving the problem, the ethics of AI remains a remarkably sticky moral bog, which involves questions of personhood, sentience, and rights that have troubled philosophers for centuries.

However, IBMsefforts represent a positive step toward apragmatic approach to solve a problem before we are amidst it. Our regulation of and relationship with AI is likely to govern our future. We can take solace that the industry leaders are at least taking it seriously and thinking about the implications of their decisions.

Read more: IBM is Challenging Congresss Apocalyptic Perceptions of AI Futurism

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IBM is Challenging Congresss Apocalyptic Perceptions of …

Smart technology is changing lives in the disabled community – Daily Herald

Kevin Hoyt uses a smart doorbell to see whos standing on his front porch without having to go to the door. His wife, Melissa, will ask Amazon Alexa to turn off a light as shes rushing out of the house. Ten-year-old Bailey uses Alexa to play songs so she can practice dancing or will ask the devices how to spell a word, or to play tic-tac-toe with her. Sometimes, Melissa and 14-year-old Cameron will use Alexa to face off with sports trivia questions.

The Hoyts Saratoga Springs home isnt an abnormality in 2017 as families turn to smart technology to add a new layer of convenience to their lives. But for Kevin Hoyt, who became a paraplegic in 2015 after a fall, the tech means so much more.

It has been amazing, Kevin said. I can think of three or four things that have made a huge difference in my quality of life like my wheelchair, my ankle braces and the smart home tech. I absolutely put it on par with any medical equipment.

Smart technology allows users to connect and control the technology in their home by using their phone or even just their voice. For Kevin, it means being able to turn off a light or turn on a fan without having to get to a switch.

Mostly, it gives me more peace of mind that I can leave Kevin here on his own, Melissa said.

And after he started to use smart tech to increase his independence, Kevin knew he couldnt keep it to himself. So he founded Transition Tech Solutions, a business that performs smart home consulting and installation in Utah with a speciality in helping those with mobility issues.

Kevin was in his attic on New Years Day in 2015 when he fell, crashing through Sheetrock in his ceiling and falling into his living room.

I do remember crashing through the Sheetrock, right up in this corner, Kevin said, pointing to a spot on his ceiling, between the smoke detector and the peak. So I remember the sound of crashing through the Sheetrock and then smashing into the ground below. I totally remember all of that, and laying on my back with insulation in my throat.

Melissa called 9-1-1, urged Kevin not to move and tried to keep the kids calm while Kevin laid there in excruciating pain as an ambulance arrived.

To this day, they still dont know what caused him to fall.

He had damaged his spinal cord. He was in the hospital for five weeks after the fall as surgery followed and he learned he was now a paraplegic. Kevin went home in a wheelchair, not knowing what his future held.

The next few months were all about physical therapy and learning if he couldnt do something now, or just not yet.

So far, most things have been not yet, Kevin said.

Now, Kevin walks around his house using ankle braces and still has some sensation and motor abilities in his legs.

But those little motions, and physical therapy, are exhausting.

Theres a huge amount of work for very little return, which is OK, he said.

Everything takes work. Kevins morning routine now takes two and a half hours to complete, and walking is still difficult as he has to concentrate to send signals to his muscles.

Trying to walk down the hallway and have a conversation, I cant do both, he said.

He cant feel most of his legs, so Kevin uses his vision to keep his balance. It works pretty well, until that first winter after his injury hit, when the sun would go down early and suddenly getting to bed became a lot more dangerous.

I couldnt turn out the light and then get to bed, because Ill go down as soon as the light goes out, Kevin said.

So if Melissa wasnt home, hed either have one of the kids turn the lights off, or hed go to bed with the light on and Melissa would shut it off when she came home.

Kevin, a self-proclaimed Amazon junkie, was considering either hiring an electrician to wire a light switch by his bed or the possibility of carrying around a lantern when he saw smart light bulbs online. From there, the smart tech in their house boomed.

After the lights, the front door was a whole other problem. Without ankle braces, it takes Kevin a long time to reach his front door using a walker.

It used to be that I wouldnt even attempt to get to the door because they would be long gone by the time I got there, Kevin said. Now, I get the notification. I can answer, I can see who is at the door and I can talk to them on my phone.

He can even use his phone to immediately unlock the door and let someone in, or tell a mail carrier hell be at the door soon to sign for a package.

It is seriously amazing to be in my bed and not get wound up or feel anxious when somebody comes to the door, Kevin said.

Hes not the only one who uses the smart doorbell. The Hoyts said its popular with the neighborhood kids.

Everyone knows around here that we have a talking doorbell, Melissa said.

Its not just those with disabilities who are benefiting from the technology, but their caretakers as well.

Vivint Smart Home, a Provo-based company that provides smart home technology and services, started working with a test group of families of children with autism about three years ago. Parents of children with autism took a survey rating their stress levels before and after smart technology was installed in their home. After the technology was installed, the parents rated their stress levels at half of what they were at before, according to Holly Mero-Bench, director of Vivint Gives Back.

Vivint Gives Back specifically targeted families of children with autism spectrum disorder or other intellectual disabilities. The technology is discounted for families of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Children with autism tend to wander, which can be terrifying for a parent when they discover their child is missing from their home. Vivint alarms, cameras and sensors can capture where a child went and alert parents when a child leaves a home.

Those individuals dont have a lot of boundaries and they are not afraid of things, Mero-Bench said. So we find that those children, they get out of the house, they slip out without their parents knowing, so the parents have to keep an eye on them literally 24/7.

Indoor cameras also give parents the ability to keep an eye on their children without having to be in the same room as them. Mero-Bench has heard parents say they can finally take more than just a quick shower because they can watch their children via their smart devices to assure theyre safe.

She said theyve also heard of families who have used camera footage to show video of seizures to doctors.

Sensors on interior doors can also alert caretakers when a door to a pantry or bathroom has been opened.

Parents can record their voice to play when a door is opened to urge a child not to go outside, or to say its not time to eat yet when the pantry is opened.

It kind of slows the kids down just a little bit, Mero-Bench said.

And for caretakers of people with intellectual disabilities, that brief head start can make all the difference in catching a family member before its too late.

Kevin was in the middle of an online MBA program at Colorado State University when he fell. Afterward, he doubted if hed return to school. He took a few semesters off before eventually starting classes again.

His programs last class required a capstone project where the students apply what theyve learned to a real business situation. The students pitched ideas, and then voted on their favorites. With one of the most popular projects, Kevin spent the next few months working with a team of students to build a business plan for a smart tech company catering to those with mobility challenges.

At graduation, Kevin stunned the crowd as he wheeled up in his chair, put a finger up to signal he needed a moment and then stood up amid a standing ovation to accept his diploma and continue walking across the stage.

The video of his walk reached more than 5 million people, becoming CSUs most popular Facebook post in its history.

A semiconductor manufacturing engineer by day, Kevin never intended to become an entrepreneur. But after discovering how the technology has changed his life, and seeing the hope other people hes met with disabilities have had when hes talked about it, he launched Transition Tech Solutions earlier this month on top of his full-time job.

I am astounded in the difference in quality of life it has made for me, and I am really independent and mobile for someone with a spinal cord injury, Kevin said.

The products the business installs dont require monthly fees. The business can install products like smart light bulbs and switches, smart speakers, video doorbells, garage door openers, ceiling fans, outlets and motion sensors.

And he doesnt think the tech stops at just giving independence to people with disabilities. Kevin said he can see the smart technology also aid retiring baby boomers and the elderly who are becoming less mobile.

For Melissa, it hasnt just been about adding additional convenience in the Hoyt home, but also about helping Kevin, who she was originally terrified to leave home alone, be more independent.

I know that he sometimes feels bad at so much that I do, Melissa said. I know that sometimes he feels like hes a burden when hes not. But this way, it makes him have less of that feeling.

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Smart technology is changing lives in the disabled community – Daily Herald

Is Advertising Free Speech? – The American Conservative

We are led to believe that standing up for the Constitution and limiting the tax burden on citizens were Republican tenets. Unfortunately, members of the Republican Party are the ones now considering to stomp on both the First Amendment and the American entrepreneur by changing the way we expense advertising costs.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) is reportedly contemplating the adoption of former Republican Rep. Dave Camps 2014 ad tax proposal, in which commercial advertising would no longer be 100 percent deductible as a business expenseas it has been since the creation of the federal income tax. Instead, it would be 50 percent deductible, leaving the remaining to be amortized over a decade. By holding corporations money for an entire decade, this new tax would treat ads as an asset like machinery instead of as a business expense like research and wages.

I know accounting can be boring, but these are fighting words!

In singling out free, commercial speech from other business expenses, this 50/50 proposal is in clear violation of the First Amendment. After all, the reason commercial advertising has been fully deductible since the income taxs founding in 1913 is because Congress has always known that it cannot constitutionally regulate free, commercial speech by making it a dollars and cents game.

The American Revolution was largely fought over this very issue. Remember the Stamp Act of 1765? The relationship between England and the Colonies was strained already when this tax pushed it to a boiling point. The Stamp Act imposed an across-the-board flat tax on advertising. It levied a tax of two shillings per ad no matter what it was or where it was being printed. Mob violence was triggered. Stamp collectors quit in fear and the British government repealed it a year later to quell the violence, but the goose was cooked. War was on the horizon and the Stamp Act was a rallying cry for the colonists.

After the British were defeated, our Founders set up a form of government with a Constitution in which the First Amendment prevented the government from ever taxing advertising again. Freedom to advertise: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press

For centuries, the First Amendment has protected corporate advertising, which goes hand in hand with our formidable entrepreneurial spirit. Businesses must advertise to succeedin fact, advertising spending generates approximately 16 percent of the nations economic activity. Do the Republicans really want to be the party to tax that?

From Constitutional scholar Bruce Fein:

Commercial speech is protected by the First Amendment. In overturning a prohibition on legal advertising in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona (1977), the Supreme Court reaffirmed that free speech includes paid advertisements or solicitations to pay or to contribute money. The Court elaborated on the consumer benefits of commercial advertising:

The listeners interest is substantial: the consumers concern for the free flow of commercial speech often may be far keener than his concern for urgent political dialogue. Moreover, significant societal interests are served by such speech. Advertising, though entirely commercial, may often carry information of import to significant issues of the day. [citation omitted]. And commercial speech serves to inform the public of the availability, nature, and prices of products and services, and thus performs an indispensable role in the allocation of resources in a free enterprise system. [citation omitted]. In short, such speech serves individual and societal interests in assuring informed and reliable decisionmaking.

A Republican-controlled Congress would go down in history as the party to regulate our First Amendment right in such a way as to extort more from the already burdened American businessmen and women.

Recently, a coalition of 124 House members, led by Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to congress urging them not to mess with the current tax treatment of advertising.

Will Congress heed the warning? Only time will tell.

Steve Sherman is an author, radio commentator, and former Iowa House candidate. His articles have appeared nationally in both print and online. His most recent novel, titled Mercy Shot, can be found on Amazon or at http://www.scsherman.com

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Is Advertising Free Speech? – The American Conservative

Here’s How Entrepreneurs Are Making Cryptocurrency Mainstream and Starting a Revolution – Inc.com

Less than a year ago, the average human did not know what cryptocurrency was. The market was limited mostly to a techy crowd of developers and very early adopters, considering Bitcoin was the only major currency on the block back then. But thanks to a number of really smart entrepreneurs, rising prices, and a powerful community, everything is changing and crypto is going mainstream.

Ethereum, Stratis, Sia, AntShares/NEO, TenX, and others are leading the charge of the technological revolution that is blockchain. Cryptocurrency-based crowdfunding known as Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are also a major player in the revolution. Blockchain startups like TenX have raised $80 million dollars in a matter of literal minutes to solve a big challenge for cryptocurrency holders–actually spending the currency in the real world.

Entire governments, such as China’s, are considering utilizing a national digital currency. Even the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, met with the founder of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin. All of this good press and positive outlook has caused many billions of dollars to be added to the market in the last seven months.

The excitement about the cryptocurrency market has attracted a lot of entrepreneurs who are looking to disrupt big industries through Blockchain technology.

I think of Blockchain disruption as creating disrupters to the disrupters. This new wave of Blockchain startups, such as Sia, are looking to disrupt companies like Dropbox and Amazon AWS. If they are even remotely successful, we are looking at many 10s if not 100s of billions of dollars being added to the overall cryptocurrency market as they continue to grow.

Another example of entrepreneurship at its finest is TenX. They are literally solving the biggest spending issue in cryptocurrency, actually making the tokens spendable in the real world. They are using debit/credit cards that physically store cryptocurrency then instantly convert them into Fiat (USD, EUR, YEN, etc.).

Stratis is considered a sleeper cryptocurrency because of its relative low price compared to its technological advancement. It’s a BaaS (Blockchain as a Service) platform that aims to provide enterprise level Blockchains and services to companies like Microsoft. AntShares/NEO is also considered a sleeper cryptocurrency by many.

The cryptocurrency market can seem volatile compared to traditional markets. There is more up and down movement, but the general trend line is a strong uptrend. A lot of people believe Ethereum alone will be worth over $1,000 a token in the next year or two. That will drive the prices of many other currencies up a lot.

Bitcoin, the oldest of popular cryptocurrencies and current market leader in terms of market cap, but not technology, is facing a potential split on or around August 1. There are a number of possible scenarios, including breaking Bitcoin into two separate coins. This could cause what is referred to as The Flippening to occur, and if it does, look for Ethereum to rapidly gain in price and for Bitcoin to fall from its first-place market share.

If (or, most likely, when) this event does happen, Ethereum could be more of the market indicator than Bitcoin currently is. Meaning, if Ethereum goes up, everything else tends to go up, which has been the case for Bitcoin recently, as it tends to control the market.

The market as a whole has been particularly strong in recent weeks. Ethereum was worth as much as $420 a token and as little as the $180 range in the last few weeks. But the strength of the market really shined when the $180 “drop” happened and it quickly re-tested $200 multiple times and showed that $200 was the current floor price. This creates a sense of security in the market and helps people believe in it more long term when they see these quick rebounds from drops in price.

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Here’s How Entrepreneurs Are Making Cryptocurrency Mainstream and Starting a Revolution – Inc.com

Microsoft Debuts AI Unit to Take on Tricky Questions – Fortune

Photograph by Mehau Kulyk/SPL Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF

Microsoft has created a unit within its broader artificial intelligence and research organization that will take on tough AI challenges, like how to use different AI technologies, to make software smarter.

The subset organization, called Microsoft Research AI, was announced in London on Wednesday by Microsoft executive vice president Harry Shum. It will employ about 100 researchers and be based at Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash. headquarters.

The new unit is roughly analogous to Google’s DeepMind AI research organization.

Broadly speaking, AI comprises several technologies meant to endow software with human-like intelligence. Computers that recognize speech and images are manifestations of AI. Thus when you ask Amazon Alexa to order a pizza, or ask Apple ( aapl ) Siri, or Google Assistant, about a fun fact, you are tapping the fruits of extensive AI research.

Tech companies see gold in AI which is why IBM ( ibm ) , Google ( googl ) , Salesforce ( crm ) and others slather their marketing materials with references to AI when applicable. And even when not.

Related; Microsoft Loses Key Exec But Gains New AI Unit

If there is any doubt that AI is a hotbed of activity, the number of press releases generated claiming some link to it is a good measure. Other than this Microsoft news, this week IBM announced a new service based on its Watson AI technology running on IBM ( ibm ) cloud infrastructure. Its job: to automate the management of customer computer networks.

On Tuesday, business software maker Infor announced Coleman, its brand for the new AI underpinnings to its business applications. The name refers to pioneering NASA engineer Katherine Coleman Johnsonplayed by Tarji P. Henson in the movie Hidden Figures . Coleman is Infor’s version of Einstein , the brand Infor rival Salesforce slapped on its AI technologies last year.

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On Wednesday, travel services company Sabre ( sabr ) launched a text-activated chat bot , built with Microsoft AI technologies. If you’ve used a customer service chat app on a web site, you have likely interacted with a chatbot, which is supposed to answer questions so human customer service agents don’t have to.

Two Sabre-affiliated travel agencies are testing the new chatbot to see if it can give their clients an easy way to deal with the logistics of their trips. If the chatbot can handle frequently asked questions, travel agents can, theoretically, focus on more important things.

Note: (July 13, 2017 7:50 a.m. ET) This story was updated to correct Katherine Coleman Johnson’s name. An earlier version incorrectly referred to her as Katherine Johnson Coleman.)

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Microsoft Debuts AI Unit to Take on Tricky Questions – Fortune