Business TECH_Technology

Airbnb delays IPO

A lot is happening at Airbnb in 2018, and it’s only the second month into the year. Airbnb will be losing its CFO, Laurence Tosi, who has been with the company since July 2015. The company will also be getting its first COO and finally the company will not be going public this year.

In a blog post, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky stated that Tosi will be leaving the company in order to “dedicate his full time and energy to his investment fund, Weston Capital Partners, and dedicate time to the several boards he currently sits on.”

According to CNBC, Airbnb, the short-term home rental company founded in 2008, was last valued at $31 billion and has been a private company for 10 years, which once considered an eternity in the venture capital world. However, this is no longer true as more and more tech start-ups are staying private for a longer period of time.

While Tosi is leaving, Airbnb is promoting its top female executive, Belinda Johnson, to the role of COO, the company’s first in its 10-year history. Johnson joined Airbnb in 2011 as chief business affairs and legal officer, where she led efforts to work with city governments and was at the forefront of the company’s many legal battles. Prior to Airbnb, she served as general counsel at Yahoo and She is considered one of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley.

Chesky stated “the COO is one of the most critical positions in any company.” Before the holidays, I made a decision about who was right for this role, and I’m incredibly excited to announce that we have appointed Belinda Johnson.”

During his tenure at Airbnb, Tosi helped turn the startup profitable, through his experience on Wall Street and his financial discipline. Tosi, served as CFO for Blackstone Group before joining Airbnb in 2015. His decision to leave the company most likely stemmed from Chesky’s decision to promote Johnson, due to their different philosophies.

Tosi’s departure raises questions about the timeline for an initial public offering, which now won’t come until next year at the earliest. “We’re working on getting ready to go public and we will make decisions about going public on our own timetable,” said Chesky.

Business TECH_Technology

Alphabet launches company to combat cyber security

Google parent company Alphabet recently announced the formation of a new independent cyber security business known as Chronicle.

Chronicle was developed out of Alphabet’s X moonshot group. It is an independent company, that falls under the Alphabet umbrella, just like Google. According to Business Insider, the ‘X’ research and development team was created to develop solutions that address global issues. With Chronicle, the goal is to help security teams prevent cyber attacks, so they don’t have deal with the repercussions. In a blog post, Founder and CEO of Chronicle, Stephen Gillett recently announced the launch of the newly formed company in a blog post. “We think we’ll be able to help organizations see their full security picture in much higher fidelity than they currently can.”

In a separate blog post, Leader of X, Astro Teller, called Chronicle a “digital immune system,” which focuses on detecting threats by analyzing and storing security-related data within large enterprises. Chronicle will use Google’s infrastructure, and claims to be able to detect threats faster and at a larger scale than existing systems, which is the key preventing cyber attacks.

Another component of Chronicle will be VirusTotal, a popular malware-reporting network, which was acquired by Google in 2012. VirusTotal’s services are expected to continue unaffected by the launch of the new company.

Further details on the project are still unclear, but according to Gillett’s statement, the project is moving forward quickly and Chronicle is already hiring and early alpha versions of the product have already been tested at a number of Fortune 500 companies. “We hope that by making this mix of technologies available to more companies at affordable prices, we can give ‘the good guys’ an advantage and help us all turn the tide against cyber crime,” stated Gillet.

Research SCI TECH_Technology

Eagled-eyed machine learning algorithm outperforms human experts

University of Wisconsin-Madison and Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers just trained artificial intelligence to consistently and quickly analyze and detect microscopic radiation damage in materials considered for nuclear reactors better than human experts.

“Machine learning has great potential to transform the current, human-involved approach of image analysis in microscopy,” said Wei Li, who participated in the research.

“In the future, I believe images from many instruments will pass through a machine learning algorithm for initial analysis before being considered by humans,” said engineering professor Dane Morgan, Li’s graduate school advisor.

The job in question is crucial for the development of safe nuclear materials and could make the time-consuming process more effective and efficient.

“Human detection and identification is error-prone, inconsistent and inefficient. Perhaps most importantly, it’s not scalable,” Morgan said. “Newer imaging technologies are outstripping human capabilities to analyze the data we can produce.”

After training the machine with 270 images, the neural network, in combination with a cascade object detector machine learning algorithm, was able to identify and classify about 86 percent of dislocation loops in a set of sample pictures. In comparison, human experts only found 80 percent of the defects.

“When we got the final result, everyone was surprised, not only by the accuracy of the approach, but the speed,” said Oak Ridge staff scientist Kevin Field. “We can now detect these loops like humans while doing it in a fraction of the time on a standard home computer.”

“This is just the beginning,” Morgan said. “Machine learning tools will help create a cyber infrastructure that scientists can utilize in ways we are just beginning to understand.”

HEALTH Research SCI TECH_Technology

MIT app can spot depression from the way you talk

Researchers from MIT just created an app that can detect depression in people based on their natural conversational and writing style.

“The first hints we have that a person is happy, excited, sad, or has some serious cognitive condition, such as depression, is through their speech,” said Tuka Alhanai, the project’s lead researcher. “If you want to deploy [depression-detection] models in scalable way … you want to minimize the amount of constraints you have on the data you’re using. You want to deploy it in any regular conversation and have the model pick up, from the natural interaction, the state of the individual.”

The team calls the model “context-free” because no constraints are imposed on the types of questions asked or the response that the app is looking for. The app utilizes sequence modeling to use text and audio from depressed and non-depressed people to detect patterns.

“The model sees sequences of words or speaking style, and determines that these patterns are more likely to be seen in people who are depressed or not depressed,” Alhanai said. “Then, if it sees the same sequences in new subjects, it can predict if they’re depressed too.”

The model exhibited a 77 percent success rate in tests.

“If the model sees changes maybe it will be a flag to the doctors,” said co-researcher James Glass.

The app could be integrated into mobile apps that monitor a user’s voice and text. The team hopes to test additional data from subjects with other cognitive conditions, such as dementia.

“It’s not so much detecting depression, but it’s a similar concept of evaluating, from an everyday signal in speech, if someone has cognitive impairment or not,” Alhanai said.

Research SCI TECH_Technology

Shape-shifting material can morph and reverse itself with heat and light

Researchers just created a new material that is able to morph into pre-programmed shapes via temperature and light stimuli, allowing a square peg to transform and fit into a round hole before reverting to its original state.

The unique shape-shifting material was created by University of Colorado Boulder engineers and could have broad applications for robotics, manufacturing, artificial muscles, and biomedical devices.

“The ability to form materials that can repeatedly oscillate back and forth between two independent shapes by exposing them to light will open up a wide range of new applications and approaches to areas such as additive manufacturing, robotics and biomaterials”, said Christopher Bowman, senior author of the new study from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Previous studies have attempted to change an object’s size, texture, or shape with programmable stimuli. However, these materials were limited in their size or extent and the state changes were difficult to reverse.

The new material is easily programmable due to the use of liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs), which is the technology the underlies modern televisions displays. Their unique arrangement makes them susceptible to dynamic change via light and heat.

The material has a wide range of unique applications, especially in the field of biomedical devices, which could become more adaptable.

“We view this as an elegant foundational system for transforming an object’s properties,” said Matthew McBride, lead author of the new study. “We plan to continue optimizing and exploring the possibilities of this technology.”

The findings were published in Science Advances.

Research SCI TECH_Technology

Scientists use light to create silicon chip for quantum processing

A University of Bristol study revealed that light can be used to create a multi-functional quantum processor, which could be used to perform numerous quantum information experiments. In addition, the data highlights how fully functional computers could be created from large-scale fabrication processes.

The team accomplished the experiment by creating a silicon chip that guides photons down waveguides in order to encode quantum-bits of information, also known as “qubits.”

Instead of using bits in the form of a “0” or “1,” qubits can be a superposition of both 1 and 0 states. Not only that, qubits can be connected in a unique way called quantum entanglement. Together, these physical quantum properties power quantum computers.

“What we’ve demonstrated is a programmable machine that can do lots of different tasks,” said Xiaogang Qiang, lead author of the study.

“It’s a very primitive processor, because it only works on two qubits, which means there is still a long way before we can do useful computations with this technology,” he added. “But what is exciting is that it the different properties of silicon photonics that can be used for making a quantum computer have been combined together in one device.”

“This is just too complicated to physically implement with light using previous approaches.”

Jonathan Matthews believes that scientists need to continue examining the potential scalable technology that can be used to create quantum computers, including technology that can be creataed precisely on a large scale.

“We think silicon is a promising material to do this, partly because of all the investment that has already gone into developing silicon for the micro-electronics and photonics industries,” he said. “And the types of devices developed in Bristol, such as the one presented today, are showing just how well quantum devices can be engineered.”

The findings were published in Nature Photonics.


Tesla involved in another autopilot accident

A Tesla sedan that was using the autopilot feature has crashed into a Laguna Beach Police Department vehicle, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times. The collision happened Tuesday morning at 11:07 a.m. at 20652 Laguna Canyon Road.

The police cruiser was unoccupied at the time of the crash. The driver of the Tesla suffered minor injuries but refused to be admitted to the hospital.

“Thankfully there was not an officer at the time in the police car,” Laguna Police Sgt. Jim Cota said. “The police car is totaled.”

This is not the first time that a Tesla vehicle has been involved in a collision in the same area. A year ago, a Tesla hit a semi-truck in the same location, according to Cota.
Tesla has come under scrutiny because its autopilot driver assist feature has been involved in a number of accidents. One crash occurred in Utah when the driver was using her phone with the autopilot on earlier this month. Two fatal crashes also occurred with one in California in March and another Florida in 2016 – both with the autopilot operating.

Tesla warns driver to keep alert when using the autopilot feature and to keep their hands on the wheel at all times.

Mobile TECH_Technology

Uber introduces new 911 feature

Uber has rolled out a new 911 feature from it rideshare app, according to a report by Lifehacker. The new 911 app option allows riders to contact police if an accident or emergency should occur when riding in an Uber vehicle. The 911 feature can be activated by tapping a button and confirming the emergency request.

The 911 feature is noted by a small police shield in the bottom corner of the map screen. When you tap the icon, an emergency toolkit appears which includes a call 911 button option. If you tap that button, users are then given a red button to press to receive emergency services immediately.

Upon tapping the 911 button, the Uber app will display the exact location as well as vehicle make, model, and license plate number that a rider is presently riding in and share it with police. Uber enacted that 911 feature to make it easier to communicate with emergency services should the need arise with its customers.

Currently, Uber is offering the 911 feature in Denver, Charleston, Chattanooga, Naples, Louisville, and the Tennessee Tri Cities. Nashville will also get the 911 option soon as well as more metropolitan areas in the near future.

Research SCI TECH_Technology

Artificial intelligence can predict your personality by tracking your eyes

A new study reveals that artificial intelligence can predict your personality type by the way that your eyes move. The team behind it used state-of-the-art machine-learning algorithms to shed light on the connection between eye movements and personality.

The researchers showed that eye movements are connected to curiosity, conscientiousness, and sociability by using an algorithm software that recognizes four of the Big Five personality traits: extroversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and agreeableness.

The team examined the eye movements of 42 participants as they conducted everyday tasks around a school campus and analyzed their personality traits using questionnaires.

“There’s certainly the potential for these findings to improve human-machine interactions,” said co-author Tobias Loetscher. “People are always looking for improved, personalised services. However, today’s robots and computers are not socially aware, so they cannot adapt to non-verbal cues.”

“This research provides opportunities to develop robots and computers so that they can become more natural, and better at interpreting human social signals,” he added.

Loetscher said that the new findings could connect the examination of natural eye movements in real-world environments and controlled laboratory studies.

“This research has tracked and measured the visual behaviour of people going about their everyday tasks, providing more natural responses than if they were in a lab,” he said.

“And thanks to our machine-learning approach, we not only validate the role of personality in explaining eye movement in everyday life, but also reveal new eye movement characteristics as predictors of personality traits,” he added.

The findings were published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

SCI TECH_Technology

Technology identifies ways to help humans thrive

According to the World Economic Forum, we have reasons to be hopeful about the future because technology is working to defeat forces driving an apocalypse. Medically speaking this is the best time for humans: our life expectancy is much longer than our ancestors’ was and in most of the world, it has doubled since 1900.

Technology finds new ways to help us live longer, better lives. According to an article in Techrader, gene editing with molecular scissors may be able to remove inherited diseases and fight cancers; artificial pancreases may help unlock cures for conditions that currently kill people.

The World Economic Forum, an independent international organization established to improve the state of the world, argues that the four ways technology can fight future epidemics are:

  • Messaging to warn people of hazards and how to avoid contracting a virus
  • Delivering training to health workers in the field
  • Enabling health workers to monitor the spread of disease
  • Monitoring viruses in real time to see how they spread and predict where they are going

We have more than enough food to provide for everybody in the world; however, it is not evenly distributed. Oxfam, a group of charitable organizations that focus on the alleviation of global poverty, reports that 65 percent of the world’s hungry live in seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia.

Technology can help alleviate famine by establishing supply chains that keep food fresh. These are especially useful in warm countries where food spoils fast.