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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 Broadcast.com. 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.

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Business SCI TECH TECH_Technology

Galaxy Note 9 to launch ahead of schedule

The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ are seemingly the most remarkable Android smartphones available on the market presently. Nonetheless, the similarities to the previous year’s Galaxy S8 and S8+ models display a current drop in sales due to missing the mark in consumer expectations with design and innovative features. Consequently, the reluctance of consumers to invest several hundreds of dollars or more towards Samsung’s new generation of smartphones is comprehensible.

According to Samsung’s report released last week, the developer is implementing a strategy to launch the Galaxy Note 9 in advance of schedule. The early release is predicted to counterbalance slow-moving Galaxy S9 sales while providing the new smartphone a supplementary period of time prior to the anticipated Apple iPhone X release this coming September.

Purportedly, Samsung’s impending Galaxy Note 9 will highlight a design and specification comparable to the Galaxy Note 8. The new Android is projected to be powered Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset or an Exynos 9810 with a contingency of region. A Super AMOLED display is anticipated for this new smartphone, setting it apart as the greatest quality available.

Samsung is estimated to reveal the Galaxy Note 9 in late summer, with a release scheduled for August or September.

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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.

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NONE Robotics SCI TECH TECH_Technology

Artificial muscle makes soft robots stronger

Scientists from Harvard University and MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have created artificial muscles that allow soft robots to lift objects that are up to 1,000 times their own weight, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

Soft robotics has made large strides over the past decade. However, while recent advancements have enabled the machines to bend and flex in new ways, the softer materials typically come with reduced strength.

The new origami-inspired muscles in the study get around that obstacle and could one day lead to much more efficient machines.

“We were very surprised by how strong the actuators [aka, “muscles”] were,” said study co-author Daniela Rus, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, according to Phys.org. “We expected they’d have a higher maximum functional weight than ordinary soft robots, but we didn’t expect a thousand-fold increase. It’s like giving these robots superpowers.”

Making muscle-like actuators is one of the largest challenges in engineering. Now that it has been overcome, scientists can potentially build nearly any robot for almost any task.

Each artificial muscle consists of an inner “skeleton” made from materials like metal coil or a sheet of folded plastic surrounded by air or fluid and sealed inside a plastic or textile bag. A vacuum inside the bag causes the muscles to move by forcing the “skin” to collapse onto the skeleton. That tension drives the motion, and allows the device to work without any other external human input. 

In the study, the team created dozens of different muscles with materials ranging from metal springs to packing foam to sheets of plastic. They then experimented with different skeleton shapes to create muscles that can contract down to 10 percent of their original size, lift a flower off the ground, and twist into a coil.

Those experiments showed the muscles can move in many ways, and are able to operate with a high amount of resilience. Not only that, but the technology can generate roughly six times more force per unit area than mammalian skeletal muscle, and is both lightweight and easy to make. A single muscle can be constructed within ten minutes using materials that cost less than $1.

Another important property is that the actuators are highly scalable, meaning they can be constructed at different sizes. That is important because it greatly increases their potential applications. The team believes they could one day be used for a wide variety of tasks, including miniature surgical devices, wearable robotic exoskeletons, transformable architecture, deep-sea manipulators, and large deployable structures for space exploration.

“The possibilities really are limitless,” added Rus, in a statement. “But the very next thing I would like to build with these muscles is an elephant robot with a trunk that can manipulate the world in ways that are as flexible and powerful as you see in real elephants.”

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Business NONE SCI TECH TECH_Technology

Artificial muscles could one day help robots lift massive objects

Researchers from Columbia University have created a new type of artificial muscle that could allow robots to lift things up to 1000 times their own weight, a study in Nature Communications reports.

The team created the new technology with a 3D printing technique. The rubber-like material — which is heated by a small electric current — not only lifts like real muscle, but it is able to expand up to nine times its normal size as well. That gives it a lot of flexibility other such substances do not have.

During the study, the team found that the muscle has a strain density — the amount of energy stored in each gram of a stretched elastic body — 15 times greater than natural muscle.

“We’ve been making great strides toward making robot minds, but robot bodies are still primitive,” said study co-author Hod Lipson, a professor at Columbia University, according to Telegraph UK. “This is a big piece of the puzzle and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways. We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.”

The new muscles are important because, not only could they be used to make better, stronger robots, they could also lead to more effective surgical devices and help out any field where careful manipulation is important. Lifting is the main application, but the soft material could go far beyond that.

“Our soft functional material may serve as robust soft muscle, possibly revolutionizing the way that soft robotic solutions are engineered today,” said lead author Aslan Miriyev, a researcher at Columbia University, in a statement. “It can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight. It’s the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle.”

The team hopes to expand on the new study by furthering the muscle’s development. They also plan to use better materials, which will help accelerate the muscle’s response time and also increase its shelf life.

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HOUNDS_Entertainment TECH_Social TECH_Technology

#OscarsSoWhite creator speaks out on latest Academy invitee class

April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite, is not satisfied with attempts by the Academy to diversify.

Reign began using the hashtag in the wake of the announcement of 2015 nominees from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science.

The Oscars 2015 did not contain any “person of color” in major acting categories, precipitating the hashtag. Following the Twitter campaign by Reign, notable African American entertainers such as Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith boycotted the 2015 ceremony.

A major problem, as pointed out by Reign and others, was the fact that most of the people voting for the Academy Awards are older white males.

As a reaction to the public outcry, the Academy announced that it had committed to diversifying its voters, attempting to double its number of women and people of color by 2020.

The Academy released its newest voter invitee list on Wednesday.

“It seems impressive on first glance. I am encouraged by the inclusion of additional women and people of color and those from marginalized communities,” said Reign in an interview with the L.A. Times.

“As I read the list, there are definitely some names that were shocking to me from the standpoint of why some of these people aren’t already members of the academy,” continued Reign. “The academy is righting a wrong here.”

“Yes, a lot of work still must be done. For women, if the academy is supposed to be representative of the population, it should be a lot closer to 50%. And the 11% [people of color]… is not representative of all people of color in this country,” concluded Reign.

 

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Research Robotics 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.”

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NWT_Energy TECH_Technology TSC_Global Politics

Iran step-up its nuclear program builds new centrifuge factory

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi, on Wednesday said it has built a factory that can produce rotors up to 60 centrifuges a day, as the country step up its plan in confrontation with the U.S. over it nuclear weapon programs.

The announcement came a month after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered agencies to prepare to increase uranium enrichment capacity if a nuclear deal with world powers falls apart after Washington’s withdrawal from the deal.

Under the terms of the 2015 agreement, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, but with Washington’s withdrawal, other signatories have to scramble to save the accord.

Iran has said it will wait to see what the other world powers can do, but has also signaled readiness to get its enrichment activities back on track. Iran has regularly emphasized that its nuclear work is just for electricity generation and other peaceful projects.

Akbar said the new factory did not in itself break the terms of the agreement.

“Instead of building this factory in the next seven or eight years, we built it during the negotiations but did not start it,” Salehi, said, according to state media.

“Of course, the [Supreme Leader] was completely informed and we gave him the necessary information at the time. And now that he has given the order this factory has started all of its work.”

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Business SCI TECH TECH_Technology

Xbox is losing the video game console war: report

Microsoft’s Xbox One video game console is being significantly outsold by Sony’s PlayStation 4, according to Wired.com. By how much? So far this year, 73 million PlayStation 4 consoles were sold, compared to 30 Million Xbox One consoles, according to Variety. This is a very large difference, and solidifies Sony as the premier brand for video game consoles.

It should be noted that Microsoft has released an official statement to Variety, in which they denied the accuracy of the number of Xbox One units that were reportedly sold. Video game publishers however report that the Xbox One is indeed trailing the PlayStation 4 by a significantly large margin.

Despite their claims of inaccurately reported numbers, Microsoft has been busy trying to improve the Xbox One user experience. One of their ideas is making the Xbox One more “backward compatible”, as in allowing the user to play video game titles published for older Xbox consoles. They are also introducing a revolutionary new feature: the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

It is a first of its kind controller that will allow users with disabilities to play Xbox One games without the obstacles that they faced in the past. It’s an impressive and inclusive new concept, however it will remain to be seen whether Microsoft has done enough to turn the tide in their “war” with Sony.

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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.