Big Tech &
Apple is targeting April to launch its new video service, but Netflix won't be a part of it and HBO is in doubt (3 minute read)
Apple’s much anticipated new video streaming service is set to launch in April. The plan is to simplify video streaming by allowing users to watch content from multiple content distributors through one app and one subscription, but some distributors are disputing Apple’s suggested terms. Apple aims to take a 30% cut of the revenue from subscribers, which is double the 15% it currently takes for subscriptions to current services through its App Store. Regardless of which streaming services are on board, Apple plans to release a ton of original content on its platform, having signed multi-year deals with entertainers such as Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, and Steven Spielberg.
Amazon opens up Alexa store for anyone to create and publish custom skills (1 minute read)
Amazon will now allow anyone to publish their custom skills on the Alexa store, after the successful launch of their Alexa Skills Blueprint program last year. Users are able to create custom skills and share them with anyone, meaning that content creators can now reach users through the device in new ways. Content creators can keep users updated through custom audio responses, however these are still restricted to Amazon’s sandbox rules. Uploaded skills will be reviewed by Amazon before they are published to the store.
AI guides single-camera drone through hallways it’s never seen before (3 minute read)
A team of scientists at the University of California have combined data from simulations and the real world to create a deep reinforcement learning model that enabled a drone to navigate through hallways it had never seen before. Scientists have previously used deep reinforcement learning models for land-based robots to learn hiking trails and to recover from unexpected falls, but not with drones that can fly. There is a GIF that shows the drone in action along with its camera output.
This robot can melt and re-form its legs to change how it walks (1 minute read)
A 3D-printed robot created by Jianguo Zhao at Colorado State University is able to melt and reshape it’s 4 limbs in order to change the way it moves. A wire inside each of its legs heats up the plastic within 10 seconds and allows it to switch between different leg positions. This improves the robot’s capability with adding to its cost, weight, or complexity. There is a link to a video that shows the robot in action.
Programming, Design & Data Science
DeskGap (GitHub Repo)
DeskGap is a framework for building cross-platform desktop apps with web technologies using a bundled Node.js runtime. Instead of bundling a web-engine, DeskGap relies on the operating system’s own webview renderer. Development is still in its early stages, and the API does not have full functionality of other similar frameworks such as Electron. DeskGap runs on Mac OSX and Windows 10.
Drago Anguelov (Waymo)
Waymo is a self-driving technology development company, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. Self-driving technology is developed through obtaining a large amount of data, creating machine learning models from the data, and then a lot of testing. While there has been huge leaps in the last few years with the development of the technology, there is still a lot to be done, as the problems needed to be solved before a safe, reliable, self-driving car are vast and complex, requiring a lot of testing in multiple environments. Drago Anguelov presents the results of these tests and also discusses the problems that need to be solved before self-driving cars become a viable reality.
The former Apple lawyer who was supposed to keep employees from insider trading has been charged with insider trading (2 minute read)
Gene Levoff, the previous senior director of law and corporate security at Apple until September last year, has been charged with securities fraud and is set to appear in court on February 20. Levoff was responsible for making sure employees of Apple were aware of insider trading laws, including announcing ‘blackout’ periods in which employees were not allowed to trade stocks. The SEC complaint against Levoff alleges that the lawyer had traded based on insider information about 3 times between 2015 and 2016, resulting in a profit (and loss avoidance) of approximately $382,000.
Swiss e-voting trial offers $150,000 in bug bounties to hackers (1 minute read)
The Swiss government has announced a month-long testing period for their e-voting system, in which they encourage white-hat hackers to discover and report vulnerabilities. The total prize pool for the Public Intrusion Test is $150,000, with bounties ranging in value according to the seriousness of the vulnerabilities discovered. Swiss law guarantees the ability to vote for every citizen, but overseas citizens have complained that postal methods are usually delayed, and have called for e-voting methods. Opposition to e-voting claimed that the method was not secure, so the test will reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the current system.