Robotics

Amazon Robots Poised To Revamp How Whole Foods Runs Warehouses (bloomberg.com) 20

After Amazon announced it would buy Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion earlier this month, John Mackey, Whole Foods' chief executive officer, rejoiced and reportedly gushed about Amazon's technological innovation. "We will be joining a company that's visionary," Mackey said. "I think we're gonna get a lot of those innovations in our stores. I think we're gonna see a lot of technology. I think you're gonna see Whole Foods Market evolve in leaps and bounds." Specifically, Mackey is talking about the thousands of delivery robots Amazon uses in its facilities. Bloomberg reports: In negotiations, Amazon spent a lot of time analyzing Whole Foods' distribution technology, pointing to a possible way in which the company sees the most immediate opportunities to reduce costs, said a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the issue was private. Experts say the most immediate changes would likely be in warehouses that customers never see. That suggests the jobs that could be affected the earliest would be in the warehouses, where products from suppliers await transport to store shelves, said Gary Hawkins, CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail and Technology, a Los Angeles nonprofit that helps retailers and brands innovate. As Amazon looks to automate distribution, cashiers will be safe -- for now. Amazon sees automation as a key strategic advantage in its overall grocery strategy, according to company documents reviewed by Bloomberg before the Whole Foods acquisition was announced. Whole Foods has 11 distribution centers specializing in perishable foods that serve its stores. It also has seafood processing plants, kitchens and bakeries that supply prepared food to each location. Those are the places where Amazon could initially focus, according to experts. While the company said it has no current plans to automate the jobs of cashiers in Whole Foods stores after it finishes acquiring the grocery chain, it's likely only a matter of time before cashier positions become automated. According to Bloomberg's report, Amazon may bring the robots to the stores after automating Whole Foods' warehouses. "The first ones will likely navigate aisles to check inventory and alert employees when items run low, said Austin Bohlig, an advisor at Loup Ventures, which invests in robotics startups," reports Bloomberg.
Google

Google Slapped With $2.7 Billion By EU For Skewing Searches (bloomberg.com) 132

Google suffered a major regulatory blow on Tuesday after European antitrust officials fined the search giant 2.4 billion euros, or $2.7 billion, for unfairly favoring some of its own search services over those of rivals. The European Commission concluded that the search giant abused its near-monopoly in online search to "give illegal advantage" to its own Shopping service. Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner, said Google "denied other companies the chance to compete" and left consumers without "genuine choice." The hefty fine marks the latest chapter in a lengthy standoff between Europe and Google, which also faces two separate charges under the region's competition rules related to Android, its popular mobile software, and to some of its advertising products. From a report: Google has 90 days to "stop its illegal conduct" and give equal treatment to rival price-comparison services, according to a binding order from the European Commission on Tuesday. It's up to Google to choose how it does this and it must tell the EU within 60 days of its plans. Failure to comply brings a risk of fines of up to 5 percent of its daily revenue. [...] "I expect the Commission now to swiftly conclude the other two ongoing investigations against Google," Markus Ferber, a member of the European Parliament from Germany. "Unfortunately, the Google case also illustrates that competition cases tend to drag on for far too long before they are eventually resolved. In a fast-moving digital economy this means often enough that market abuse actually pays off and the abuser succeeds in eliminating the competition." Google has been pushing its own comparison shopping service since 2008, systematically giving it prominent placement when people search for an item, the EU said. Rival comparison sites usually only appear on page four of search results, effectively denying them a massive audience as the first page attracts 95 percent of all clicks. In a blog post, Google said the EU has "underestimated" the value Google's services brings to the table. "We believe the European Commission's online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections. While some comparison shopping sites naturally want Google to show them more prominently, our data show that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches. We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago. Showing ads that include pictures, ratings, and prices benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, our users. And we show them only when your feedback tells us they are relevant. Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay. [...] Given the evidence, we respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission's decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case," wrote Kent Walker, SVP and General Counsel at Google.
Earth

New Study Confirms the Oceans Are Warming Rapidly (theguardian.com) 89

An anonymous reader shares a report from The Guardian, written by John Abraham, who discusses the rising ocean temperatures and the important factors that affect ocean-temperature accuracy: The most important measurement of global warming is in the oceans. In fact, "global warming" is really "ocean warming." If you are going to measure the changing climate of the oceans, you need to have many sensors spread out across the globe that take measurements from the ocean surface to the very depths of the waters. Importantly, you need to have measurements that span decades so a long-term trend can be established. These difficulties are tackled by oceanographers, and a significant advancement was presented in a paper just published in the journal Climate Dynamics. That paper, which I was fortunate to be involved with, looked at three different ocean temperature measurements made by three different groups. We found that regardless of whose data was used or where the data was gathered, the oceans are warming. In the paper, we describe perhaps the three most important factors that affect ocean-temperature accuracy. First, sensors can have biases (they can be "hot" or "cold"), and these biases can change over time. Another source of uncertainty is related to the fact that we just don't have sensors at all ocean locations and at all times. Some sensors, which are dropped from cargo ships, are densely located along major shipping routes. Other sensors, dropped from research vessels, are also confined to specific locations across the globe. Finally, temperatures are usually referenced to a baseline "climatology." So, when we say temperatures have increased by 1 degree, it is important to say what the baseline climatology is. Have temperatures increased by 1 degree since the year 1990? Since the year 1970? Since 1900? The choice of baseline climatology really matters.
Science

Physicists Have Created the Brightest Light Ever Recorded (vice.com) 56

Jason Koebler writes: A group of physicists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Extreme Light Laboratory announced Monday that they have created the brightest light ever produced on Earth using Diocles, one of the most powerful lasers in the United States. When this high intensity laser pulse, which is one billion times brighter than the surface of the sun, strikes the electron, it causes it to behave differently. By firing this laser at individual electrons, the researchers found that past a certain threshold, the brightness of light will actually change an object's appearance rather than simply making it brighter. The x-rays that are produced in this fashion have an extremely high amount of energy, and Umstadter and his colleagues think this could end up being applied in a number of ways. For starters, it could allow doctors to produce x-ray medical images on the nanoscale, which would allow them to detect tumors and other anomalies that regular x-rays might have missed. Moreover, it could also be used for more sophisticated x-ray scanning at airports and other security checkpoints.
The Internet

Social Media Giants Step Up Joint Fight Against Extremist Content (reuters.com) 126

Social media giants Facebook, Google's YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft said on Monday they were forming a global working group to combine their efforts to remove terrorist content from their platforms. From a report: Responding to pressure from governments in Europe and the United States after a spate of militant attacks, the companies said they would share technical solutions for removing terrorist content, commission research to inform their counter-speech efforts and work more with counter-terrorism experts. The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism "will formalize and structure existing and future areas of collaboration between our companies and foster cooperation with smaller tech companies, civil society groups and academics, governments and supra-national bodies such as the EU and the UN," the companies said in a statement.
Twitter

New Study Explains Why Trump's 'Sad' Tweets Are So Effective (theverge.com) 158

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: During his campaign and presidency, Donald Trump has used Twitter to circumvent traditional media broadcasters and speak directly to the masses. He is particularly known for one specific tweet construction: he sets up a situation that he feels should inspire anger or outrage, then punctuates it with "Sad!" New research from New York University suggests a reason why this style is so effective: a tweet containing moral and emotional language spreads farther among people with similar political persuasion. The study offered up "duty" as an example of a purely moral word, "fear" as a purely emotional one, and "hate" as word that combined the two categories. The research found that the use of purely moral or purely emotional language had a limited impact on the spread of a tweet, but the "presence of moral-emotional words in messages increased their diffusion by a factor of 20% for each additional word." The impact of this language cut both ways. Tweets with moral-emotional words spread further among those with a similar political outlook, and they spread less with those who held opposing views, according to the research published in the journal PNAS. The study looked at 563,312 tweets on the topics of gun control, same-sex marriage, and climate change, and rated their impact by the number of retweets each one received.
Businesses

Zillow Threatens To Sue Blogger For Using Its Photos For Parody (theverge.com) 99

Kate Wagner is facing potential legal charges by real estate Zillow for allegedly violating the site's terms of service by reproducing images from their site on her blog. Wagner's blog is called McMansion Hell -- a Tumblr blog that "highlights the absurdity of giant real estate properties and the ridiculous staging and photography that are omnipresent in their sales listings," writes Natt Garun via The Verge. From the report: A typical McMansion Hell blog post will have a professional photo of a home and / or its interior, along with captions scattered throughout by Wagner. She also adds information about the history and characteristics of various architecture styles, and uses photos from the likes of Zillow and Redfin to illustrate how so many real estate listings inaccurately use the terms. Under each post, Wagner adds a disclaimer that credits the original source of the images and cites Fair Use for the parody, which allows for use of copyrighted material for "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research." In a cease and desist letter to Wagner, Zillow claims Wagner's reproduction of these images do not apply under the Copyright Act. Additionally, the company claims McMansion Hell may "[interfere] with Zillow's business expectations and interests." As a result of the potential lawsuit, Wagner has temporarily taken McMansionHell.com down. In a statement to The Verge, Zillow said: "Zillow has a legal obligation to honor the agreements we make with our listing providers about how photos can be used. We are asking this blogger to take down the photos that are protected by copyright rules, but we did not demand she shut down her blog and hope she can find a way to continue her work."
Canada

China, Canada Vow Not To Conduct Cyberattacks On Private Sector (reuters.com) 48

New submitter tychoS writes from a report via Reuters: China and Canada have signed an agreement vowing not to conduct state-sponsored cyberattacks against each other aimed at stealing trade secrets or other confidential business information. The new agreement was reached during talks between Canada's national security and intelligence adviser, Daniel Jean, and senior communist party official Wang Yongqing, a statement dated June 22 on the Canadian government's website showed. "This is something that three or four years ago (Beijing) would not even have entertained in the conversation," an unnamed Canadian government official told the Globe and Mail, which first reported the agreement. The new agreement only covers economic cyber-espionage, which includes hacking corporate secrets and proprietary technology, but does not deal with state-sponsored cyber spying for intelligence gathering.
Earth

'Infarm' Startup Wants To Put a Farm In Every Grocery Store (techcrunch.com) 71

Infarm, a 40-plus person startup based in Berlin, imagines a future where every grocery store has its own farm packed with herbs, vegetables and fruit. "The plants themselves are being monitored by multiple sensors and fed by an internet-controlled irrigation and nutrition system," reports TechCrunch. "Growing out from the center, the basil is at ascending stages of its life, with the most outer positioned ready for you, the customer, to harvest." From the report: The concept might not be entirely new -- Japan has been an early pioneer in vertical farming, where the lack of space for farming and very high demand from a large population has encouraged innovation -- but what potentially sets Infarm apart, including from other startups, is the modular approach and go-to-market strategy it is taking. This means that the company can do vertical farming on a small but infinitely expandable scale, and is seeing Infarm place farms not in offsite warehouses but in customer-facing city locations, such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and schools, enabling the end-customer to actually pick the produce themselves. In contrast, the Infarm system is chemical pesticide-free and can prioritize food grown for taste, color and nutritional value rather than shelf life or its ability to sustain mass production. Its indoor nature means it isn't restricted to seasonality either and by completely eliminating the distance between farmer and consumer, food doesn't get much fresher. When a new type of herb or plant is introduced, Infarm's plant experts and engineers create a recipe or algorithm for the produce type, factoring in nutrition, humidity, temperature, light intensity and spectrum, which is different from system to system depending on what is grown. The resulting combination of IoT, Big Data and cloud analytics is akin to "Farming-as-a-Service," whilst , space permitting, Infarm's modular approach affords the ability to keep adding more farming capacity in a not entirely dissimilar way to how cloud computing can be ramped up at the push of a button.
Google

Google Home Is 6 Times More Likely To Answer Your Question Than Amazon Alexa (adweek.com) 46

According to software developed by New York-based 360i, Google Home is six times more likely to answer your question than Amazon Alexa -- its biggest competitor. Adweek reports: It's relatively surprising, considering that RBC Capital Markets projects Alexa will drive $10 billion of revenue to Amazon by 2020 -- not to mention the artificial intelligence-based system currently owns 70 percent of the voice market. 360i's proprietary software asked both devices 3,000 questions to come to the figure. While Amazon Alexa has shown considerable strength in retail search during the agency's research, Google won the day thanks to its unmatched search abilities.
The Internet

'I'm Suing New York City To Loosen Verizon's Iron Grip' (wired.com) 48

New submitter mirandakatz writes: New York City is lagging far behind when it comes to ensuring ubiquitous, reasonably priced fiber optic internet access for every resident. There's a jaw-dropping digital divide in the city, and more than a quarter of households are still using dial-up. The city could be doing more to fix that -- but it's not. That's why Susan Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law School and fierce advocate for nationwide fiber, is suing the city. At Backchannel, Crawford writes that "the city's intransigence should be embarrassing to it. Instead of a plan, instead of exercising power and acting coherently, all we've got is shuffling and nay-saying. Getting information regarding access is the key to transforming telecommunications policy in the U.S. -- as well as in New York City. We must do better." "New York City is the regulator of all the underground conduit in those two boroughs -- meaning the pipes running under the streets through which fiber optic lines are threaded," Crawford writes. "At any moment, it could require that additional conduit be built where it doesn't now exist. It could require that choked-up conduit that is now decades old be cleaned and repaired. And it could require that that conduit run to every building in the city, and require that all new buildings have neutral connection points in their basements allowing many competitors to hawk their services to tenants. If the city took these steps [...] it would foster a vibrantly competitive marketplace for retail fiber-based services for everyone. Dozens of competitors. Low prices for data transmission. But the problem is that, as far as I can tell, the city that never sleeps is, in fact, asleep: It is not taking advantage of its powers. That is why I sued the city five years ago seeking information about its regulatory efforts."
The Almighty Buck

Fake Online Stores Reveal Gamblers' Shadow Banking System (reuters.com) 52

randomErr shares an exclusive report from Reuters: A network of dummy online stores offering household goods has been used as a front for internet gambling payments. The seven sites in Europe to sell items including fabric, DVD cases, and maps are fake outlets. The faux store fronts are a multinational system to disguise payments for the $40 billion global online gambling industry. Online gambling is illegal in many countries and some U.S. states. The dummy sites underline a strategy which regulators, card issuers and banks have yet to tackle head-on. The scheme found by Reuters involved websites which accepted payments for household items from a reporter but did not deliver any products. Instead, staff who answered helpdesk numbers on the sites said the outlets did not sell the product advertised, but that they were used to help process gambling payments, mostly for Americans.
Security

Judge Sentences Man To One Year In Prison For Hacking Smart Water Readers In Five US Cities (bleepingcomputer.com) 57

An anonymous reader writes: A Pennsylvania man was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for hacking and disabling base stations belonging to water utility providers in five cities across the U.S. East Coast. Called TGB, these devices collect data from smart meters installed at people's homes and relay the information to the water provider's main systems, where it is logged, monitored for incidents, and processed for billing. Before he was fired by the unnamed TGB manufacturing company, Flanagan's role was to set up these devices. After he was fired, Flanagan used former root account passwords to log onto the devices and disable their ability to communicate with their respective water utility providers' upstream equipment. He wasn't that careful, as the FBI was able to trace back the attacks to his home. Apparently, the guy wasn't that silent, leaving behind a lot of clues. Flanagan's attacks resulted in water utility providers not being able to collect user equipment readings remotely. This incurred damage to the utility providers, who had to send out employees at customer premises to collect monthly readings. He was arrested in Nov 2014, and later pleaded guilty.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Releases First Public Beta Of iOS 11 for iPhone and iPad 51

Zac Hall, writing for 9to5Mac: Apple has released the first macOS High Sierra public beta for Mac. This allows users who are not registered developers to test pre-release versions of macOS with new features for free. Prior to the public beta availability, macOS High Sierra has only been available to test with a $99/year developer account. You can register for the free public beta program here. [Note: some outlets report that the update is still "coming soon." [...] Apple has released the first iOS 11 public beta for iPhone and iPad. This allows users who are not registered developers to test pre-release versions of iOS with new features for free. You can register for the free public beta program here..
NASA

Sorry, But Anonymous Has No Evidence That NASA Has Found Alien Life (popsci.com) 129

From a Popular Science article: In a new video, the hacker group known as Anonymous claims that NASA has discovered alien life. But before you freak out, let's talk. Sadly, the group of activists and hacktivists doesn't seem to have found any new evidence to support their extraordinary claim. The video is mainly based on NASA quotes taken out of context, and what appear to be videos and information from conspiracy theory websites. The crux of the argument is based on something Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, said during a hearing in April. These sorts of hearings are organized to educate the House Science Committee on the latest research in a particular field of study. During this one, Zurbuchen said: "Taking into account all of the different activities and missions that are specifically searching for evidence of alien life, we are on the verge of making one of the most profound, unprecedented, discoveries in history." That's the quote Anonymous is pegging their video on. But if you watch his opening statement, he actually explains his reasoning just before he gets to that part. He mentions the Mars 2020 rover, which will look for signs of past life on the red planet. The Europa Clipper mission is slated to search for conditions suitable to life on Jupiter's ocean-filled moon. In a statement, Zurbuchen said, "While we're excited about the latest findings from NASA's Kepler space observatory, there's no pending announcement regarding extraterrestrial life. For years NASA has expressed interest in searching for signs of life beyond Earth. We have a number of science missions that are moving forward with the goal of seeking signs of past and present life on Mars and ocean worlds in the outer solar system. While we do not yet have answers, we will continue to work to address the fundamental question, 'are we alone?'"

Slashdot Top Deals