Category

Software

Category

Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug?

In early January, I went to see Mark Zuckerberg at MPK20, a concrete-and-steel building on the campus of Facebook’s headquarters, which sits across a desolate highway from the marshy salt flats of Menlo Park, Calif. The Frank Gehry-designed building has a pristine nine-acre rooftop garden, yet much of the interior — a meandering open-plan hallway — appears unfinished. There are exposed air ducts and I-beams scribbled with contractors’ marks. Many of the internal walls are unpainted plywood. The space looks less like the headquarters of one of the world’s wealthiest companies and more like a Chipotle with standing desks. It’s an aesthetic meant to reflect — and perhaps also inspire employee allegiance to — one of Facebook’s founding ideologies: that things are never quite finished, that nothing is permanent, that you should always look for a chance to take an ax to your surroundings. The mood in overwhelmingly liberal Silicon…

Self-Driving Cars Can Learn a Lot by Playing Grand Theft Auto

Spending thousands of hours playing Grand Theft Auto might have questionable benefits for humans, but it could help make computers significantly more intelligent. Several research groups are now using the hugely popular game, which features fast cars and various nefarious activities, to train algorithms that might enable a self-driving car to navigate a real road. There’s little chance of a computer learning bad behavior by playing violent computer games. But the stunningly realistic scenery found in Grand Theft Auto and other virtual worlds could help a machine perceive elements of the real world correctly. A technique known as machine learning is enabling computers to do impressive new things, like identifying faces and recognizing speech as well as a person can. But the approach requires huge quantities of curated data, and it can be challenging and time-consuming to gather enough. The scenery in many games is so fantastically realistic that it…

Ethical Dilemma: Can Saving Lives Be a Profitable Business? Technology to the Rescue

Healthcare has its permanent place on every list of most lucrative human activities. Rest assured that at least a third of that list is an enumeration of branches of medicine, medical professions and certain aspects of healthcare that are generating steady and seemingly inexhaustible revenue for private practitioners, hospitals, insurance companies and other businesses. Here lays the problem (actually, problems – plural). The most important of them being the ‘redirection of responsibility’. Since maximizing shareholder value is the end-goal of any corporation (and MDs, at least in the US, prefer to be incorporated), today’s medical profession as a business is being questioned very harshly: cost of coverage and accessibility vs. profitability, state vs. private, cold calculations vs. warmth and compassion, selective vs. universal care, bad vs. good and so on. Not having Karl Marx or Nietzsche nearby to explain stuff is not making things any easier. Not to worry. Humanity…

Introducing Wingman, the App That Lets Your Friends Pick Your Dates

We all have a friend or several who just continuously pick the wrong guy or gal to date. Wingman is a new dating app that gives friends control of your love life. Just think about it — if your friend constantly has a thing for underachievers, you can help him or her meet someone who’s worthy of their time. Most apps start by asking users to set up a profile and swipe their way to romance, Wingman lets friends weigh in on your best qualities. Think of it as a digital matchmaker where other people get to talk you up, then send you potential mates they approve. The app was created by Tina Wilson, a creative mind who’s based in London. During an interview with Mashable, she confessed that the idea came to her after friends were eager to set her up after a breakup. The app pulls basic, editable…

Facebook Struggles With Being Responsible

The technology industry is fond of its anodyne language: Customers are “users.” Videos and stories are “content.” Putting other people out of business is “disruption.” But word choices meant to cause the least offense fail to prevent the visceral reaction that occurs after someone posts a video of a killing to Facebook. That is not content. That is a snuff film. On Easter, a man in Cleveland shot and killed another man and posted a video of it to Facebook. The video — and the two hours Facebook took to remove it — provoked intense criticism of the social media giant. Authorities say the man shot himself while fleeing police in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. Facebook is hardly the only social media company struggling to deal with lurid material posted by its users. Twitter and YouTube have struggled to block violent videos and other postings by terrorists. And YouTube has lost…

Google Combating Fake News with New Feature

Following in the steps of Facebook the search engine giant is trying to battle the spreading of fake news. In a bid to help stop the spread of misinformation, Google is to start displaying fact-checking labels in its search results to highlight news and information that has been vetted and show whether it is considered to be true or false. The new fact-checking tool, which was first introduced to Google News in the UK and US in October, will now be displayed as an information box in general search results as well as news search results globally. Now, when a search query returns a result that has been reviewed, Google will display who made the claim and if a third party organization has found it to be true, false or somewhere in between. The search giant isn’t doing its own fact checking, but rather relying on nonpartisan websites like Politifact…

Adobe Thinks It Can Make Your Selfies a Lot Less Ugly With This Mystery App

A well-photographed headshot can help make or break an actor or model’s career, which is why performers will often spends thousands of dollars to hire a talented photographer. Your selfies, on the other hand, look like they were snapped in the back of a taxi at two in the morning. Luckily, Adobe says it can help you make them look a lot less terrible. Adobe Sensei is the company’s artificial intelligence and machine learning framework that’s already powering part of its online photo-matching services, but it wants it to help simplify image processing, too. Similar technologies, like Google’s Deep Dream, have already melted our brains with over-processed imagery reminiscent of a bad drug trip, but as a new teaser video demonstrates, Adobe seems to think the same tech could make apps as powerful as Photoshop. Last July, we got a glimpse of a new image processing algorithm developed by researchers…

Google and Top Android Partners Agree to Share Software Patents

Google and a group of top Android phone makers have sealed a new agreement to collectively defend themselves against patent lawsuits. The group, which also includes Samsung, LG, and HTC, have agreed to share patents covering “Android and Google Applications” on any device that meets Android’s compatibility requirements. The patents will be shared for free, and the group is supposed to be free and open for any company to join. The agreement’s proper name is the “Android Networked Cross-License,” but the group is calling it PAX for short. “Pax” means “peace” in Latin, and Google says the agreement is about reaching a legal peace within the tech world. “In the world of intellectual property, patent peace often coincides with innovation and healthy competition that benefit consumers,” writes Jamie Rosenberg, an Android business VP with Google. “It is with a hope for such benefits that we are announcing our newest patent…

Use Of VPNs Banned Completely For Millions Of People By Chinese Authorities

Following the Congress vote to dismantle privacy protections for broadband subscribers, VPNs have suddenly become a very hot area, despite the complex issues surrounding them. We’ve reported on various instances of authorities around the world either banning VPNs, or flirting with idea of doing so. But there’s no doubt that the main battleground over VPNs is in China, where the government has been clamping down on their use with ever-greater rigor. For example, back in 2012, China started blocking VPNs, but in a rather ad hoc and piecemeal way. As Karl reported in January of this year, the authorities have now taken a much harsher line, requiring all VPN providers to obtain prior government approval in order to operate. Although that still allows people to use VPNs, it places them under strict control, and means they can be turned off by ordering suppliers to shut them down. The South China…

Set Up a Vpn in 10 Minutes for Free—and Yes, Americans Urgently Need One, Thanks to Congress

“A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention with the possible exceptions of handguns and Tequila.” — Mitch Ratcliffe Soon every mistake you’ve ever made online will not only be available to your internet service provider (ISP) — it will be available to any corporation or foreign government who wants to see those mistakes. Thanks to last week’s US Senate decision and yesterday’s House decision, ISPs can sell your entire web browsing history to literally anyone without your permission. The only rules that prevented this are all being repealed, and won’t be reinstated any time soon (it would take an act of Congress). You might be wondering: Who benefits from repealing these rules? Other than those four monopoly ISPs that control America’s “last mile” of internet cables and cell towers? No one. No one else benefits in any way. Our privacy (and our nation’s security) have been diminished so a…