Nvidia partners with Uber, Volkswagen in self-driving technology

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – Nvidia Corp will partner with Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] and Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) as the graphics chipmaker’s artificial intelligence platforms make further gains in the autonomous vehicle industry.

The company, which already has partnerships in the industry with companies such as carmaker Tesla and China’s Baidu, makes computer graphics chips and has also been expanding into technology for self-driving cars.

CEO Jensen Huang told an audience at the CES technology conference in Las Vegas that Uber’s self-driving car fleet was using Nvidia technology to help its autonomous cars perceive the world and make split-second decisions.

Uber has been using Nvidia’s GPU computing technology since its first test fleet of Volvo SC90 SUVS were deployed in 2016 in Pittsburgh and Phoenix.

Uber’s autonomous driving program has been shaken this year by a lawsuit filed in San Francisco by rival Waymo alleging trade secret theft.

Nevertheless, Nvidia said development of the Uber self-driving program had gained steam, with one million autonomous miles being driven in just the past 100 days.

With Volkswagen, Nvidia said it was infusing its artificial intelligence technology into the German automakers’ future lineup, using Nvidia’s new Drive IX platform. The technology will enable so-called “intelligent co-pilot” capabilities based on processing sensor data inside and outside the car.

So far, 320 companies involved in self-driving cars – whether software developers, automakers and their suppliers, sensor and mapping companies – are using Nvidia Drive, formerly branded as the Drive PX2, the company said.

Nvidia also said its first Xavier processors would be delivered to customers this quarter. The system on a chip delivers 30 trillion operations per second using 30 watts of power.

Bets that Nvidia will become a leader in chips for driverless cars, data centers and artificial intelligence have more than doubled its stock price in the past 12 months, making the Silicon Valley company the third-strongest perfomer in the S&P 500 during that time.

Reporting By Alexandria Sage; Editing by Susan Thomas

This Is Why Economy Class Passengers Will Find It Hard To Get Water On This Famous Airline's New Planes (Yes, Water)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Things aren’t going well for Economy Class passengers.

Somehow, they’ve become an afterthought. A thought that comes after everything else, especially profit.

How low, though, will airlines go?

Keep looking down.

Here, you see, I bring you the latest densification plans of British Airways. 

Should you be unfamiliar with the term densification, its simplest definition is shoving as many seats into a plane as possible until the passengers can breathe no more.

British Airways has been criticized in recent times of being very keen to make money at the expense of its image as a premium airline.

Personally, I’ve had relatively pleasant experiences on the airline. 

I’m not sure how pleasant it will be if I travel on its newly-retrofitted short-haul Airbus planes. 

As was revealed on FlyerTalk, Business Class passengers — or, as BA calls it, Club Class — may not be able to hang their coats anymore, as the wardrobes will now be used for “general storage.”

Behind them, however, Economy Class passengers will enjoy seats that don’t recline.

Which I don’t see as necessarily a bad thing, except for the fact that the seats will have only a 29-inch pitch. 

Think knees digging into the seat in front.

And, well, these are the sort of slimline seats now being favored by certain U.S. airlines too.

This, though, is the pinnacle of despair on these planes: there’ll be no garbage bins or, well, water in the rear galley. 

Yes, to save a little space.

This means that if you’re sitting near the back of the plane and want a simple glass of water, the Flight Attendant will have to go all the way to the galley in Club Class to get you the drink.

And how easy do you think this will be, given these single-aisle planes?

Please also put yourself in the shiny shoes of Flight Attendants who will have to spend a considerable amount of their time carrying trash all the way to the front of the plane.

Where there isn’t a lot of room in the first place.

And, if you’re a passenger in Club Class, just think of how many times these Flight Attendants will be walking up and down your aisle in order to dispose of trash or to get a glass of water. 

Just to make sure they get enough exercise on these flights, the cabin crews will also have to do all the safety demonstrations manually because the overhead screens are being removed to make the planes slightly lighter. 

I’m sure that if you have a CFO-type mentality, you’ll be delighted at such cutting or corners.

In the end, though, BA becomes, in the eyes of many, just another budget airline.

Which is a pity.

Amazon, Facebook, and Google to Join Legal Battle Over Net Neutrality

Internet giants Amazon, Facebook, and Google plan to throw their collective weight behind efforts to save net neutrality.

The Internet Association, the industry’s primary lobbying organization, announced Friday that it plans to join lawsuits aimed at halting the Federal Communications Commission’s December action to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules. Those rules banned internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon from blocking or otherwise discriminating against legal content online. The association represents dozens of smaller companies in addition to titans such as Google and Facebook.

Net neutrality supporters argue that agency’s plan is illegal under federal laws that prohibit “arbitrary and capricious” changes in regulations, and that the agency didn’t gather sufficient public input on its proposal to overturn its old rules.

“The final version of Chairman Pai’s rule, as expected, dismantles popular net neutrality protections for consumers,” Internet Association President and CEO Michael Beckerman said in a statement, referring to FCC Chair Ajit Pai. “This rule defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open internet.”

The move is significant because Facebook, Google, and other internet giants faced criticism last year for not doing enough while the FCC was considering repealing net neutrality. Most of the biggest companies participated in a “Day of Action” in July to promote awareness of the issue, but last month The New York Times pointed out that these efforts were relatively small compared to some of the industry’s past actions. For example, in 2006 Google co-founder Sergey Brin traveled to Washington, DC to make the case for net neutrality. By comparison, the internet giants were quiet last year, apart from filing comments with the FCC in support of the Obama-era rules, and placing a few notifications on their websites during the Day of Action. Apple is conspicuously missing from the group, but broke a long silence on the topic of net neutrality last year when it filed its own FCC comment in support of net neutrality.

The Internet Association does not plan to file a lawsuit itself, but will rather join legal action taken by others. The association didn’t specify a lawsuit it plans to join.

Several government officials and advocacy groups have said they plan legal action, but all have to wait until the repeal order is published in the Federal Register. The FCC Thursday published the final text of its order on its website. New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman promised to file suit, which attorneys general in several other states, including Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington, promised to join the suit. Internet advocacy groups like Free Press were also quick to promise legal action.

Legal experts told WIRED last month that net neutrality advocates have a case, but it’s too early to tell how the courts will rule on the subject.

Beckerman also said the association and its member companies will push Congress to pass strong net neutrality protections.

The Internet Association advocated strong net neutrality protections in 2014, and filed a comment encouraging the agency to retain the Obama-era rules last year.

Pro-Russia Twitter Trolls Take Aim at Special Counsel Robert Mueller

The dense network of pro-Kremlin Twitter accounts tracked by the group Alliance for Securing Democracy has spent the last year spreading chaos and discord about topics as diverse as NFL players refusing to stand during the national anthem and Al Franken’s alleged sexual misconduct. It was only a matter of time, then, before the troll army set its sights on special counsel Robert Mueller.

On the website Hamilton68, the Alliance tracks some 600 Twitter accounts it says are associated with a Russia-linked influence network. According to newly released figures, in the month of December, by far the most popular articles shared by the trolls aimed to undermine Mueller and the Department of Justice’s investigation into Russian interference.

In fact, 16 percent of the articles shared by those accounts between December 9 and December 31 were related in some way to the so-called deep state, the bulk of which aimed to discredit Mueller. That’s a lot of tweets, considering the site analyzes some 20,000 tweets a day. It’s a volume of conversation that, in late November, was reserved for the right’s favorite punching bag, Hillary Clinton. The Hamilton68 team keeps its list of suspected Kremlin trolls secret, but it consists of a balance between openly pro-Russia accounts, like Sputnik and RT, as well as bot accounts run by troll factories, and other accounts that consistently amplify pro-Russia themes.

Founded by former FBI agent Clint Watts and J.M. Berger, a researcher focused on extremist propaganda, Hamilton68 has been up and running since August. But December’s onslaught represents the biggest uptick in attacks on Mueller yet. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen as much concentrated activity on that topic,” says Bret Schafer, a research analyst with the Alliance. “It’s been trending steadily upwards since we started this.”

That the Russian propaganda network would step up its battle with Mueller in December stands to reason. It coincides with a cascade of news stories about the investigation, beginning with former national security advisor Michael Flynn pleading guilty to lying to the FBI on December 1. Later that same month, news broke that two FBI agents associated with the investigation had called the President an “idiot” in a text message exchange, news Schafer says the Twitter troll network was quick to jump on.

It also happens to track almost exactly alongside another infamous Twitter troll’s recent interest in Mueller. During the month of December—during which there was a major senate race in Alabama, a new tax bill, and a holiday—the President tweeted about the Mueller investigation in some form or another 17 times. That’s up from tweeting about it just three times in November.

Schafer acknowledges there “definitely, occasionally, is a correlation,” between the President’s tweets and the Hamilton68 network. As is often the case, though, it’s difficult to tell where the ever-circulating feedback loop between the President, the press, and the trolls begins. Maybe the media arouses the President’s sudden interest in a topic, which then rallies the Twitter trolls to action. Or perhaps the sudden uptick in online noise about a given subject seeps into the media, eventually inspiring the Presidential tweets. Wherever it starts, there’s no denying the synchronous relationship between the President’s account and this broader network.

As for what, exactly, the Twitter accounts are sharing, Schafer says it’s very rarely explicitly fake news. More often, it’s articles from “hyper, hyper-partisan alt right sites,” including GatewayPundit and TruePundit. The top stories these accounts shared in December contained headlines like, “From A Legal Perspective, Mueller’s Investigation is Dead. Here’s Why” and “Another Mueller investigator comes under scrutiny: Attorney on Russia probe is revealed to have previously represented the Clinton Foundation.”

In other cases, they seem intent on spreading rumors that prove irresistible to the alt-right internet. A popular recent example: On Wednesday, January 3, the second-most shared article by the pro-Kremlin network was “Executive From Comey’s Former Hedge Fund And Family Killed In Costa Rica Plane Crash.” Now, Schafer says, it’s beginning to gain traction in the dark corners of Reddit.

“It’s taking a minor thread of a story and making that the story, usually with a headline that isn’t backed up by what’s in the text,” Schafer says.

Studied in bulk, these are transparently manufactured attempts to create a groundswell of outrage that reaches the broader public, the press, and eventually, even the President. But when the average Twitter user encounters one of these accounts, it’s not so easy to see the manipulations. The work of groups like the Alliance help the public observe the changing whims of this online collective. In a world in which online conversation shapes public opinion—and in some cases, policy—it’s more important than ever to take a closer look at who, or what, shaped that conversation to begin with.

The Art of Innovation: How This Entrepreneur Found Her Passion (by Imagining It)

Oprah Winfrey once said, Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” This is a lesson many entrepreneurs know all to well, and especially Imagine Museums’ Trish Duggan. A talented artist and entrepreneur, Duggan is the type of savvy businesswoman today’s founders and business owners would be well advised to emulate.

The [Literal] Art of Innovation

Originally from Arlington, VA, Trish Duggan has traveled the world pursuing her passions for education and art. From studies at the University of California of Los Angeles and the University of California at Santa Barbara to studies at a Japanese Jesuit university, Trish has a made a life out of combining her passions. Introduced to art in high school, Trish Duggan has traveled to places like India, Nepal, China, Europe, and South America pursuing her artistic passions.

As her immersion in the arts continued, so too did her love for the art of glass blowing, especially glass works by famed artist Marlene Rose. This love of exquisite glass works of art has led her to her current passion project, Saint Petersburg Florida’s Imagine Museum

Imagining a Trend

Imagine Museum features glass artistry ranging from the 1960’s studio glass movement to current, contemporary works of glass art. Located in Saint Petersburg Florida’s Central Art District, the Imagine Museum hopes to not only introduce visitors to stunning examples of glass artistry but preserve and document the history of glass works. In an effort to grow the Gulf Coast’s art community, Imagine Museum is focusing on interactive art participation, scholarship grants, and introducing younger generations to the exquisite medium of glass blowing.  

There’s a clear upward trend with glass art piquing consumer interest with many experts agreeing that it won’t slow down any time soon. Dubbed as the ‘Creative Class’, the emergence of this category has an affinity for fine art. Online sales are equally seeing growth and in 2016, sales were totaled at $3.75 billion, up 15% from 2015. 

Trish Duggan and Imagine Museum

In an interview with Duggan, she shared, 

“Glass is an art medium which looks most alive when it is touched by light. Of all the arts, glass is the only one which truly is unique from every angle showing different forms and impacting the viewer depending on light angles. 

Duggan added,

“After working with Marlena Rose, who worked with me to design my first piece and seeing the result I had made I became avidly passionate in designing and producing hundreds of forms.”

By focusing on her passion for art, Trish Duggan has been able to enjoy a long and illustrious career not only as an artist, but as an entrepreneur. Drawing on the power of what excited her, she created a life that not only allowed her to travel the world expanding her knowledge, but that helped her introduce those around her to the works of art she encountered. 

“In starting any activity, if it excites you, fascinates you, captures your thoughts throughout the day —  then you are looking at something which you could probably muster up enough drive to carry through to a success.”

Duggan continued,

“It doesn’t matter if it is art, business, a single product or idea. If it creates the above in you, then pursue it relentlessly.” 

Inspiring the Modern Entrepreneur

Duggan’s philosophy challenges the entrepreneurial status quo in a very positive way and provides a new perspective on the stereotypical ‘hustle’ we think of. To that end, it should be inspiring that  entrepreneurs can be borne out of exploratory passion to create something completely new and unique.

In its simplest of forms, my takeaway message from Duggan was compelling: 

Entrepreneurship is an art. 

If you’re an entrepreneur or business owner contemplating the future of your career, consider first digging deep inside your own passions to discover how you can pursue your purpose. You may be surprised what is ignited as a result.

Some Marijuana Entrepreneurs See a Silver Lining After Threat from Justice Department

Fear and paranoia ripped the cannabis industry on Thursday after news broke that U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era policies that allowed the recreational marijuana industry to flourish in six states. Without the policies in place, federal prosecutors can technically go after state-law abiding marijuana companies, which casts uncertainty and doubt across the industry.

In a statement released Thursday morning, Sessions announced that he rolled back the Cole Memo from 2013, which issued guidance to U.S. attorneys to not prosecute state-law abiding companies as long as they steered clear of federal priorities like not selling pot to kids and not being involved in organized crime. 

Marijuana entrepreneurs say the news was not surprising since Sessions is known for being staunchly opposed to marijuana legalization. However, since the move empowers U.S. attorneys to enforce the federal ban on cannabis, it did put entrepreneurs like Mike Ray on edge.

“It’s unnerving,” says Ray, the founder and CEO of California-based marijuana vape pen manufacturer Bloom Farms. “This is creating confusion for state-legal businesses. Some will go on with business as usual, some will be more cautious, others might walk away.”  

This new threat of a crackdown will have negative repercussions on marijuana business financing. John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Policy at the Brookings Institute, says it’s likely that investors will make risk assessments based on the new guidance from the Justice Department. 

“It’s hard to imagine that this won’t effect investor decisions,” says Hudak. “Capital available for cannabis companies could dry up.”  

Banks that serve the industry could also become skittish. Sally Vander Veer, the president of Medicine Man, a multi-million-dollar Colorado-based cannabis grower and dispensary chain, says the marijuana industry already has a tenuous relationship with banks. Medicine Man has solid relationships with two local banks, but she says banks and credit unions might not think it’s worth the effort or risk to serve smaller businesses in the industry. 

“This keeps me up at night,” says Vander Veer. “All this does is handcuff us from creating more jobs and generating tax revenue for our state.” 

There are industry experts who caution there’s no need for cannabis companies to panic. Henry Wykowski, a San Francisco cannabis attorney who has represented some of the largest legal marijuana companies, says state-law abiding companies should not behave any differently. Wykowski points out that the Cole Memo was not actually legally binding and contained language that stated the federal government reserves the right to prosecute any marijuana business because the drug is banned under the Controlled Substance Act.

“The Sessions memo doesn’t change anything,” says Wykowski confidently. “I told my clients that if they continue to comply with state law, they should be okay.” 

Some marijuana entrepreneurs even think there could be a silver lining. Bloom Farms’ Ray says the outpouring of support from other elected officials is promising. Since the news broke this morning, senators, governors, and U.S. attorneys from states where adult-use cannabis is legal issued statements condemning Sessions’ move. 

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado), via a statement on Twitter, said Sessions “trampled on the will of the voters” in Colorado and other states where recreational marijuana is legal. 

“I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me [to not rescind the Cole Memo] prior to his confirmation,” Gardner wrote. 

Ray says an unintended consequence of Sessions’ aggressive move is that it could finally spur a change in federal law. On Thursday, Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), who introduced the Marijuana Justice Act to legalize marijuana federally in August, took to the Senate floor to speak against Sessions and urged Congress to reform marijuana laws. “The Cole Memo acted as a safety net for the industry, when we really needed something more solid,” says Ray. “What we need is Congress to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act. Hopefully this will spur Congress to fix it.”

BlackBerry surges on deal with Baidu for self-driving cars

(Reuters) – BlackBerry Ltd (BB.TO) and Chinese internet search firm Baidu Inc (BIDU.O) on Wednesday signed a deal to jointly develop self-driving vehicle technology, sending BlackBerry’s Toronto-listed shares up 13 percent to a four-year high.

The deal follows similar agreements with firms including Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O), Denso (6902.T) and Aptiv Plc (APTV.N) to develop autonomous-driving technology with BlackBerry’s QNX software, which are expected to start generating revenue in 2019.

Investors and analysts are closely watching what comes of those agreements amid expectations that QNX could become a key technology in the burgeoning self-driving vehicle industry, serving as the operating system for computer chips used to run self-driving vehicles.

QNX will be the operating system for Apollo, a platform for self-driving vehicles that Baidu announced in April and has billed as the “Android” of the autonomous driving industry.

“The opportunity is global, it’s for a very large market and I think it’s a very solid win for BlackBerry,” said CIBC Capital Markets analyst Todd Coupland.

Apollo has since signed up several major automakers, including Ford Motor Co (F.N), Hyundai Motor Group (005380.KS) and several Chinese carmakers.

QNX has long been used to run car infotainment consoles. BlackBerry has recently developed the software to run sophisticated computer chips for autos that manage multiple safety-critical systems.

BlackBerry shares rose 13 percent in Toronto to C$16.95, their sharpest one-day gain since April and highest close since March 2013.

The two companies said they will also integrate Baidu’s CarLife, a leading smartphone integration software for connected cars in China, its conversational AI system and high definition maps with BlackBerry’s infotainment platform.

Reporting by Alastair Sharp in Toronto and John Benny in Bengaluru; Editing by Jim Finkle and Sandra Maler

Braun MultiQuick 9: This High-Powered Immersion Blender Is One Cool Whip

Braun MultiQuick 9
You must wield a wicked scepter to rule the Land of Smoothies. With its 700-watt motor, Braun’s latest immersion blender blows through foodstuffs that lesser sticks can’t crack—ice cubes, raw potatoes, or even a peeled avocado with pit (if you crave those bitter tannins). Below the soft grip is a compression zone—push down and the spinning slicer moves closer to the bottom of your vessel, ensuring every last bit of basil and garlic becomes pesto. Squeezing the trigger speeds up the blades and takes your mix from chunky to smooth. No apron? No problem. Those funkily shaped feet are designed to keep splatter to a minimum.

This article appears in the November issue. Subscribe now.

Altice drops Starz, directs customers to its online service

(Reuters) – Cable company Altice USA Inc is employing a new negotiating tactic when it comes to reaching agreements with content providers on prices: pointing customers to programmers’ own streaming services.

The New York-based cable company announced on Monday it would no longer carry Starz’ channels to its 3.4 million Optimum and SuddenLink TV customers, after the two failed to reach an agreement on pricing. It advised customers to sign up for the premium cable network’s $8.99 online video service if they want to continue getting its programing.

It is unusual for a cable company to direct customers to a network’s online streaming service. But it could help cable and satellite companies during carriage disputes because it is easier to weather a blackout when subscribers can get the content directly online, Craig Moffett, analyst at MoffettNathanson said in an email. The move by a cable company to direct customers toward a streaming service demonstrates how negotiations between programmers and distributors are getting more contentious as the number of pay TV subscribers continues to drop.

Six U.S. cable providers, including Altice, said they lost more than 1.6 million subscribers through the third quarter of 2017.

“This is highly unusual,” said John Janedis, an analyst with Jefferies. “We could be embarking on a new path for distributors.”

Altice is replacing Starz with channels such as Hallmark Drama, Cowboy Channel, Sony Movies and MGM HD.

Starz, which is owned by Lionsgate and has popular shows including “Outlander” and “Power,” in a statement urged customers to demand refunds from Altice.

Altice sells HBO and CBS’ All Access streaming services with its broadband Internet service without requiring the purchase of a bundle of cable channels, but it does not sell the Starz service broadband-only homes.

Jefferies noted that the financial impact of Altice’s move on Lionsgate was modest. Lionsgate shares closed at $33.01 on Tuesday, down 2.36 percent.

If Starz loses all one million of Altice’s subscribers, it would need to bring in 700,000 online streaming customers to its service, which currently has about 2 million subscribers, to break even, according to Jefferies.

Dish Network Corp in November used a similar tactic when it pointed customers to CBS’s All Access online streaming service, as part of a carriage dispute that was resolved within days.

The tactics demonstrate the pressure that distributors are under, Janedis said.

“They are all spending significantly more on programing to drive subscribers so they need to find the best way to maximize their programing spend,” he said.

Reporting by Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Anna Driver, Lisa Richwine and Sandra Maler

WhatsApp messaging service returns after global outage

(Reuters) – WhatsApp, a popular messaging service owned by Facebook Inc, suffered a global outage for about an hour on Sunday before the problem was fixed.

“WhatsApp users around the world experienced a brief outage today that has now been resolved”, a WhatsApp spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. The cause of the outage, about an hour long, was not immediately known.

In India, its biggest market with about 200 million of its billion-plus users, the app was down just a few minutes past midnight into the new year.

Users in other countries also complained of outages on social media.

Reporting by Sangameswaran S in Bengaluru; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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