iRobot has finally announced their robotic lawnmower. In development since 2005, the major obstacle turned out not to be obstacles, but the need to mow in nice straight lines. The solution, which involved radio beacons, sent the company into a protracted fight with the FCC and an angry community of radio astronomers. (Colin Angle, Boston, Apr 2014)
Year 10 might see an end to the Google–Oracle dispute over Java: The case is going to the Supreme Court. (Ed Yourdon, Toronto, Apr 2002; Butler Lampson, Los Angeles, Apr 2001; Bill Joy, Phoenix, Oct 1999; Amy Pearl, Cambridge, Mass., May 1996)
Should Google, Amazon, and Microsoft be enjoined from selling face recognition software to governments? A coalition of nearly 100 groups, including the ACLU (Barry Steinhardt, Toronto, Apr 2008) and the EFF (Lawrence Lessig and John Perry Barlow, Washington, D.C., Sep 1998), says yes. (Andrew Bud, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017; Thad Starner, Amsterdam, Jul 2000)
An MIT Technology Review analysis argues that we’ve reached peak machine learning. (Pedro Domingos, Washington, D.C., May 2009)
But beneficial applications continue to emerge, including a step forward in brain-to-speech conversion, mediated by electrodes implanted on the surface of the cortical region dedicated to hearing and speech. (Mary Lou Jepsen, San Francisco, Dec 2017; Michael Callahan, Santa Monica, Dec 2007)
You’re probably as tired of Facebook-as-Evil-Empire stories as we are. The long-term solution is for Facebook to stop being evil. Meanwhile, this week’s edition is captured by a TechCrunch headline: “Facebook pays teens to install VPN that spies on them.” (Roger McNamee and Jonathan Taplin, Los Angeles, Mar 2018)
In other, hopefully more benign, Facebook news: While keeping the front ends of Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp separate, the company plans to integrate them on the back end—including giving the others WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption. (Bruce Schneier, Washington, D.C., Sep 2018; Jon Callas, Austin, Feb 2004)
Apple’s FaceTime app allows callers to see and hear the recipient even without them even answering the call. Oops.
Japan is going cashless. Well, not exactly. But the country would like to be 40% cash-free in six years. (David Chaum, San Francisco, Dec 2016; Richard Rahn, Washington, D.C., May 2000; Larry Downes, Peter Sprague, Daniel Eldridge, David Birch, Palm Springs, Jan 1996)
… But Iran may beat Japan in rolling out a state-backed cryptocurrency.
The world’s first all-robot hotel has laid off half its staff. (Sonia Chernova, Brooklyn, Jul 2016; Steve Cousins, San Francisco, Dec 2015, and Boston, April 2014; Manuela Veloso, Boston, April 2014)
You’ve likely heard—bitterly cold temperatures enveloped much of the US this week. However, our East Coast team resisted complaining once a Midwestern described New York’s weather as “tropical.” Meanwhile, researchers in the UK have come up with a way to spread road salt more evenly. Is there any process that can’t be improved by AI?
And, speaking of improvements, have you visited our new website yet? The new www.ttivanguard.com is still a work in progress and we’d love to hear your thoughts on it!
"One thing about cold weather: it brings out the statistician in everyone."
The TTI/Vanguard Team