By BeauHD from Slashdot's modified-plans department
Tesla and Panasonic are reportedly freezing their plans to add more battery production lines at Gigafactory 1, its massive factory outside of Reno, Nevada that is a cornerstone to the automaker's business. "The partners had planned to increase capacity by 50 percent next year, but financial problems have forced a rethink," reports TechCrunch, citing a report from Nikkei. "Nikkei also reported that Panasonic was suspending a planned investment in Tesla's automotive battery and EV plant in Shanghai." From the report: TechCrunch confirmed that Tesla is not adding more battery production lines and will instead focus its efforts on existing equipment. Tesla stressed that it will continue to make new investments as needed into the plant. However, the automaker noted that attention and investments might be focused on improving existing equipment to increase battery cell output.
As of November, Panasonic had 11 production lines operating at Gigafactory 1. Panasonic president President Kazuhiro Tsuga told Bloomberg that the company planned to add two more lines by the end of the year to bring total capacity up to 35 gigawatt-hours. The last number shared by Tesla is from July when the company reported an annualized run rate of 20 gigawatt-hours of capacity. It's not clear if those two production lines were added. "We will of course continue to make new investments in Gigafactory 1, as needed. However, we think there is far more output to be gained from improving existing production equipment than was previously estimated," a Tesla spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department
Yesterday, Bloomberg dropped a bombshell report revealing that Amazon employs thousands of people around the world to listen to voice recordings captured in Echo owners' homes and offices, and uses them to improve its Alexa digital assistant. "The recordings are transcribed, annotated and then fed back into the software as part of an effort to eliminate gaps in Alexa's understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands," the report says. "A screenshot reviewed by Bloomberg shows that the recordings sent to the Alexa auditors don't provide a user's full name and address but are associated with an account number, as well as the user's first name and the device's serial number."
While many have assumed that this was already happening behind the scenes, it may still come as a surprise to see proof of the practice. Thankfully, there is a way to stop Amazon from listening to your Alexa recordings. Tom's Guide explains: 1. In the Alexa app, access Settings. You'll find this button at the bottom of the menu in the top left corner of the home screen. 2. Click on Alexa Account. This should be at the top of the page. 3. Select Alexa Privacy. You'll be taken to Amazon's external Alexa privacy page. You can review a number of things here, including our voice history, skill permissions, and other data settings.
4. Tap "Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa."
5. Toggle "Help Develop New Features" and "Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions" to Off. Alexa will no longer learn and improve from your responses, but your recordings will be safe and sound.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's better-luck-next-time department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: A small spacecraft that has captured the imagination and excitement of people in Israel and around the world appears to have crashed on the moon (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). "We had a failure in the spacecraft," said Opher Doron, the general manager of Israel Aerospace Industries' space division, which collaborated on building the spacecraft. "We unfortunately have not managed to land successfully."
If it had succeeded, the robotic lander, named Beresheet, which means "Genesis" or "in the beginning" in Hebrew, would have been the first on the moon built by a private organization, and it would have added Israel to just three nations -- the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China -- to have accomplished that feat. Beresheet reached the launchpad and was headed to space aboard a SpaceX rocket in February. It orbited the moon, by itself a major accomplishment. That has only been done by five nations -- the United States, the former Soviet Union, China, Japan and India -- and the European Space Agency. But the landing was the riskiest part of the mission. The start of the automated landing sequence went as planned. The spacecraft even took a picture of itself at an altitude of 13 miles with the moon in the background. Then, still high above the surface, the engine cut out. The appointed landing time -- 10:25 p.m. in Israel, or 3:25 p.m. Eastern time -- came and passed, and the SpaceIL team realized the mission was over. "Well we didn't make it, but we definitely tried," said Morris Kahn, an Israeli telecommunications entrepreneur and president of SpaceIL, the nonprofit that undertook the mission. "And I think the achievement of getting to where we got is really tremendous. I think we can be proud."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said, "If at first you don't succeed, you try again."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
Google became the world's most profitable internet company on the back of search advertising. Now, it's turning another popular web service into a major cash machine. From a report: Google Maps is an indispensable part of life for more than 1 billion people, who use it to commute, explore new cities or find a hot new restaurant. The service has been mostly free, and free from ads, since it launched 14 years ago.
Interviews with Google executives and customers show this is changing as the internet giant increases the ways advertisers can reach Maps users, while raising prices for some businesses that use the underlying technology. The app now regularly highlights sponsored locations, and shows extra paid listings when people look for nearby gas stations, coffee shops or other businesses. "There's a big opportunity for them to ramp up monetization," said Andy Taylor, associate director of research at digital marketing agency Merkle. "They've been slow-playing it."
"Sometimes I say the most under-monetized asset that I cover is Google Maps," Brian Nowak, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, said while interviewing Google's business chief Philipp Schindler at a recent conference. "It's almost like a utility where it's kind of waiting for you to flip the switch on." Schindler's response showed that Google isn't waiting anymore.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-ahead department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Trucking in the US is still driven by diesel-fueled, compression-ignition (CI), internal combustion engines. Daniel Cohn and Leslie Bromberg, a pair of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), published a paper with the Society of Automotive Engineers, suggesting that the best way forward is not to wait for all-electric or hydrogen-powered semis, but to build a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) truck with an internal combustion engine/generator that can burn either gasoline or renewable ethanol or methanol. Such a setup preserves the range and affordability that's expected of diesel long-haul trucks while significantly reducing the emissions associated with diesel. To boot, it's a near-term solution; no waiting for battery weight to fall or hydrogen refueling stations to be installed.
A hybrid heavy-duty system isn't a completely novel idea, though a PHEV system has yet to be widely applied and tested in long-haul heavy-duty trucking. A company called Hyliion introduced a hybrid electric-diesel truck in 2017, and San Diego uses a hybrid electric-compressed natural gas bus on its transit system, though the former still grapples with diesel emissions and the latter is not for long-haul use. But there are some distinct problems with all-electric and all-diesel trucks that a hybrid flex-fuel truck could solve. First, freight companies are looking for the cheapest way to transport goods from point A to point B, so expensive electric vehicles don't make short-term economic sense, especially if you're competing with other freight companies using cheaper diesel engines.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's in-hindsight department
Ford CEO Jim Hackett scaled back hopes about the company's plans for self-driving cars this week, admitting that the first vehicles will have limits. From a report: "We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles," said Hackett, who once headed the company's autonomous vehicle division, at a Detroit Economic Club event on Tuesday. While Ford still plans on launching its self-driving car fleet in 2021, Hackett added that "its applications will be narrow, what we call geo-fenced, because the problem is so complex." Hackett's announcement comes nearly six months after its CEO of autonomous vehicles, Sherif Markaby, detailed plans for the company's self-driving car service in a Medium post. The company has invested over $4 billion in the technology's development through 2023, including over $1 billion in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company that is creating a virtual driver system. Ford is currently testing its self-driving vehicles in Miami, Washington, D.C. and Detroit.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's curb-your-enthusiasm department
The PC market is still in decline, according to research firms Gartner and IDC. That's nothing new for the duo to agree on, but coincidentally they also (for the first time?) estimated the exact same number of PC shipments: 58.5 million in Q1 2019. From a report: Gartner and IDC also both found PC shipments were down globally year-over-year. So far, 2019 looks like more of the same. After six years of quarterly PC shipment declines, 2018 brought a positive Q2, a flat Q3 ... and then a negative Q4. Gartner and IDC analysts have pointed to CPU shortages as contributing to this past quarter's decline. But that just seems to be an excuse for reality: The PC simply isn't as in-demand as it once was. The top six vendors were Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple, Asus, and Acer, per Gartner.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's check-yo-self-before-you-wreck-yo-self department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: U.S. lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require large companies to audit machine learning-powered systems -- like facial recognition or ad targeting algorithms -- for bias. The Algorithmic Accountability Act is sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), with a House equivalent sponsored by Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY). If passed, it would ask the Federal Trade Commission to create rules for evaluating "highly sensitive" automated systems. Companies would have to assess whether the algorithms powering these tools are biased or discriminatory, as well as whether they pose a privacy or security risk to consumers.
The Algorithmic Accountability Act is aimed at major companies with access to large amounts of information. It would apply to companies that make over $50 million per year, hold information on at least 1 million people or devices, or primarily act as data brokers that buy and sell consumer data. These companies would have to evaluate a broad range of algorithms -- including anything that affects consumers' legal rights, attempts to predict and analyze their behavior, involves large amounts of sensitive data, or "systematically monitors a large, publicly accessible physical place." That would theoretically cover a huge swath of the tech economy, and if a report turns up major risks of discrimination, privacy problems, or other issues, the company is supposed to address them within a timely manner.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's unwarranted-hysteria department
RockDoctor writes: A common trope in "the world is going to end, maybe tomorrow" alarmism is the prospect of the earth undergoing one of its frequent (but aperiodic) magnetic field reversals. Popular conceptions have migrating birds falling out of the sky, satellites and GPS systems no longer working, and much other such silliness. Of course, geologists point out that it has literally all happened before, that there is no significant association of extinction with reversals, and that what evidence there is points to a reversal taking a number of centuries to millennia to achieve. And then the next story comes out and the same old "sky is falling" garbage comes out again.
Just for a change, an astronomer has thrown in his few cents worth. In a letter to The Astrophysical Journal (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), Manasvi Lingam of Harvard University looks at the implications of a magnetic reversal, or of the "switching on" of the Earth's "dynamo" on the flux of radiation experienced by an organism living near the surface. Lingam deduces that during a reversal (or before the dynamo started) "neither the biological radiation dose rates [...] would vary by more than a factor of 2." Behind the "..." is a prospect which will appeal to those looking for ways to die, as "the atmospheric escape rate" is also somewhat affected by the strength of the magnetic field. As a theoretical astronomer, Lingam agrees with the geological record (yay!) that field reversals are unlikely to have major effects on life, or on the atmosphere, or really, on anything other than astronomers' and geophysicists' gauges and dials. None of this will even slightly slow down the overblown hysteria that accompanies the next twitch of the magnetic field.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's social-neuroscience department
"A growing cadre of neuroscientists is using sophisticated technology -- and some very complicated math -- to capture what happens in one brain, two brains, or even 12 or 15 at a time when their owners are engaged in eye contact, storytelling, joint attention focused on a topic or object, or any other activity that requires social give and take," reports Scientific American. "Although the field of interactive social neuroscience is in its infancy, the hope remains that identifying the neural underpinnings of real social exchange will change our basic understanding of communication and ultimately improve education or inform treatment of the many psychiatric disorders that involve social impairments." Here's an excerpt from the report: [T]he first study to successfully monitor two brains at the same time took place nearly 20 years ago. Physicist Read Montague, now at Virginia Tech, and his colleagues put two people in separate functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines and observed their brain activity as they engaged in a simple competitive game in which one player (the sender) transmitted a signal about whether he or she had just seen the color red or green and the other player (the receiver) had to decide if the sender was telling the truth or lying. Correct guesses resulted in rewards. Montague called the technique hyperscanning, and his work proved it was possible to observe two brains at once.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's understanding-the-evolution-of-human-cognition department
Scientists in southern China report that they've created several transgenic macaque monkeys with extra copies of a human gene suspected of playing a role in shaping human intelligence. "According to their findings, the modified monkeys did better on a memory test involving colors and block pictures, and their brains also took longer to develop -- as those of human children do," reports MIT Technology Review. "There wasn't a difference in brain size." From the report: The experiments, described on March 27 in a Beijing journal, National Science Review, and first reported by Chinese media, remain far from pinpointing the secrets of the human mind or leading to an uprising of brainy primates. Bing Su, the geneticist at the Kunming Institute of Zoology who led the effort, specializes in searching for signs of "Darwinian selection" -- that is, genes that have been spreading because they're successful. His quest has spanned such topics as Himalayan yaks' adaptation to high altitude and the evolution of human skin color in response to cold winters. [Instead of the FOXP2 gene famous for its potential link to human speech] Su was fascinated by a different gene: MCPH1, or microcephalin. Not only did the gene's sequence differ between humans and apes, but babies with damage to microcephalin are born with tiny heads, providing a link to brain size. With his students, Su once used calipers and head spanners to the measure the heads of 867 Chinese men and women to see if the results could be explained by differences in the gene.
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