Intel

Intel Launches Movidius Neural Compute Stick: 'Deep Learning and AI' On a $79 USB Stick (anandtech.com) 9

Nate Oh, writing for AnandTech: Today Intel subsidiary Movidius is launching their Neural Compute Stick (NCS), a version of which was showcased earlier this year at CES 2017. The Movidius NCS adds to Intel's deep learning and AI development portfolio, building off of Movidius' April 2016 launch of the Fathom NCS and Intel's later acquisition of Movidius itself in September 2016. As Intel states, the Movidius NCS is "the world's first self-contained AI accelerator in a USB format," and is designed to allow host devices to process deep neural networks natively -- or in other words, at the edge. In turn, this provides developers and researchers with a low power and low cost method to develop and optimize various offline AI applications. Movidius's NCS is powered by their Myriad 2 vision processing unit (VPU), and, according to the company, can reach over 100 GFLOPs of performance within an nominal 1W of power consumption. Under the hood, the Movidius NCS works by translating a standard, trained Caffe-based convolutional neural network (CNN) into an embedded neural network that then runs on the VPU. In production workloads, the NCS can be used as a discrete accelerator for speeding up or offloading neural network tasks. Otherwise for development workloads, the company offers several developer-centric features, including layer-by-layer neural networks metrics to allow developers to analyze and optimize performance and power, and validation scripts to allow developers to compare the output of the NCS against the original PC model in order to ensure the accuracy of the NCS's model. According to Gary Brown, VP of Marketing at Movidius, this 'Acceleration mode' is one of several features that differentiate the Movidius NCS from the Fathom NCS. The Movidius NCS also comes with a new "Multi-Stick mode" that allows multiple sticks in one host to work in conjunction in offloading work from the CPU. For multiple stick configurations, Movidius claims that they have confirmed linear performance increases up to 4 sticks in lab tests, and are currently validating 6 and 8 stick configurations. Importantly, the company believes that there is no theoretical maximum, and they expect that they can achieve similar linear behavior for more devices. Though ultimately scalability will depend at least somewhat with the neural network itself, and developers trying to use the feature will want to play around with it to determine how well they can reasonably scale. As for the technical specifications, the Movidius Neural Compute Stick features a 4Gb LPDDR3 on-chip memory, and a USB 3.0 Type A interface.
Chrome

Chromium To Get Support For MP3 (browsernative.com) 21

An anonymous reader shares a post: Chromium, the open source project behind Google Chrome, Opera and several other browsers, is going to support MP3. This would enable users and websites to play MP3 files in Chromium browser. A Chromium contributor informed about this, "We have approval from legal to go ahead and move MP3 into non-proprietary codecs list." The MP3 support in Chromium is targeted for version 62.
Transportation

Elon Musk Says He Has a Green Light To Build a NY-Philly-Baltimore-DC Hyperloop (theverge.com) 182

An anonymous reader shares a report:Elon Musk just tweeted that his Boring Company tunnel project has just received "verbal [government] approval" to build a hyperloop connecting New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. While we work to verify his claim, Musk is continuing to tweet more details about the project. The hyperloop, an ultrafast method of travel first developed by Musk in 2013, would only take 29 minutes to travel between New York City and DC, he claims. And it would feature "up to a dozen or more" access points via elevator in each city. Update: Eric Phillips, press secretary for the New York City mayor, tweeted, "This is news to City Hall," adding "The entirety of what we know about this proposal is what's in Mr. Musk's tweet. That is not how we evaluate projects of any scale."
Businesses

Say Goodbye To Spain's Glorious Three-Hour Lunch Break (citylab.com) 60

An anonymous reader shares a report: Is the typical Spanish daily schedule about to change forever? For decades, campaigners in the country have complained that the average Spaniard's habit of keeping extremely late hours and taking delightfully long lunch breaks was making everyday life harder for citizens. This week, change could finally be on the way, as 110 professional bodies in Catalonia have signed up to a plan to change the region's daily timetable by 2025, shortening the classic three-hour lunch break so that employees can finish work earlier in the evening. Such a change would radically reshape ordinary people's lives -- and controversially, it could drive a wedge between Catalonia and the rest of Spain, where the national government supports similar changes (and has adopted a shorter break for public offices) but hasn't yet fixed a timetable for action. You could call the plan an end to national harmony, a blessed release for hard-pressed workers, or an attack on the Spanish way of life. Whatever you do, however, don't call it the end of the siesta. That's because the beloved and much-misunderstood Spanish tradition of the afternoon nap more or less died out decades ago. What remained is a highly distinctive national timetable not found in any other European country, where it has often been read as a peculiarly exotic form of madness. The average Spanish working day is certainly unusual in shape. After starting work between 8 and 9 a.m., hungry workers hold out for a lunch break scheduled as late as 1:30 or 2:30. As if in compensation for this long wait, many then stay off-duty for a break of up to three hours, filling it with a protracted multi-course lunch and maybe a stop at a "nap bar." Most stores and many businesses close down until the late afternoon, before a final burst of office hours between 5:30 and 8 (or sometimes 4 to 7). Spaniards then head home at an hour when most people in other countries are cleaning up their dinner dishes, rarely getting food on the table any earlier than 10 p.m. This pushes bedtime past midnight for many.
Google

Google To Add 'News Feed' To Website and App (bbc.com) 37

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google is adding a personalised Facebook-style news feed to its homepage -- Google.com -- to show users content they may be interested in before they search. It will display news stories, features, videos and music chosen on the basis of previous searches by the same user. Users will also be able to click a "follow" button on search results to add topics of interest to their feed. One analyst said the move would help Google compete with rivals. "Google has a strong incentive to make search as useful as possible," said Mattia Littunen, a senior research analyst at Enders Analysis. "Facebook's news feed is one of its main rivals. It is competing with other ways of accessing content."
Microsoft

Apple, Google and Microsoft Are Hoarding $464 Billion In Cash (cnn.com) 147

Apple, Google and Microsoft are sitting on a mountain of cash -- and most of it is stashed far away from the taxman. Those three tech behemoths held a total of $464 billion in cash at the end of last year, according to a Moody's report published this week. From a report: Apple alone had a stunning quarter-trillion dollars of cash thanks to years of gigantic profits and few major acquisitions. That's enough money to buy Netflix three times. It's also more cash than what's sitting on the balance sheet of every major industry except tech and health care. All told, non-financial U.S. companies studied by Moody's hoarded $1.84 trillion of cash at the end of last year. That's up 11% from 2015 and nearly two and a half times the 2008 level. Roughly $1.3 trillion -- 70% of the total -- is being held overseas, where the money isn't subject to U.S. taxes. Apple, Google owner Alphabet, Microsoft, Cisco, and Oracle hold 88% of their cash overseas. Moody's said the tower of money stashed abroad reflects the "negative tax consequences of permanently repatriating money to the U.S."
Microsoft

Windows 10 Will Cut Off Devices With Older CPUs (pcworld.com) 185

Reader Baron_Yam shares a PCWorld report: No Windows 10 Creators Update for you, Microsoft says -- at least, not if you happen to be the unlucky owner of certain older Atom-based Windows devices, and other aging models in the future. After stories arose of failed attempts to upgrade such hardware to the Creators Update, Microsoft confirmed late Wednesday that any hardware device that falls out of the manufacturer's support cycle may be ineligible for future Windows 10 updates. In the case of the four "Clover Trail" processors (part of the Cloverview platform) that have fallen into Intel's End of Interactive Support phase, they will be ineligible for the Windows 10 Creators Update, Microsoft confirmed. Instead, they'll simply be offered the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, plus security updates through January, 2023, the end of the original Windows 8.1 support period. The problem, however, is that Microsoft's language opens up the possibility that any unsupported hardware device could be excluded from future Windows 10 updates. "Recognizing that a combination of hardware, driver and firmware support is required to have a good Windows 10 experience, we updated our support lifecycle policy to align with the hardware support period for a given device," Microsoft said in a statement. "If a hardware partner stops supporting a given device or one of its key components and stops providing driver updates, firmware updates, or fixes, it may mean that device will not be able to properly run a future Windows 10 feature update." The reader adds, it's not a case of "feature updates are not recommended and may not work", it's a case of "we will block feature updates to your device".
Intel

Intel Has Axed the Group Working on Fitness Trackers and Health Wearables (cnbc.com) 51

Intel has axed the division that worked on health wearables, including fitness trackers, CNBC is reporting citing a source. From the report: The company has been slowly de-emphasizing its own line of wearables for the past several years, and has not mentioned wearables on its earnings calls since 2014. In November, TechCrunch reported that the company was planning to take a step back from the business after its acquisition of the Basis fitness watch didn't pan out as expected. Intel denied at the time that it was stepping back. But a source told CNBC that the chip maker in fact let go about 80 percent of the Basis group in November. Many of the people were given the opportunity to relocate to other parts of the business. About two weeks ago, Intel completely eliminated the group, this person said. The company's New Technologies Group, which looks at cutting-edge business areas, is now focusing on augmented reality, another source told CNBC.
United States

US Ends Controversial Laptop Ban On Flights From Middle East (theguardian.com) 66

The United States has ended a four-month ban on passengers carrying laptops onboard US-bound flights from certain airports in the Middle East and North Africa, bringing to an end one of the controversial travel restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump's administration. From a report: Riyadh's King Khalid international airport was the last of 10 airports to be exempted from the ban, the US department of homeland security (DHS) confirmed in a tweet late on Wednesday local time. Middle East carriers have blamed Trump's travel restrictions, which include banning citizens of some Muslim-majority countries from visiting the United States, for a downturn in demand on US routes. In March, the United States banned large electronics in cabins on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa over concerns that explosives could be concealed in the devices taken onboard aircraft. The ban has been lifted on the nine airlines affected -- Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Royal Jordanian , Kuwait Airways, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc -- which are the only carriers to fly direct to the US from the region. A ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, -- remains in place, though has been limited after several US court hearings challenged the restrictions.
Government

US House Panel Approves Broad Proposal On Self-Driving Cars (reuters.com) 158

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A U.S. House panel on Wednesday approved a sweeping proposal by voice vote to allow automakers to deploy up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards and bar states from imposing driverless car rules. Representative Robert Latta, a Republican who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee overseeing consumer protection, said he would continue to consider changes before the full committee votes on the measure, expected next week. The full U.S. House of Representatives will not take up the bill until it reconvenes in September after the summer recess. The measure, which would be the first significant federal legislation aimed at speeding self-driving cars to market, would require automakers to submit safety assessment reports to U.S. regulators, but would not require pre-market approval of advanced vehicle technologies. Automakers would have to show self-driving cars "function as intended and contain fail safe features" to get exemptions from safety standards but the Transportation Department could not "condition deployment or testing of highly automated vehicles on review of safety assessment certifications," the draft measure unveiled late Monday said.
Medicine

World's First Double Hand Transplant Involving a Child Declared a Success (ctvnews.ca) 46

randomErr shares a report from CTV News: The first child in the world to undergo a double hand transplant is now able to write, feed and dress himself, doctors said Tuesday, declaring the ground-breaking operation a success after 18 months. The report in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health provides the first official medical update on 10-year old Zion Harvey, who underwent surgery to replace both hands in July 2015. Harvey had his hands and feet amputated at the age of two, following a sepsis infection. He also had a kidney transplant. Harvey was already receiving drugs to suppress any immune reaction to his kidney, which was a key factor in his selection for the 10-plus hour hand transplant surgery.
Mars

SpaceX Pulls the Plug On Its Red Dragon Plans (arstechnica.com) 142

SpaceX has largely confirmed the rumors that the company is no longer planning to send an uncrewed version of its Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2020, or later. Ars Technica reports: The company had planned to use the propulsive landing capabilities on the Dragon 2 spacecraft -- originally developed for the commercial crew variant to land on Earth -- for Mars landings in 2018 or 2020. Previously, it had signed an agreement with NASA to use some of its expertise for such a mission and access its deep-space communications network. On Tuesday, however, during a House science subcommittee hearing concerning future NASA planetary science missions, Florida Representative Bill Posey asked what the agency was doing to support privately developed planetary science programs. Jim Green, who directs NASA's planetary science division, mentioned several plans about the Moon and asteroids, but he conspicuously did not mention Red Dragon. After this hearing, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor didn't return a response to questions from Ars about the future of Red Dragon. Then, during a speech Wednesday at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference, Musk confirmed that the company is no longer working to land Dragon propulsively for commercial crew.

"Yeah, that was a tough decision," Musk acknowledged Wednesday with a sigh. "The reason we decided not to pursue that heavily is that it would have taken a tremendous amount of effort to qualify that for safety for crew transport," Musk explained Wednesday. "There was a time when I thought the Dragon approach to landing on Mars, where you've got a base heat shield and side mounted thrusters, would be the right way to land on Mars. But now I'm pretty confident that is not the right way." Musk added that his company has come up with a "far better" approach to landing on Mars that will be incorporated into the next iteration of the company's proposed Mars transportation hardware.

AI

Dadbot: How a Son Made a Chatbot of His Dying Dad (www.cbc.ca) 105

theodp writes: In A Son's Race to Give His Dying Father Artificial Immortality (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source), James Vlahos recounts his efforts to turn the story of his father's life -- as told by his 80-year-old Dad in his final months after being diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer -- into what Vlahos calls "a Dadbot -- a chatbot that emulates not a children's toy but the very real man who is my father." Given the limits of tech at the time (2016) and his own inexperience as a programmer, Vlahos recognized that the bot would never be more than a shadow of his real dad, but hoped to get the bot to communicate in his father's distinctive manner and convey at least some sense of his personality. Of the first time he demoed the bot for his parents, Vlahos writes: "Emboldened, I bring up something that has preoccupied me for months. 'This is a leading question, but answer it honestly,' I say, fumbling for words. 'Does it give you any comfort, or perhaps none -- the idea that whenever it is that you shed this mortal coil, that there is something that can help tell your stories and knows your history?' My dad looks off. When he answers, he sounds wearier than he did moments before. 'I know all of this shit,' he says, dismissing the compendium of facts stored in the Dadbot with a little wave. But he does take comfort in knowing that the Dadbot will share them with others. 'My family, particularly. And the grandkids, who won't know any of this stuff.' He's got seven of them, including my sons, Jonah and Zeke, all of whom call him Papou, the Greek term for grandfather. 'So this is great,' my dad says. 'I very much appreciate it.'"
AI

Researchers Have Figured Out How To Fake News Video With AI (qz.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: A team of computer scientists at the University of Washington have used artificial intelligence to render visually convincing videos of Barack Obama saying things he's said before, but in a totally new context. In a paper published this month, the researchers explained their methodology: Using a neural network trained on 17 hours of footage of the former U.S. president's weekly addresses, they were able to generate mouth shapes from arbitrary audio clips of Obama's voice. The shapes were then textured to photorealistic quality and overlaid onto Obama's face in a different "target" video. Finally, the researchers retimed the target video to move Obama's body naturally to the rhythm of the new audio track. In their paper, the researchers pointed to several practical applications of being able to generate high quality video from audio, including helping hearing-impaired people lip-read audio during a phone call or creating realistic digital characters in the film and gaming industries. But the more disturbing consequence of such a technology is its potential to proliferate video-based fake news. Though the researchers used only real audio for the study, they were able to skip and reorder Obama's sentences seamlessly and even use audio from an Obama impersonator to achieve near-perfect results. The rapid advancement of voice-synthesis software also provides easy, off-the-shelf solutions for compelling, falsified audio. You can view the demo here: "Synthesizing Obama: Learning Lib Sync from Audio"

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