In August of 2023, the California Public Utilities Commission passed a vote that allows driverless car companies Waymo and Cruise to expand their operations in San Francisco. Until now, Cruise and Waymo were only permitted to offer limited service within the city. This vote enables both companies to charge a fare for rides at any time of day or night, on any street within the municipality.
Waymo and Cruise are similar in concept to companies such as Uber or Lyft, just without the human driver. While some first responders are concerned that driverless vehicles have not yet perfected the method of getting out of the way of emergency vehicles such as ambulances and fire trucks, other travelers are hopeful that driverless vehicles will help to limit traffic fatalities, which are on the rise in San Francisco.
The big-name streaming app Spotify has just acquired musical guessing game Heardle.
In a similar style to the popular Wordle game, players in Heardle try to guess the names of songs based on hearing the first note. After each guess, additional notes are played to help users identify the song, until the allotted six chances are up. Since the buyout, players can listen to the full song on Spotify once they’ve used all their guesses.
But, the deal has left some avid fans displeased. Many complain that their stat records have been wiped out. Others are frustrated they can’t play at all anymore, as the game is now available only in the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.
While acknowledging the slip-ups that have occurred in the initial days following the acquisition, Spotify also explained the company’s hopes and plans for the new deal. The app will remain free and the interface will not change. Heardle will continue to be further integrated into the Spotify platform, facilitating the opportunity for listeners to connect more with the artists they love and to interact with friends.
As with most new endeavors, there are some small bumps in the road and a whole lot of excitement and potential.
In an exciting revelation, Honda and Sony have just announced plans to partner up and develop electric cars. The two Japanese companies have not yet announced the name of their upcoming entity. The vehicles will be manufactured in Honda’s facilities and Sony will provide the mobility service platform. Their goal is to team together this year and begin selling the first car in 2025.
While the joint venture is unique, the announcement is not entirely surprising, as there has been an international push for zero emission vehicles as well as systems that provide more advanced features. This gives tech companies like Sony an opportunity to enter the automobile market. Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida reiterated the vision, remarking: “In the joint venture, we would like to lead the mobility evolution by combining our technology and experience with Honda’s long experience in mobility development and vehicle body manufacturing technologies.” When asked about the possibility of others joining the partnership, Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe responded, “In the future, we would like to expand our business with an open mindset,” while adding that the focus remains on building the electric car model for now.
Now that we are out of lockdown and cautiously venturing back into society, masks have become a new fact of life. Although some people are refusing to wear them despite a study showing that when the mask order went into effect in New York City the new coronavirus case rate began to plunge by 3% per day, the vast majority are complying.
Along with social distancing and frequent hand washing, mask-wearing has proven the best way to prevent rampant COVID-19 infections, however, masks have some disadvantages. Many people are finding it difficult to recognize what otherwise would be familiar faces among the masked multitude. In addition to thwarting human facial recognition, masks are making it almost impossible for computer facial recognition systems to function.
The National Institute for Standards and Technology began a study to understand how facial recognition programs perform when faces are partially masked. In the meantime, some companies have tried to deal with the new situation.
A few companies that work with law enforcement agencies have experimented with creating algorithms that home in on eyebrows and eyes.
The NIST says under ideal conditions the best facial recognition systems fail only 0.3% of the time. This rate changes radically when conditions are not ideal, for instance when the face belongs to someone who is not the “ideal” race, age, or gender. With masks the ideal recognition failure rate skyrockets to 5% or more. The agency added that when asked to deal with masked faces, “many otherwise competent algorithms failed between 20% to 50% of the time.”
Since 2015 Amazon has been working on providing customers with a fun visit to the grocery store that leaves out entirely the waiting online and bagging of groceries at the checkout. Now the dream is finally a reality.
In Woodland Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles, customers with Amazon accounts use their smartphones to sign in to use “Dash Carts,” high-tech shopping carts equipped with sensors and cameras with computer vision, and a built-in scale to weigh produce. All the technology is cleverly hidden, so customers feel like they are just shopping, and not part of a sci-fi experiment.
The Dash Cart also has a scanner for coupons, and a display that shows what is in the cart and how much it all will cost when you finally “Just Walk Out.” Removing an item placed in the cart is automatically accounted for in the total, as are the items added to the cart. Not needing to check-out when customers are done shopping also allows them to bag their purchases as they shop.
When it is time to leave, shoppers exit the store vie the Dash Cart lane. Amazon then automatically charges the credit card that is linked to their Amazon account. Receipts are sent via email.
Amazon has been experimenting with the technology at their “Amazon Go” stores, where take-out meals and snacks can be purchased without bothering about a cashier. But the sheer scale of Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” grocery stores makes this a milestone for the company.
“You need to be able to add that and keep track of all of that and it just increases the complexity,” Dilip Kumar, Amazon’s vice president of physical retail and technology, said. “Plus, the weighing component of it also has to be very robust to be able to allow for a very accurate receipt experience for a customer.”