FaceApp gets federal attention as Sen. Schumer raises alarm on data use


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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It’s been hard to get away from FaceApp over the last few days, whether it’s your friends posting weird selfies using the app’s aging and other filters, or the brief furore over its apparent (but not actual) circumvention of permissions on iPhones. Now even the Senate is getting in on the fun: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has asked the FBI and the FTC to look into the app’s data handling practices.

“I write today to express my concerns regarding FaceApp,” he writes in a letter sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray and FTC Chairman Joseph Simons. I’ve excerpted his main concerns below:

In order to operate the application, users must provide the company full and irrevocable access to their personal photos and data. According to its privacy policy, users grant FaceApp license to use or publish content shared with the application, including their username or even their real name, without

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SpaceX’s ‘Starhopper’ bursts into flames during static fire test


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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SpaceX’s test vehicle, a small-scale demonstration craft for some Starship components, caught fire after what appears to be a fuel leak or dump following an otherwise successful static fire test last night. It’s not clear why the craft suddenly burst into flames, or whether it was seriously or even superficially damaged.

The “Starhopper,” as SpaceX has been calling it, is a much smaller scale version of the Starship craft the company has in development, meant to test them out in a live-fire environment and even perform short flights called hops — hence the name. It’s being assembled and operated at SpaceX’s facilities in Boca Chica, Texas.

The big shiny craft looks a bit like a toy, but it’s a functioning rocket and it was planned that this week it would do an untethered hovering flight at some 20 meters, a step above the short tethered flights it has already accomplished.

hopper fire

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Nexar’s Live Map is like Street View with pictures from 5 minutes ago


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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We all rely on maps to get where we’re going or investigate a neighborhood for potential brunch places, but the data we’re looking at is often old, vague, or both. Nexar, maker of dashcam apps and cameras, aims to put fresh and specific data on your map with images from the street taken only minutes before.

If you’re familiar with dash cams, and you’re familiar with Google’s Street View, then you can probably already picture what Live Map essentially is. It’s not quite as easy to picture how it works or why it’s useful.

Nexar sells dash cams and offers an app that turns your phone into one temporarily, and the business has been doing well, with thousands of active users on the streets of major cities at any given time. Each node of this network of gadgets shares information with the other nodes — warning of traffic snarls, potholes,

nexar zoom
Detection Filtering

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Voyant Photonics raises $4.3M to fit lidar on the head of a pin


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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Lidar is a critical method by which robots and autonomous vehicles sense the world around them, but the lasers and sensors generally take up a considerable amount of space. Not so with Voyant Photonics, which has created a lidar system that you really could conceivably balance on the head of a pin.

Before getting into the science, it’s worth noting why this is important. Lidar is most often used as a way for a car to sense things at a medium distance — far away, radar can outperform it, and up close ultrasonics and other methods are more compact. But from a few feet to a couple hundred feed out, lidar is very useful.

Unfortunately even the most compact lidar solutions today are still, roughly, the size of a hand, and the ones ready for use in production vehicles are still larger. A very small lidar unit that could be

LIDAR Fingertip Crop
photonics testbed

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Computing pioneer and LGBT icon Alan Turing will grace the £50 note in 2021


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Alan Turing, one of the pioneering figures in modern computing, and also a tragic one in LGBT history, will soon appear on the U.K.’s £50 note. He was selected from a shortlist of scientists and bright minds so distinguished that it must have made the decision rather difficult.

The nomination process for who would appear on the new note was open to the public, with the limitation this time that those nominated were British scientists of some form or another. Hundreds of thousands of votes and nearly a thousand names were submitted, and ultimately the list was winnowed down to the following dozen (well, 14, with two pairs; descriptions taken from the Bank of England’s summary):

Archinaut snags $73 million in NASA funding to 3-D print giant spacecraft parts in orbit


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A project to 3-D print bulky components in space rather than bring them up there has collected a $73.7 million contract from NASA to demonstrate the technique in space. Archinaut, a mission now several years in development from Made In Space, could launch as soon as 2022.

The problem at hand is this: If you want a spacecraft to have solar arrays 60 feet long, you need to bring 60 feet of structure for those arrays to attach to — they can’t just flap around like ribbons. But where do you stash a 60-foot pole, or two 30-foot ones, or even 10 six-foot ones when you only have a few cubic feet of space to put them in? It gets real complicated real fast to take items with even a single large dimension into space.

Archinaut’s solution is simple. Why not just take the material for that long

optimast3

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These robo-ants can work together in swarms to navigate tricky terrain


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While the agility of a Spot or Atlas robot is something to behold, there’s a special merit reserved for tiny, simple robots that work not as a versatile individual but as an adaptable group. These “tribots” are built on the model of ants, and like them can work together to overcome obstacles with teamwork.

Developed by EPFL and Osaka University, tribots are tiny, light, and simple, moving more like inchworms than ants, but able to fling themselves up and forward if necessary. The bots themselves and the system they make up are modeled on trap-jaw ants, which alternate between crawling and jumping, and work (as do most other ants) in fluid roles like explorer, worker, and leader. Each robot is not itself very intelligent, but they are controlled as a collective that deploys their abilities intelligently.

In this case a team of tribots might be expected to get from

fly tribot fly

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AI smokes 5 poker champs at a time in no-limit Hold’em with ‘ruthless consistency’


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The machines have proven their superiority in one-on-one games like chess and go, and even poker — but in complex multiplayer versions of the card game humans have retained their edge… until now. An evolution of the last AI agent to flummox poker pros individually is now decisively beating them in championship-style 6-person game.

As documented in a paper published in the journal Science today, the CMU/Facebook collaboration they call Pluribus reliably beats five professional poker players in the same game, or one pro pitted against five independent copies of itself. It’s a major leap forward in capability for the machines, and amazingly is also far more efficient than previous agents as well.

One-on-one poker is a weird game, and not a simple one, but the zero-sum nature of it (whatever you lose, the other player gets) makes it susceptible to certain strategies in which computer able to calculate

traverserj
interface

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Hayabusa2 lands on an asteroid and sends back amazing pictures to prove it


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Japan’s Hayabusa2 mission to the asteroid Ryugu is an ambitious one to begin with, and the team recently made the decision to up the stakes with a second touchdown on the space rock’s surface. Not only did all go as planned, but we now have the best shots of an asteroid’s surface ever to be sent back to Earth.

Hayabusa2 is a very, very cool mission. The basic idea is this:

  1. Fly to nearby asteroid
  2. Land and sample the surface
  3. Blast a crater into it with a space gun
  4. Land and sample the crater
  5. Send the resulting samples back to Earth

Fabulous, right? And the intrepid spacecraft has just completed step 4 earlier today, touching down and snapping some amazing pictures while it did its science. This one was taken at the very moment it hit the surface:

hayabusa ryugu 1There was no guarantee this would happen, the JAXA team running the

hayabusa ryugu 2
hya

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Luminar eyes production vehicles with $100M round and new Iris lidar platform


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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Luminar is one of the major players in the new crop of lidar companies that have sprung up all over the world, and it’s moving fast to outpace its peers. Today the company announced a new $100M funding round, bringing its total raised to over $250M — as well as a perception platform and a new, compact lidar unit aimed at inclusion in actual cars. Big day!

The new hardware, called Iris, looks to be about a third of the size of the test unit Luminar has been sticking on vehicles thus far. That one was about the size of a couple hardbacks stacked up, and Iris is more like a really thick sandwich.

Size is very important, of course, since few cars just have caverns of unused space hidden away in prime surfaces like the corners and windshield area. Other lidar makers have lowered the profiles of their

Luminar IRIS AND TEST FLEET LiDARS
LUMINAR IRIS TRAFFIC JAM PILOT

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Planted joins the meatless meat melee with its pea-protein ‘chicken’


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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Imitation meat is poised to expand its presence in our diets exponentially, if the success of dueling faux burger companies Impossible and Beyond are any indication — but where’s the chicken? Planted is a brand new Swiss company that claims its ultra-simple meatless poultry is nearly indistinguishable from the real thing, better in other ways, and soon, cheaper.

Made from only pea protein, pea fiber, water, and sunflower oil, the company’s first product, which they call planted.chicken, imitates the texture and flavor (or lack thereof) of chicken meat very closely.

There are no exotic substances or techniques involved, which keeps production simple and vegans happy. It’s created by making a sort of fibrous dough using the ingredients mentioned, then using a carefully configured extrusion machine to essentially recreate the structure of the muscle fibers that make up meat. These are reassembled into larger pieces with a similar texture to

planted dishes
planted2

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Spoiler warning! This neural network spots dangerous reviews before you read them


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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It’s hard to avoid spoilers on the internet these days — even if you’re careful, a random tweet or recommended news item could lay to waste your plan to watch that season finale a day late or catch a movie after the crowds have subsided. But soon an AI agent may do the spoiler-spotting for you, and flag spoilerific reviews and content before you even have a chance to look.

SpoilerNet is the creation of a team at UC San Diego, composed perhaps of people who tried waiting a week to see Infinity War and got snapped for their troubles. Never again!

They assembled a database of more than a million reviews from Amazon-owned reading community Goodreads, where it is the convention to note spoilers in any reviews, essentially line by line. As a user of the site I’m thankful for this capability, and the researchers were too — because

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Space moss, stem cells and more are on their way to the ISS


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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The International Space Station is such a unique and important test bed that practically every spacecraft that docks with it carries new experiments for the crew to run. This month’s mission is no different, bringing biological tests that could be important for long-distance space travel — as well as some new docking hardware for the station.

A commercial resupply mission (CRS-18) is planned at present for July 21, bringing the usual fresh food, spare parts, and science. Several experiments are going up that in one way or another test how life adapts to microgravity — as the recently completed landmark test of human physiology showed, large-scale changes don’t seem harmful, but it can be hard to quantify things at a smaller scale.

Three of the experiments are focused on just that: small scale human physiology. The first focuses on stem cells and how they grow and arrange themselves into nerve

3dprint
space moss
crs 18 1

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FCC proposal would let it punish international robocallers


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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While the FCC and Congress hammer out new rules to (hopefully) banish robocalls forever, there are some short-term solutions that can help in the meantime — and one may arrive in just a few weeks. A new FCC proposal allows the agency to go after scam calls that originate overseas or use other methods to evade existing spoofing laws.

The rule isn’t exactly new in that it is a follow-up to Ray Baum’s Act, which was passed last year and, among other things, bulked up the Truth in Caller ID Act.

Previously, the latter law prohibited scammy spoofing of numbers, a practice that makes robocalling much easier — but it only applied to calls originating in the country. That opened up a huge loophole for scammers, who are not short on means to make calls internationally. Ray Baum’s Act modifies those rules to specifically prohibit international spoofing, as well as

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Mario creator Miyamoto counters cloud gaming hype (but don’t count Nintendo out)


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Cloud gaming — however a company chooses to define that — is shaping up to be a big part of the next generation of consoles and other platforms. But Mario creator and Nintendo veteran Shigeru Miyamoto says his company won’t be so quick to jump on the bandwagon.

Speaking to shareholders at Nintendo’s annual general meeting, Miyamoto and other executives addressed a variety of issues, among them what some interpret as a failure to keep up with the state of the industry. Sony and Microsoft (together, amazingly) are about to lock horns with Google, Nvidia, and others in the arena of game streaming, but Nintendo has announced no plans whatsoever regarding the powerful new technology.

As reported by GamesIndustry.biz, Miyamoto was unfazed by this allegation.

“We believe it is important to continue to use these diverse technical environments to make

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This drone swarm spray painted a jumbo-size graffiti mural


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




It’s Friday, so why not watch some good old-fashioned drone-powered graffiti? A design firm in Italy has put together a lovely little show that collected sketches from the art community and put them all together in a giant mural, painted over 12 hours by a team of drones.

We’ve seen spray-painting drones before, of course, but this is far better than the crude vandalism of a fashion billboard or even Disney’s more structured wall drawings. These drones actually put together something worth looking at!

spraydrone

The Urban Flying Opera project was curated by Carlo Ratti Associati, which collected some 1,200 small illustrations via an app, selecting 100 to assemble into a single mural. The line drawings were then loaded into a central control computer and painting instructions relayed to a set of four drones equipped with paint cans, which worked over a 12-hour period to put the whole thing together.

drones painting ufo drones

Each

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Watch a plane land itself truly autonomously for the first time


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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A team of German researchers have created an automatic landing system for small aircraft that lets them touch down not only without a pilot, but without any of the tech on the ground that lets other planes do it. It could open up a new era of autonomous flight — and make ordinary landings safer to boot.

Now it would be natural to think that with the sophisticated autopilot systems that we have today, a plane could land itself quite easily. And that’s kind of true — but the autoland systems on full-size aircraft aren’t really autonomous. They rely on a set of radio signals emitted by stations only found at major airports: the Instrument Landing System, or ILS.

These signals tell the plane exactly where the runway is even in poor visibility, but even so an “automatic” landing is rarely done. Instead, the pilots — as they do elsewhere

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tumlanding
autotum

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This solar array expands itself at the right temperature


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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Wouldn’t it be nice to have a solar panel that’s only there when the sun shines on it? That’s the idea behind this research project, which uses shape-shifting materials to make a solar panel grow from a compressed state to an expanded one with nothing more than a change in temperature.

The flower-like prototype device is made of what’s called a “shape-memory polymer,” a material that can be shaped when cool to one form, then when heated will attempt to return to its original, natural configuration. In this case the cool form is a compressed disc, and the warm one is a much wider one.

The transition (demonstrated here in warm water for simplicity) takes less than a minute. It’s guided by a network of hinged joints, the structure of which was inspired by the children’s toy known as a Hoberman sphere, which changes from a small, spiky ball to

circle1

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With Super Mario Maker 2, Nintendo both unleashes and leashes creators


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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Nintendo’s Mario Maker series is among the most generous gifts the company could have given to its fans, and the new installment on Switch is better than its predecessor in every way. Yet despite the freedom and encouragement it gives, it’s hard not to feel a gentle tug groundward when your ambitions begin to soar.

For those unfamiliar with Mario Maker, the original was a totally unexpected joy on the Wii U and one of the few games that truly took advantage of that console’s unusual hardware. It allowed players to use the touchscreen and stylus to put together Mario levels in a variety of styles, and the resulting number and complexity of creations boggled minds worldwide.

The sequel, Super Mario Maker 2, announced in February and released at the end of June, is a natural evolution of the previous game. It adds new items, new styles, new ways to

mario tutorial
storymode levels
puzzle
mycourse
courseworld

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With Super Mario Maker 2, Nintendo both unleashes and leashes creators


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Nintendo’s Mario Maker series is among the most generous gifts the company could have given to its fans, and the new installment on Switch is better than its predecessor in every way. Yet despite the freedom and encouragement it gives, it’s hard not to feel a gentle tug groundward when your ambitions begin to soar.

For those unfamiliar with Mario Maker, the original was a totally unexpected joy on the Wii U and one of the few games that truly took advantage of that console’s unusual hardware. It allowed players to use the touchscreen and stylus to put together Mario levels in a variety of styles, and the resulting number and complexity of creations boggled minds worldwide.

The sequel, Super Mario Maker 2, announced in February and released at the end of June, is a natural evolution of the previous game. It adds new items, new styles, new ways to

mario tutorial
storymode levels
puzzle
mycourse
courseworld

Continue reading “With Super Mario Maker 2, Nintendo both unleashes and leashes creators”