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Jeff Bezos’ rocket company has its first Asian customer

Blue Origin, which is Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, just announced a milestone at the 68th Annual International Astronautical Congress. It has partnered with the connnectivity company mu Space, based in Thailand, to launch a satellite with the New Glenn rocket. This is the first partnership between the Blue Origin and an Asia-Pacific client, and the third company to sign up for a New Glenn launch.

mu Space is a very new company, established just last month, and their aim is to provide reliable satellite broadband and mobile for Thailand’s businesses. It has their own interest in space travel, though. Its “Everyone Project” is a plan to make space tourism a reality in Asia, though there’s scant information about it on the company’s website.

Compared to rival SpaceX, Blue Origin’s progress might appear slow, but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. Blue Origin hasn’t had a NASA contract to help speed their development, after all. Additionally, its sights had previously been set squarely on crewed launches; it plans to fly astronauts on their New Shepard launch vehicle by early 2018. It has also been manufacturing rocket parts for other companies.

Last year, Bezos announced that Blue Origin would be developing another rocket of its own. New Glenn is its launch vehicle that’s currently under development, and it dwarfs SpaceX’s delayed Falcon Heavy in both its two-stage and three-stage models. The company plans to launch before 2020, and mu Space wants to place its satellite into geostationary orbit in 2021.

Via: Twitter

Source: mu Space (1), mu Space (2)


Kano combines its coding kits for a DIY ‘laptop’

Kano, the company behind a variety of build-it-yourself computer and coding kits, has unveiled a “laptop” today. A portable computer is probably more accurate. Whereas most laptops have a clamshell design, the new “Computer Kit Complete” keeps the screen and keyboard separate. All of the components are kept inside the display unit, and like a box of LEGO, there’s an instruction booklet that teaches you how to put everything together. One of the parts is a Raspberry Pi 3 board, which runs custom software called Kano OS. It’s packed with child-friendly programming activities and some basic apps including YouTube and WhatsApp.

From afar, the kit looks like Kano’s old Computer Bundle. This deal, which is no longer available to purchase, included the Kano Computer, contained in a transparent shell, and the optional Screen Kit. The new, 10.1-inch “laptop” is different, however, because all of the necessary components are contained in one unit. They include a battery (unlike the Screen Kit), an 8GB memory card, a build-it-yourself speaker and three USB ports. It also comes with a Sound Sensor that connects over USB and, similar to Kano’s $30/£30 Motion Sensor, can be used to trigger and manipulate code.

As with all of Kano’s products, hardware is only half of the story. Once you’ve built the “laptop,” you’ll learn how to make games like Snake and Pong, manipulate Minecraft using code, and program your own music. The software has come a long way since the original Kano computer in 2013, adding additional challenges and some much-needed polish to the user interface. Kano’s block-based programming language is easy to follow and there’s a game-like levelling system that rewards your progress through all of the tutorials. You can also share your coding projects online and download, or “remix” others posted by the community on Kano World.

The new Computer Kit Complete costs $250/£230 and will be available through the Kano website and select retailers from November 1st.

In addition, Kano is launching a reworked version of its basic Computer Kit today. The 2017 edition comes with a Raspberry Pi 3 board and a programmable light ring that sit inside its plastic container. There are new challenges to complete and data sources, like weather information, sports scores and stock prices, that can be plugged into your coding projects for additional functionality. (Think If This Then That.) All of this will set you back $150/£140 when the first units ship in roughly six weeks.

The new products will come as a shock to people who backed Kano’s Camera, Speaker and Pixel kits on Kickstarter exactly one year ago. So far, Kano has only managed to ship the Pixel, a charming and highly educational coding kit centered around a light board. It’s not clear when the Speaker and Camera kits will follow. They are, admittedly, more complicated than the Kano Computer, given they require all-new parts and work as a single ecosystem. The idea being that you can use them together, swapping the various sensors to create increasingly elaborate projects. Still, it’s notable that Kano has shipped other products before them.


Intel unveils an AI chip that mimics the human brain

Lots of tech companies including Apple, Google, Microsoft, NVIDIA and Intel itself have created chips for image recognition and other deep-learning chores. However, Intel is taking another tack as well with an experimental chip called “Loihi.” Rather than relying on raw computing horsepower, it uses an old-school, as-yet-unproven type of “nueromorphic” tech that’s modeled after the human brain.

Intel has been exploring neuromorphic tech for awhile, and even designed a chip in 2012. Instead of logic gates, it uses “spiking neurons” as a fundamental computing unit. Those can pass along signals of varying strength, much like the neurons in our own brains. They can also fire when needed, rather than being controlled by a clock like a regular processor.

Intel’s Loihi chip has 1,024 artificial neurons, or 130,000 simulated neurons with 130 million possible synaptic connections. That’s a bit more complex than, say, a lobster’s brain, but a long ways from our 80 billion neurons.

Human brains work by relaying information with pulses or spikes, strengthening frequent connections and storing the changes locally at synapse interconnections. As such, brain cells don’t function alone, because the activity of one neuron directly affects others — and groups of cells working in concert lead to learning and intelligence.

By simulating this behavior with the Loihi chip, it can (in theory) speed up machine learning while reducing power requirements by up to 1,000 times. What’s more, all the learning can be done on-chip, instead of requiring enormous datasets. If incorporated into a computer, such chips could also learn new things on their own, rather than remaining ignorant of tasks they hasn’t been taught specifically.

These types of chips would give us the sort of AI behavior we expect (and fear) — namely, robots and other devices that can learn as they go. “The test chip [has] enormous potential to improve automotive and industrial applications as well as personal robots,” Intel says.

That all sounds good, but so far, neuromorphic chips have yet to prove themselves next to current, brute-force deep-learning technology. IBM has also developed a neuromorphic chip called “TrueNorth,” for instance, with 4096 processors that simulate around 256 million synapses. However, Facebook’s deep learning specialist Yann LeCun said that chip wouldn’t easily be able to do tasks like image recognition using the NeuFlow convolution model he designed.

Intel has also admitted that its neuromorphic chip wouldn’t do well with some types of deep-learning models. Via its acquisition of Movidius and MobilEye, however, it’s already got a line of machine vision and learning chips that do work with current AI algorithms. It also acquired a company called Nervana last year to take on AI cloud processing leader NVIDIA.

For Loihi, it plans to give the chips to select “leading university and research institutions” focused on artificial intelligence in the first half of 2018. The aim is test the chip’s feasibility for new types of AI applications to boost further development. It will build the chips using its 14-nanometer process technology and release the first test model in November.

Source: Intel


Tech companies support Trump’s STEM education plan

Yesterday, Donald Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum that directed the Secretary of Education to prioritize STEM and computer science education. The directive includes establishing a goal to put $200 million per year towards expanding this type of education in K-12 programs and higher education establishments along with a requirement that the Secretary submit a report at the end of each fiscal year that summarizes the steps taken towards promoting STEM and computer science education.

Additionally, Recode reports that today in Detroit, Ivanka Trump will meet with private business leaders who are pledging commitments towards this initiative. The leaders hail from companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google and GM. Ivanka told reporters, “Given the growing role of technology in American industry, it is vital our students become fluent in coding and computer science, with early exposure to both.”

While previous administrations and Congress have pushed to expand computer science education, as have a number of tech giants, the relationship between Trump and the tech industry is currently on shaky ground. Hundreds of tech CEOs and leaders voiced their dissent over the president’s move to dissolve DACA and dozens left his advisory councils after his weak response to the violence in Charlottesville.

The money Trump has asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to use towards expanding computer science education isn’t additional money for the department to use, but is rather a request to redirect current funds in a way that prioritizes STEM and computer science. Where that money will be pulled from remains to be seen, but with around just 40 percent of schools currently teaching computer programming, it would be good if this push had some success.

Source: White House (1), (2), Recode


Boeing offers a $2 million prize for a working jetpack

It’s 2017, and as the refrain goes, where are the flying cars? Boeing is more interested in “personal flying devices” — aka, jetpacks — and is partnering with new organization GoFly to post a $2 million bounty for working designs. Kind of like an X Prize competition, the partners are giving teams two years to develop their tech before whomever impresses the judges at a “final fly-off” takes home money from the GoFly Prize pool.

Boeing and other big names in aviation (along with DARPA) will lend their mentorship and technical expertise to the teams over the course of the contest. Winning is simple: The jetpack must carry a person 20 miles without refueling or recharging with vertical (or nearly vertical) take-off and landing. Teams will get technical guidelines — the competition is seeking a solution anyone can use that is ultra-compact, quiet and “urban-compatible” — but how they design or engineer their “personal flying device” is up to them.

Competition prize money will be doled out in three phases: Ten teams with interesting written concepts will be given $20,000 prizes, then four $50,000 will be handed out for the best prototypes and revised technical specifications, before a winner at the “final fly-off” takes home $1 million. Even if they don’t win, teams may qualify for supplementary prizes at the last event, including $100,000 for “disruptive advancement” of state-of-the-art aviation tech, $250,000 for quietest entry and $250,000 for the smallest.

Teams can register for the first phase of competition now on the GoFly Prize site until April 4th, 2018. After that, teams must register for Phase II by December 8th, 2018.

Source: GoFly Prize


Microsoft plans Office 2019 release for next year

The next version of Microsoft Office is coming to a computer near you soon. The company announced today that Office 2019 will be released sometime in the second half next year. Previews will ship in mid-2018. It will include the applications we’re used to, such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint, as well as servers such as Skype for Business and Exchange.

Microsoft is making the cloud a centerpiece of its Ignite conference this week, but the company also realizes that not all of its users are ready to fully commit. As such, Microsoft is making this version of Office software work for both customers that are already fully working in the cloud as well as those who are still on their way to that point.

Some of the new features in Office 2019 that it highlights are new formulas and charts for Excel, inking features that are both new and improved and visual animation for presentations. Additionally, Office 2019 will focus on IT manageability, usability, voice and security for server updates. Microsoft will release more information about Office 2019 over the next few months.

Via: The Verge

Source: Microsoft


Dyson plans to release its own EV by 2020

An unlikely player has stepped onto the electric vehicle playing field. Vacuum cleaner and hairdryer producer Dyson announced today that it has already begun working on its own EV and that it should be ready for launch by 2020.

James Dyson just announced to @Dyson employees that we’ve begun work on a battery electric vehicle, due to launch in 2020.

— Dyson (@Dyson) September 26, 2017

In a letter to employees, company founder James Dyson said today that this has been a dream of his for some time and rumors have circulated in the past about the company heading in this direction. The path toward an fully-fledged EV began with an exhaust capture system aimed at reducing auto emissions. “To our chagrin, nobody at the time was interested in employing our diesel exhaust capture system and we stopped the project,” said Dyson, “At this moment, we finally have the opportunity to bring all our technologies together into a single product. Rather than filtering emissions at the exhaust pipe, today we have the ability to solve it at the source. So I wanted you to hear it directly from me: Dyson has begun work on a battery electric vehicle, due to be launched by 2020.”

So far, the company has recruited 400 people to work on the project, including Dyson and auto industry engineers and Dyson has pledged to put over $2.6 billion towards the project — half toward the car itself and half toward the solid state battery technology.

There aren’t any details about the car just yet — the company is keeping those under wraps for now. “The project will grow quickly from here but at this stage we will not release any information. Competition for new technology in the automotive industry is fierce and we must do everything we can to keep the specifics of our vehicle confidential,” said Dyson. And the Telegraph reports that whatever Dyson ends up producing will stand out from other EVs on the market, quoting Dyson as saying, “There’s no point in doing one that’s like everybody else’s. You’ll have to wait and see, we’re trying to be radical.”

Via: Bloomberg

Source: Dyson, The Telegraph


Vimeo finally adds livestreaming to its set of video tools

Today, Vimeo announced that there is an agreement in place for its acquisition of the streaming company Livestream. It also launched Vimeo Live, which offers livestreaming solutions directly through the Vimeo platform. When the acquisition is complete, Livestream’s tools will be available in Vimeo Live.

Vimeo’s CEO Anjali Sud has made clear that livestreaming is an important feature for the company. “Livestreaming is the #1 request from our creator community this year, and we’re focused on bringing a new level of quality, convenience and craft to this evolving medium,” she said. Livestream is one of the top independent live streaming platforms; it’s behind over 10 million events per year, with partners such as Spotify, the Philadelphia Eagles and Tough Mudder.

The Vimeo Live platform will offer 1080p streaming; these can be replaced with 4K files after the fact for post-event viewing. Creators can take advantage of the robust hardware and software tools that Vimeo offers. According to TechCrunch, Vimeo Live will have a similar pricing structure to the company’s other paid plans. There will be monthly and annual offerings, as well as tiered prices.

After the cancellation of its planned Netflix-like streaming service, Vimeo was reportedly focusing instead on its creator community. This move into livestreaming (behind its competitors, such as YouTube), and the acquisition of Livestream, certainly supports that stated goal, and it makes a lot more sense for a company that offers video tools for creators.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Vimeo


Apple TV returns to Amazon after a 2-year exile

Amazon drew no small amount of flak when it pulled the Apple TV from its online store 2 years ago. Was it really so determined to push Prime Video that it would limit your device options? Well, yes, but it’s thankfully having a change of heart. The internet retailer has quietly re-listed the Apple TV (specifically, the Apple TV 4K) now that the set-top’s Prime Video app is on the horizon. While it’s listed as out of stock, that’s likely to change before long.

This doesn’t mean that the Prime Video app is imminent — it could be weeks away. It’s a good sign, though, and suggests that Amazon really is interested more in promoting Prime Video than guarding its hardware sales. As it is, this won’t make everyone happy. Google’s Chromecast devices, which don’t currently support Prime Video, are still missing in action. Think of this as one step forward, rather than end to a long saga.

Via: 9to5Mac, MacRumors

Source: Amazon


Instagram Grows to 800M Users Amid Continued Focus on Safety and Comment Moderation

Instagram has grown from 700 million total users in April 2017 to 800 million, as confirmed by parent company Facebook during an event in New York City this week (via CNBC). Of those 800 million total users, 500 million are opening the app and using it every day, compared favorably to Snapchat’s 173 million DAUs that the Instagram rival reported earlier in August.

As it celebrates this milestone, Instagram today announced a few new community-focused comment moderation features rolling out to public and private accounts, building upon the “safer and kinder” message that’s been the focus of Instagram updates over the past year. Now, whether your account is public or private, you’ll be able to block any other account from commenting on your posts.

For public-only accounts, you’ll have more granular options for choosing who can comment on your post: everyone, people you follow and your followers, people you follow, or just your followers. The company is also expanding languages that support its filter to block certain offensive comments — in addition to English there will be support for Arabic, French, German, and Portugese.

A post shared by Instagram (@instagram) on Sep 26, 2017 at 6:05am PDT

Other safety-centric additions include anonymously providing mental health resources to someone on an Instagram live broadcast, and a new #KindComments campaign that includes real-life murals in various cities around the world, along with new stickers available in the app. The company has accumulated all of these features and messages into a website called Instagram Together.

Tag: Instagram
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