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4
Feb

For the first time, scientists discover exoplanets in a galaxy far, far away


Using a technique called microlensing, astrophysicists at the University of Oklahoma have confirmed the existence of exoplanets beyond the Milky Way galaxy. Not just one or two, either — the scientific team has estimated that there are multitudes of planets, ranging in sizes comparable from the Moon to Jupiter, in the galaxy known as RX J1131-1231.

Findings from the research were recently published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. The image above shows the galaxy at the center, surrounded by four quasars. It’s estimated there are several trillion planets in that central red dot.

Moreover, these appear to be “rogue” planets not circling a star in a conventional solar system but roaming free around the far-off galaxy.

“We are very excited about this discovery. This is the first time anyone has discovered planets outside our galaxy,” said OU professor Xinyu Dai. “These small planets are the best candidate for the signature we observed in this study using the microlensing technique.”

Einstein theorized that astronomers could use microlensing to observe distant objects using the gravity of stars that are directly between them and the Earth, Terry Oswalt of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University told CNET. “When a star in the foreground passes exactly between us and a background star, gravitational microlensing results in a perfectly circular ring of light — a so-called ‘Einstein ring,’” he said.

The massive gravitational pull of an object like a star causes space to bend around it, and light from a more distant object would curve around it as well, resulting in a magnifying effect.

The astrophysicists used observations from NASA’s Chandray X-ray Observatory, a space telescope controlled by the Smithsonian. They then analyzed the results using the OU Supercomputing Center. Microlensing has been used to discover thousands of planets within the Milky Way before, but this is a new frontier.

“This is an example of how powerful the techniques of analysis of extragalactic microlensing can be,” said OU researcher Eduardo Guerras. “This galaxy is located 3.8 billion light years away, and there is not the slightest chance of observing these planets directly, not even with the best telescope one can imagine in a science fiction scenario. However, we are able to study them, unveil their presence and even have an idea of their masses. This is very cool science.”

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4
Feb

‘Sea Hunter,’ a drone ship with no crew, just joined the U.S. Navy fleet


A prototype autonomous ship known as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV) has officially been transferred to the U.S. Navy from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) after a two-year testing and evaluation program. Named “Sea Hunter,” the Office of Naval Research will continue to develop the vessel from this point forward.

Although there’s no specific timetable for when the Sea Hunter would join active naval operations, the statement from DARPA indicated that it could happen as early as this year. The anti-submarine warfare vessel could be the first of an entirely new class of warship.

“[Sea Hunter] represents a new vision of naval surface warfare that trades small numbers of very capable, high-value assets for large numbers of commoditized, simpler platforms that are more capable in the aggregate,” said Fred Kennedy of DARPA. “The U.S. military has talked about the strategic importance of replacing ‘king’ and ‘queen’ pieces on the maritime chessboard with lots of ‘pawns.’”

The collaboration between the Navy and DARPA began in 2014, with the ship christened in April 2016. A rigorous series of open-water tests followed, including surveillance and mine counter-measures.

According to Newsweek, the ship got its name from the mission the Navy envisions for it — stalking foreign submarines at sea. It’s relatively cheap to build at $20 million, and it’s far less expensive to run than a similar manned vessel.

“This is an inflection point,” former Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said in an interview with Reuters in 2016. “This is the first time we’ve ever had a totally robotic, trans-oceanic-capable ship.”

“I would like to see unmanned flotillas operating in the western Pacific and the Persian Gulf within five years,” he added.

The Navy hopes that ships of the future will be able to stay at sea for months at a time and travel thousands of miles without any crew. The Sea Hunter is currently a surveillance platform and has no weapons onboard. It’s 127 feet long and can reach speed of 27 knots, using cameras and radar to track its location and spot other ships.

Work went on to emphasize that if robot ships like Sea Hunter were outfitted with weapons in the future, there would always be a human at the controls. “There’s no reason to be afraid of a ship like this,” he said.

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4
Feb

A.I. perfectly predicted last year’s Super Bowl score. What happens to betting?


Competitive sports are ultimately numbers games. Whether it’s a gymnast racking up points on a balance beam, a tennis player acing her opponent, or a football team scoring on a last second Hail Mary, all matches are won and lost by numbers. There are upsets, comebacks, and situations when the losing team still seems to outperform the other — but, even then, victory distills into digits.

As such, it’s obvious that many sports lend themselves nicely to the type of mathematical analyses that let keen-eyed statisticians predict outcomes — maybe even exact scores — just by crunching a bunch of numbers. After all, that’s the basis of sports betting, and it’s helped baseball managers craft winning teams on a tight budget just by considering little more than batting average, runs batted in, and stolen bases.

But what happens when artificial intelligence algorithms are used to do what they do best — pick out patterns in data that human eyes typically can’t catch? Could these algorithms undermine the “house” and turn sports betting on its head?

The prediction predicament

Athletic events are chock full of juicy data that A.I. developers would probably love to feed to their algorithms. A power forward’s field goal percentage, a running back’s rushing yards, and a midfielder’s assists are obvious example of this kind of data.

But there are other, less apparent data that can give a more nuanced and complete overview, for example, a player’s “sweet spot” (where he most often makes his shots) or the paths and distance a given player travels during a game.

But not all sports are created equal when it comes to quantity and quality of data. Some, like baseball, readily release their players’ stats. Tennis organizations, on the other hand, collect high-resolution datasets that include things as specific as ball trajectory throughout a match, making the sport rife for predictive analysis.

If these organization didn’t keep their hi-res data under lock and key, tennis would be prime for predictive analytics. But for algorithms to identify patterns and provide actionable outputs, they need access to abundant data.

“A lot of the early sports betting in the US using computer algorithms and predictive models was focused on stuff like college football and basketball,” Adam Kucharski, a researcher and author of The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling, tells Digital Trends. “They’d have so many matches and each match had so many scoring events, which gave you a really big data set so you could get a good understanding of what was driving a team performance. And then you’d have enough games throughout the rest of the season to put that insight into practice.”

Access to data isn’t the only constraint keeping A.I. from fully infiltrating betting. The circumstances surrounding this data also needs to be relatively consistent. And since players and team rosters often change from season to season, finding patterns can become difficult, if not futile.

Early sports betting [used] computer algorithms and predictive models focused on stuff like college football and basketball.

Furthermore, sports aren’t just about the stats. There are plenty of unseen influencers that can bring a team to victory. Player dynamics, for example, can cause certain squads to “click” and play well together, despite the data suggesting otherwise. And you can’t trust stats to elucidate a defensive player’s overall skill.

“In some team sports, very good players don’t do much that’s measurable,” Kucharski says. “A very good player might just get into a good position. Tackle rates won’t show that. It’s their positioning and intuitive behavior that is having an influence.”

That’s why Kucharski found that most betting institutions combine data-driven predictions with human behavior and intuition. The most accurate prediction might lie somewhere between raw data and input from the crowd.

“You can only shove things into an algorithm if they’re measurable,” he adds. “It might be that there are subtleties or other combinations of factors that humans can spot and process patterns in which is much harder to explicitly put into computing algorithms.”

The business of betting

There are a handful of companies looking to capitalize on A.I. in betting, such as Stratagem: a London-based startup that’s pairing deep neural networks with dozens of human analysts to predict the outcome of soccer matches, hoping to make money with wagers along the way.

Interestingly, one of the best examples of how A.I. can influence betting doesn’t rely exclusively on machine intelligence. Instead, it uses the technology as a guide to help humans leverage their collective brainpower more effectively and use it to make more accurate predictions. That’s the approach at Unanimous A.I., a startup that leverages A.I. and “swarm intelligence” to make astoundingly accurate predictions.

The startup made headlines last February when users on its platform, UNU, successfully predicted the Super Bowl results down to the exact score. Then they predicted eleven out of fifteen Oscar winners, besting the New York Times’ film buffs by eighteen percent. Before that, UNU performed an even more unlikely prediction by placing the winners of the Kentucky Derby in their exact order, a feat known as a superfecta, which last year came with 540 to 1 odds. For comparison, none of the experts at Churchill Downs predicted a superfecta. Meanwhile, Unanimous A.I. founder Louis Rosenberg turned his $20 bet into $11,000.

But Rosenberg isn’t in it for the money or the sport of it. In fact, he admits he wasn’t even much of a sports fan before his company started making these predictions.

Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Bill Greene/Getty Images

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nick Wosika/Getty Images)

Getty Images

“For us it’s always fun to do these sports predictions,” Rosenberg tells Digital Trends. “But we get involved with sports predictions because it’s a great test bed to quantify intelligence.”

Rosenberg is a proponent of the hive mind, or human swarm intelligence: the idea that a group of people working together has more intellect than an individual working alone. This isn’t just crowdsourced knowledge, Rosenberg says, but systems that are interconnected with feedback loops to manifest emergent intelligences.

In UNU, Rosenberg has created a platform that enables users to collaborate on predictions in real-time by moving a magnet to pull a “puck” towards their desired answer. By running these swarm trials and comparing their predictions to the real world, Rosenberg and his team hope to get enough statistically significant data to refine their platform and help make predictions even more accurate.

“For us it’s always fun to do these sports predictions.”

“We’ve shown we can take average [sports] fans, create them as a swarm intelligence, and amplify their intelligence to make them very good at sports forecasts,” Rosenberg says.

In multiple studies, researchers have used UNU to test the theory of swarm intelligence — with tantalizing results.

In one study conducted by researchers at Oxford University, American soccer fans were asked to predict outcomes in the English Premier League. When they acted as individuals, their average accuracy was about 55 percent. When they collaborated as a swarm, their accuracy jumped to 72 percent.

“This wasn’t just a single victory,” Rosenberg says, “It was fifty games over five weeks!”

The A.I. aspect of UNU comes in as algorithms at the back end. These algorithms monitor how users engage in the platform, whether their interactions display confidence, overconfidence, or uncertainty, and tries to guide the cursor towards the prediction that best represents their combined knowledge.

“The people possess the knowledge, wisdom, insight, and intuition, and the A.I. algorithms figure out the optimal way to combine their diverse views as they’re working together as a swarm,” Rosenberg says.

If you’re wondering (and we know you are) Unanimous A.I. ran a swarm for this Super Bowl. According to the swarm’s predictions, the Patriots will win by between 4 and 6 points, with the game’s total point count exceeding 48.5.

Whether or not this prediction is accurate, profits garnered from sports betting aren’t part of UNU’s business plan. Nonetheless, the company’s approach of combining algorithms with human intelligence in many ways mirrors the one used by betting syndicates and startups like Stratagem. So, although A.I. may someday power the sports gambling world, humans still seem to make the best bets.

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4
Feb

Man pleads guilty to distributing over 40,000 counterfeit Apple products


PThe United States Department of Justice has announced that Jianhua “Jeff” Li, a 43-year-old Chinese national living in the United States on a student visa, has pleaded guilty to being part of a counterfeit ring involving fake Apple products.

The case is part of a joint operation between the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department. The investigation has been ongoing since 2015, when Li was first arrested.

Starting in 2009, Li and his compatriots, Andreina Becerra, Roberto Volpe, and Rosario LaMarca, helped smuggle more than 40,000 counterfeit products, including fake iPhones and iPads into the U.S. In addition, the smuggling operation also included forged documents pertaining to Apple logos and trademarks. Li is estimated to have earned about $1.1 million from the sales of the fake products to customers who thought they were purchasing legitimate Apple hardware.

The Verge reports that the bank accounts relating to Li’s operation were based out of New Jersey and Florida. From there, Li would transfer the money to an account Italy. Then it would be sent to multiple accounts across the globe as a way of protecting the smuggling operation.

The size of the operation remains difficult to estimate. While it is known that Li received more than $1 million in revenue from the illicit sales, it is not certain how much his associates earned. Nor how much, if any, of the money went to Li’s family in China. Investigators are currently trying to determine whether or not this operation had any ties to the large-scale counterfeit rings that operate in China. The high demand and high price of Apple’s products means that they are a profitable market for Chinese counterfeiters.

Li was charged with, and pleaded guilty, to one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods and labels and to smuggle goods into the U.S., and one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods. Li’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for May. However, LaMarca was sentenced last July to 37 months in prison. The other members of the smuggling operation are still awaiting sentencing.

Given Li’s status as a Chinese citizen, it is possible that he will be deported upon the completion of his sentence.

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4
Feb

Bitcoin rises to over $9,000, but can the market endure, or is it just a passing fad?


Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies had a rough start in 2017, as values plummeted. Things may be looking up for the cryptocurrency industry, however, as Bitcoin has once again increased in value to more than $9,000. While that is still much lower than the lofty heights of last year’s Bitcoin boom, the fact that currency seems to be regaining some of its value will likely be seen as welcome news by those who invested in the coins.

In fact, some analysts believe that rather than being a passing fad, cryptocurrencies are just getting started. Ran Neu-Ner, who hosts CNBC Africa’s Crypto Trader, told CNBC on Friday that he believes that “we haven’t even got to the start line of cryptocurrencies.”

Neu-Ner,  whose own portfolio includes more than 40 different types of cryptocurrency, says that the technology isn’t truly ready for the mainstream just yet. He argued that the unscalable markets and difficulty in opening new crypto accounts can make it difficult for the general public to invest in cryptocurrencies.

He also added that he felt that many companies got in over their heads by investing in new cryptocurrencies without really understanding the underlying technology behind Bitcoin and others.

“Yes, there is a new digital gold, a new digital store of value,” Neu-Ner said. “I think bitcoin is the store of value. But the game hasn’t even started yet.”

Neu-Ner says that he believes we will soon see a mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies which will lead to a universal store of value. He admits that the market is rather volatile right now, but expects things to start trending upward later this year.

“I’m expecting the market to hover here for a little bit, a little bit nervous,” he told CNBC. “And then I’m expecting some kind of something to bring up a green candle, and that will start the momentum back up again.”

Despite Neu-Ner’s confidence in Bitcoin, no one can deny that general instability of cryptocurrencies make a lot of people nervous. Over the course of the past week, Bitcoin lost $125 billion in value thanks to a panic set off by fears surrounding stricter regulations on cryptocurrencies. For now, the future of Bitcoin and similar currencies remains up in the air.

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4
Feb

Airbus Vahana pilotless air taxi prototype completes its first test flight


The race is on for the “Uber of the skies,” self-piloting air taxis that will quickly transport you from one spot to another with a simple app on your phone. A startup founded by aerospace giant Airbus has a project in development named Vahana, and it recently completed a test flight of its prototype flying car at an airport in Oregon.

Vahana is a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) single-passenger design with wings and tail sections that rotate from vertical to horizontal as the aircraft lands and takes off. In a statement, the company announced that the electric plane had completed two successful test flights, rising to a height of 16 feet for a duration of 53 seconds.

The aircraft is 20 feet long and almost 19 feet wide, with a projected battery range of 62 miles. The VTOL design will allow is to take off and land in small areas like a parking lot or skyscraper roof. “In just under two years, Vahana took a concept sketch on a napkin and built a full-scale, self-piloted aircraft that has successfully completed its first flight,” said Zach Lovering of Vahana.

Although the prototype only hovered for about a minute, Vahana’s ambitious goal is to bring its autonomous flying car to market by 2020. Further tests will involve transitioning from vertical to forward flight. Officials from the FAA were also on hand to witness the test flights at the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range.

Boeing, Airbus’ biggest rivals, recently acquired Aurora Flight Science, which has worked with Uber on the Elevate project. Uber is planning a flying taxi service in Dubai, Dallas, and even Los Angeles as soon as 2020.

California-based Joby Aviation, which just got a $100 million boost from Toyota, has its own electric flying taxi program in development as well. Surefly is a hybrid gas/electric prototype personal drone with a built-in ejector seat in case things go wrong. The Volocopter “super drone” has 18 rotors, but can only travel 17 miles.

Everyone wants to take to the skies, but with so many companies eyeing the potential for personal air travel, the friendly skies could get awful crowded very quickly.

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4
Feb

Best External Battery Packs for Google Pixel


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Finding a battery pack that’s optimized to charge the Google Pixel isn’t as simple as you’d think.

Looking for a battery pack for your Google Pixel? Great! But before you do, you need to keep a lookout for a few things.

For starters, forget about Quick Charge 3.0. Qualcomm’s fast-charging technology doesn’t work over USB-C — instead, the Pixel uses USB-PD, a newish standard for charging devices via USB-C. That’s not to say that you can’t use a battery pack with Quick Charge technology; you just won’t get any use of the rapid charging features.

Ideally, you’re going to want to find battery packs that let you use USB-C to USB-C cables and make mention of USB-PD compatibility. Fortunately, there’s been a ton of great discussion on the topic which pointed us towards this great Google spreadsheet that’s color-coded with charging accessories you should buy and those which you should avoid.

We’ve broken down some of your best options below and have ordered them base on battery size!

  • Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD battery pack
  • Nomad Powerpack 9,000 mAh backup battery
  • ORICO 10,000 mAh portable battery
  • Kanex GoPower 15,000 mAh portable battery
  • Jackery Titan S 20,100 mAh battery pack
  • RAVPower 26,800 mAh external battery

Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD battery pack

anker-powercore-26800-pd-pixel-press-01.

Anker is one of the most trusted brands of external battery packs, and its PowerCore+ 26800 is an absolute beast. With 26,800mAh of battery capacity, you’ll be able to get multiple charges out of this battery pack. It comes with a 30W fast charging USB-C wall charger for topping up the battery pack, some charging cables, and a travel pouch.

Using Anker’s PowerIQ 2.0 technology, this stylish battery pack will intelligently charge your devices as fast as possible and is even capable of recharging bigger devices like laptops or a Nintendo Switch. This is a versatile battery pack that you’ll want to stow away in your bag whenever you travel or don’t think you’ll be near an outlet to charge your phone. But a premium product comes at a premium price, and the Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD can be yours for $120 on Amazon.

See at Amazon

Nomad Powerpack 9,000mAh backup battery

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At only 9,000mAh, the Nomad Powerpack is the smallest battery pack on this list, but it makes up for that shortcoming with its rugged casing and integrated Bluetooth tracking by Tile.

This battery pack features USB-C ports for input (charging the power pack) and output (charging your Pixel), along with a USB-A port for charging any other devices you may have kicking around. It’s definitely on the pricier side, but if you like the idea of keeping a battery pack in your bag, the fact that this one doubles as a Bluetooth tracker may be especially appealing to some.

This battery ships with a USB-A to USB-C cable, but if you want to get the fastest charge you’ll want to use a USB-C to USB-C cable like the one that came with the Pixel.

See at Amazon

ORICO 10,000mAh portable battery

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ORICO’s battery pack features a USB-C port that appears to be USB-PD compatible, but you’ll once again need to supply your own USB-C-to-USB-C cable to get the most out of it.

This battery pack is made with a stylish aluminum alloy casing for an upscale and durable look. There are LED indicators that show you the remaining battery life and includes all the protection features you require, including voltage and current surges, over-charging, and more. Orico also offers an 18-month warranty on its battery packs, along with lifetime technical support. It’s also one of the cheaper options on this list at just $27.

See at Amazon

Jackery Titan S 20,100mAh battery pack

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The Jackery Titan S is a beefy option for keeping your Pixel topped up. With a generous 20,100mAh battery capacity, this battery features a USB-C port that supports 5V/3A.

It also has a USB-A port that supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 for those devices, but it most importantly comes with a USB-C cable for charging your pixel.

This battery pack is Wirecutter’s top pick for USB-C-compatible portable batteries, so you can buy with confidence knowing this is a highly recommended battery pack. You can snag one of your own for just under $50.

See at Amazon

RAVPower 26,800mAh external battery

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Last but certainly not least is the massive RAVPower 26,800mAh external battery, which is optimized for USB-PD devices such as the Pixel.

RAVPower claims you’ll be able to recharge this battery pack in a fraction of the usual time, just four to five hours compared to the standard 14 hours. For charging your Pixel, you’ll want to use the USB-C port along with the included USB-C cable, but you also have two standard USB-A ports for charging other devices, which include iSmart 2.0 technology which intelligently detects and adjusts the charging current to obtain the fastest charging for your device. Get yours for just $45 on Amazon!

See at Amazon

Got any battery packs you’ve tried and tested?

Have you tried any of the battery packs on our list? Got one that’s been working great for you? Let us know in the comments!

Update February 4, 2018: Added the Anker PowerCore+ to our list and removed options that are no longer available.

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4
Feb

How to make a PlayStation Network wishlist


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Creating a wishlist on PlayStation Network is easier than you think

A Wishlist is always good to have on all of your gaming consoles. This makes Christmas and birthday season so much more easier for your friends and family to know what to get you, especially if they know gaming is one of your favorite things to do. So gather up the information on games you’ve been wanting to try out, and get them all in one place to keep track of what you want!

How to add to your Wishlist

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If you’re here, chances are you were on your PlayStation console wondering why you can’t find a “Add to Wishlist” option on a game you want. Well, that’s because PlayStation has only made that option available on a browser. Yes, this means you’ll need to create the list on your phone, computer or tablet. I know, it confuses me a little two but that’s okay. Thankfully a phone, at minimum, is at most of our disposals for us to create one.

Decide what games you want.
Hover your mouse over the game selection.
Press the heart that will appear.

If you want to read more about the game before adding it to your wishlist, that’s okay!

Click the game you want to look at.
Select the heart under the buy now option that appears on this screen.

Boom! The game has been added to your Wishlist! Now, browse through the PlayStation store and get click-happy!

Growing and viewing your Wishlist

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After you’ve finished creating your Wishlist, click the heart icon right next to your username and it’ll show you all of your favored games!

If you want to view your friends’ Wishlists’ you can click the option in the tab to change the view to “View friends’ Wishlists’! If you can’t see any of your friends listed, they have set their privacy settings to hide it (or they just haven’t made one). All the more reason to tell them to go online and set one up!

Thoughts or Questions?

Where you able to make your own Wishlist from this how-to? What sorts of games have you added to your Wishlist? Tell us in the comments below!

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4
Feb

After Math: The state of the ‘uniom’


It was a week of taking stock as the President meandered his way through the State of the Union address and a number of tech firms reviewed their Q4 earnings. Alphabet and Amazon both had something to crow about, while Apple and GoPro both posted less than stellar holiday sales. Numbers, because how else would we realized that, at this point, the rules are made up and the points don’t matter?

77.3 million: That’s how many iPhones Apple sold during the 2017 holiday season, down from 78.3 million a year ago. Sure, that’s only a 1.3 percent drop but its evidence that Apple’s stranglehold on the smartphone market might be slipping.

Bloomberg's Best Photos 2014: Nick Woodman, founder and chief executive officer of GoPro Inc., stands for a photograph with a GoPro Hero 3+ camera in his mouth after ringing the opening bell for the release of the company's IPO at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York, U.S., on Thursday, June 26, 2014. GoPro Inc., whose cameras let surfers, skiers and sky divers record their exploits, rose in its trading debut after pricing its initial public offering at the top of the marketed range. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

$1.8 billion: That’s how much GoPro earned in 2017, roughly the same as what it did the year before. However, the company did also post a net loss for the year of approximately $183 million and does not expect to return to profitability before the end of summer.

A view of the new Amazon logistic center with the company's logo in Dortmund, Germany November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

$1.9 billion: And that’s how much Amazon made — last quarter — in profit alone.

The Google logo is pictured atop an office building in Irvine, California, U.S. August 7, 2017.   REUTERS/Mike Blake

$32.3 billion: That’s Alphabet’s revenue total for Q4, an impressive sum given that only $4.7 billion of it came from what the company calls Google’s “other revenues” (ie what we spend on Google Play or YouTube Red). That’s a whole lot of ad dollars right there. Certainly explains how the company can afford to spend $1.1 billion on its HTC acquisition.

2 million miles: That’s how far Waymo’s fleet of self driving test vehicles travelled in 25 American cities in 2017, effectively doubling the total distance driven since testing began. Impressive numbers indeed. Especially given that the company reported only 63 disengagements (wherein the human operator had to step in) over the course of the 352,545 miles driven in California in 2017.

4 days: That’s how long it took Elon Musk’s Boring company to sell out all 20,000 units of its $500 promotional flamethrowers because screw it, just burn it all down.

4
Feb

Apple Music could overtake Spotify in the US this summer


Spotify’s lead in paid music streaming might not be as impregnable as it looks. The Wall Street Journal has obtained industry figures suggesting that Apple Music is growing faster than Spotify in the US, adding 5 percent to its base every month versus ‘just’ 2 percent for Spotify. If that rate continues, Apple could surpass its rival in the country during the summer. There are other numbers to suggest Apple is catching up, for that matter.

It won’t shock you to hear that Apple Music has “three to four times” more trial subscribers than Spotify, since that’s the only way to listen before you subscribe — there’s no parallel to Spotify’s free, ad-supported offering. Spotify’s lead is much smaller once you omit trials, however. And as the WSJ points out, those who fully intend to pay for Apple Music still have to go through the trial period like everyone else. The trials mask the true growth rates in that regard.

There’s no specific explanation for the faster growth rate, but it could easily stem from Apple’s dominance on its home turf. It not only has the largest slice of the American smartphone market (44.8 percent in November, according to Comscore), but a familiarity and marketing juggernaut that are difficult to match for a much smaller company like Spotify. When people are both more likely to buy iPhones and more likely to see ads for Apple Music, subscription rates are bound to go up. The abundance of exclusives certainly doesn’t hurt.

Spotify still has the lead in many respects, especially outside the US. It has 70 million paying customers versus Apple’s 36 million (just announced to the WSJ), but its total user base is believed to be much larger. It was 140 million as of June 2017, and that number has likely gone up. Spotify’s influence is also considerably stronger in other parts of the world, where Android holds a clear majority and the service itself has been around for longer (the UK has had Spotify since 2009, for example). Even so, it’s easy to imagine Spotify’s team feeling nervous if it ends up losing the lead in an important country.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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