Amazon Create Artificial Intelligence Research Center – Google patent reveals its self-driving cars – Apple’s new $99 iPhone battery

Elon Musk, Amazon Create Artificial Intelligence Research Center

Just to make sure no one gets hurt.

Several technology giants have banded together to invest $1 billion to research artificial intelligence, an increasingly important technology used in self-driving cars, facial recognition, and online advertising.

The effort, announced Friday, is designed “to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return,” said a blog post by the non-profit research company. Any advances will be made publicly available to help to spur innovation in the field.

The new company, OpenAI, is backed by donations from tech luminaries including Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and CEO of SpaceX; LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman; PayPal co-founder and investor Peter Thiel; and Sam Altman and Jessica Livingston from the startup accelerator YCombinator. Corporate backers include Amazon’s cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services, and Infosys.

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Google patent reveals how its self-driving cars may communicate with pedestrians

The doors of Google’s self-driving vehicles are currently decorated with art work. There are sunsets, flowers and parks. But the warm nature scenes may eventually have competition for that real estate from an unlikely source — utilitarian traffic signage.

Google received a patent Tuesday detailing how a self-driving vehicle would determine if pedestrians were likely to cross a street, plan its next move accordingly, and then notify the pedestrians of its intent. Since the cars are being driven by a computer, a pedestrian can’t count on a hand signal or eye contact from a passenger to know a vehicle is waiting for them.

The patent describes using electronic screens mounted on the side of the vehicle — including potentially the roof, hood and rear of vehicle — to tell a pedestrians if it was safe to cross. The displays might show a stop sign, a traffic sign, or just text. The car might react by coming to a complete stop, slowing down and yielding, or maintaining its speed.

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Apple’s new $99 iPhone battery case doesn’t measure up

What makes a smartphone battery case “smart”? It’s a question Apple is trying to answer with its brand new Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 6 and 6S. The $99 slip-on case, available starting today, is Apple’s challenger to Mophie and other companies that have offered similar battery cases for years.

The goal is to give iPhone 6 and 6S owners an Apple-branded battery life experience comparable to the one you’d get with the “Plus” phone models. That’s a nice proposition. On the other hand, it’s an admission on Apple’s part that the battery performance on iPhone 6 or 6S is a pain point for power users. For $99, that pain can go away.

From a purely technical standpoint, the Smart Battery Case doesn’t offer as much extra battery life as competitors do. So in order to justify its $99 price point, it has to be “smart” in other ways. It has to build upon on existing Apple designs, and it has to utilize the iPhone’s software. It does all of this. But I’m not convinced this is the best case.

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Solar Investors Beware: The One Thing That Could Make Or Break Solar Energy

One of the more important and misunderstood parts of the solar industry is the impact policy has on making solar energy viable in the electric grid. Without policies like net metering — which allow solar customers to send extra electricity back to the grid during the day and only pay for net usage each month — companies like SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY) and Sunrun (NASDAQ: RUN) wouldn’t exist. Policies like feed-in tariffs and renewable requirements that promote large solar energy projects in California, Japan, and Germany have also created demand for projects from SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR) and First Solar, which has allowed them to grow.

I’m not talking about subsidies, like the US’ Business Energy Investment Tax Credit, but rather ways the solar industry gets access to the grid, particularly for very small projects.

But as the solar industry grows to become a larger piece of the electric industry, it puts a strain on utilities that aren’t used to customers creating their own energy and have to deal with the supply and demand changes solar energy brings. As a result, many utilities and governments are either fighting solar or changing the policies that have caused its growth in the first place. Here are some important trends to watch and who might be affected.

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Nielsen: Live Tweeting Makes Up 57 Percent of Weekly Twitter TV Impressions

One of the biggest challenges across media is the increase in options for consumers. When it comes to television, the advent of DVR and rise of cord cutters has correlated with a decline in cable subscriptions and overall TV viewership. But second screen social engagement gives fans a global community with which to discuss their favorite shows and might be fueling a revival in live TV viewing.

According to a report from Nielsen, the chatter during a live airing make up the majority of the weekly Tweets about a show, has an impact on more than just the people watching, and provide a ripe opportunity for increased viewership through DVR and streaming services.

Nielsen analyzed TV-related tweet impressions for 96 fall television shows and discovered that live tweeting accounted for 57 percent of the weekly Twitter TV impressions. What’s more, the audience using Twitter during the peak of live show conversation sees twice as many TV related tweets compared to the audience reached during non-airing times.

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Report: U.S. Falls Behind in Electromagnetic Warfare

Just how fragile is the amazing high-tech world we have created? According to the worst of worst-case estimates, delivered by former cyber-security CEO John McAfee, an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) strike against our technology could kill 90 percent of the American population.

McAfee’s doomsday warning is related by the UK Daily Mail in its story about a new report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, entitled “Winning the Airwaves: Sustaining America’s Advantage in the Electronic Spectrum.”

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Edward Snowden Explains How To Reclaim Your Privacy

LAST MONTH, I met Edward Snowden in a hotel in central Moscow, just blocks away from Red Square. It was the first time we’d met in person; he first emailed me nearly two years earlier, and we eventually created an encrypted channel to journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, to whom Snowden would disclose overreaching mass surveillance by the National Security Agency and its British equivalent, GCHQ.

This time around, Snowden’s anonymity was gone; the world knew who he was, much of what he’d leaked, and that he’d been living in exile in Moscow, where he’s been stranded ever since the State Department canceled his passport while he was en route to Latin America. His situation was more stable, the threats against him a bit easier to predict. So I approached my 2015 Snowden meeting with less paranoia than was warranted in 2013, and with a little more attention to physical security, since this time our communications would not be confined to the internet.

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Uber has a colorful new way to prevent awkward car mixups

Have you ever suffered the embarrassment of jumping into a complete stranger’s car, thinking it was the Uber driver you just hailed? Well, these people have.

In an effort to eliminate these mixups, Uber is rolling out a new, color-coded technology called SPOT. The company is providing the devices, which appear to be long, thin LED lights, to drivers to attach to the inside of their windshield. After a rider hails a car, he or she will be asked to select a color — yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue, or green — while they wait.

When the driver arrives, the SPOT device will glow in that color. And riders can press and hold the color on their phone to light up their screens, allowing the driver to identify them in return. No more awkward moments, like this woman experienced.

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Best Buy to Offer $100 off Apple Watches (Again)

Electronics retailer Best Buy will be offering $100 off of the Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport models, starting Wednesday.

The discount will continue through Christmas, offering consumers a break on what the retailer described as one of the hottest gift items of the holiday season.

Consumers, who’ve been slow to jump on the Apple Watch bandwagon, gravitated to promotions pegged to Black Friday. Best Buy previously offered $100 off the stainless steel Apple Watch and $50 off the Apple Watch Sport, dropping the prices to $449 and $299, respectively. Target offered a $100 gift card with the purchase of an Apple Watch.