Connect with us

Tech News

Brief of what’s happening in the autonomous car movement

(TECH) The autonomous car movement is gaining traction, but it’s more complex than just making your Lexus take you to the store while you read the newspaper.

Published

on

autonomous cars driverless

With so much happening in the autonomous vehicle industry, we thought it was time for a roundup of the latest goings-on. Let’s do this!

If you’re a regular American Genius reader, then you’ve been following the rapid progress towards populating our streets with autonomous or “self-driving” vehicles. Just about every automotive and tech company is working on it, including companies like Apple that are staying hush-hush about their progress, even though everyone knows they’re up to something. With so much happening in the industry, we thought it was time for a roundup of the latest goings-on.

First of all, in order to truly understand autonomous cars, it’s important to know that not all autonomous cars are the same, and that the different types of vehicles require different levels of human intervention to operate. Some smart cars simply assist the driver, or only become autonomous for certain functions. Others still require human assistance, but only as a co-pilot, with the car taking on most of driving, allowing the passengers to look away and take their foot off the pedal. Fully autonomous cars require no human assistance whatsoever. In the future, various vehicles with different levels of autonomy will probably be used for different functions.

There seems to be a lot of energy towards developing autonomous vehicles for public transportation. Last year the United Kingdom began testing a driverless shuttle. The company who developed it, Oxbotica, believes their shuttle will become part of daily life in London by next year.

But innovators are developing autonomous vehicles for a lot of other purposes that are less obvious. And not all applications of autonomous technology will be used for getting people from one place to another. Uber has already tested delivering goods in autonomous semi-trucks. Meanwhile, for sheer entertainment alone, Roborace is working on a driverless alternative to NASCAR racing.

And why not driverless pizza delivery? In a partnership with Ford, Dominos began testing a pilot program to deliver pizza by autonomous vehicle. For now, customers will be greeted by a backup driver, a Ford engineer, and a Domino’s employee whose job is to get a sense of whether or not customers can adapt to this method of delivery. However, if all goes well, customers will soon be able to approach the vehicle and enter their phone number to open an insulated compartment containing their pizza.

Driverless cars won’t be limited to roadways – they are taking to the sky as well. If you still think that flying cars are a sci-fi fantasy, think again. Driverless drone taxis are already serving customers in Dubai, and last year, NASA signed a contract with Uber to develop the software that may one day manage traffic when urban dwellers start commuting by air en masse.

Uber may be one of the rising stars in the autonomous car field, but they received harsh criticism when autonomous vehicles they were testing in San Francisco were caught frequently endangering bicyclists by cutting into the bike lane before making a turn.

While there’s a lot of excitement (and growing consumer acceptance) around autonomous vehicles, they probably won’t become a major part of our daily lives until their makers can genuinely convince the public that they are safe.

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Tech News

Silicon Valley created tech for your family that’s too addictive for theirs

(TECHNOLOGY) Tech inventors are big on innovating and advancing tools, but a growing parenting trend in tech circles seems hypocritical.

Published

on

tech addiction in children

I consider myself an older Millennial. I was slowly but surely introduced to technologies as they became mass-marketable, but they didn’t affect every moment of my day-to-day life. I learned how to use computers in elementary school, I chatted on AOL as a preteen, and when I was 16, my parents gave me my own cell phone “for emergencies.” I promptly dropped it under the car seat, where it remained for a year, before I or my parents even noticed that it was missing.

In less than a generation, our relationship to cell phones has transformed completely. For one thing, my first cell phone didn’t have a touch screen. It didn’t have an internet connection. Hell, for an entire year, I didn’t even use the damn thing.

Fast forward to 2018, when your children can learn to use an iPad at the same time that they learn to use a toilet.

Interestingly, the tech whizzes who designed much of the technology that now pervades nearly every moment of our lives seem wariest of the negative impact screen time might have on kids. The NYT reports that the trend amongst Silicon Valley parents is to severely limit or even ban cell phone use by their children.

Parents in all echelons of the tech industry are limiting their kids’ exposure. Steve Jobs kept iPads out of the hands of his young children. The Gates offspring didn’t receive cell phones until high school (just like me, in 2001), and Tim Cook discourages his nephew from using social networks.

These concerned parents describe the addictive potential and negative consequences of screen time in increasingly pessimistic terms.

Athena Chavarria, a former Facebook employee, believes that “the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc on our children.”

Chris Anderson (yes that Chris Anderson), former editor of Wired and founder of GeekDad, says that when it comes to screens, “On a scale between candy and crack cocaine, it’s closer to crack cocaine.”

Parents are even making contractual agreements to make sure their kids don’t use screens while under the supervision of their nanny or babysitter.

Like basically every human idea or invention ever, connected, screened devices reveal that our ability to create new technologies far outpaces our ability to understand the consequences – positive or negative – of that tech.

Those closest to the situation – the inventors themselves – are often the first ones to sound the alarm when they realize that their hard-won advancements may not have been such a great idea after all.

Said Chris Anderson of the addictive nature of cell phones, “We thought we could control it. And this is beyond our power to control.”

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!

Continue Reading

Tech News

Amazingly fun tech toys that are secretly educational

(TECHNOLOGY) STEM toys for children are fun *and* educational – here are some that have caught our eye.

Published

on

STEM tech toys for kids

There’s a new trend amongst startups – and amongst kids’ toys: educational playthings that teach your little ones STEM skills like programming and coding.

Toys that double as learning tools are nothing new, but digital, connected technology still is, and so is the idea that your toddler can get a leg up in the tech industry by getting an early start.

Parents, universities, and economists seem concerned that acquiring STEM skills will soon be the only way to guarantee a good job, despite reports from the U.S. Census Bureau that 3 out of 4 STEM majors end up in non-STEM fields anyway.

So if your kid is more into, say, baseball or dancing than computers, you might be wasting the pretty pennies these high-powered educational toys will cost you.

Kids, with their alarmingly short attention spans, are as likely to toss these toys back into the toybox as any other. But if your wee one seems to have a knack for all things technical – or if you’d just rather see them learn how to build a device than passively stare at one all day – then check out TC’s guide to STEM toys.

Even though these toys are marketed towards the younger set, I found myself a little envious, wishing I could take a few for a test drive – especially since many of them are modern, high-tech reboots on old standbys from my childhood.

Lego’s Boost Creative Toolbox uses the same classic Lego blocks, but allows you to animate and program your creations.

Several products cross-market with some of my childhood favorites; Dash Robotics has teamed up with Mattel to make Jurassic World robots, and Kano makes a Harry Potter Coding Kit that teaches kids to program a wand that can interact with digital content. There’s even Electro Dough which is basically electrically-conductive Play-Doh that can light up and make sounds. I want!

In fact, a lot of the toys combine arts ‘n’ crafts with STEM lessons. Adafruits makes a marker with electronically conductive ink that can light up circuits and interact with computer programs, and an electronic pencil that synthesizes music. Root Robotic’s little bot can draw pictures and compose songs.

For the more straightforward tech nerds, Makeblock, Evo, Robo Wunderkind, and Wonder Workshop all make programmable robots – a big step up from the “artificially intelligent” Furby’s of my childhood. Sphero’s Bolt is a ball-shaped robot, while Airblock makes a programmable hovercraft.

There’s the Pi-top Modular Laptop that teaching kids coding, and there are even opportunities for kids to build their own electronics; Kano offers a build-it-yourself computer.

The holidays are just around the corner – but whether STEM educational toys will be the next Tickle Me Elmo remains to be seen.

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!

Continue Reading

Tech News

A deepfakes creator for text so realistic it can’t be made public yet

(TECHNOLOGY) You know about video deepfakes, but the technology exists for doing convincing deepfakes for text. It’s so good that they aren’t ready to release it to the public yet…

Published

on

deepfakes text

Artificial intelligence is being used to complete more and more human tasks. But as of right now, news stories you read online – including all the articles here on American Genius – have been written by real human beings.

Until recently, even the most intelligent computers couldn’t be trained to recreate the complex rules and stylistic subtleties of language. AI-generated text would often wander off topic or mix up the syntax and lack context or analysis.

However, a non-profit called OpenAI says they have developed a text generator that can simulate human writing with remarkable accuracy.

The program is called GPT2. When fed any amount of text, from a few words to a page, it can complete the story, whether it be a news story or a fictional one.

You already know about video deepfakes, but these “deepfakes for text” stay on subject and match the style of the original text. For example, when fed the first line of George Orwell’s 1984, GPT2 created a science-fiction story set in a futuristic China.

This improved text generator is much better at simulating human writing because it has learned from a dataset that is “15 times bigger and broader” than its predecessor, according to OpenAI research director, Dario Amodei.

Usually researchers are eager to share their creations with the world – but in the case, the Elon Musk-backed organization has, at least of the time being, withheld GPT2 from the public out of fear of what criminals and other malicious users might do with it.

Jack Clark, OpenAI’s head of policy, says that the organization needs more time to experiment with GPT2’s capabilities so that they can anticipate malicious uses. “If you can’t anticipate all the abilities of a model, you have to prod it to see what it can do,” he says. “There are many more people than us who are better at thinking what it can do maliciously.”

Some potential malicious uses of GPT2 could include generating fake positive reviews for products (or fake negative reviews of competitors’ products); generating SPAM messages; writing fake news stories that would be indistinguishable from real news stories; and spreading conspiracy theories.

Furthermore, because GPT2 learns from the internet, it wouldn’t be hard to program GPT2 to produce hate speech and other offensive messages.

As a writer, I can’t think of very many good reasons to use an AI story generator that doesn’t put me out of job. So I appreciate that the researchers at OpenAI are taking time to fully think through the implications before making this Pandora’s box of technology available to the general public.

Says Clark, “We are trying to develop more rigorous thinking here. We’re trying to build the road as we travel across it.”

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Our Great Partners

The
American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!