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NASA, Uber team up to make flying cars a reality within 36 months

(TECH NEWS) With Uber and NASA teaming up in a meaningful way, testing out flying cars could be a reality by 2020 – you in?

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When I was an elementary school student in the early 90’s, our teacher gave us an assignment wherein we made predictions about how the world would be different after the new Millennium. The most common prediction was that by the year 2000, we would all be zooming about in flying cars.

Seventeen years into the new century, and we’re still waiting for our sci-fi dreams to come true. But a new partnership between NASA and Uber is bringing that dream closer to reality.

If you’ve been following this issue, you already know that Uber has been working on creating flying cars. They want to recreate the success of their on-ground ride-hailing service (and, let’s be real, revolutionize transportation) by developing “ride-sharing in the sky.” They’d like customers to use their smartphones to hail an electric, driverless, flying vehicle.

Uber plans to test such a four-passenger taxi in Los Angeles by 2020, with a proposed second test market in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.

Their vehicles will likely be a hybrid of drone, plane, and helicopter design, and will be able to travel at 200 miles per hour, and to take off and land vertically.

Uber has also been working to woo aviation regulators. Uber’s Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden says that they are “starting very early in discussions” with regulatory agencies to make sure that they are “aligned with the vision.”

Meanwhile, NASA has been testing their own flying cars, starting at a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) testing site, and then in increasingly populated areas. Next year, they’ll start Phase Three of the project by testing vehicles in areas with moderate population density, followed by densely populated urban areas in Phase Four.

That’s where Uber comes in.

In January, NASA contracted Uber to develop the software that will, theoretically, one day be needed to make sure that many aircrafts can safely share the airspace in urban areas. That software will also need to be integrated with existing air traffic control systems.

To meet this goal, Uber has hired former NASA engineers to manage the software program, as well as the aircraft design team. This is the first services contracted that NASA has ever signed with a company to work on flying vehicles that stay within the earth’s atmosphere.

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

Tech News

Another thing that can trick iPhone X facial recognition

(TECH NEWS) The iPhone X has had an array of challenges, even with their innovative facial recognition technology.

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Yiiiikes, a mask tricked Apple’s new Face ID feature. Vietnamese security firm Bkav Corporation recently held a demo pointing out flaws in the iPhone X’s facial recognition, claiming the technology is not as secure as Apple originally touted.

Bkav Corporation focuses on network security, anti-virus software, and mobile security software. Bkav Corp created a 3D mask that “beat” Face ID in a demonstration. The mask was crafted with a combination of 3D printing and 2D images.

When verifying users, Face ID takes photos using infrared cameras. The first photo creates the surface of the face then the second pic makes a mesh, reproducing the face in 3D. From there, Face ID uses AI technology to distinguish faces.

The 2D/3D hybrid is meant to throw off the AI feature specifically. According to Bkav’s VP of Cyber Security Ngo Tuan Anh, “Apple’s AI can only distinguish either a 100% real face or a 100% fake one. So if you create a ‘half-real half-fake’ face, it can fool Apple’s AI.”

Face ID is supposed to have a one million-to-one chance of false recognition.

Compared to Touch ID’s potential fail rate of fifty thousand-to-one, Face ID is meant to be way more secure. However, the risk of a false recognition increases with identical twins, siblings, and children under the age of thirteen since their facial features aren’t finished developing.

When iPhone X launched, Apple stated they worked with professional Hollywood mask makers and makeup artists to ensure Face ID couldn’t be fooled by masks or other prosthetics. While Apple noted Face ID should still work if users get haircuts, change facial hair, or sometimes wear glasses, masks weren’t part of the good-to-go features for unlocking phones.

If you’re one of the adopters of iPhone X, don’t start freaking out yet though. To create their mask, Bkav had to use a handheld scanner to get pictures of their target’s face. As in, the person whose phone they were trying to hack had to be in the same room to get the initial scans.

Plus, Bkav could have intentionally done a subpar job of setting up the Face ID. The obvious solution if you’re still worried? Add a passcode as well and don’t trust anyone who wants to make a mask of your face.

Read also: Do literally anything with your money besides buy the iPhone X

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Well great, now the robots can do acrobatics

(TECH NEWS) Do you want Terminators? Because this is how you get Terminators. Bipedal robots can do backflips now…

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This is it. It’s happening. Robots.

A year ago Boston Dynamics robot Atlas was learning to stand and falling over while walking. Now, Atlas has been upgraded, allowing it to easily scale blocks parkour style, doing backflips, and even raising its arms triumphantly after nailing a landing.

And I am raising a card with a 10 for the solid execution, albeit shakily, because the first thing that went through my head watching those eerily fluid, human-like movements, was imagining it stomping over piles of human skulls with an AK in its cold, calculating hands.

We can build it. We have the technology.

Let’s hope it doesn’t find videos all those videos on YouTube of its creators tormenting the thing; prodding it with hockey sticks like a lion tamer with a chair, knocking boxes out of its arms, pushing it over, and kicking its robo-dog companions.

Atlas won’t forget that.

Imagine this thing chasing you in the woods, or down the street. In a few years, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Atlas bots were wearing badges. Atlas is far more spry than the dopey droids you might find in a Star Wars flick, and well on its way to creating Skynet from Boston Dynamics.

Guys, Atlas can do acrobatics now, like a ninja:

Anywhere human feet can tread, an advanced enough droid will be able to go (can we start calling them droids now?). If you knock them over, they get right back up. Those human-powered mechs have nothing on Atlas. Give it enough time, and Atlas will run circles around both Eagle Prime and KURATAS. They won’t need us puny humans for robot battles.

One day, they might not need us at all.

All jokes aside, it’s an incredible, awe-inducing advancement in robotics. Boston Dynamics also recently revealed a smaller, less creepy version of their robo-dog Spot to bring us SpotMini: a small four-legged robot that can climb stairs and moves similarly to the way a dog would romp about.

Just so you know, this is nothing to be afraid of… We’ve only just found out that robots are evolving at an alarming rate.

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Tech News

Social media giants are trying to operate without human controls but are failing

(TECH NEWS) Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over in fascinating ways, but this big experiment of replacing human tasks is failing. Good news / bad news.

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Let me tell you a story. In fact, let me tell you several.

A village in Macedonia had a small economic boom during the 2016 election, plagiarizing and stitching together pro-Trump messages on social media, then publishing the results as “news” in order to profit from Google ad revenue.

Back during the “Keep Calm and…” T-shirt fad, a shirt company went through a thoroughly justified PR apocalypse for selling products labeled “Keep Calm and Hit Her” and “Keep Calm and Rape a Lot.”

The 17th most popular website on Earth occasionally likes to tell women over 30 to freeze their ova.

So! That’s a parade of fail. What’s it got in common, beyond making any reasonable reader consider moving to an Amish community and trying to forget even the word “Internet”?

People. More accurately, their absence.

Veles, Macedonia churned out profitable nonsense about Trump slapping a protester (that didn’t happen) or getting the blessing of the Pope (Pope says nope) because Google ads are programmatic. There’s no QA component, no human eyes reviewing content and asking “is this worth advertising on?” or for that matter “is this blatantly false?”

Likewise the Evil T-Shirt Crisis. The company generated slogans by dropping memes into an algorithm, then throwing the result on Amazon. That ended… poorly.

We, and every other tech and business network in the digital cosmos, have written in depth about all the dang robots taking our jobs. Usually our primary concern is the economic fallout. We’re a business news organization. It’s our job to warn you about that stuff.

But there’s another problem, and it’s a huge problem, especially as media consumption in general continues to rise, and more and more of that media is moderated by algorithms rather than people.

Robots aren’t just taking our jobs. They suck at our jobs. Algorithms may play go, but they aren’t ready to make value judgments yet. A quick Google will yield a dozen more examples of AI failures just as repulsive and/or hilarious as the ones on my list. And the real punchline for all of that?

It’s good news.

For once, the robot apocalypse is cutting us puny humans a break. It’s creating jobs almost as fast as it’s gobbling them up, because at this point, it is excruciatingly clear that robots aren’t ready to produce work people can actually see. They’re not even ready to put ads on work people see, not without causing a PR catastrophe every other month.

AI isn’t a better widget. It also isn’t an employee that doesn’t want benefits or take long lunches.

It’s a product in permanent beta, desperately trying to catch up to the constantly changing nuance of human interaction. It doesn’t work without homo sapiens holding its robot hand.

Let’s call it Salter’s Law: For every application of AI to customer-facing work, you will need to hire at least one human for damage control when the AI screws up.

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