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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.

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Publishers anticipate price hikes after Facebook’s purge

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Changes to the Facebook News Feed algorithm may lead to price hikes for publishers trying to remain relevant.

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Facebook is changing the way News Feed filters content, putting more focus on posts from friends and family. This will effectively reduce the amount of paid content users see from publishers and brands.

Some agencies think this may increase how much advertisers will need to spend on paid ads to keep the same number of views. Just since last quarter, ad rates increased by thirty five percent.

Facebook’s VP of product management, John Hegeman said advertising will be “unaffected,” but agencies aren’t so sure.

Doug Baker, director of strategic services at AnalogFolk, stated this is the “final nail in the existing coffin” for organic reach.

For years, organic reach has been declining since more content is being shared. Smartphones and tablets lowered the threshold for ease of posting, and users can now share content without being tied to a desktop.

News Feeds are super saturated with content, and it has become increasingly difficult for content creators to organically reach users in the midst of posts from family and friends.

Mass-reach media buys end up seeming like borderline spam, and clog up an already extremely populated stream of content in your feed.

In December, Facebook announced plans to deprioritize “engagement bait” posts that urge users to share, like, or vote to artificially gain greater reach.

Using a machine learning model to detect different forms of engagement, Facebook rolled out Page-level demotion to curb frequency of advertisers using engagement bait.

Facebook noted it will still favor content from reputable publishers while reducing clickbait, spam, and misleading stories.

While engagement is only a small part of ad ranking, advertisers may see serious price hikes to keep the same level of performance.

It looks like Facebook is trying to go back to its roots as a social site, like how Snapchat recently announced a plan to keep news and social more separated on their platform.

To reach users with these new changes, advertisers must optimize and more carefully plan media strategies to make content relevant to target markets.

However, brands may find loopholes in the algorithm, continuing practices that drive artificial engagement. CEO of digital agency TMW Unlimited pointed out that brands may “be tempted to be increasingly controversial or polarizing in order to stimulate conversation.”

Even as Facebook insists it’s not a media company and its advertisers are actually “partners,” it’s likely brands will see significant price increases to remain in the News Feed instead of relegated to side ads.

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Facebook’s news feed changes will impact how you reach consumers

(TECH NEWS) Facebook is changing how you see the news feed, but it will also impact how your business reaches consumers.

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Once again, Facebook is making some significant changes to the News Feed (you probably know this because people are freaking out). This time, the changes revolve around improving user experience by cutting down on sponsored content — but what does that mean for advertisers and Facebook businesses?

As it turns out, not a ton – just a higher content standard and the accompanying challenge of creating positive, enjoyable content. Maybe.

Anyone who’s spent any time on Facebook in the past few years knows that it’s as much an advertising business as it is a social network. It’s impossible to make it more than a few posts into your News Feed without seeing a “Suggested Post”-type ad, and unless you use an ad-blocker, your sidebar is full of even more blatant attempts to sell or promote products only loosely related to your likes and interests.

It appears that no one is less happy about this than the man himself. Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to dial back advertising posts in favor of user-created content, conversation-inspiring posts, and other non-public items of interest. The goal is to connect you more consistently with the content that you love rather than the content that you tolerate; as you can probably guess, advertisers aren’t thrilled about this notion — some are even considering it an ad-pocalypse.

That’s a little dramatic.

The road to creating engaging, profitable ads for this new Facebook is relatively simple, if not easy. Facebook will be prioritizing posts that objectively bring happiness and positive experiences to users, meaning that your ads will need to be intrinsically fulfilling for your target demographic. While relying on “traditional” marketing strategies like clickbait titles and high initial engagement numbers won’t get you there, retaining people with your content will.

In fact, this move is fundamentally similar to YouTube’s policy wherein creators are paid more for longer audience view times than if their audiences flake out after a few seconds. One might argue that such a policy was put into place to safeguard against meaningless content with catchy titles, and that’s exactly what Facebook appears to be doing here.

With this return to their roots, Facebook is making steps toward bringing positivity back into social media — something we all could benefit from right about now.

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Walmart may have just solved the biggest snag in online grocery shopping

(TECH NEWS) Walmart submits a patent for technology that could fix the crack in online grocery shopping.

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When online shopping became increasingly popular, it made total sense as it is a huge time saver. However, not being a frequent user of the services, I have questioned how people go about selecting exactly what they want as what will be sent to them, isn’t what’s pictured online.

Apparently, this is a major challenge for services that offer online grocery shopping, as people tend to be particular about their cuts of meats and selection of produce (we’ve all had those moments where we’ve examined each apple in the bunch, admit it).

Walmart, a leading competitor in grocery sales, is looking to eradicate this challenge with a newly submitted patent for their developments. The new system they’re proposing will give online shoppers a look at their actual potential purchase via 3D technology.

The system, dubbed the “Fresh Online Experience” (FOE), will use three-dimensional scanning to show online shoppers images of the products.

First, they will select from a stock image (say they’re looking for an orange). A human worker at the location they’re shopping/delivering from will be notified and will then select an orange and send the shopper a photo.

The image would be sent from a store associate interface and will appear in a communications module where the customer can view it. They are then given the chance to approve or deny, based on the image.

The customer will have a fixed amount of time to approve or deny the item/image. To combat too much back and forth, the customer is only given so many vetoes until they have to choose an orange that’s been previously selected or remove it from the order altogether.

When the orange is approved, it will be stamped with an edible watermark and will be included with the finalized order. While this seems like a lot of work on the associate’s end, Walmart has stated that some of the FOE will include automated aspects, which could save human workers from having to continuously scan fresh items.

This idea comes on the heels of Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, making them a giant competitor for Walmart.

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