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Uber is making flying cars so you can commute in a private jet

(TECH NEWS) No word yet on whether or not Uber Elevate will provide peanuts, but the future is here, dear readers!

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No longer top secret

The race is on to put a car in the sky. And Uber is crouched at the starting line and plans on going the distance (and for speed).

Last year, we found out Google founder Larry Page had funneled millions from his own fortune into the construction of small electric aircrafts. The top-secret projects were inspired by NASA engineer Mark Moore’s 2010 research, and are being executed by two Silicon Valley startups, Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk. Then Airbus announced plans to release self-driving taxis within the next year.

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Batting for Uber’s team

But you can’t make history without stirring up a little drama: the very Mark Moore that inspired Page has now joined one of Google’s major rivals, Uber Technologies, Inc, as director of engineering for aviation, for perhaps the most promising and powerful of all airborne auto projects.

“I can’t think of another company in a stronger position to be the leader for this new ecosystem and make the urban electric VTOL market real,” Moore stated while somewhere in Silicon Valley, Page narrowed his eyes in quiet rage.

Uber has an ambitious, groundbreaking vision for this emerging industry and the future of airborne commutes, and expects to achieve it in the next 1 to 3 years — compared to Page’s estimated timeline of 5-10 years. The company wants an organized, strategic approach that will allow for further developments. Their head of product for advanced programs, Nikhil Goel, referred to the company as “an accelerant-catalyst” of the flying car ecosystem.

Uber Elevate

The rideshare company’s flying car initiative is called Uber Elevate, and has not officially begun yet.

As whimsically delightful as the concept of flying cars sounds, the reality involves numerous technical and political challenges.Click To Tweet

For example, vehicle efficiency, noise pollution, vehicle efficiency, limited battery life, negotiating with suppliers to lower prices, lobbying regulators about aircraft certifications and air-traffic restrictions — to name a few.

Uber wants to go about this carefully, anticipating all possible obstacles and developing solutions to overcome each one.

With its 55 million active riders, and without the bureaucratic limitations of NASA, Uber has the potential influence to prove their project could lead to a huge, highly profitable and safe market. This pragmatically planned vision differentiates Uber Elevate as a promising endeavor rather than just another “wild tech game”, Moore explains.

Now, all logistics aside, let’s take a moment to revel in the surreal world Uber intends to create: an ordinary Uber picks you up, drives you to the closest “vertiport”, then soars into the sky and all the way to your office. How’s that for a daily commute? The flying cars would only have to travel between 50-100 miles, and would likely be able to partially recharge between flights. Passengers would not be alone in the clouds; human pilots would operate the onboard computers.

No word yet on whether or not they’ll provide peanuts.Click To Tweet

Extreme ambitions

When it comes to innovation, Uber isn’t only looking to the sky — their recent partnership with Mercedes-Benz will make it possible to hail a self-driving car through the ridesharing platform. With Lyft and Ford working towards the same goal, the pressure is on, so autonomous Ubers could be rolling up to the curb very soon.

Whether it’s taking flight or being steered by robots first, one thing’s for sure: calling an Uber is about to be quite the adventure.

#FlyingCars

Helen Irias is a Staff Writer at The American Genius with a degree in English Literature from University of California, Santa Barbara. She works in marketing in Silicon Valley and hopes to one day publish a comically self-deprecating memoir that people bring up at dinner parties to make themselves sound interesting.

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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Tech News

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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robots y'all

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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