Tech companies are filing a brief supporting transgender youth in upcoming SCOTUS case

scales of justice Tech companies are preparing to go to bat for transgender rights when the Supreme Court takes on the issue next month. As Axios reports, led by Apple, a number of prominent companies will file a court brief arguing in favor of the 17-year-old lead plaintiff, transgender Virginia high school student Gavin Grimm.
Other companies that will reportedly sign on include Microsoft, Salesforce, IBM… Read More


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Revelan posible nueva sinopsis de Aquaman

Esta es una semana llena de novedades para los seguidores de DC Comics, tras la confirmación de Matt Reeves como director de The Batman y el anuncio de la película en solitario de Nightwing a cargo del director de LEGO Batman, pero eso no es todo.

De lo poco que sabemos sobre la película de Aquaman, como el protagónico de Jason Momoa tras su previa aparición en el DCEU, la dirección de James Wan e incluso la presencia de Ocean Master y Black Manta, finalmente tendríamos conocimiento de su sinopsis.

Además de revelar detalles sobre el elenco que conformará el filme de Aquaman, el portal web Acting Auditions dio a conocer una posible nueva sinopsis que dejaría muy en claro cuán complicado es para un rey, como Arthur Curry, mantener la tranquilidad entre los habitantes de la superficie y del mundo submarino.

Aquaman

“Aquaman” se centrará en Aquaman como un gobernante renuente del reino submarino de la Atlántida que se encuentra atrapado entre los habitantes de la superficie, que siempre están contaminando el mundo, y su propia gente, quienes están listos para invadir la superficie.

Nada más complicado que mantener en calma la hostilidad de un pueblo guerrero, claro, a manos de un rey mitad humano mitad atlante por parte de su padre, Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) y Atlanna, papel que interpretaría la reconocida actriz Nicole Kidman.

Aquaman llegará a los cines el 5 de octubre de 2018, filme dirigido por James Wan con la participación de Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, William Dafoe, Patrick Willson y Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, entre otros.

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Facebook’s mobile prodigy launches video charades game

show-tell Michael Sayman was just 17 when Facebook hired him, but he’d already built 5 apps. Now 7 years after his first launch, the Facebook product manager has just released Show & Tell, which turns selfies and visual communication into a game. You’re given an emotion to act out, you send the video to friends, and they try to guess what you’re feeling. “I made 4 Snaps about… Read More


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Self-Driving Cars Have a Bicycle Problem

Bikes are hard to spot and hard to predict

Photo: iStockphoto

Robotic cars are great at monitoring other cars, and they’re getting better at noticing pedestrians, squirrels, and birds. The main challenge, though, is posed by the lightest, quietest, swerviest vehicles on the road.

“Bicycles are probably the most difficult detection problem that autonomous vehicle systems face,” says UC Berkeley research engineer Steven Shladover.

Nuno Vasconcelos, a visual computing expert at the University of California, San Diego, says bikes pose a complex detection problem because they are relatively small, fast and heterogenous. “A car is basically a big block of stuff. A bicycle has much less mass and also there can be more variation in appearance — there are more shapes and colors and people hang stuff on them.”

That’s why the detection rate for cars has outstripped that for bicycles in recent years. Most of the improvement has come from techniques whereby systems train themselves by studying thousands of images in which known objects are labeled. One reason for this is that most of the training has concentrated on images featuring cars, with far fewer bikes. 

Consider the Deep3DBox algorithm presented recently by researchers at George Mason University and stealth-mode robotic taxi developer Zoox, based in Menlo Park, Calif. On an industry-recognized benchmark test, which challenges vision systems with 2D road images, Deep3DBox identifies 89 percent of cars. Sub-70-percent car-spotting scores prevailed just a few years ago.

Deep3DBox further excels at a tougher task: predicting which way vehicles are facing and inferring a 3D box around each object spotted on a 2D image. “Deep learning is typically used for just detecting pixel patterns. We figured out an effective way to use the same techniques to estimate geometrical quantities,” explains Deep3DBox contributor Jana Košecká, a computer scientist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

However, when it comes to spotting and orienting bikes and bicyclists, performance drops significantly. Deep3DBox is among the best, yet it spots only 74 percent of bikes in the benchmarking test. And though it can orient over 88 percent of the cars in the test images, it scores just 59 percent for the bikes.

Košecká says commercial systems are delivering better results as developers gather massive proprietary datasets of road images with which to train their systems. And she says most demonstration vehicles augment their visual processing with laser-scanning (ie lidar) imagery and radar sensing, which help recognize bikes and their relative position even if they can’t help determine their orientation.

Further strides, meanwhile, are coming via high-definition maps such as Israel-based Mobileye’s Road Experience Management system. These maps offer computer vision algorithms a head start in identifying bikes, which stand out as anomalies from pre-recorded street views. Ford Motor says “highly detailed 3D maps” are at the core of the 70 self-driving test cars that it plans to have driving on roads this year.

Put all of these elements together, and one can observe some pretty impressive results, such as the bike spotting demonstrated last year by Google’s vehicles. Waymo, Google’s autonomous vehicle spinoff, unveiled proprietary sensor technology with further upgraded bike-recognition capabilities at this month’s Detroit Auto Show.

Vasconcelos doubts that today’s sensing and automation technology is good enough to replace human drivers, but he believes they can already help human drivers avoid accidents. Automated cyclist detection is seeing its first commercial applications in automated emergency braking systems (AEB) for conventional vehicles, which are expanding to respond to pedestrians and cyclists in addition to cars.

Volvo began offering the first cyclist-aware AEB in 2013, crunching camera and radar data to predict potential collisions; it is rolling out similar tech for European buses this year. More automakers are expected to follow suit as European auto safety regulators begin scoring AEB systems for cyclist detection next year.

That said, AEB systems still suffer from a severe limitation that points to the next grand challenge that AV developers are struggling with: predicting where moving objects will go. Squeezing more value from cyclist-AEB systems will be an especially tall order, says Olaf Op den Camp, a senior consultant at the Dutch Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO). Op den Camp, who led the design of Europe’s cyclist-AEB benchmarking test, says that it’s because cyclists movements are especially hard to predict.

Košecká agrees: “Bicycles are much less predictable than cars because it’s easier for them to make sudden turns or jump out of nowhere.”

That means it may be a while before cyclists escape the threat of human error, which contributes to 94 percent of traffic fatalities, according to U.S. regulators. “Everybody who bikes is excited about the promise of eliminating that,” says Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. But he says it is right to wait for automation technology to mature.

In December, Wiedenmeier warned that self-driving taxis deployed by Uber Technologies were violating California driving rules designed to protect cyclists from cars and trucks crossing designated bike lanes. He applauded when California officials pulled the vehicles’ registrations, citing the ridesharing firm’s refusal to secure state permits for them. (Uber is still testing its self-driving cars in Arizona and Pittsburgh, and it recently got permission to put some back on San Francisco streets strictly as mapping machines, provided that human drivers are at the wheel.)

Wiedenmeier says Uber’s “rush to market” is the wrong way to go. As he puts it: “Like any new technology this needs to be tested very carefully.”

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Cloudbleed Is a Problem But It Gets Worse

Huge security disasters like Cloudbleed are never fun. However, as more information about the newly reported vulnerability becomes available, we can understand how dangerous bugs stand to screw up the internet. Luckily, in the case of Cloudbleed, it’s not as bad as it could have been. But it’s not good, either.

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Blanket Your Home In Wi-Fi With Discounted Eero Mesh Routers

Eero is the first networking company to truly bring mesh networking to the masses, and their routers are back on sale for the first time since the holidays.

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FCC Picks Worst Day Possible to Block Rules Protecting Personal Info

Until today, March 2 marked the date that internet service providers would be required to adopt “reasonable” measures to protect sensitive customer info like browsing histories, location data and Social Security numbers. Thanks to the Federal Communications Commission’s new leadership, however, that deadline will now…

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Waymo’s Fight With Uber Might Be the First Shot in a Self-driving Car IP War

Weaponizing Waymo’s intellectual property could hurt self-driving startups much more than Uber

Photo: Waymo

Waymo filed a lawsuit yesterday accusing Uber of stealing the secret designs of circuit boards and laser ranging lidars used in its self-driving cars. Like all legal complaints, it ends with a long wish list of “reliefs” it wants the federal court in California to deliver, but the ramifications of this lawsuit could stretch far beyond financial damages or legal costs.

“For years I’ve warned about a potential automated driving patent war that could rival the notorious smartphone patent war,” says Bryant Walker-Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina and an expert in self-driving regulations. As autonomous vehicles transition from amusing gimmicks to money-making products, who controls the key intellectual property could determine which companies thrive and which fall by the wayside.

The pressure to succeed means that even companies with a financial interest in one another—Waymo’s parent company Alphabet owns about 7 percent of Uber—can find it worthwhile to sue.

On the face of it, Waymo’s lawsuit is a typical allegation of trade secret misappropriation, says Robert Gomulkiewicz, a professor of intellectual property law at the University of Washington. “When an employee leaves to go work for a competitor, and that person has taken confidential trade secret information, you want to stop them from using that information, stop them in their tracks,” he says.

Waymo’s next step could be to apply for a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction, preventing Uber and its Otto subsidiary from using Waymo’s lidar technology. This might be aimed at Otto’s self-driving trucks, or even at Uber’s autonomous taxis, which are currently carrying passengers in Pittsburgh and Tempe, Arizona.

“Waymo can’t stop Uber from moving forward on all fronts but if this information is particularly valuable they might want to stop Uber from using this particular technology right now,” says Gomulkiewicz.

Of course, Waymo’s accusation is only one side of the story. When IEEE Spectrum asked Uber several weeks ago whether it or Otto had licensed any intellectual property from Waymo, or if its technology was all developed in-house, Uber made no comment. But Anthony Levandowski, the talented but maverick engineer who Waymo accuses of downloading a massive trove of technical data before his departure, said in an interview last year: “I want to be supersensitive of protecting the confidentiality of Google’s information.”

Waymo is also coy of naming the other former employees who have since moved to Uber. The lawsuit says that a supply chain manager downloaded confidential manufacturing information and an engineer downloaded proprietary research data, but stops short of either naming or accusing them of wrongdoing. Spectrum has identified one of the individuals but they did not respond to a request for comment.

“It’s possible that Waymo is not confident that the employees have violated trade secret law and they’re afraid of some countersuit if they prematurely put those names into a public complaint,” says Gomulkiewicz. He thinks that Waymo might not even be counting on the case ever going to trial: “Sometimes the end game is to engage with the company and work out some kind of cross-license or even a license for the trade secret information.”

A straight-up licensing deal could be very profitable for a young company like Waymo, which only recently spun out from Alphabet. But Uber is no doubt already poring over its own, smaller, trove of patents to find some that Waymo may be infringing upon.

Ultimately, Waymo’s decision to weaponize its intellectual property could affect vulnerable self-driving startups much more than Uber, a multinational behemoth valued at over $60 billion. “Companies will discover that trivial yet essential parts of automated driving have already been patented,” says Walker-Smith. “Google’s patent for driving on the left side of the lane when passing a truck comes to mind. These kind of patents could stop startups without a large defensive patent portfolio from even entering the field.”

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ZeniMax definitivamente quiere matar a Oculus

¿Te acuerdas cuando te contamos que Facebook había perdido la batalla legal contra ZeniMax tras la denuncia de robo de código por parte de Oculus, teniendo que pagar más de USD $500 millones? Todos pensábamos que el caso iba a quedar ahí, porque claro, con esa suma tan espectacular de dinero, ¿quién querría más? Pero no. Hoy la empresa creadora de Fallout 3 decidió ir con todo en contra de John Carmack, queriendo derechamente acabar con el dispositivo de realidad virtual.

El reporte lo entregó hoy Reuters, quienes aseguran que el desarrollador de videojuegos quiere evitar a toda costa que la red social de Mark Zuckerberg utilice el código que, en palabras de la empresa, crearon ellos, lo que imposibilitaría el funcionamiento de prácticamente todos los productos relacionados con Oculus. En términos simples, quieren que la compañía muera de una sola vez.

La acusación tuvo lugar hace cerca de un mes, en donde ZeniMax demandó a Facebook por el robo de información privilegiada por parte de Carmack, ex empleado de la firma, quien habría ocupado gran parte del código desarrollado por ellos en el equipo de Oculus. Tras un litigio legal bastante rápido, el tribunal de Dallas dictaminó que todo había ocurrido tal cual lo describió el primer involucrado, obligando a las partes acusadas a pagar la cifra antes mencionada, valor que sin embargo es bastante menor a los USD $4 mil millones que pedía el demandante en primera instancia.

Todo este caso, según apunta el abogado estadounidense especialista en temas de derechos de autor, Mark Romeo, pone a Facebook en una posición bastante desfavorable respecto a todos los planes que la empresa tiene para el futuro, en especial para aquellos proyectos que tienen con Oculus, los cuales son bastante grandes en el futuro a largo plazo. De todas maneras, tendremos que esperar para ver como se desarrolla este caso, no obstante los días venideros se ven aún algo desoladores.

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Watershed SHA1 collision just broke the WebKit repository, others may follow

Enlarge (credit: youngthousands)

Thursday’s watershed attack on the widely used SHA1 hashing function has claimed its first casualty: it’s the version control system used by the WebKit browser engine, which became completely corrupted after someone uploaded two proof-of-concept PDF files that have identical message digests.

The bug resides in Apache SVN, an open-source version control system that WebKit and other large software development organizations use to keep track of code submitted by individual members. Often abbreviated as SVN, Subversion uses SHA1 to track and merge duplicate files. Somehow, SVN systems can experience a severe glitch when they encounter the two PDF files published Thursday proving that real-world collisions on SHA1 are now practical.

On Friday morning, the researchers updated their informational website to add the frequently asked question “Is SVN affected?” The answer:

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