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AI Bests Humans In Reading Comprehension Test

January 17, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

AI created by Chinese tech giant Alibaba and Microsoft have tied for first place on the Stanford Question Answering Dataset (SQuAD) this month, outperforming the human score for Exact Match (providing exact answers to questions). Alibaba and Microsoft announced the news separately on Monday.

According to the SQuAD website, it is a machine reading comprehension dataset comprising of questions pertaining to a set of Wikipedia articles. Answers to questions are usually a segment of text from a corresponding reading passage.

The leaderboard on SQuAD’s website shows Alibaba’s and Microsoft’s EM scores to be 82.44 and 82.65 respectively, which put both at first place. The scores are higher than a human’s, which is 82.304.

The results may not be surprising to some since AI-based systems have proven to be formidable, with Google’s AlphaGo defeating Ke Jie as the Go world champion last year. The systems are also expected to go into hospitals and act as our assistants, and Alibaba founder Jack Ma predicted AI-powered robots will head companies in 30 years.

But not everyone will agree on how intelligent AI-based systems really are yet. Just a little more than three months ago, Chinese researchers published a study saying AI-based systems are no smarter than a six year-old. A Chinese robot called AI-MATHS which did a version of a Maths paper at China’s college entrance exams was unable to beat the national average last year. The robot’s developers explained it was unable to comprehend certain words, causing marks to be lost.

Luo Si, Chief Scientist of Natural Language Processing (NLP) at Alibaba iDST commented:

“It is our great honor to witness the milestone where machines surpass humans in reading comprehension. That means objective questions such as ‘what causes rain’ can now be answered with high accuracy by machines. We are especially excited because we believe the technology underneath can be gradually applied to numerous applications such as customer service, museum tutorials and online responses to medical inquiries from patients, decreasing the need for human input in an unprecedented way.”

“We are thrilled to see NLP research has achieved significant progress over the year. We look forward to sharing our model-building methodology with the wider community and exporting the technology to our clients in the near future,” Si added.

Ford Aims For 22 Electric Vehicles By 2022

January 16, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Ford Motor Co will significantly increase its planned investments in electric vehicles to $11 billion by 2022 and have 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model lineup, Chairman Bill Ford announced at the Detroit auto show.

The investment figure is sharply higher than a previously announced target of $4.5 billion by 2020, Ford executives said, and includes the costs of developing dedicated electric vehicle architectures. Ford’s engineering, research and development expenses for 2016, the last full year available, were $7.3 billion, up from $6.7 billion in 2015.

Ford Chief Executive Jim Hackett told investors in October the automaker would slash $14 billion in costs over the next five years and shift capital investment away from sedans and internal combustion engines to develop more trucks and electric and hybrid cars.

Of the 40 electrified vehicles Ford plans for its global lineup by 2022, 16 will be fully electric and the rest will be plug-in hybrids, executives said.

“We’re all in on this and we’re taking our mainstream vehicles, our most iconic vehicles, and we’re electrifying them,” Ford told reporters. “If we want to be successful with electrification, we have to do it with vehicles that are already popular.”

General Motors Co, Toyota Motor Corp and Volkswagen AG  have already outlined aggressive plans to expand their electric vehicle offerings and target consumers who want luxury, performance and an SUV body style – or all three attributes in the same vehicle.

Mainstream automakers are reacting in part to pressure from regulators in China, Europe and California to slash carbon emissions from fossil fuels. They also are under pressure from

 Tesla Inc’s success in creating electric sedans and SUVs that inspire would-be owners to line up outside showrooms and flood the company with orders.

GM said last year it would add 20 new battery electric and fuel cell vehicles to its global lineup by 2023, financed by robust profits from traditional internal combustion engine vehicles in the United States and China.

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra has promised investors the Detroit automaker will make money selling electric cars by 2021.

Volkswagen said in November it would spend $40 billion on electric cars, autonomous driving and new mobility services by the end of 2022 – significantly more than when it announced two months earlier it would invest more than 20 billion euros on electric and self-driving cars through 2030.

Toyota is racing to commercialize a breakthrough battery technology during the first half of the 2020s with the potential to cut the cost of making electric cars.

Ford’s additional investments in electric vehicles contrasted with many of the vehicle launches at the Detroit show which featured trucks and SUVs. On Sunday evening, Daimler AG unveiled its new G-class SUV, a bulky off roader, in an abandoned movie theater in downtown Detroit once used as a set for the movie “8 Mile.”

South Korea To Ban Crytocurrency Trading

January 12, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

South Korea’s government has announced it will ban cryptocurrency trading, sending bitcoin prices plummeting and throwing the virtual coin market into turmoil as the nation’s police and tax authorities raided local exchanges on alleged tax evasion.

The clampdown in South Korea, a crucial source of global demand for cryptocurrency, came as policymakers around the world struggled to regulate an asset whose value has skyrocketed over the last year.

Justice minister Park Sang-ki said the government was preparing a bill to ban trading of the virtual currency on domestic exchanges.

“There are great concerns regarding virtual currencies and the justice ministry is basically preparing a bill to ban cryptocurrency trading through exchanges,” Park told a news conference, according to the ministry’s press office.

After the market’s sharp reaction to the announcement, the nation’s Presidential office hours later said a ban on the country’s virtual coin exchanges had not yet been finalized while it was one of the measures being considered.

A press official at the justice ministry said the proposed ban on cryptocurrency trading was announced after “enough discussion” with other government agencies, including the nation’s finance ministry and financial regulators.

Once a bill is drafted, legislation for an outright ban of virtual coin trading will require a majority vote of the total 297 members of the National Assembly, a process that could take months or even years.

The government’s tough stance triggered a selloff of the cryptocurrency on both local and offshore exchanges.

The local price of bitcoin plunged as much as 21 percent in midday trade to 18.3 million won (12,730.35 pounds) after the minister’s comments. It still trades at around a 30 percent premium compared to other countries.

Bitcoin BTC=BTSP was down more than 10 percent on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp at $13,199, after earlier dropping as low as $13,120, its weakest since Jan. 2.

 South Korea’s cryptocurrency-related shares were also hammered. Vidente and Omnitel, which are stakeholders of Bithumb, skidded by the daily trading limit of 30 percent each.

Once enforced, South Korea’s ban “will make trading difficult here, but not impossible,” said Mun Chong-hyun, chief analyst at EST Security.

“Keen traders, especially hackers, will find it tough to cash out their gains from virtual coin investments in Korea but they can go overseas, for example Japan,” Mun said.

Park Nok-sun, a cryptocurrency analyst at NH Investment & Securities, said the herd behaviour in South Korea’s virtual coin market has raised concerns.

Indeed, bitcoin’s BTC=BTSP 1,500 percent surge last year has stoked huge demand for cryptocurency in South Korea, drawing college students to housewives and sparking worries of a gambling addiction.

“Some officials are pushing for stronger and stronger regulations because they only see more (investors) jumping in, not out,” Park said.

By Thursday afternoon, the Justice Ministry’s announcement had prompted more than 55,000 South Koreans to join a petition asking the presidential Blue House to halt the crackdown on the virtual currency, making the Blue House website intermittently unavailable due to heavy traffic, the website showed.

Amazon Alexa Arrives On Windows 10 PCs

January 11, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The expanding rivalry between Amazon and Google in the battle for virtual assistant dominance intensified at this year’s CES in Las Vegas.

While both have a strong claim as front-runners – with Amazon arguably leading the charge at this stage – it’s clear that Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are lagging. Case in point: Several major PC makers launched Windows 10 hardware and trumpeted Alexa support as a major selling point. (Cortana will, of course, also be available since it’s built into Windows 10, but it is the arrival of Alexa that was a key selling pitch.

The Windows 10 devices launched this week with Alexa built include HP’s small form-factor Pavilion Wave PC; Acer’s Aspire; Spin, Switch and Swift notebooks; Asus’ 2018 ZenBook and VivoBook laptops; and Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Carbon and Yoga devices.

With these laptop and PC launches, Alexa is finding its way into a wider array of devices as virtual assistants gain a foothold in the office.

Alexa has benefited from the slow burning success of Amazon’s Echo smart home speakers, but that was only the start. At last year’s CES, Alexa was showcased in a range of products, from fridges to robotic vacuum cleaners, part of Amazon’s plans to position Alexa as an all-pervasive virtual assistant.

Though Toyota and Lexus plan to install the voice-activated assistant in select vehicles, the launch of PCs with Alexa highlights its move from the consumer world to the enterprise – much as the iPhone in 2007 moved quickly from individual users to become a mainstay of the workforce. (The Alexa for Business launch last year – an arena that would seemingly be a natural home for Microsoft – only underscores Amazon’s plans.)

With 25,000 Alexa skills already available, including a growing list targeted specifically at business users, Amazon is already forging deals with corporate partners. A range of companies, including Salesforce, SAP SuccessFactors, Concur, Ring Central and ServiceNow all plan to integrate their applications with Alexa for Business.

“As we begin 2018, Alexa shows the strongest partner ecosystem – with the most hardware partners and the most skills – and an increasing presence in the office with Alexa for Business,” said Forrester vice president and principal analyst J.P. Gownder.

Business support for Alexa – both at work and in customer-facing spots like hotels – represents a huge opportunity for Amazon, said Gownder. And it has the momentum that other virtual assistants lack currently.

“Cortana hasn’t made enough headway to stave off an aggressive, growing Alexa in business contexts at this point,” he said.

Amazon Ships Crosses 5B Packages Shipped In 2017

January 4, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Online retailer Amazon.com Inc announced that it has shipped over 5 billion items worldwide via its subscription-based Prime service in 2017 while adding more new members than ever before.

The e-commerce giant, which revealed its Prime shipment numbers for the first time, did not give comparable full-year shipment number for 2016.

Amazon claimed that its Fire TV Stick and voice-controlled smart device Echo Dot were the best-selling products among U.S. Prime members from any manufacturer in any category across all of its product offerings.

Amazon Prime, which offers its users services like free two-day shipping for certain purchases, unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Prime Video, has been attracting more subscribers every year.

The company said it shipped over 1 billion items worldwide via Prime during the holiday season in 2016.

Amazon Prime, which entered countries including Mexico, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Singapore last year, now is present in 16 countries around the world.

Shares of the Seattle, Washington based company were up 1.5 percent at $1,187 in afternoon trading.

 

Is HTC Preparing To Exit The Smartphone Market

January 3, 2018 by  
Filed under Mobile

The rumor mill has manufactured a hell on earth yarn claiming that HTC is slowly pulling out of the smartphone business.

Deep throats are briefing Digitimes and claim that the Taiwanese company will be limiting the number of phones it will be releasing next year. While this might have something to do with the company’s ongoing smartphone market woes, it could also be a sign of HTC’s substantial loss of resources after Google acquired a significant number of employees from HTC’s mobile division.

HTC didn’t release that many smartphones in 2017. There were as few as six models this year, not counting variants or market specific models, with the U series being most of them.

If it launched two to four models next year, it could be attempting to mirror the launch strategies of smaller companies like OnePlus. However, that is being optimistic because reduced phone numbers are usually a sign that the writing is on the wall for any company’s smartphone empire.

We are not sure that HTC will care much. It has been long rumored to be mulling over selling its mobile business, leaving it free to focus on a more lucrative VR market. Most expected Google to be that buyer, but the two might have worked out a strategy that would lessen regulation requirements and government scrutiny.

There are two HTC phones expected for 2018, one even as early as January. That would be a mid-range variant of the HTC U11+. The timeline for the company’s next flagship –  the HTC U12, is still unknown.

Courtesy-Fud

Daimler Buys Into Uber Rival, Chauffeur Prive

December 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

German automaker Daimler has agreed to acquire a majority stake in Chauffeur Prive, a French rival to the larger Uber car-ride app, in the latest example of traditional companies looking to deal with challenges from technology-driven start-ups.

The deal was announced in a joint statement by both companies. The price of the acquisition, which will be carried out by the German company’s Daimler Mobility Services division, was not disclosed.

Chauffeur Prive was founded in 2011. The company says it has more than 1.5 million customers and access to 18,000 drivers, and the service is relatively popular in Paris.

Traditional automakers from around the world are examining how best to work on new, disruptive technologies – from electric vehicles to autonomous driving – that require hefty investment and have turned companies such as Google and Tesla into rivals.

Daimler has already made forays into the growing industry of car-ride hailing mobile applications.

In June, Dubai-based ride hailing firm Careem said it would step up its expansion into new markets after raising $150 million from investors, which included Daimler and Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding.

Earlier this month, Daimler’s French rival Renault bought a stake in a glossy magazine publishing group, which it said formed part of its strategy to see how to keep travelers entertained in an era of driverless cars.

North Korea Rejects Claims It’s Responsible For ‘WannaCry’

December 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A spokesman for North Korea’s foreign ministry pushed back that Pyongyang is linked to any cyber attacks, the North’s first response since the United States publicly blamed it for a massive worldwide cybersecurity breach.

“As we have clearly stated on several occasions, we have nothing to do with cyber attack and we do not feel a need to respond, on a case-by-case basis, to such absurd allegations of the U.S.,” the spokesman said, according to the North’s official KCNA news agency.

The U.S. accusation was a serious political provocation against North Korea that Pyongyang would never tolerate, the spokesman said. The May cyber attack crippled hospitals, banks and other companies.

 

Is The Andromeda Botnet Network On The Ropes

December 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

A Botnet -busting joint task force has taken down the two million device-strong malware-spreading Andromeda network.

Cybersecurity agents from a combination of the Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, the FBI, EuroJust and the Joint Cybercrime Action Task force, alongside help from a clutch of companies like Microsoft, moved to scupper what is thought to be the biggest botnet ever.

Using a technique called ‘sinkholing’, whereby domains carrying malware distributed by Andromeda were redirected to servers used to investigate the botnet, some 1,500 command and control domains were destabilised and traffic from two million infected devices worldwide were prevented from making contact with the control domains.

All this effort cut off the cyber criminals’ access to the infected devices that formed the botnet and resulted in knocking Andromeda offline.

The taskforce discovered Andromeda had a massive reach having spread across 223 countries including the UK, Belgium, Italy, Singapore and Australia.

The investigation led to the arrest of a person in Belarus and the effective end of the Andromeda botnet.

Andromeda is thought to have spawned out of the now out-of-operation Avalanche trojan speading malware network, and was used to distribute 80 different kinds of malware at a global scale.

Steven Wilson, the head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, noted the Andromeda takedown is a good example of how law enforcement organisations and the private sector can work together to combat the ever growing presence of cyber threats.

“This is another example of international law enforcement working together with industry partners to tackle the most significant cyber criminals and the dedicated infrastructure they use to distribute malware on a global scale. The clear message is that public-private partnerships can impact these criminals and make the internet safer for all of us,” he said.

That’s all very well but if Brexit does indeed go ahead, such partnerships between the UK and European law enforcement could be stymied, despite Britain being keen to share intelligence after it leaves the EU.

Courtesy-TheInq

Apple Exploring Acquisition of Shazam

December 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple Inc is holding negotiations to acquire Shazam Entertainment Ltd, whose software helps users identify songs by pointing their phone at an audio source, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Shazam’s smartphone app is already tightly integrated with Apple’s Siri digital assistant. Users of Apple’s iPhone with the Shazam app installed can say: “Hey Siri, what’s that song?” and the app will identify it. But Shazam has other features, such as the ability to identify television shows, that do not yet work with Siri.

Tech news website TechCrunch reported the talks earlier, writing that Apple could pay about $400 million for Shazam and that a deal could be signed as early as next week.

Shazam did not respond to a request for comment.

Privately-held, UK-based Shazam has raised $143 million from DN Capital Limited, Institutional Venture Partners, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, among others, over its 18-year history, according to PitchBook, a firm that tracks private venture investments.

The price TechCrunch reported would fall far below Shazam’s most recent $1 billion valuation reported by PitchBook.

An acquisition of Shazam could help bolster Apple’s music efforts by making it easier for users to find songs and add them to playlists in its Apple Music service. As of mid-2017, Apple Music had 27 million subscribers, behind rival music streaming service Spotify’s 60 million users.

DirecTV Now Streaming Service Passes 1M Subscribers Mark

December 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

It took little more than a year for AT&T’s DirecTV Now streaming video service to hit its first million subscribers.

The Dallas telecommunications provider confirmed that more than 1 million consumers have subscribed to its service, which offers a mix of live television channels and on-demand content over the internet to your phone, tablet or TV box like a Roku or Amazon Fire Stick.

The figure marks solid progress for the upstart service, though it still lags behind Sling TV, which Comscore said in June had more than 2 million customers. DirecTV Now launched last November, while Sling TV launched in February of 2015.

“This milestone is an incredible testament to the thousands of hours many people spent working to bring this product online and continually improving it during the past year,” said David Christopher, president of AT&T Entertainment Group, in a statement.

DirecTV Now is a critical component of AT&T’s strategy to transform from a company simply offering internet and wireless service to one creating as well as distributing your favorite entertainment. After gobbling up satellite TV provider DirecTV, AT&T is fighting the Justice Department for the right to complete its acquisition of Time Warner, home to “Harry Potter” and “Batman.”

AT&T teased further improvements to the service, including a digital video recorder in the cloud, more concurrent streams, the ability to download shows, and 4K and HD video.

GM Adding E-commerce Capabilities To It’s Dashboards

December 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

General Motors Co announced that it will equip newer cars with in-dash e-commerce technology, betting it can profit as drivers order food, find fuel or reserve hotel rooms by tapping icons on the dashboard screen, instead of using smartphones while driving.

GM’s Marketplace technology, developed in collaboration with International Business Machines will be uploaded automatically to about 1.9 million model-year 2017 and later vehicles starting immediately, with about 4 million vehicles across the Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands equipped with the capability in the United States by the end of 2018, GM said.

GM will get an undisclosed amount of revenue from merchants featured on its in-dash Marketplace, Santiago Chamorro, GM vice president for global connected customer experience, said during a briefing for reporters. Customers will not be charged for using the service or the data transmitted to and from the car while making transactions, he said.

“This platform is financed by the merchants,” Chamorro said. GM will get paid for placing a merchant’s application on its screens, and “there’s some level of revenue sharing” based on each transaction, he said.

It is too soon to say how much revenue GM could realize from the Marketplace system, he said.

The GM Marketplace will compete for customer clicks and revenue with hand-held smartphones, which offer a far richer array of applications than the GM system will at the outset. Amazon.com is partnering with other automakers, including Ford Motor Co, to offer in car e-commerce capability through Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant system. For example, GM will launch Marketplace with just Shell and Exxon Mobil icons in the fuel category. The only restaurant available for in-car table reservations at launch is the chain TGI Fridays, GM said. In addition, there will be apps for parking, and ordering ahead at coffee shops and restaurants such as Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Applebee‘s.

“We will be adding more vendors,” with some coming in the first quarter of 2018, Chamorro said. In addition, he said GM plans to expand integration into its vehicles of music, news and other information services.

GM also hopes to use its in-car Marketplace connections to expand purchases of products and services, such as additional access to in-car wifi, from its own replacement parts business and dealer network. Customers can “expect to see more service promotions coming through the platform,” Chamorro said.

YouTube Add More Resources Combat Extremist Videos

December 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Alphabet Inc’s YouTube announced plans to add more people next year to identify inappropriate content as the company responds to criticism over extremist, violent and disturbing videos and comments.

YouTube has developed automated software to identify videos linked to extremism and now is aiming to do the same with clips that portray hate speech or are unsuitable for children. Uploaders whose videos are flagged by the software may be ineligible for generating ad revenue.

 But amid stepped up enforcement, the company has received complaints from video uploaders that the software is error-prone.

The goal is to bring the total number of people across Google working to address content that might violate its policies to over 10,000 in 2018, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said in one of a pair of blog posts Monday.

“We need an approach that does a better job determining which channels and videos should be eligible for advertising,” she said. “We’ve heard loud and clear from creators that we have to be more accurate when it comes to reviewing content, so we don’t demonetize videos by mistake.”

In addition, Wojcicki said the company would take “aggressive action on comments, launching new comment moderation tools and in some cases shutting down comments altogether.”

The moves come as advertisers, regulators and advocacy groups express ongoing concern over whether YouTube’s policing of its service is sufficient.

 YouTube is reviewing its advertising offerings as part of response and it teased that its next efforts could be further changing requirements to share in ad revenue.

YouTube this year updated its recommendation feature to spotlight videos users are likely to find the most gratifying, brushing aside concerns that such an approach can trap people in bubbles of misinformation and like-minded opinions.

Will Apple’s Strong Arming Tactics Work In The Long Run

December 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Yet another loyal Apple partner is suffering for failing to do what Apple told it.

Dialog saw its shares plummet by 19 percent after Apple announced that it is designing its own power management chips for next years batch of iPhones.

Apple has been telling its suppliers that they either have to slash costs or it will develop things inhouse. The policy has already had casualties with graphics chip maker Imagination and lead to a monumental spat with Qualcomm.

Jobs’ Mob has realised that it is not going to keep its high profits as its iPhone cash cow dies. So what it wants is to push its margins by cutting costs. It has been strong arming its suppliers, many of whom became addicted to Apple’s custom at the expensive developing other customers.

Apple accounted for 74 percent of Dialog’s revenue in 2016.

The main power management chip controls an iPhone’s charging function, battery management, and energy consumption. “Based on Apple’s current plan, they are set to replace partially, or around half of its power management chips to go into iPhones by itself starting next year.

Apple’s main power management chips for the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch are now exclusively designed and made by Dialog.

Power management chips are one of the most crucial and expensive components after core processors, modems and memory chips.

The Tame Apple Press claims that by designing its own gear Apple will also be in a better position to integrate software and hardware and to manufacture products that can be differentiated from those of its rivals such as Samsung and Huawei.

It insists that Apple’s new in-house power management chip will be the most advanced in the industry and could have processing capabilities that allow it to better monitor and control power consumption among various components.

Quite why this would be the case is anyone’s guess. Apple has no experience in making power management chips let alone have enough experience to be cutting edge. It is more likely that Apple’s initial chips will have to be something that uses

The only thing that we can be sure of is that its initial efforts will have to use Dialog patents with the new chips churned out cheaply by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.

Courtesy-Fud

Texting Turns 25 Years Old

December 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Texting celebrated a milestone birthday this past Sunday, ICYMI.

The first text message was sent on Dec. 3, 1992, by British engineer Neil Papworth to Richard Jarvis, an executive at British telecom Vodafone, who was attending his company’s holiday party in Newbury, England.

Typed out on a PC, it was sent to Jarvis’s Orbitel 901, a mobile phone that would take up most of your laptop backpack, and read: Merry Christmas. But Jarvis didn’t send a reply because there was no way to send a text from a phone in those days.

Although Papworth is credited with sending the first text message, he’s not the so-called father of SMS. That honor (or blame) falls on Matti Makkonen, who initially suggested the idea back in 1984 at a telecommunications conference.

But texting didn’t take off over night. First it had to be incorporated into the then-budding GSM standard. Makkonen feels the technology actually was launched in 1994 when Nokia unveiled its 2010 mobile phone, the first device that let people easily write messages.

Today, about 97 percent of smartphone owners use text messaging, according to Pew Research, and along the way, a new set of sub-languages based on abbreviations and keyboard-based imagery has evolved. More than 561 billion text messages were sent worldwide in June 2014, about 18.7 billion texts sent every day, according researcher TextRequest.

Texting has become so popular that most Americans would rather type it than say it. US smartphone users are sending and receiving five times as many texts compared with the number of phone calls each day, according to the International Smartphone Mobility Report by mobile data tracking firm Infomate.

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