Here Come The Robots – Spotlight #424

Good Monday Morning

It’s June 6. Students who survived the school massacre in Parkland, Florida, four years ago are leading another march Saturday. The main protest is in Washington, D.C. Dozens of local events will be held throughout the country.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,355 words — about 5 minutes to read.

News To Know Now

Quoted: “[Stripe], dual-headquartered in San Francisco and Dublin, processed $640 billion in payments last year across 50 countries. Its gross revenue, still mostly the 2% to 3% it collects on such volume, reached nearly $12 billion in 2021… up about 60% year over year. Net revenue, which excludes the cut Stripe passes along to partners like Visa and Chase, reached nearly $2.5 billion.”

Forbes reporting on 33-year-old Stripe CEO Patrick Collison and his younger brother co-founder, John

a) Employees at crypto firm Coinbase are using mobile technology created by hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio to rate each other based on interactions with each other. The firm’s quirky guidelines also prohibit negotiating compensation and lately, Coinbase has been rescinding job offers amid a hiring freeze.

b) Delivery service GrubHub is opening its own ghost kitchens in twenty US cities. The virtual restaurants feature recipes created for the brand by winners of the MasterChef cooking show. That means the company’s partners will compete for consumer business against the same delivery service its restaurants use.

c) DuckDuckGo acknowledged that its partnership with Microsoft allowed that company to track the search engine’s users when they clicked on ads. I may be the most privacy-centric advertising person you’ll ever know, and I’ll say again that you are tracked everywhere you are online. Your internet service provider tracks everything, the websites you visit track you, and your workplace, school, and other intermediaries track you online. That’s fine if you know that and make an informed decision, but this was bad for the privacy-focused search engine.

In June, we’ll be running our 3rd annual Law Enforcement Technology Issue (last year’s is here). We’ll follow that in July with our second Workplace Privacy issue and in August with School Privacy. Reply to this email and let us know if there’s a topic you would like to see a deep dive on.

  Trends & Spends 

Snap Cuts Forecast, Analysts Blame Apple Privacy: A Snap disclosure at the end of May triggered a brief selloff that crushed the company’s share price more than 40%. Now AdAge is suggesting that at least part of the reason may be due to Apple opting out all of its users from ad data tracking unless they explicitly opt-in. Facebook told investors in February that the initiative cost the company $10 billion this year.

Spotlight Explainer — Here Come The Robots

Last week’s Internal Conference on Robotics and Automation in Philadelphia brought a surprise announcement from appliance manufacturer Dyson. The company famous for vacuums, fans, and other well regarded machines used the opportunity to announce that it has secretly been working on robotics for years and will be hiring 700 roboticists over the next 5 years.

Dyson joins a crowded field with other well established companies like Boston Dynamics owner Hyundai and Walmart in addition to hundreds of smaller firms looking to merge machine learning and engineering.

About the Dyson Announcement

The big news might be the company’s deep pockets and willingness to hire. TechCrunch coverage lauded their attachments, including a hand with soft graspers that could pick up plates and (naturally), a vacuum attachment. Dyson plans to spend $3.45 billion on the initiative during its five year push. Their plan is as simple as selling a cleaning robot in 10 years.

Touch Remains a Big Challenge

Last week Nature profiled Tyler Schrenk who became a quadriplegic after a diving accident ten years ago. Schrenk is working with a feeding robot that allows him to live more independently. The robot was created at the University of Washington and faces a tough tactile challenge: how forcefully to use a fork to pick up a piece of banana or a piece of carrot.

The challenge that the Washington team and others have is how to create sensors throughout a gripper or arm because camera-based systems are limited in both size and function. Stanford researchers have developed an electronic “skin” that fits over robotic appendages and contains 25 capacitors that act as sensors. The feedback from those sensors allow the robot to tap the top of a raspberry and pick up a ping-pong ball without crushing either.

Firefighters in India

The Delhi government has purchased several firefighting robots that can be operated from up to 100 yards away. In addition to tank-like construction and hoses, the robots have huge industrial fans that can clear smoke from an area. Water is sprayed on blazes at a rate of more than 600 gallons a minute. That spray can be diffused over a one thousand square foot area.

Robot Companions for Seniors

New York’s Office for the Aging has announced that it will place 800 ElliQ units with older residents, mirroring a similar, successful Japanese program. ElliQ is a countertop device that moves on its base and comes paired with a tablet. The big difference is that ElliQ is proactive in starting conversations and suggesting activities. That makes the unit different from voice activated smartphone assistants like Alexa and Siri. 

Have a look at her, I mean it, in action below.

Did That Really Happen? — CT To Hire Security Analyst for Fringe Sites

The Connecticut Secretary of State is hiring an Election Information Security Analyst. That person will be tasked with monitoring mainstream and fringe websites to find misinformation and disinformation about elections in the state. State officials expect the effort to begin soon after funding becomes available July 1.

 Following Up — Autonomous Vehicle Blocked Fire Truck

We’ve written a lot about autonomous vehicles in the past few years. The industry is continuing to experience growing pains — moving as fast as regulators allow to deploy taxi and truck fleets while simultaneously learning how to operate in a non-autonomous environment. One example came from a Wired report that a double-parked garbage truck with autonomous operation blocked a Fire Department truck in San Francisco in early April.

Protip — How to Dispose of Your Computer

Do you know how to erase your personal settings from your computer when it’s finally time to upgrade? How about knowing what is safe for the trash that won’t hurt the environment? This Popular Mechanics guide answers all of the questions you might have. 

Disclosure:CyberCrunch, mentioned prominently in the article, is a past Silver Beacon client.

Screening Room — Virgin Voyages

Broadway meets the high seas in this fun spot from Virgin Voyages promoting adults-only cruises with a fun twist. It’s not just other peoples’ kids. You also get to leave yours behind.

Science Fiction World — Walmart Delivery Drone Program Expands

Walmart said that it is expanding its delivery drone program again. Packages weighing no more than 10 pounds will be delivered by drone this year from 37 stores in 6 states. The company said that it expected emergency supplies to be ordered, but was surprised to see convenience items delivered for a fee of only $3.99 per order. One store’s top delivery item:  Hamburger Helper.

Coffee Break — Supercook

Head over to Supercook if you don’t want to waste food or remain uncommitted to our new robot overlords delivering Hamburger Helper. The site lets you add ingredients you have on hand and then prompts you for others you might have while searching its recipe index. When you click on a match that it provides, you’re whisked away to the website that published the recipe.

Sign of the Times

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