Big Tech &
Facebook is working on a voice assistant to rival Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri (2 minute read)
Facebook has been working on a voice assistant since early 2018. The project is lead by the company’s augmented and virtual reality division, which is also responsible for other projects such as the Oculus headsets. According to people familiar with the project, Facebook has been contacting vendors in the smart speaker supply chain, suggesting that the assistant will be used in the company’s Portal video chat smart speakers. The smart speaker market is currently dominated by Amazon and Google, who take up a combined 97% of the market.
Exclusive: Apple in talks with potential suppliers of sensors for self-driving cars - sources (4 minute read)
Apple has been in talks with at least four lidar sensor suppliers as it works on developing its own lidar unit for self-driving cars. It appears that Apple is trying to find the smallest, cheapest, and most easily mass produced lidar units in order to create its next-generation lidar. Current lidar units are large and expensive, making it impractical for mass-produced vehicles. It is unclear whether Apple is looking to build its own vehicles, but their interest in long-distance sensors make it clear that they intend to create a fully self-driving system, rather than an adaptive cruise control system similar to what exists in today’s autonomous vehicles.
Promising malaria vaccine to be tested in first large field trial (3 minute read)
A malaria vaccine that has so far provided almost 100% protection against malaria will be tested on humans in an area where malaria occurs. Bioko, an island off the coast of Equatorial Guinea, has a population of 280,000 people and 2,100 will participate in the trials beginning in 2020. The vaccine is made from whole parasites as opposed to the genetically engineered parasite proteins that other vaccines are made with, which may explain its strong immune response. As the immune systems of people who have previously had malaria are generally weaker, it is expected that the vaccine will be less effective in the trial, but researchers are optimistic about the results.
Scientists: We kept pig brains alive 10 hours after death. Bioethicists: “Holy shit.” (9 minute read)
The line between life and death has been blurred by recent research, where scientists were able to revive the cells in dead pig’s brains and keep them alive hours after death. Brain death was thought to occur 15 minutes after the organ stops receiving oxygen, but the scientists saw signs of life in brains that had been ‘dead’ for more than four hours, after hooking them up to a special system called BrainEx. BrainEx supplied the brains with oxygen, nutrients, and protective chemicals. While the cells showed signs of life, brain monitors showed no signs of activity, indicating that there was no consciousness. As the lack of consciousness was chemically induced, it may be possible that the brain activity could have been restored, but researchers did not want to cross that line.
Programming, Design & Data Science
React95 (GitHub Repo)
This is a cool project that lets you make React components that look like Windows95 UI components.
Bosque Programming Language (GitHub Repo)
Bosque is a programming language that is designed for writing simple, obvious, and logical code that can be read by both humans and machines. The project is still in an early state and should only be used in small and experimental projects. Example projects and code are available.
Tracer is a fortnightly newsletter that provides its community with a curated collection of important stories, studies, and developments on the current state of fakes generated by artificial intelligence. As deep learning technologies develop, the ability to create fake media is becoming more widespread. The technology has been abused to create weaponized misinformation and poses a serious risk as a cybersecurity threat.
Foxconn boss Terry Gou is running for president of Taiwan (2 minute read)
Billionaire Terry Gou, the founder and now former chairman of Foxconn, will be running for the role of president of Taiwan if he is successful in the primaries for the Kuomintang opposition party. According to Gou, the sea goddess Mazu came to him in a dream encouraging him to promote peace across the Taiwan Strait. If successful, he poses a significant threat to the current president, who is battling low approval ratings. Gou’s relationships with China and the US may prove to be a significant factor in improving Taiwan’s relationships with both countries.