Many articles have been written about the demise of the phone call, with Zoom meetings, texts, group chats, and Snaps all predicted to replace them. The pandemic, however, seems to have brought about the return of the phone call, from Clubhouse, which has made audio feel exclusive and sexy again, to the latest research from the University of Las Vegas that claims that the phone call is associated with decreases in stress, loneliness, and relationship difficulties. This is in direct opposition to video chats, which have introduced "Zoom fatigue" into our collective lexicon and are stressful, loneliness-inducing, and cause relationship difficulties. It's no surprise that people have also been turning to the phone more during the various lockdowns, with people being stuck and home and business locations being closed. A survey by ContactBabel found that 80.4% of inbound customer service interactions were over the phone.
When a secretive start-up scraped the internet to build a facial-recognition tool, it tested a legal and ethical limit -- and blew the future of privacy in America wide open. In May 2019, an agent at the Department of Homeland Security received a trove of unsettling images. Found by Yahoo in a Syrian user's account, the photos seemed to document the sexual abuse of a young girl. One showed a man with his head reclined on a pillow, gazing directly at the camera. The man appeared to be white, with brown hair and a goatee, but it was hard to really make him out; the photo was grainy, the angle a bit oblique. The agent sent the man's face to child-crime investigators around the country in the hope that someone might recognize him. When an investigator in New York saw the request, she ran the face through an unusual new facial-recognition app she had just started using, called Clearview AI. The team behind it had scraped the public web -- social media, employment sites, YouTube, Venmo -- to create a database with three billion images of people, along with links to the webpages from which the photos had come. This dwarfed the databases of other such products for law enforcement, which drew only on official photography like mug shots, driver's licenses and passport pictures; with Clearview, it was effortless to go from a face to a Facebook account. The app turned up an odd hit: an Instagram photo of a heavily muscled Asian man and a female fitness model, posing on a red carpet at a bodybuilding expo in Las Vegas. The suspect was neither Asian nor a woman. But upon closer inspection, you could see a white man in the background, at the edge of the photo's frame, standing behind the counter of a booth for a workout-supplements company. On Instagram, his face would appear about half as big as your fingernail. The federal agent was astounded. The agent contacted the supplements company and obtained the booth worker's name: Andres Rafael Viola, who turned out to be an Argentine citizen living in Las Vegas.
Paul Lipman has worked in cybersecurity for 10-plus years. The onset of Covid-19 necessitated a work-from-home environment on an unprecedented scale. Large and small companies raced to reframe and reevaluate cybersecurity measures within a massive BYOD environment and amid increased Covid-19-related phishing scams and cyberattacks like the recent ransomware attacks against the Clark County School District (CCSD) in Las Vegas and United Health Services. Regulations like GDPR and CCPA helped make the collection of consumer data and privacy a matter of law instead of just good practice. However, consumers remain skeptical of businesses that continue to put profit ahead of privacy after breaches, like Facebook, TikTok and YouTube.
Every year, I see people swarm the floor of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) -- usually held in Las Vegas -- along with tweets, videos, and articles about weird but fascinating gadgets. I've never been to the CES in person, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the event to be virtual this year, and I could'attend' the event for the first time. While CES is all about new gadgets with new standards such as Wi-Fi 6 and mini-LED, it's also about crazy home devices. I got to explore a lot of these devices through pitches in my inbox, a few articles, and tweets going around. So, here's a list of devices, I don't really need, but still want in my home.
Fox News Flash top headlines are here. Check out what's clicking on Foxnews.com. Russell Wilson still wants to play for the Seattle Seahawks, his agent said Thursday amid a new report detailing a potential growing fracture between the two sides. Wilson's agent Mark Rodgers told ESPN if there was a trade coming down the line Wilson would only want to play for a handful of teams. Rodgers told ESPN that Wilson's trade list would include the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Las Vegas Raiders and Chicago Bears.
Now is not the time to rely on grand predictions. That may seem like an incongruous statement coming from the leader of a customer intelligence company, but it's true. And as we find ourselves in the first part of 2021, and more and more yearly predictions come out, that sentiment remains. There is no greater example of risky predictions than Las Vegas. There is a reason the house always wins in the long-term -- gambling on an event before it happens is a losing proposition.
Motional did not say how many cars had participated in the Las Vegas tests, but said in its statement that "multiple" autonomous vehicles had been used on routes that included public roads and closed courses. During the tests, the vehicles sensed and responded to human-driven vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, the company said. Some tests were completed with a safety operator in the car; others were completed without one.
An artificial intelligence that can grade the skill of a pianist with near-human accuracy could be used in online music tutoring. Brendan Morris at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and his colleagues selected almost 1000 short video clips of people playing piano from YouTube and got an expert pianist to manually grade each on a 10-point scale. The researchers used half of these videos and their grades to train a neural network, a form of AI, creating a model that can assess piano playing in unseen videos.
CES 2021 was unlike any trade show we've ever experienced. Due to Covid-19, it was "all digital," which really meant "mostly websites." To find the hot stuff this year, we didn't wander the millions of square feet of the Las Vegas Convention Center and surrounding facilities, but instead watched streamed presentations, combed through hundreds of exhibitors' "digital activations" and, of course, heard plenty of pitches from entrepreneurs and marketing folks eager to keep us in the loop--global pandemic or not. That means we weren't able to touch and feel the innovations like in years past--although we did get some stuff sent to our homes. Still, it hasn't stopped us from bringing you the craziest, coolest and kookiest gadgets we could find.
General Motors has inched slightly closer to fulfilling its quest to put the world in flying cars. As part of the 2021 virtual Consumer Electronics Show on Tuesday, GM showed renderings and animation of what it dubbed its Cadillac Halo concepts: the Cadillac Personal Autonomous Vehicle, which is like a fancy self-driving taxi, and Cadillac Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) vehicle, a sleek and futuristic drone-like flying car. "The VTOL is GM's first foray into air travel," said Michael Simcoe, GM's vice president of global design. Advances in electric vehicles and other technology are now "making personal air travel possible," he said. Simcoe's presentation came in the middle of GM CEO Mary Barra's keynote address to CES, the annual exhibition normally held in Las Vegas that features the latest technology.