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Uber cuts 15 percent of Postmates' workforce

Engadget

Now that Uber owns Postmates, it's apparently ready to cut workers it believes are superfluous. Uber has confirmed to the New York Times that it's laying off about 185 people at Postmates, or about 15 percent of the delivery company's staff. Most of the executives are leaving, including founder and CEO Bastian Lehmann. There may be more departures in the months ahead as contracts expire and others are asked to leave. The layoffs come as Uber melds its Eats platform with Postmates.


Waymo CEO dismisses Tesla self-driving plan: "This is not how it works"

#artificialintelligence

Many Tesla fans view the electric carmaker as a world leader in self-driving technology. CEO Elon Musk himself has repeatedly claimed that the company is less than two years away from perfecting fully self-driving technology. But in an interview with Germany's Manager magazine, Waymo CEO John Krafcik dismissed Tesla as a Waymo competitor and argued that Tesla's current strategy was unlikely to ever produce a fully self-driving system. "For us, Tesla is not a competitor at all," Krafcik said. "We manufacture a completely autonomous driving system. Tesla is an automaker that is developing a really good driver assistance system."


Hitting the Books: AI doctors and the dangers tiered medical care

Engadget

Healthcare is a human right, however, nobody said all coverage is created equal. Artificial intelligence and machine learning systems are already making impressive inroads into the myriad fields of medicine -- from IBM's Watson: Hospital Edition and Amazon's AI-generated medical records to machine-formulated medications and AI-enabled diagnoses. But in the excerpt below from Frank Pasquale's New Laws of Robotics we can see how the promise of faster, cheaper, and more efficient medical diagnoses generated by AI/ML systems can also serve as a double-edged sword, potentially cutting off access to cutting-edge, high quality care provided by human doctors. Excerpted from New Laws of Robotics: Defending Human Expertise in the Age of AI by Frank Pasquale, published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. We might once have categorized a melanoma simply as a type of skin cancer.


DOE's E-ROBOT Prize targets robots for construction and built environment

Robohub

Silicon Valley Robotics is pleased to announce that we are a Connector organization for the E-ROBOT Prize, and other DOE competitions on the American-Made Network. There is \$2 million USD available in up to ten prizes for Phase One of the E-ROBOT Prize, and \$10 million USD available in Phase Two. Individuals or teams can sign up for the competition, as the online platform offers opportunities to connect with potential team members, as do competition events organized by Connector organizations. Please cite Silicon Valley Robotics as your Connector organization, when entering the competition. Silicon Valley Robotics will be hosting E-Robot Prize information and connection events as part of our calendar of networking and Construction Robotics Network events.


On the 100th Anniversary of 'Robot,' They're Finally Taking Over

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

Within two years it had been translated into 30 languages, including English, to which it introduced the word "robot." In a century-long dialogue between inventors of fictional and actual robots, engineers have for the most part been forced to play catch-up, either realizing or subverting the vision of robots first expounded in books, movies and television. Now, the reality of robots is in some areas running ahead of fiction, even ahead of what those who study robots for a living are able to keep track of. Heather Knight is an engineer, "social roboticist" and one of 13 core faculty in Oregon State University's robotics program. One day in late October, she was shocked to find the campus crawling with a fleet of autonomous, six-wheeled vehicles made by Starship Robotics.


Harvard researchers created a robotic school of fish – Strictly Robots

Mashable

There are plenty of fish in the sea, but there's only one robotic school. Harvard researchers created a robotic school of fish that can coordinate their movements without any kind of controls from the researchers.


What's coming for the channel in 2021

ZDNet

For the channel, 2020 was a tale of two cities. On one hand, customers and governments recognized partners as an essential service and central to their ability to rapidly respond to a worsening pandemic. On the other, customer demand shifted to automation, cloud acceleration, customer/employee experience, and e-commerce/marketplaces, where many technology channel parts were left in the cold. The industry experienced a "K-shaped" recovery where partners who had skills, resources, and prebuilt practices around the business needs of their customers excelled with double- (and sometime triple-) digit growth. Yet many smaller VARs and MSPs were down by double digits, relying on government, vendor, and distributor funding to survive.


These virtual robot arms get smarter by training each other

MIT Technology Review

A virtual robot arm has learned to solve a wide range of different puzzles--stacking blocks, setting the table, arranging chess pieces--without having to be retrained for each task. It did this by playing against a second robot arm that was trained to give it harder and harder challenges. Self play: Developed by researchers at OpenAI, the identical robot arms--Alice and Bob--learn by playing a game against each other in a simulation, without human input. The robots use reinforcement learning, a technique in which AIs are trained by trial and error what actions to take in different situations to achieve certain goals. The game involves moving objects around on a virtual tabletop.


5G, fintech and mega-projects: What 2021 will mean for tech in the Middle East

ZDNet

The MENA region is in the middle of a digital transformation, which 2020 and COVID-19 has only accelerated. I asked five experts to share the tech trends they see influencing the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) this year, with digital payments, greater investment in AI and mobile, coupled with the need for greater focus on cybersecurity, all getting a mention. Among the things to look out for on the Middle East tech scene in 2021 is the Expo 2020 event, which is due to take place in Dubai in the UAE for six months starting from October says Matthew Reed, practice leader, Middle East and Africa & Asia Pacific, at Omdia. "The event, which was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but will still be known as Expo 2020, is expected to showcase advanced technologies and applications including autonomous vehicles, smart city services, and space exploration, with the latter based on the UAE's launch of an unmanned spacecraft to Mars in July 2020. "Saudi Arabia also has futuristic plans and in early January it unveiled the outlines of a major new city project, The Line, a 170-kilometre urban development that will be entirely powered by renewable energy and will be "hyper-connected though a digital framework incorporating artificial intelligence and robotics, according to the launch website. "The Saudi authorities are also increasingly keen to encourage investment and growth in the country's non-oil business sector, and that is likely to accelerate efforts to upgrade connectivity and technology services for enterprises over the year ahead." The fintech landscape in MENA is rapidly evolving from a focus on digital payments to expanding access to finance, both consumer and SME lending, says Ayman Ismail, Jameel chair of entrepreneurship, The American University in Cairo. "The past three years were mostly about establishing infrastructure for digital payments.


How to Fix the Vaccine Rollout - Issue 95: Escape

Nautilus

At a moment when vaccines promise to end the coronavirus pandemic, emerging new variants threaten to accelerate it. The astonishingly fast development of safe and effective vaccines is being stymied by the glacial pace of actual vaccinations while 3,000 Americans die each day. Minimizing death and suffering from COVID-19 requires vaccinating the most vulnerable Americans first and fast, but the vaccine rollout has been slow and inequitable. Prioritization algorithms have led to the most privileged being prioritized over the most exposed, and strict adherence to priority pyramids has been disastrously slow. Yet without prioritization, vaccines go to those with greatest resources rather than to those at greatest risk.