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At CES, Whirlpool rebrands as a tech company

USATODAY

Home appliance maker Whirlpool is planning to debut a whole bunch of new products in 2017--and they're not what you might expect. Other appliance manufacturers, like LG and Samsung, have a long history in the tech industry. So when they introduced innovations like connectivity, black stainless steel finishes, and fridges with storage compartments hidden inside their doors, shoppers snapped them up. This week, the world's largest home appliance manufacturer is at CES, the massive tech show in Las Vegas. It is introducing a whole series of Alexa- and Nest-compatible smart appliances, new smart ovens, a new fingerprint-resistant black stainless finish, and a door-within-door refrigerator.


Poll: Cautious optimism about tech in Trump Era

USATODAY

"Also, ain't no rule says a dog can't play basketball." SAN FRANCISCO -- President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to make America great again. But if the sentiments of tech workers and the general public are any indication of what he's about to face in the White House, he has a split country to stitch together. Such is the onerous task he inherits, based on a new study measuring the viewpoints of 500 "Tech Elites," defined as people who work or invest in the technology sector, and 1,000 members of the U.S. "General Population." For starters, 65% of tech elites believe innovation is going in the right direction, compared with just 46% in the general public (33% say they don't know).


Facebook touts AI benefits as job risks loom

USATODAY

Silicon Valley is training computers to see, hear and speak and cars and trucks to drive themselves. Some people aren't so sure how they feel about this new wave of artificial intelligence that summons fears of Terminator-like sentient machines. So Facebook is trying to dispel some of the pop-culture myths with a series of six instructional videos that attempt to explain this complex field of computer science. Whether searching on your smartphone for a good place to eat or trying to avoid traffic on the commute home, Facebook says you are already using artificial intelligence all the time. "I think the more open we can be about it and the more we can demystify and explain how it actually works, the more quickly we can address concerns," said Joaquin Quiñonero Candela, director of applied machine learning at Facebook.


With VC drying, seed funding grows more selective

USATODAY

Where seed funding is going. SAN FRANCISCO -- Seed investors are traditionally the first to make bets on promising start-ups and emerging technologies, giving an early indication of where the tech industry is headed. Such was the case in the early 2000s, when they poured money into social media, and the last few years, with autonomous vehicles. If new numbers from market researcher Crunchbase released this morning are any indication, the spaces to watch now are augmented and virtual reality, machine learning and -- yes -- cars again. But there appear to be fewer sure bets in what increasingly has been a downward arc in venture funding.


FAA completes landmark rules for commercial drones

USATODAY

WASHINGTON – New drone rules from the Federal Aviation Administration limit most small commercial drone operations to daylight hours and require operators to get certified every two years. "It is essential that all rules developed to promote the safe operation of unmanned aircraft systems must be consistent with and compatible with those for all other airspace users," the group said in a statement. Another 10,054 people registered one drone apiece for special permission for non-hobbyist operations such as for police and fire departments. At least 31 states have adopted laws governing drones, with 18 requiring search warrants for police to use drones for surveillance, 13 adopting criminal penalties for misusing drones and 12 creating privacy protections, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.


Detroit automakers ink deals for self-driving cars

USATODAY

Pivotal helped Ford develop FordPass, a free service that allows customers to access vehicle features from a smartphone and to reserve parking and pay bills, among other features. Ford CEO Mark Fields said the automaker's engineers will be working with Pivotal software engineers in software development labs, an evolution of the partnership. In 2014, Mark Reuss, GM's executive vice president of global product development, said Google parent company Alphabet could become a "serious competitive threat" to the auto industry because of its self-driving car project launched in 2009. "It takes many parts and partners to make a self-driving car," John Krafcik, CEO of Google's Self-Driving Car project said in January.


The hottest new technologies are coming to cars

USATODAY

Many of these advancements are being driven by the interest in what's called ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems), the technology that will eventually lead to self-driving cars. The multiple cameras, LIDAR and other sensors being integrated into new models serve as inputs to sophisticated neural networks that are running inside the car. From more sophisticated entertainment features to better displays to more reliable connectivity, tech performance has largely overtaken driving performance for many modern buyers. USA TODAY columnist Bob O'Donnell is president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, a market research and consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community.


Google talking to Fiat about tech partnership, reports say

USATODAY

According to two reports, Google is in late stages of talks with Fiat Chrysler about a partnership that would transfer the tech company's self-driving car innovations to the group's expansive line-up, which ranges from Chrysler mini-vans to Ferrari supercars. FCA spokesperson Shawn Morgan declined comment on the report, as did Google spokesperson Lauren Barriere. In a coincidence, Fiat's diminutive 500 two-door looks similar to Google's self-driving two-passenger prototype.Both FCA and Google declined to comment on the speculation. Google would not exactly fit that description, although having a pipeline to cutting edge tech would be a boon to any manufacturer as consumers increasingly make their purchasing decisions based on an automobile's tech features.


The shifting landscape of tech platforms, services

USATODAY

In a case of digital déjà vu, this week we once again find a behemoth of the tech industry, and a dominant player in operating systems for computing devices, being charged with monopolistic practices by an anti-trust commission from the European Union. But more things about these two companies, and their other compatriot in the battle of computing device operating systems -- Apple, have changed than just a reversal in their battle against EU sanctions. With the growth of everything from digital identity and authentication services for secure access to information, banking and shopping, to AI (artificial intelligence)-driven chatbots and other forms of invisible, ambient-style computing, the traditionally dominant role that platforms have long played in the tech world will change and likely decrease. USA TODAY columnist Bob O'Donnell is president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, a market research and consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community.


FAA to consider report on micro drones

USATODAY

As consumers and the industry surge forward with ideas for what they want to do with drones, the FAA is still working on the details on how these new devices, dubbed UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) or UAS (unmanned aerial systems), will be treated. Its charter was to come up with recommendations for the FAA covering "micro UAS," or drones weighing less than 4.4 pounds. The Senate is seeking to create regulations for larger drones that could do commercial deliveries. While the FAA was expected to receive the report Friday, it isn't expected to make it immediately public.