If you thought you were going to make it out of 2018 without a couple more data slip-ups, think again! Monday, Google revealed that a bug in its somehow still alive Google social network exposed the data of 52.5 million users. That's orders of magnitude bigger than the 500,000 users that were impacted by a previous Google exposure. And on Friday, Facebook announced that it had exposed photos of up to 6.8 million users for nearly two weeks in September. The timing on Facebook's disclosure was auspicious!
Over the past five years, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have released a trio of amazing low-budget sci-fi/horror films: Resolution, Spring, and The Endless. Science fiction author Christopher Cevasco says that what sets these films apart is their focus on compelling characters. "The performances have to be really strong to pull off movies like these," Cevasco says in Episode 339 of the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. You're immediately pulled in by the characters." Benson and Moorhead are real-life friends, which definitely shows in the way that they portray male friendship. For writer Sara Lynn Michener, that's a welcome change from horror movies in which the characters are both disposable and detestable. "I really appreciate that they are putting a lot of emotionally intelligent male characters in their films," she says. "We see a lot of stereotypical male behavior in film, and it's really lovely to see a film about a man taking care of his friend." Geek's Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley hopes to see more low-budget sci-fi films like The Endless. "I just think this should be so inspiring to other filmmakers, that you can make movies like Resolution for $3,000 and have 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes," he says. "This is a model for other people who want to do that." Benson and Moorhead are currently at work on a bigger-budget movie, Synchronic, starring Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie. TV writer Andrea Kail hopes the new film is able to maintain the same sensibility as their earlier work. "I just hope they retain their creative independence, because they're amazing storytellers, and that should be encouraged, and not reined in by a bunch of idiot studio executives," she says. Listen to the complete interview with Christopher Cevasco, Sara Lynn Michener, and Andrea Kail in Episode 339 of Geek's Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below. "Let me say this--and I'm sure NYU will come after me now--but if you want to be a filmmaker, don't go to film school.
Here's the deal, says Mark Rosekind. Around him, some 400 workers clack away on computers, or roll out yoga mats in the central "town hall" space, or tend to the startup's fleet of self-driving, golf-cart-on-steroids prototypes. The deal is that in spite of all this kind of work--work that has put autonomous vehicles on the streets of cities around the world--regulators don't know how to ensure the potentially life-saving technology won't instead make roads more dangerous. "A company might think it's OK because it checks some box," says Rosekind, whose job is to help Zoox solve this puzzle. Maybe its robo-car has amassed 50 million of miles of data, or has executed a perfect three-point turn, or reliably pulls over when a wailing police car appears behind it.
The holiday season is here, and Christmas is in sight. There will be a lot of last-minute deals in the days before the big ... day. This weekend we decided to highlight some of the best video game deals and sales we're seeing. Walmart, Best Buy, Target, Microsoft, and GameStop are all having Christmas sales on consoles and games. Most of these deals should go through Christmas, and some may continue as the rush of after-Christmas sales hits.
Science fiction has promised us a whole lot of technology that it's rudely failed to deliver--jetpacks, flying cars, teleportation. The most useful one might be the robot companion, à la Rosie from The Jetsons, a machine that watches over the home. It seemed like 2018 was going to be the year when robots made a big leap in that direction. Two machines in particular surfaced to much fanfare: Kuri, an adorable R2D2 analog that can follow you around and take pictures of your dinner parties, and Jibo, a desktop robot with a screen for a face that works a bit like Alexa, only it can dance. But then, as quickly as the home robots came, they disappeared.
Hanging on the wall of Postmates' stealth R&D laboratory, there's a framed photo of an iconic scene from Star Wars, Luke Skywalker bent down beside R2D2. Except someone has used Photoshop to replace Luke's face with Ali Kashani, Postmates' VP of Robotics. Nevermind that Kashani has never seen Star Wars (he considers this a point of pride). Kashani recognizes the symbolism of his face in a world where robots roll around next to people, where bots act almost like friends. Kashani joined Postmates a year and a half ago, with a special mission to bring robots to the company.
When Geoffrey von Maltzahn was first pitching farmers to try out his startup's special seeds, he sometimes told them, half-acknowledging his own hyperbole, that "if we're right, you shouldn't just see results in the field, you should be able to see them from outer space." As the co-founder of a company called Indigo Ag, von Maltzahn was hawking a probiotic that he hoped would increase their crop yields dramatically. "I never thought we'd ever actually test that idea," he says. In the three years since Indigo began selling naturally occurring organisms such as bacteria and fungi, spray-coated onto seeds, the company has grown to become perhaps the most valuable agtech company in the world. Pitchbook, for example, estimates Indigo's value at $3.5 billion.
The future depends on connectivity. From artificial intelligence and self-driving cars to telemedicine and mixed reality to as yet undreamt technologies, all the things we hope will make our lives easier, safer, and healthier will require high-speed, always-on internet connections. The FCC regulates who can use which ranges, or bands, of frequencies to prevent users from interfering with each other's signals. Low-Band Frequencies Bands below 1 GHz traditionally used by broadcast radio and television as well as mobile networks; they easily cover large distances and travel through walls, but those are now so crowded that carriers are turning to the higher range of the spectrum. Mid-Band Spectrum The range of the wireless spectrum from 1 GHz to 6 GHz, used by Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, mobile networks, and many other applications.
Since 2016, IBM has offered online access to a quantum computer. Anyone can log in and execute commands on a 5-qubit or 14-qubit machine located in Yorktown Heights, New York, from the comfort of their own home. This month, I finally tried it--nervously. I did not know what I was doing and worried I might break the hardware. "You won't mess anything up," IBM physicist James Wootton assured me via Skype.
In the early 1970s, a British grad student named Geoff Hinton began to make simple mathematical models of how neurons in the human brain visually understand the world. Artificial neural networks, as they are called, remained an impractical technology for decades. But in 2012, Hinton and two of his grad students at the University of Toronto used them to deliver a big jump in the accuracy with which computers could recognize objects in photos. Within six months, Google had acquired a startup founded by the three researchers. Previously obscure, artificial neural networks were the talk of Silicon Valley.