Wall Street Journal


Facebook Courts Video Makers for 'Watch' Tab With Financial Incentives

Wall Street Journal

Many of those media companies poured resources into online video in the hopes that big advertising budgets will follow, but it has been harder to realize those ambitions without the second of the two big tech giants fully in the marketplace. "We foresee increasing spend on the platform provided Facebook can demonstrate consumer interest," said Bryan Wiener, executive chairman of digital media agency 360i. In some cases publishers are pitching show ideas to Facebook complete with estimates of episode length and production costs, and Facebook is choosing which individual shows it is willing to help finance, according to people familiar with publishers' discussions. For many publishers, creating content for Watch isn't a significant departure from the way they already create video content for Facebook's news feed or for other video platforms such as YouTube.


Alphabet Sees Power in Molten Salt, a New Moonshot

Wall Street Journal

Google parent Alphabet Inc. GOOGL 0.58% is pitching an idea to store power from renewable energy in tanks of molten salt and cold liquid, an example of the tech giant trying to marry its far-reaching ambitions with business demand. Alphabet's research lab, dubbed X, said Monday that it has developed plans to store electricity generated from solar panels or wind turbines as thermal energy in hot salt and cold liquids, such as antifreeze. The lab is seeking partners in the energy industry, including power-plant developers and utilities, to build a prototype to plug into the electrical grid. X says its system works by sending electrical power from solar panels or wind turbines through a heat pump that converts the power to thermal energy, splitting it between hot and cold, which is then stored in tanks of molten salt or a cold liquid, such as antifreeze.


Google Co-Founder Enlisted Engineer For His Flying Car

Wall Street Journal

Google co-founder Larry Page's flying-car startup enlisted star Google engineer Anthony Levandowski to work on the project, according to people familiar with the matter, months before Mr. Levandowski left the tech giant last year, allegedly with trade secrets, for rival Uber Technologies Inc. Mr. Levandowski's involvement with the project, called Kitty Hawk Corp., is another sign of his unusual tenure at Google. His departure from Google sparked the high-stakes legal fight between Uber and Google parent Alphabet Inc. GOOGL 0.58% Alphabet is suing Uber for allegedly conspiring with Mr. Levandowski to steal its driverless-car trade secrets. Kitty Hawk, launched by Alphabet Chief Executive Mr. At another point, an Uber attorney suggested that when Mr. Levandowski left Google, he told a company human-resources employee that he planned to start a driverless-truck company or join Kitty Hawk.


A Robot Can Be a Warehouse Worker's Best Friend

Wall Street Journal

Instead of developing technology to completely replace manpower, these firms are designing robots meant to work alongside people. Deutsche Post AG's DHL is testing "swarming" robots at a facility in Memphis, Tenn. Such robots aren't yet widespread compared to more-established technologies, like the shelf-moving robots developed in the mid-2000s by Kiva Systems Inc., which Amazon.com Inc. bought in 2012. The swarming robots that DHL is testing work in groups.


Norway Takes Lead in Race to Build Autonomous Cargo Ships

Wall Street Journal

Petter Ostbo, Yara's head of production who leads the project, said the company would look to invest in bigger ships and use them for longer routes once international regulations are in place for crewless vessels. The International Maritime Organization, which regulates maritime travel, doesn't expect legislation governing crewless ships to be in place before 2020. Shipping executives say autonomous vessels will be popular for short sea routes, but doubt they will replace oceangoing ships that move thousands of containers across continents with an average crew size of around 25. "When the bridge goes on land, it will be something like flying a drone from a command center," said Kongsberg's chief executive, Geir Haoy.


Next Leap for Robots: Picking Out and Boxing Your Online Order

Wall Street Journal

Automation companies such as Kuka AG KU2 -0.04%, Dematic Corp. and Honeywell International Inc. unit Intelligrated, as well as startups like RightHand Robotics Inc. and IAM Robotics LLC are working on automating picking. Hudson's Bay is testing RightHand's robots in a distribution center in Scarborough, Ontario. Swisslog, a subsidiary of Kuka, sells picking robots that can be integrated into the company's other warehouse automation systems or purchased separately.


Apple Expands Bet on Cutting Edge Privacy Tech

Wall Street Journal

Privacy experts worry these tools could be used to identify people in otherwise anonymous data sets. Differential privacy is key to Apple's artificial intelligence efforts, said Abhradeep Guha Thakurta, an assistant professor at University of California, Santa Cruz. While companies such as Google have access to massive volumes of data required to improve artificial intelligence, Apple's privacy policies have been a hindrance, blamed by some for turning the company into a laggard when it comes to AI-driven products such as Siri. The U.S. Census Bureau confronted the problem of links between data sets a decade ago.


Career of the Future: Robot Psychologist

Wall Street Journal

One subset that has taken off is neural networks, systems that "learn" as humans do through training, turning experience into networks of simulated neurons. "A big problem is people treat AI or machine learning as being very neutral," said Tracy Chou, a software engineer who worked with machine learning at Pinterest Inc. "And a lot of that is people not understanding that it's humans who design these models and humans who choose the data they are trained on." It is a difficult enough problem to crack that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as Darpa, is funding researchers working on "explainable artificial intelligence." Here's why we're in this pickle: A good way to solve problems in computer science is for engineers to code a neural network--essentially a primitive brain--and train it by feeding it enormous piles of data.


Saving Face: Investment in Recognition Tech Heats Up in China

Wall Street Journal

SHANGHAI--A Chinese startup that sells facial recognition systems to police forces secured venture-capital funding that values it at more than $1.5 billion, underscoring the sector's emergence as one of technology's hottest areas of interest. Beijing-based SenseTime Co., which provides surveillance systems using facial recognition to Chinese law enforcement agencies, said Tuesday it raised $410 million in new funding from investors, lifting it to so-called unicorn status with a value of more than $1 billion. Using artificial intelligence, facial recognition systems from SenseTime and others can identify people in a crowd by matching their faces against those on file in image databases. SenseTime investors include Chinese private-equity fund CDH Investments and Sailing Capital, a VC fund linked to the Shanghai government.


Off the Map: The Rough Road Ahead for Self-Driving Cars in China

Wall Street Journal

China is creating roadblocks for U.S. auto makers and tech companies to bringing self-driving cars to the world's largest auto market. Citing national security concerns, China is limiting the amount of mapping that can be done by foreign companies, as General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Alphabet Inc. and Apple Inc. rush to develop self-driving cars or the software behind them. To secure turn-by-turn navigation maps, foreign car makers currently work with Chinese mapping companies. German mapping provider HERE, owned by auto makers Audi, BMW AG BMW -2.61% and Daimler AG, will bring its maps to China after receiving investment and forming a 50-50 joint venture with Navinfo last December.