Washington Post


Drink too much beer at a Dallas Cowboys game? Now a free robot-driven van will scoop you up afterward.

Washington Post

Things are not only bigger in Texas, they're also hotter, more sprawling and increasingly traffic-clogged thanks to a population boom that has lasted nearly a decade. In many of the state's fast-growing, car-dependent cities, these realities make for lousy walking conditions and long commutes. For the self-driving car company Drive.ai, Nearly four months after the Mountain View, Calif.-based start-up launched a six-month pilot program in nearby Frisco, Tex., the company deployed its second self-driving service on public roads in Arlington, Tex., on Friday. The service -- which is free to use -- will operate multiple routes in geo-fenced areas in downtown Arlington, according to Drive.ai


Drink too much beer at a Dallas Cowboys game? Now a free robot-driven van will scoop you up afterward.

Washington Post

Things are not only bigger in Texas, they're also hotter, more sprawling and increasingly traffic-clogged thanks to a population boom that has lasted nearly a decade. In many of the state's fast-growing, car-dependent cities, these realities make for lousy walking conditions and long commutes. For the self-driving car company Drive.ai, Nearly four months after the Mountain View, Calif.-based start-up launched a six-month pilot program in nearby Frisco, Tex., the company deployed its second self-driving service on public roads in Arlington, Tex., on Friday. The service -- which is free to use -- will operate multiple routes in geo-fenced areas in downtown Arlington, according to Drive.ai


Shaken by hype, self-driving leaders adopt new strategy: Shutting up

Washington Post

Three former executives at Google, Tesla and Uber who once raced to be the first to develop self-driving cars have adopted a new strategy: Slow down. At their new company Aurora Innovation, which is developing self-driving technology for carmakers including Volkswagen and Hyundai, the rules are simple: No flashy launches, mind-blowing timelines or hyper-choreographed performances on closed tracks. "No demo candy," said Chris Urmson, a co-founder and former head of Google's self-driving car team. Aurora's long-game technique reflects a new phase for the hyped promise of computer-piloted supercars: a more subdued, more pragmatic way of addressing the tough realities of the most complicated robotic system ever built. In the wake of several high-profile crashes that dented public enthusiasm in autonomous cars, Aurora's executives are urging their own industry to face a reality check, saying lofty promises risk confusing passengers and dooming the technology before it can truly take off.


Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and billionaire investor, dies at 65

Washington Post

They were teenage computer geeks, bespectacled kids from Seattle who taught themselves programming from a Teletype terminal, learned the basics of business from Fortune magazine and dreamed of "a computer in every home and on every desk." Paul Allen was the self-described "idea man," the shy son of librarians. Bill Gates was the business-oriented partner who brought the ideas to life. And in 1975, when Mr. Allen was 22 and Gates was 19, the friends formed a company that became known as Microsoft and unleashed a personal-computer revolution that made both men fabulously wealthy. Mr. Allen left the company after only eight years, amid a bout with Hodgkin's disease and a deteriorating friendship with Gates.


Google will no longer force Android phone makers to set Chrome as the default browser -- in the E.U.

Washington Post

Google is ending a controversial practice in Europe where it requires smartphone makers seeking to pre-install Google's app store to also add other Google apps, such as search and Chrome. Instead, Google will allow device manufacturers to pre-install the Google Play Store on a stand-alone basis, and offer the option to pre-install Google's other proprietary apps for an extra, unspecified fee. The company's announcement Tuesday came ahead of an Oct. 29 deadline to comply with a European Union antitrust decision, which saw regulators slap the company with a $5 billion fine for bundling its apps in an allegedly anticompetitive manner. Google is fighting the order but is working to meet its terms, because not doing so by the deadline could risk further penalties. In making their decision, antitrust officials in Europe had said that Google's practice of tying the apps together could harm competition by giving Google a built-in advantage over new apps struggling to attract an audience.


Google really is trying to build a censored Chinese search engine, its CEO confirms

Washington Post

Google on Monday finally confirmed a secretive project that's been fueling an employee-led backlash for weeks at the company: an effort to build a version of its search engine that complies with China's online censorship regime. The project, code-named Dragonfly, is not only real but is already performing to the satisfaction of top Google executives. And it could pave the way for Google to reenter China's online search market after nearly a decade. "If Google were to operate in China, what would it look like? What queries will we be able to serve?" chief executive Sundar Pichai said during an event hosted by Wired on Monday night.


The bizarre thing that happened when a roboticist trained AI to tell people their fortunes

Washington Post

When Alexander Reben began feeding thousands of inspirational expressions he scraped off the Internet into an algorithm he designed, he wasn't sure what might happen next. The goal was to train artificial intelligence to create the sort of generic messages that someone might find in fortune cookies. The result took the artist and MIT-trained roboticist by surprise. Instead of producing the kind of playful and seemingly vaguely perceptive advice known to bring a smile to people's faces, Reben's technology turned dark -- and undeniably weird. About 75 percent of the machine's fortunes, Reben estimates, ended up being "very negative," though often no less hilarious.


The bizarre thing that happened when a roboticist trained AI to tell people their fortunes

Washington Post

When Alexander Reben began feeding thousands of inspirational expressions he scraped off the Internet into an algorithm he designed, he wasn't sure what might happen next. The goal was to train artificial intelligence to create the sort of generic messages that someone might find in fortune cookies. The result took the artist and MIT-trained roboticist by surprise. Instead of producing the kind of playful and seemingly vaguely perceptive advice known to bring a smile to people's faces, Reben's technology turned dark -- and undeniably weird. About 75 percent of the machine's fortunes, Reben estimates, ended up being "very negative," though often no less hilarious.


For his latest trick, Atlas the headless humanoid robot does parkour

Washington Post

You've seen him hop on boxes, run across a field and execute backflips with the precision of a professional gymnast. Perhaps it seems only natural that Atlas ---- the humanoid robot and YouTube sensation created and periodically updated on video by tech company Boston Dynamics ---- has begun mastering another sophisticated form of human movement: parkour. In the company's latest 29-second teaser, Atlas can be seen jumping over a log using one leg before nimbly bounding up increasingly high wooden boxes, his mechanical limbs adjusting midair to maintain balance in a fashion that seems unmistakably human. "The control software uses the whole body including legs, arms and torso, to marshal the energy and strength for jumping over the log and leaping up the steps without breaking its pace," the company said in a statement posted on YouTube. "Atlas uses computer vision to locate itself with respect to visible markers on the approach to hit the terrain accurately."


Google promises its Pixel 3 phone is sexier on the inside than the outside

Washington Post

In a year of same-old smartphones, Google is pitching one that is sexy on the inside. The $800 Pixel 3 and $900 Pixel 3 XL, which I had a chance to try at Google's New York launch event Tuesday, can take pictures and screen calls for you. Believe it or not, it can make calls for you, too. Google's homegrown smartphone hardly challenges the status quo all-screen, jumbo-sized designs from Apple and Samsung. On the glass back, there is a fingerprint reader and one camera; on the front, there is a notch in the screen to hide its front-facing cameras.