Washington Post


How Apple's strategy is hobbling the HomePod

Washington Post

Apple's main claim to fame is a proven track record for successful products. But with its latest, the HomePod smart speaker, some analysts say its old formula for success -- going for the high end of the market and tightly controlling its ecosystem -- has let it down. Recent analyst reports suggest that the HomePod isn't selling well. Bloomberg reported last week that Apple even cut its internal sales estimates. While Apple hasn't released numbers on HomePod sales, it's expected to give some sense of the HomePod's sales in its next earnings report on May 1. HomePod sales are important to the Cupertino, Calif.


AI will solve Facebook's most vexing problems, Mark Zuckerberg says. Just don't ask when or how.

Washington Post

Artificial intelligence will solve Facebook's most vexing problems, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg insists. He just can't say when, or how. Zuckerberg referred to AI technology about 23 times during his five-hour testimony before a joint Senate committee hearing Tuesday, saying that it would one day be smart, sophisticated and eagle-eyed enough to fight against a vast variety of platform-spoiling misbehavior, including fake news, hate speech, discriminatory ads and terrorist propaganda. Over the next five to 10 years, he said, artificial intelligence would prove a champion for the world's largest social network in resolving its most pressing crises on a global scale -- while also helping the company dodge pesky questions about censorship, fairness and human moderation. "We started off in my dorm room with not a lot of resources and not having the AI technology to be able to proactively identify a lot of this stuff," Zuckerberg told the lawmakers, referring to Facebook's famous origin story.


Amazon is issued patent for delivery drones that can react to screaming voices, flailing arms

Washington Post

Amazon.com has been granted a new patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a delivery drone that can respond to human gestures. The concept is part of Amazon's goal to develop a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles that can get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less. Issued earlier this week, the patent may help Amazon grapple with how flying robots might interact with human bystanders and customers waiting on their doorsteps. Depending on a person's gestures -- a welcoming thumbs up, shouting or frantic arm waving -- the drone can adjust its behavior, according to the patent. The machine could release the package it's carrying, alter its flight path to avoid crashing, ask humans a question or abort the delivery, the patent says.


Here's who could become one of Trump's top science and tech advisers

Washington Post

More than a year after entering the White House, President Trump still has not selected his top science and technology adviser, leaving unfilled a critical policy post that guides the administration on issues as varied as artificial intelligence, climate change and cancer research. While the White House maintains that it is unconstrained in its work -- and has staffed up to tackle such challenges as closing the country's Internet-access gaps -- the vacancy still troubles policy experts, who feel that Trump would be best served by someone who could double as an emissary to the academic and engineering worlds. "Symbolically, it signals science and technology is at the table in the administration's policymaking," said Kumar Garg, who was an innovation policy aide under President Barack Obama. "But also substantively, because the science adviser is the principal who gets invited to senior strategy meetings ... on critical topics like biosecurity, cybersecurity, [and] how do we make sure America remains competitive against China and Russia in emerging technology." Technically, the White House has two major science and technology posts.


How 5G became a political football in a merger attempt involving two of the world's biggest chip makers

Washington Post

It's easy to forget that many of the electronic devices we take for granted are actually made up of tiny components sourced from dozens of companies. But now a merger attempt involving two of the world's largest computer chip makers is drawing renewed attention to that vast commercial ecosystem -- and raising big questions about America's future leadership in the technology sector. Broadcom's possible takeover of Qualcomm provoked a letter to both companies this week from U.S. officials, citing fears that the merger could make it easier for countries such as China to hack or spy on American businesses.


Amazon's Alexa randomly laughs at users and nobody knows why

Washington Post

Several people who own Amazon's Echo speakers have reported a strange bug: the Alexa voice assistant has been laughing for no reason. Some users on Twitter and Reddit say the outbursts have been entirely spontaneous. Others have said that Alexa has laughed after being asked to turn on the lights -- and may have misheard the command. "Having an office conversation about pretty confidential stuff and Alexa just laughed," Twitter user @DavidSven wrote recently. "Anybody else ever have that?



Technology that can foster aging in place

Washington Post

According to AARP, almost 90 percent of seniors would like to stay in their home as they age. This idea of aging in place -- growing older where you already live, typically not in a health-care environment -- continues to be a popular choice among seniors able to live without a lot of assistance.


In our eyes, Google's software sees heart attack risk

Washington Post

By looking at the human eye, Google's algorithms were able to predict whether someone had high blood pressure or was at risk of a heart attack or stroke, Google researchers said Monday, opening a new opportunity for artificial intelligence in the vast and lucrative global health industry.