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USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

DuckDuckGo, a search engine focused on privacy, increased its average number of daily searches by 62% in 2020 as users seek alternatives to impede data tracking. The search engine, founded in 2008, operated nearly 23.7 billion search queries on their platform in 2020, according to their traffic page. On Jan. 11, DuckDuckGo reached its highest number of search queries in one day, with a total of 102,251,307. DuckDuckGo does not track user searches or share personal data with third-party companies. "People are coming to us because they want more privacy, and it's generally spreading through word of mouth," Kamyl Bazbaz, DuckDuckGo vice president of communications, told USA TODAY.


Kroger testing new 'smart cart' that eliminates stopping to pay at checkout

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

Kroger is testing new smart shopping cart technology in the Cincinnati area that eliminates paying at the checkout. For the past few weeks, Kroger quietly rolled out the new carts at its Madeira store, branded "KrogGo." The technology allows shoppers to load up their cart with groceries, then pay by swiping their credit or debit card at the cart, then head for the parking lot. Using artificial intelligence, the technology will enable shoppers to assemble their order without having to scan items as carts begin to recognize a box of cereal or pound of apples, according to Caper, the New York firm behind the technology. The carts include a built-in scale to measure items sold by weight and a built-in screen that can deliver shopping list recommendations, promotional offers, and wayfinding capabilities.


What if New York City Mayor Andrew Yang Is … a Good Idea?

Slate

Andrew Yang will not forestall the robot apocalypse from the Oval Office, but he may get to do it from New York City Hall. In the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, the former entrepreneur's quirky campaign found a surprisingly robust audience, attracted by Yang's warnings about automation and his promise to mail every American a "freedom dividend" (or, at least, by his math jokes and laid-back, open collar). In the end, the Yang Gang only got their guy as far as the New Hampshire primary. But thanks in part to the name recognition and national network of donors he accrued during that race, Yang is actually leading the polls this year's contest to be the Democratic candidate for New York City mayor. On Friday, Henry Grabar and Jordan Weissmann, two of Slate's native New Yorkers, convened to debate whether this is a good thing. Their debate has been edited and condensed for clarity.


AI app allows banks to screen loan applicants' face and voice to determine their 'trustworthiness'

Daily Mail - Science & tech

People tend to make snap judgments on each other in a single look and now an algorithm claims to have the same ability to determine trustworthiness for obtaining a loan in just two minutes. Tokyo-based DeepScore unveiled its facial and voice recognition app last week at the Consumer Electronics Show that is touted as a'next-generation scoring engine' for loan lenders, insurance companies and other financial institutions. While a customer answers 10 question, the AI analyzes their face and voice to calculate a'True Score' that can be help companies with the decision to deny or approve. DeepScore says its AI can determine lies with 70 percent accuracy and a 30 percent false negative rate, and will alert companies that fees need to be increased if dishonesty is detected. However, scientists raise concerns about bias saying the app is likely to discriminate against people with tics or anxiety, resulting in these individuals not receiving necessary funds or coverage, Motherboard reports.


How Volkswagen's $50 Billion Plan to Beat Tesla Short-Circuited

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

The car, however, didn't work as advertised. It could drive, turn corners and stop on a dime. But the fancy technology features VW had promised were either absent or broken. The company's programmers hadn't yet figured out how to update the car's software remotely. Its futuristic head-up display that was supposed to flash speed, directions and other data onto the windshield didn't function.


Microsoft invests in General Motors' self-driving subsidiary Cruise

ZDNet

Microsoft is investing in General Motors' self-driving subsidiary Cruise. In return, Cruise and GM are touting Azure as their "preferred" (though not exclusive) cloud vendor. According to the January 19 press release about the deal, Cruise will use Azure for its autonomous vehicle solutions. GM will work with Microsoft on collaboration, storage, AI and machine learning, as well as on digital-supply chain, productivity and mobility services. And Microsoft will join GM, Honda and institutional investors in a combined, new equity investment of more than $2 billion in Cruise.


US Army researchers are developing muscle-bound, Terminator-like war robots that have living tissue

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Combining living tissue with cold metal robots may sound like a plot from the James Cameron film'Terminator,' but the idea is being developed for real-world machines at the Army Research Laboratory (ARL). The US military group is working on a series of'biohybrid robotics' that integrates living organisms into mechanical systems that'produces never-seen-before agility and versatile.' The team envisions growing muscle tissue in a lab that would be added to robotic joints in place of traditional actuators – components responsible for moving and controlling mechanisms. The project aims to give robots the same agility and precision that muscles offer biological systems, allowing these futuristic machines to venture into spaces too risky for human soldiers. The US military group is working on a series of'biohybrid robotics' that integrates living organisms into mechanical systems that'produces never-seen-before agility and versatile.'


Self-supervised learning of visual appearance solves fundamental problems of optical flow

Robohub

How do honeybees land on flowers or avoid obstacles? One would expect such questions to be mostly of interest to biologists. However, the rise of small electronics and robotic systems has also made them relevant to robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). For example, small flying robots are extremely restricted in terms of the sensors and processing that they can carry onboard. If these robots are to be as autonomous as the much larger self-driving cars, they will have to use an extremely efficient type of artificial intelligence – similar to the highly developed intelligence possessed by flying insects.


Keep tabs on your home with these Eufy home security deals

Mashable

Here are the best deals on Eufy home security cameras and video doorbells as of Jan. 19: Even if you're home all day, it's good to see who's at your doorstep, whether it's a neighbor coming over with a question or delivery man bringing the package you've been waiting on. By adding a video doorbell or security cam to your smart home arsenal, you'll be fully in-the-know on who comes to your front porch, before they even ring the doorbell. Plus, just in case something suspicious is going on in the neighborhood, you'll have backed up video footage that'll ensure your safety. Eufy has video doorbells and indoor security cameras on sale for up to 27% off as of Jan. 19. These products will keep you in-the-know and keep your family safe.


Microsoft teams up with Cruise and GM on self-driving cars

Engadget

Cruise and GM have enlisted an important ally in their quest to make self-driving cars a practical reality. The two have entered a "long-term strategic relationship" with Microsoft to speed up the commercialization of autonomous vehicles. Cruise will use Microsoft's Azure cloud platform to deliver self-driving tech "at scale," while Microsoft will draw on Cruise's know-how to serve transportation companies. GM will treat Microsoft as its preferred cloud provider, too. There's money involved, to no one's surprise.