Robotics

Robots Could Wipe Out Another 6 Million Retail Jobs (cnn.com) 280

According to a new study this week from financial services firm Cornerstone Capital Group, between 6 million and 7.5 million retail jobs are at risk of being replaced over the course of the next 10 years by some form of automation. "That represents at least 38% of the current retail work force, which consists of 16 million workers," reports CNN. "Retail could actually lose a greater proportion of jobs to automation than manufacturing has, according to the study." From the report: That doesn't mean that robots will be roving the aisles of your local department store chatting with customers. Instead, expect to see more automated checkout lines instead of cashiers. This shift alone will likely eliminate millions of jobs. "Cashiers are considered one of the most easily automatable jobs in the economy," said the report. And these job losses will hit women particularly hard, since about 73% of cashiers are women. There will also be fewer sales jobs, as more and more consumers use in-store smartphones and touchscreen computers to find what they need, said John Wilson, head of research at Cornerstone. There will still be some sales people on the floor, but just not as many of them. Rising wages are also helping to drive automation, as state and city governments hike their minimum wages. Additionally, several major retailers including Walmart, the nation's largest employer, have increased wages in order to find and retain the workers they need. The increased competition from e-commerce is also a factor, since it requires retailers to be as efficient as possible in order to compete.
China

China Successfully Mines Gas From Methane Hydrate In Production Run (oilprice.com) 132

hackingbear writes from a report via OilPrice.com: In a world's first, China has successfully extracted gas from gas hydrates in production run in the northern part of the South China Sea. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), global estimates vary, but the energy content of methane in hydrates, also known as "fire ice" or "flammable ice," is "immense, possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels." But no methane production other than small-scale field experiments has been documented so far. The China Geographical Survey said that it managed to collect samples from the Shenhu area in the South China Sea in a test that started last Wednesday. Every day some 16,000 cubic meters (565,000 cubic feet) of gas, almost all of which was methane, were extracted from the test field, exceeding goals for production mining. This is expected to help cut down China's coal-induced pollution greatly and reduce reliance on politically sensitive petroleum imports controlled by the US. "The production of gas hydrate will play a significant role in upgrading China's energy mixture and securing its energy security," Minister of Land and Resources Jiang Daming said on Thursday.
Government

Apple Is Lobbying Against Your Right To Repair iPhones, New York State Records Confirm (vice.com) 235

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Lobbying records in New York state show that Apple, Verizon, and the tech industry's largest trade organizations are opposing a bill that would make it easier for consumers and independent companies to repair your electronics. The bill, called the "Fair Repair Act," would require electronics companies to sell replacement parts and tools to the general public, would prohibit "software locks" that restrict repairs, and in many cases would require companies to make repair guides available to the public. Apple and other tech giants have been suspected of opposing the legislation in many of the 11 states where similar bills have been introduced, but New York's robust lobbying disclosure laws have made information about which companies are hiring lobbyists and what bills they're spending money on public record. According to New York State's Joint Commission on Public Ethics, Apple, Verizon, Toyota, the printer company Lexmark, heavy machinery company Caterpillar, phone insurance company Asurion, and medical device company Medtronic have spent money lobbying against the Fair Repair Act this year. The Consumer Technology Association, which represents thousands of electronics manufacturers, is also lobbying against the bill. The records show that companies and organizations lobbying against right to repair legislation spent $366,634 to retain lobbyists in the state between January and April of this year. Thus far, the Digital Right to Repair Coalition -- which is generally made up of independent repair shops with several employees -- is the only organization publicly lobbying for the legislation. It has spent $5,042 on the effort, according to the records.
Medicine

Researchers Create a T-Shirt That Monitors the Wearer's Breathing Rate In Real Time (sciencedaily.com) 38

"Researchers at Universite Laval's Faculty of Science and Engineering and its Center for Optics, Photonics, and Lasers have created a smart T-shirt that monitors the wearer's respiratory rate in real time," reports Science Daily. The details have been published in the latest edition of Sensors. From the report: Unlike other methods of measuring respiratory rate, the smart T shirt works without any wires, electrodes, or sensors attached to the user's body, explains Younes Messaddeq, the professor who led the team that developed the technology. "The T shirt is really comfortable and doesn't inhibit the subject's natural movements. Our tests show that the data captured by the shirt is reliable, whether the user is lying down, sitting, standing, or moving around." The key to the smart T shirt is an antenna sewn in at chest level that's made of a hollow optical fiber coated with a thin layer of silver on its inner surface. The fiber's exterior surface is covered in a polymer that protects it against the environment. "The antenna does double duty, sensing and transmitting the signals created by respiratory movements," adds Professor Messaddeq, who also holds the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Photonic Innovations. "The data can be sent to the user's smartphone or a nearby computer." As the wearer breathes in, the smart fiber senses the increase in both thorax circumference and the volume of air in the lungs, explains Messaddeq. "These changes modify some of the resonant frequency of the antenna. That's why the T shirt doesn't need to be tight or in direct contact with the wearer's skin. The oscillations that occur with each breath are enough for the fiber to sense the user's respiratory rate."
EU

US and EU Reject Expanding Laptop Ban To Flights From Europe (bbc.com) 87

An anonymous reader writes: US and EU officials have decided against a ban on laptops and tablets in cabin baggage on flights from Europe. But after a four-hour meeting in Brussels to discuss the threats to aviation security, officials said other measures were still being considered. US officials had previously said they were looking into extending to Europe a ban on electronics on flights from eight mostly Muslim countries. The measure was introduced over fears a bomb could be concealed in a device. The meeting was requested by EU officials after recent reports suggested US authorities had new information regarding laptop parts being turned into explosives.
China

Drone Pilots In China Have to Register With the Government (engadget.com) 58

China's Civil Aviation Authority has announced that drone pilots will be required to register any unmanned aerial vehicle heavier than 0.55 pounds with the government starting on June 1st. "Online registration will open up on May 18th, and the government will start publishing no-fly zone data for civilian airports on the same day," reports Engadget. From the report: The initiative will also see regulators working with local government and police to curb drone interference, and will eventually standardize commercial drone use with four main categories: aerial photography, agricultural use, aviation photography and license training. The country already recognizes over 200 training outlets that have issued over 14,000 certificates so far, so some of this standardization would really just expand on what's already happening. It's hard to escape concerns that this will help the government crack down on drone pilots for spurious reasons, such as when they record protests or questionable government activities. However, the registration officially comes as a response to a mounting number of safety incidents involving drones at airports. Authorities note that Chengdu alone saw eight examples of drone interference since April, six of which grounded 138 flights. If those sorts of figures are applicable elsewhere, that's a lot hassle and potential danger.
Power

How the Lights Have Gone Out For the People of Syria (bbc.co.uk) 126

dryriver shares an excerpt from a report via the BBC that shows what the impact of the Syrian war looks like from space: Six years of war in Syria have had a devastating effect on millions of its people. One of the most catastrophic impacts has been on the country's electricity network. Images from NASA, obtained by BBC Arabic, show clearly how the lights have gone out during the course of the conflict, leaving people to survive with little to no power. Each timelapse frame shows an average of the light emitted at night every month from 2012, one year after the war began. They show that the areas where Syrians can turn lights on at night, power their daily lives and get access to life-saving medical equipment, have shrunk dramatically. The city of Aleppo was Syria's powerhouse and home to over two million people. But the country's industrial hub became a battleground and remained so for more than four years. Russian airstrikes against Syrian rebels began in October 2015 and the timelapse shows the city in almost complete darkness at night throughout 2016, when the battle for Aleppo was at its peak. As mains power supplies dropped off, ordinary people had to be creative in finding alternative sources for light and power.
Google

Google Home Gets Notifications, Hands-Free Calling, a TV Interface and More (theverge.com) 37

Google has announced several news features for Google Home to help it better compete against the Amazon Echo. The six new features coming to Google Home include: notifications, free calling to phones in the U.S. and Canada, calendar and reminders, more streaming services, a TV interface, and new locations. The Verge details each feature in its report: Notifications: Google calls this feature "proactive assistance." Essentially, Google Home will do its best to alert owners to things they need to know, like reminders, traffic alerts, or flight delays.
Free Calling To Phones In U.S. and Canada: Google is one-upping Amazon by letting the Home dial out to actual landline and mobile phones. Whenever this feature rolls out, you'll be able to ask the Home to call anyone on your contacts list, and it'll dial out to them on a private number.
Calendar and Reminders: You can finally set reminders and calendar entries. Finally.
More Streaming Services: Google Home has already been able to control a handful of music and video services, but it's about to get a bunch of major missing names. For music, that includes Spotify's free tier, Deezer, and SoundCloud. For video, it includes HBO Now and Hulu. On top of that, Home is also getting the ability to stream anything over Bluetooth.
A TV Interface: Sometimes you actually want to see what's going on, so Google's making a TV interface for the Google Home. You'll soon be able to ask the Home to send information to your TV, from basics like the weather and your calendar, to information it's looking up like nearby restaurants or YouTube videos you might want to watch.
New Locations: The Home is going to expand to five new countries this summer: Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Japan.

Android

Amazon Refreshes Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 Tablets (betanews.com) 28

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Amazon's tablets have needed a refresh for a while now, and today it happened. The company announced two newly updated models -- the Fire 7 ($49) and the Fire HD 8 ($79). They both feature Alexa support, of course, and are designed for a quality experience with all types of media, such as movies, music, and books. The 7-inch has a 1024 x 600 resolution, while the 8-inch variant has 1280 x 800. Best of all, they are extremely affordable. At these insanely low prices, you might expect anemic performance, but both come with a respectable Quad-core 1.3 GHz processor. The Fire 7 has 1GB of RAM, while the HD 8 has 1.5GB. Regardless of which model you select, you will also get both front and rear cameras. The low cost might make you think they will be cheaply made, but Amazon claims they are more durable than Apple's newest iPad.
Iphone

Apple Starts Assembling iPhones In India (techcrunch.com) 56

Apple has successfully completed its first trial run assembly of the iPhone SE in India, reports The Wall Street Journal. "We are beginning initial production of a small number of iPhone SE in Bengaluru," Apple said in a statement to TechCrunch. "iPhone SE is the most popular and powerful phone with a four-inch display in the world and we'll begin shipping to domestic customers this month." From the report: The four-inch SE is Apple's least expensive model, running $399 in the States. Some retailers in the country have managed to undercut the cost, lower the entry level price of the handset by around $80 -- but even at that price, it's still substantially more expensive than most. In spite of its relatively low pricing, the SE doesn't appear to have made quite the splash Apple was initially anticipating in the country. Apple has long been working to move production to the country, hoping, in part, to retake some of the market it has lost in China in recent years, as domestic handset sales have grown. Locals are hoping that such a move could reduce the retail cost of the SE even further, by as much as $100. But while $220 is certainly a lot more palatable, that still marks a substantial premium over the average handset price. It's the world's fastest growing market, having recently surpassed the U.S. to claim the number. The Indian market is expected to generate somewhere in the neighborhood of one billion smartphone sales over the next half-decade.
Android

Google Takes Another Shot At Making Android Great On Low-Budget Smartphones (phonedog.com) 55

At its developer conference, Google unveiled Android Go, a project wherein Google will offer a version of Android that runs swiftly on budget, low-specced smartphones. With the new strategy, Google hopes to further improve the low-budget smartphone ecosystem in developing markets. Android Go will be focused around building a version of Android for phones with less memory, with the System UI and kernel able to run with as little as 512MB of memory. Apps will be optimized for low bandwidth and memory, with a version of Play Store designed for those markets that will highlight these apps. From a report: Another feature of Android Go will be data management. Android Go will let you easily see your data usage, and thanks to carrier integration, it'll also let you top-up with more data right on your device.
Google

Google's Android Now Powers More Than 2 Billion Devices (cnet.com) 30

At Google's developer conference IO 2017, CEO Sundar Pichai said Android is now running on more than two billion active devices. The milestone, Pichai said, Google achieved this month. CNET adds: It took three years for Android to double its user base, having disclosed that it had 1 billion active devices at its developer conference in 2014. In 2015, Google said that it had 1.4 billion active users on Android. While phones make up a bulk of its devices, it's starting to see a proliferation of other gadgets running on the software.
China

Many Nations Pin Climate Hopes On China, India As Hopes For Trump Fade (reuters.com) 334

Twelve readers share a Reuters report: Many countries are pinning their hopes on China and India to lead efforts to slow climate change amid a growing sense of resignation that U.S. President Donald Trump will either withdraw from a global pact or stay and play a minimal role. Delegates at the May 8-18 negotiations in Bonn on a detailed "rule book" for the 2015 Paris Agreement, the first U.N. talks since Trump took office, say there is less foreboding than when Washington last broke with global climate efforts in 2001. Trump doubts global warming has a human cause and says he will decide on a campaign threat to "cancel" the Paris Agreement, the first to bind all nations to set goals to curb emissions, after a group of Seven summit in Italy on May 26-27. "The time when one big player could affect the whole game is past," said Ronald Jumeau, climate ambassador for the Seychelles. "There would be a void without the U.S., but China and India seem to be increasing their effort." Big emitters led by China, the European Union and India have reaffirmed their commitment to Paris, which seeks to phase out greenhouse gas emissions this century by shifting to clean energies. By contrast, Trump wants to favor U.S. coal.
Businesses

Qualcomm Sues Apple Contract Manufacturers (reuters.com) 56

Qualcomm on Wednesday sued the manufacturers that make iPhones for Apple for failing to pay royalties on the chip maker's technology, widening its legal battle with the world's most valuable company. Qualcomm's lawsuit, filed Wednesday in a federal district court in San Diego, accuses Compal, Foxconn, Pegatron, and Wistron of breaching longstanding patent-licensing agreements with Qualcomm by halting royalty payments on Qualcomm technology used in iPhones and iPads. From a report: Apple sued Qualcomm in January, accusing it of overcharging for chips and refusing to pay some $1 billion in promised rebates. Qualcomm said in the complaint that Apple is trying to force the company to agree to a "unreasonable demand for a below-market direct license." Qualcomm said last month that Apple had decided to withhold royalty payments to its contract manufacturers that are owed to the chipmaker, for sales made in the first quarter of 2017, until the dispute is resolved in court. "While not disputing their contractual obligations to pay for the use of Qualcomm's inventions, the manufacturers say they must follow Apple's instructions not to pay," Qualcomm said in a statement on Wednesday.
Patents

Apple Receives Patents For Bezel-Free Display, Touch ID Button Embedded In Screen (9to5mac.com) 176

Apple has just been granted patents for two of the biggest features expected from the iPhone 8: an edge-to-edge display, and a Touch ID button embedded into the screen. 9to5Mac reports: The edge-to-edge display patent has the rather mundane heading "Reducing the border area of a device." It describes how a mostly-flat display can have a curved border area allowing it to wrap around the sides of the device: [...] "This relates to methods and systems for reducing the border areas of an electronic device so as to maximize the display/interactive touch areas of the device. In particular, a flexible substrate can be used to fabricate the display panel and/or the touch sensor panel (referred to collectively herein as a 'circuit panel') of a mobile electronic device so that the edges of the display panel and/or the touch sensor panel can be bent. Bending the edges can reduce the width (or length) of the panel, which in turn can allow the overall device to be narrower without reducing the display/touch-active area of the device." The embedded Touch ID patent is one of many submitted by Apple, describing different approaches it could take. This one re-uses language from a separate patent granted back in February, describing the benefits of allowing a user to authenticate without having to remove their finger from the screen: "Where a fingerprint sensor is integrated into an electronic device or host device, for example, as noted above, it may be desirable to more quickly perform authentication, particularly while performing another task or an application on the electronic device. In other words, in some instances it may be undesirable to have a user perform an authentication in a separate authentication step, for example switching between tasks to perform the authentication." Apple has been granted a total of 56 patents today. For more information, visit Patently Apple.
AMD

AMD Unveils 'EPYC' Server CPUs, Ryzen Mobile, Threadripper CPU and Radeon Vega Frontier Edition GPU (hothardware.com) 76

MojoKid writes: Today, at its financial analyst day, AMD lifted the veil on a number of new products based on the company's Zen CPU architecture and next generation Vega GPU architecture. AMD CEO Lisa Su lifted a very large server chip in the air that the company now has branded EPYC. AMD is going for the jugular when it comes to comparisons with Intel's Xeon family, providing up to 128 PCI Express 3.0 lanes, which Su says "allows you to connect more GPUs directly to the CPU than any other solution in the industry." EPYC currently scales to 32 cores/64 threads per socket and supports up to 8-channel DDR4 memory (16 DIMMs per CPU, up to 4TB total memory support). AMD also confirmed the previously rumored Threadripper CPU, a 16-core/32-thread beast of a chip for the enthusiast desktop PC space. AMD's Raja Koduri, Senior Vice President and Chief Architect for Radeon Technologies Group, also unveiled Radeon Vega Frontier Edition, a workstation and pro graphics card targeted at VR content creation, visualization and machine learning. Radeon Vega Frontier Edition offers 13 TFLOPS of FP32 throughput, 25 TFLOPS of FP16 performance and is powered by 64 computer units and 16GB of HMB2 memory for about 480GB/sec of memory bandwidth. The cards are expected to ship in June but there was no word just yet on when consumer versions of Vega will hit. Finally, AMD also shared info on Ryzen Mobile, which will incorporate both the Zen CPU architecture and an integrated Vega GPU core. Compared to AMD's 7th generation APUs, AMD claims Ryzen Mobile will up CPU performance by 50 percent while offering 40 percent better graphics performance. AMD also claimed those gains will not come at the expense of battery life, with a 50 percent reduction in power consumption, which reportedly will pave the way for faster, longer lasting premium notebooks and 2-in-1 devices.
Biotech

Scientists 3D-Print Ovaries To Allow Infertile Mice To Mate and Give Birth (theguardian.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Infertile mice have given birth to healthy pups after having their fertility restored with ovary implants made with a 3D printer. Researchers created the synthetic ovaries by printing porous scaffolds from a gelatin ink and filling them with follicles, the tiny, fluid-holding sacs that contain immature egg cells. In tests on mice that had one ovary surgically removed, scientists found that the implants hooked up to the blood supply within a week and went on to release eggs naturally through the pores built into the gelatin structures. The work marks a step towards making artificial ovaries for young women whose reproductive systems have been damaged by cancer treatments, leaving them infertile or with hormone imbalances that require them to take regular hormone-boosting drugs. Of seven mice that mated after receiving the artificial ovaries, three gave birth to pups that had developed from eggs released by the implants. The mice fed normally on their mother's milk and went on to have healthy litters of their own later in life. Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the scientists describe how they printed layered lattices of gelatin strips to make the ovary implants. The sizes and positions of the holes in the structures were carefully controlled to hold dozens of follicles and allow blood vessels to connect to the implants. Mature eggs were then released from the implants as happens in normal ovulation.
Data Storage

HPE Unveils The Machine, a Single-Memory Computer Capable of Addressing 160 Terabytes (venturebeat.com) 150

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced what it is calling a big breakthrough -- creating a prototype of a computer with a single bank of memory that can process enormous amounts of information. The computer, known as The Machine, is a custom-built device made for the era of big data. HPE said it has created the world's largest single-memory computer. The R&D program is the largest in the history of HPE, the former enterprise division of HP that split apart from the consumer-focused division. If the project works, it could be transformative for society. But it is no small effort, as it could require a whole new kind of software. The prototype unveiled today contains 160 terabytes (TB) of memory, capable of simultaneously working with the data held in every book in the Library of Congress five times over -- or approximately 160 million books. It has never been possible to hold and manipulate whole data sets of this size in a single-memory system, and this is just a glimpse of the immense potential of Memory-Driven Computing, HPE said. Based on the current prototype, HPE expects the architecture could easily scale to an exabyte-scale single-memory system and, beyond that, to a nearly limitless pool of memory -- 4,096 yottabytes. For context, that is 250,000 times the entire digital universe today.
Power

All Fossil-Fuel Vehicles Will Vanish In 8 Years, Says Stanford Study (financialpost.com) 1049

Stanford University economist Tony Seba forecasts in his new report that petrol or diesel cars, buses, or trucks will no longer be sold anywhere in the world within the next eight years. As a result, the transportation market will transition and switch entirely to electrification, "leading to a collapse of oil prices and the demise of the petroleum industry as we have known it for a century," reports Financial Post. From the report: Seba's premise is that people will stop driving altogether. They will switch en masse to self-drive electric vehicles (EVs) that are ten times cheaper to run than fossil-based cars, with a near-zero marginal cost of fuel and an expected lifespan of 1 million miles. Only nostalgics will cling to the old habit of car ownership. The rest will adapt to vehicles on demand. It will become harder to find a petrol station, spares, or anybody to fix the 2,000 moving parts that bedevil the internal combustion engine. Dealers will disappear by 2024. Cities will ban human drivers once the data confirms how dangerous they can be behind a wheel. This will spread to suburbs, and then beyond. There will be a "mass stranding of existing vehicles." The value of second-hard cars will plunge. You will have to pay to dispose of your old vehicle. It is a twin "death spiral" for big oil and big autos, with ugly implications for some big companies on the London Stock Exchange unless they adapt in time. The long-term price of crude will fall to $25 a barrel. Most forms of shale and deep-water drilling will no longer be viable. Assets will be stranded. Scotland will forfeit any North Sea bonanza. Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela will be in trouble.
Android

HTC Launches 'U11' Squeezable Smartphone With Snapdragon 835 CPU, No Headphone Jack (theverge.com) 69

HTC has officially launched its newest flagship smartphone today, the U11. While it has competitive specifications for a flagship smartphone of 2017, such as a 5.5-inch, Quad HD display, and Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB RAM, it has some unique features of its own. HTC is introducing a new way to interact with the U11 by letting you squeeze the sides of the device to perform different functions. The Verge reports: This new feature is called "Edge Sense," and it can be configured to do a variety of tasks with either short or long squeezes. You can set a short squeeze to open the camera and then take a picture when the camera app is open. A long squeeze can be configured to launch the Google voice assistant or toggle the flashlight on and off. In addition to Edge Sense, the U11 has a similar design to the U Ultra from earlier this year. That means it's metal and glass -- a departure from the all-aluminum unibody designs of past HTC phones -- with curved panels that blend into the metal frame and vibrant, pearlescent colors. That also means it lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack, instead relying on its USB Type-C port for charging, data transfer, and audio function. HTC says removing the headphone jack has a number of advantages, including allowing the company more room inside the phone for other components and making the design of the bottom edge smoother. It also allows for a better audio experience, as the included headphones have both audio tuning and active noise cancellation, without having to rely on a secondary battery. In addition to the headphones, HTC is including a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter for use with other headphones, which it didn't for the U Ultra.

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