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Update April 2019


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UK considers direct regulation of social media companies

London (AP) - The U.K. has proposed directly regulating social media companies for the first time, with senior executives potentially facing fines if they fail to block damaging content such as terrorist propaganda or images of child abuse.

The regulations proposed Monday would create a statutory “duty of care” for social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to protect young people who use their sites. The rules would be overseen by an independent regulator funded by a levy on internet companies.

Media Secretary Jeremy Wright says: “Voluntary actions from industry to tackle online harms have not been applied consistently or gone far enough.”

The proposed regulations were released for public comment on Monday.


Toyota robot can’t slam dunk but shoots a mean 3-pointer

Toyota’s basketball robot Cue 3, the 207-centimeter (six-foot-10) -tall machine made five of eight three-pointer shots in a demonstration in a Tokyo suburb Monday, a ratio its engineers say is worse than usual. (AP Photo/Yuri Kageyama)

Yuri Kageyama

Tokyo (AP) - It can’t dribble, let alone slam dunk, but Toyota’s basketball robot hardly ever misses a free throw or a 3-pointer.

The 207-centimeter (six-foot, 10-inch)-tall machine made five of eight 3-point shots in a demonstration in a Tokyo suburb Monday, a ratio its engineers say is worse than usual.

Toyota Motor Corp.’s robot, called Cue 3, computes as a three-dimensional image where the basket is, using sensors on its torso, and adjusts motors inside its arm and knees to give the shot the right angle and propulsion for a swish.

Efforts in developing human-shaped robots underline a global shift in robotics use from pre-programmed mechanical arms in limited situations like factories to functioning in the real world with people.

The 2017 version of the robot was designed to make free throws.

Yudai Baba, a basketball player likely representing host Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, took part in the demonstration and also missed a couple of shots. If the robot could learn a few more tricks, he was ready to accept the robot on the team, he said.

“We human players are still better for now,” he said.

Right after missing, the robot slumped over. It wasn’t disappointment, but a temporary power failure.

Cue 3’s name is supposed to reflect the idea the technology can serve as a cue, or signal of great things to come, according to Toyota.

The company plays down how the technology might prove useful. It’s more about boosting morale among engineers, making them open to ideas and challenges.

In making the robot’s outer covering something like that of an armadillo, the engineers said they were just trying to avoid the white metallic look often seen on robots.

The maker of the Camry sedan, Prius hybrid and Lexus luxury models has shown off various robots, including one that played a violin. Another, resembling R2-D2 of Star Wars, slides around and picks up things. At Monday’s demonstration, it handed the basketball to Cue 3.

Experts say robots that can mimic human movements, even doing them better, could prove useful in various ways, including picking crops, making deliveries, and working in factories and warehouses.

Stanford University Professor Oussama Khatib, who directs the university’s robotics lab, said Cue 3 demonstrates complex activities such as using sensors and nimble computation in real-time in what he called “visual feedback.”

To shoot hoops, the robot must have a good vision system, be able to compute the ball’s path then execute the shot, he said in a telephone interview.

“What Toyota is doing here is really bringing the top capabilities in perception with the top capabilities in control to have robots perform something that is really challenging,” Khatib said.

Japan has been aggressive in developing humanoids, including those that do little more than offer cute companionship.

Toyota’s rival Honda Motor Co. has its Asimo, a culmination of research into creating a walking robot that started in the 1980s. It not only can run, but also recognize faces, avoid obstacles, shake hands, pour a drink and carry a tray.

When will such robots be able to slam dunk, a feat that will require running, dribbling and jumping?

“In 20 years, with technological advances,” said Tomohiro Nomi, a Toyota engineer who worked on Cue 3.


Thousands in Germany protest planned EU internet reforms

People protest against the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market by the European Union in Leipzig, Germany, Saturday, March 23, 2019. People fear for the freedom of the internet when users content has to pass upload filters to protect copyrights. (Peter Endig/dpa via AP)

Berlin (AP) - Tens of thousands of people have marched in cities across Germany to protest planned European Union copyright reforms that they fear will lead to online censorship.

The dpa news agency reports the biggest protest Saturday was in Munich, where 40,000 people marched under the motto “save your internet.”

Thousands of others took part in smaller demonstrations in the German cities of Cologne, Hamburg, Hannover, Berlin and other cities against the bill that is being voted on this week.

The most controversial section would require companies such as YouTube and Facebook to take responsibility for copyrighted material that’s uploaded to their platforms.

Proponents say the new rules will help ensure authors, artists and journalists are paid.

Opponents claim they could restrict freedom of speech, hamper online creativity and force websites to install filters.


Digital scrapbooking site Pinterest files for IPO

In this Oct. 11, 2018, file photo, Evan Sharp, Pinterest co-founder and chief product officer, poses for a photo, standing beside a wall of pegs symbolizing the company logo at Pinterest headquarters in San Francisco. Pinterest is pinning its future on Wall Street, with the digital scrapbooking site on Friday, March 22, 2019, filing for an initial public offering of stock. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

Rachel Lerman & Barbara Ortutay

San Francisco (AP) - Pinterest is pinning its future on Wall Street, with the digital scrapbooking site filing for an initial public offering of stock on March 22.

It follows a similar filing with securities regulators earlier last month by ride-hailing company Lyft in what is shaping up to be a busy season for technology IPOs. Also expected to sell stock to the public in the coming weeks: Lyft rival Uber and messaging app Slack.

Pinterest said in its filing that it intends to list itself on the New York Stock Exchange using the ticker symbol “PINS.” The company hasn’t yet said how many shares it’s selling in the IPO or how much money it intends to raise.

The San Francisco-based company had revenue of $756 million last year, a 60 percent bump from 2017. It had a loss of $63 million last year, compared to a loss of $130 million in 2017.

Pinterest allows people to search for and “pin” images as inspiration for fashion, interior design, travel and more.

The company said it has more than 250 million users each month, and users have saved more than 175 billion pins since the site was launched.

Pinterest has raised nearly $1.5 billion in the private markets, and was last valued at $12.3 billion in 2017, according to PitchBook Data.

Pinterest has long shunned being labeled a social network. Because of that, it doesn’t push users to add friends or build connections. It also means it’s been able to avoid problems of its larger rivals like Facebook.

But despite the lack of friend networks, many advertisers likely still consider Pinterest to be part of their “social” budgets, said eMarketer analyst Andrew Lipsman, meaning it competes in part with Facebook, Snapchat and others.

Pinterest makes advertising revenue when businesses promote pins in users’ feeds. Pinterest has the potential to be more valuable than most digital media to advertisers, Lipsman said, because it has direct information about what a user wants.

It’s all clear in the search - if a user is searching for new floor lamps or diamond rings, there’s a decent chance they want to buy those things.

“Visual search has a much bigger impact in terms of driving desire,” Lipsman said.

Pinterest was founded in 2010 by Ben Silbermann and Evan Sharp, who still serve as CEO and chief product officer, respectively.

The company has been working on developing its artificial intelligence search, which allows people to take a photo or upload a screenshot of an item and find similar products on Pinterest.

Like many other tech companies, including Facebook and Google, Pinterest will create two classes of stock - one that will give the holder one vote per share, and another that will get 20 votes per share. Shares held by executives and board members will be converted into shares of the second, more powerful, class. Pinterest’s filing did not break down the percentage of ownership.
 


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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

UK considers direct regulation of social media companies


Toyota robot can’t slam dunk but shoots a mean 3-pointer


Thousands in Germany protest planned EU internet reforms

Digital scrapbooking site Pinterest files for IPO