Uber's autonomous vehicles require frequent human intervention

The New York Times reports that Uber's autonomous vehicles require human intervention every 13 miles, on average, while Google's go 5,600: they were "not living up to expectations months before a self-driving car operated by the company struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Ariz."

When Mr. Khosrowshahi took over as Uber’s chief executive, he had considered shutting down the self-driving car operations, according to two other people familiar with Mr. Khosrowshahi’s thinking.

But he became convinced that it was important to Uber’s long-term prospects. His visit to Phoenix was seen by the Arizona team as a critical opportunity to demonstrate their progress, according to the people familiar with the company’s operations in the Phoenix area. They wanted to take him on a ride without human interventions to demonstrate that the cars could handle so-called edge cases, tricky road situations that are hard to predict.

“With autonomy, the edge cases kill you, so you’ve got to build out for all the edge cases,” Mr. Khosrowshahi said at a conference in November.

They sure do.

It's almost as if Uber's whole autonomous vehicle program was a sham to get money out of the Saudis. Read the rest

A tour of the manipulative, creepy bullshit Facebook pulls to stop you deleting your account

Ramy Khuffash takes us on a journey through the dark patterns, emotional manipulations and annoying hurdles Facebook uses to prevent users from deleting their accounts.

I hope this doesn't become a commonly used approach for stopping people from actually deleting their accounts.

Overally, I found the process confusing and mostly unnecessary.

Your friends will miss you! Read the rest

The oil industry just told a judge that climate change is undeniably real, but they still found a way to weasel

Judge William Alsup in San Francisco is presiding over a case in which California cities are suing the big oil companies over the climate-related disasters they're experiencing; Judge Alsup asked for a "tutorial" session in which experts for both sides would be asked to explain the underlying science, something he's done in earlier cases that turned on technical questions, including a DACA case and a case on lidar and self-driving cars. Read the rest

Watch "Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future" (1985)

Before Max Headroom shilled for Coke and collaborated with the Art of Noise (below), he starred in this fantastic and prescient 1985 UK TV movie about a dystopic future. This brilliant bit of cyberpunk science fiction feels even more relevant today than it did back then.

Previously: "Max Headroom, the full story"

(Thanks, UPSO!)

Read the rest

Life-size animatronic T-Rex bursts into flames at dinosaur theme park

A life-size animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex at a Colorado dinosaur theme park went down in flames yesterday. Zach Reynolds, co-owner of Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience, says it was probably caused by an electrical malfunction.

Although the 24-foot-tall T-Rex is a big loss to the park, Reynold's had a sense of humor about it when he joked, “We knew he had a temper, but today he blew his top.” He added, "it made for some spectacular imagery along the way."

The good sport hopes a new dinosaur will take its place by this summer.

Via AP Read the rest

Artist David Henry Nobody Jr. on how impersonating a wealthy Trump fan "kind of drove me insane"

"I INHABIT IMAGES" is the Instagram bio chosen by David Henry Nobody Jr., the playful yet apt moniker of New York artist David Henry Brown Jr. Nobody's artwork often involves being totally engulfed by food, pigments, advertisement cutouts, or household items, sometimes to the point where he is only recognizable by a glaring eye or wide smile. While this project has been documented on Instagram and ongoing for three years, David Henry Nobody Jr. has always been fascinated with ideas of representation and identity.

In 1999 Nobody, disguised as a fan, made it his mission to follow and meet Donald Trump as many times as possible over the course of a year. He totaled six interactions but decided to stick with the theme of impersonation for a new project in 2000 where he adopted the identity of Alex von Fürstenberg, VIP son of the fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg. During this time, "Alex" was documented at numerous celebrity parties among figures like Puff Daddy and Bill Clinton.

Nobody's current Resemblagè art, from the terms "resemble" and "collage", is a series of images and videos posted to Instagram that record performances of the artist covering and immersing his face in foods, paints, magazine cutouts, toys, and other objects. His inexhaustible creativity keeps the posts new and exciting by exploring new objects and textures, or ways to affix and camouflage himself with his art. These Resemblagès reflect the landscape of social media itself and toy with conceptions of self image, intimacy, and reality while also highlighting its far-reaching and immediate influence. Read the rest

Massive cruise ship sliced in half to embiggen it

Silversea Cruises has sliced their massive Silversea ship in half so that they can inset a 15 meter (50 feet) extension and increase the ship's capacity by 15 percent. While this kind of thing is commonly done to convert regular automobiles into stretch limos, the company describes this undertaking as a "rarely performed feat of maritime architecture." From CNN:

The elaborate engineering feat, underway at the Fincantieri Shipyard in Palermo, Italy, requires over 500 skilled workers and will take up approximately 450,000 man hours.

A prebuilt 15-meter extension (almost 50 feet) has already been inserted with "military precision" to stretch Silver Spirit from 195.8 to 210.7 meters.

(Thanks, Kelly Sparks!)

Read the rest

Children not getting things quite right

I feel kinda bad about enjoying this video of kids smashing trikes into things, and other minor mishaps. This did not stop me from watching it, however. Read the rest

DIY model rocket with drone nose cone for vertical landing

RC Lover San built this killer model rocket that uses a standard engine to launch before firing up its nose cone quadcopter to stick a vertical landing.

"Landing a Rocket Vertically, Without Being a Billionaire Aka Rocket Drone" (Instructables via MAKE) Read the rest

A $16 pad to stop stray cat litter from migrating about the house

This wonderful litter trapping pad keeps litter from being scattered all over my home.

I figured out my cat needed a 2nd litter box, and felt pretty smart. A few days later my home office was full of litter that had escaped the box on his paws and fur, I had forgotten to put a pad under the front of the box. I felt pretty silly. I tried a towel, because towels are pretty useful, but it didn't really help much.

This rubber mat does the trick.

Cat Litter Mat | XL Super Size | 35" x 23" via Amazon

Image via my home office Read the rest

Rodney Brooks on the present and future of robotics & AI

Rodney Brooks is the father of the Roomba, the founder of iRobot, and the creator of both the Baxter and Sawyer product lines from Rethink Robotics. He’s arguably the world’s most accomplished roboticist. And if he’s not – and I personally can’t think of who could challenge him for that crown – he’s definitely the top roboticist to be profiled in an Errol Morris documentary (1997’s Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control).

When Rodney left Australia for the region that would later become known as Silicon Valley, there were quite literally 3 mobile robots of consequence on the entire planet. Years later, he founded a company which has since brought tens of millions of these critters into the world. His products have saved countless lives. They have also liberated thousands of acres of carpeting from dust crumbs, dog hair, and other detritus.

Amazingly, Rodney’s tenure and credentials are every bit as significant in a second high tech field: artificial intelligence. He founded the leading developer of AI coding tools throughout the 80s and early 90s. And somehow he squeezed his robotics and AI entrepreneurship in while building a storied academic career – largely at MIT, where he spent a decade running one of the two largest and most prominent AI centers in the world.

Rodney is my guest in this week's edition of the After on Podcast. You can listen to our interview by searching “After On” in your favorite podcast app, or by clicking right here:

As you’ll hear, Rodney diverges from fashionable narratives on several tech-related topics. Read the rest

Friday Tunes: The Imagined Village

The Imagine Village is what you'd call a super group.

Over the years, its lineup has included members of the United Kingdom folk music royalty such as Billy Bragg, Eliza & Martin Carthy, Simon Emmerson, The Trans Global Underground, Chris Wood and dhol drum master Johnny Kalsi. Each of the musicians comes to the collective with decades of musical excellence under their belts and an extensive catalog of tunes of their own. The re-imagination of English folk standards is the Imagined Village's game: they color well-worn chestnuts with musical traditions from around the former British Empire, occasionally updating the lyrics to reflect the current conditions and mood of the United Kingdom's citizens.

If it sounds like a familiar formula, it's because you've maybe seen it done before by the Afro Celtic Soundsystem. Both bands share guitar/cittern player Simon Emmerson as a driving force behind their music. This isn't appropriated music. It's multicultural music that draws together players from a myriad of traditions to honor the music of the past in a manner that's both exciting and new.

While "Cold, Hailey, Rainy Night" comes from a long tradition of "Night Visit" songs – music that features some dude whinging to a young lady that everything is terrible outside so she should let him in to warm up and uh, have sex. You'll hear it being kicked about the folk world, under various regional titles, around the world. This version, recorded in 1971 by by Steeleye Span, is likely one of the most recognized versions of it. Read the rest

Watch woman torture husband with relentless Alanis Morissette impressions

Well, can you feel it?

Read the rest

School superintendent arms students with rocks as protection against school shooters

“Every classroom has been equipped with a five-gallon bucket of river stone," says David Helsel, superintendent of the Blue Mountain School District, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. "If an armed intruder attempts to gain entrance into any of our classrooms, they will face a classroom full students armed with rocks and they will be stoned."

From WNEP:

“At one time I just had the idea of river stone, they`re the right size for hands, you can throw them very hard and they will create or cause pain, which can distract,” said Helsel.

Helsel says teachers, staff and students were given active shooter training through a program known as ALICE which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate and they routinely hold evacuation drills for active shooter simulations.

But if a teacher decides to lockdown a classroom, there are rocks in a five-gallon bucket kept in every classroom closet that students could throw if shooters get inside.

Apparently the school also has an electronic system to lock down the school and they "train kids and talk about barricading the doors," he adds. Read the rest

The incredible science illustrations of Paul Mirocha

I met science illustrator Paul Mirocha through a personal Discord server I set up and when Paul started posting his illustrations in the "Show your creations" channel, I was blown away. His style reminds me of the old Giant Golden science books, which I love. Paul's illustrations celebrate both the diversity and the surprising strangeness of nature. He lives in the Sonoran desert in Tucson, Arizona.

I asked him to tell me a bit about his work:

Some projects call for a high level of realism, like food, botanical art, animals, or a city skyline. Yet, despite how well-researched, super-real, or detailed an image is, it may still lack something in the viewer’s mind, something hard to define. Appeal? Sparkle? I call it romance. It’s what makes a viewer understand, want to know more, buy, or maybe begin to salivate. That’s my formula: accurate plus lyrical equals a motivating image. One more thing–my work is digital, using all the expanded possibilities contained in that medium, yet I want it to still look like a traditional painting. That’s what makes it emotional and engaging.

Don’t forget about scientific illustrators, a dying breed in this brave new digital world! Armed with only a Mac Mini, an extra large trackpad, a stylus, photoshop, and a passport, I travel, observe, sketch, and digitally paint. The natural world is crammed with surprises, and rather than merely create images, I try to show the spirit within, shining out.

Read the rest

How to get food in Japan without knowing how to speak Japanese

This is a fun video introduction to feeding yourself in Japan, even if you don't know Japanese. Really, it's pretty easy to get food in Japan if you're a foreigner, but this video shows you different options, from konbini (convenience stores, which are much better than the ones in the US), to chain restaurants (again, usually tastier than US chains), to shopping mall food courts (beautiful and mind bending), and actual non-chain eateries. Read the rest

The worst Halloween animatronic (NSFW, NSFL)

Did the scene in the new IT movie where Pennywise bites Georgie's arm, only for the camera to cut to an exterior shot of the drain, leave you frustrated and hankering for more? If you want to dwell on the boy's dismembered fate on an indefinite basis, this animatronic prop at the TransWorld Halloween & Attractions Show in St. Louis this week should be right up your sewer.

You might be fortunate enough to see this at your local haunted house this fall, the laughing and shaking and screaming as an endlessly looping moment.

I usually love the pop-culture grand guignol transgressive trash of modern Halloween horror, but I really hate this! A sense of amazed wonder subsiding to cold dismay. There's something very 2018 going on here. It doesn't have anything to do with our lives but we all know that terrible things will soon be happening and we've developed a very strange language to accomodate ourselves to the prospect of it.

Here's the top comment on the YouTube thread:

Funny Vine Videos | FVV 3 hours ago Can we feature your video in our YouTube channel ? Please make sure to email me at funnyvinevideos.fvv(at)gmail(dot)com I have a great offer for you $$$

Am I just getting old? Tell me if I'm just getting old. Read the rest

More posts