Lyft buys the biggest bike-sharing company in the US

I'm skeptical about the true market for bike sharing. I can see the perceived benefits, and when i lived closer in to central London I used to use Boris Bikes more often, i've recently tried to rent "dockless" bikes from several of the companies around London and although they never seem to be available nearby when i want them, cities all around the world (e.g. https://rob.al/2KI7ioo) are struggling with how to stop bike "dumping" – the natural "clustering" of bikes at the end of common commuter journeys.
https://rob.al/2KNyyVT
The ride-share company will take on Motivate’s existing contracts, like New York’s Citi Bike

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A new alloy promises sensors in temperatures of up to around 980°C – high enough to instrument engine blocks in cars, or drill heads in industrial machinery. As it's also conductive, it could be used to make solid state high current switching gear too.
https://rob.al/2tZNl5l
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Scientists Capture First Birth Of A Planet

The Very Large Telescope has been used to capture the birth of a planet around a star for the first time. Astronomers have long thought that planets grow through accretion of dust collected around stars – and this series of photographs shows this in action, giving us further evidence of the way our own solar system formed.
https://rob.al/2IQAp7g
Photographs of a young planet orbiting a star provide useful information about how planets form and grow.

Designing for accessibility is not that hard – UX Collective

We are trying to put accessibility at the core of everything we do, and it's hard – often people see "designing for accessibility" as expensive or time consuming. But it doesn't have to be. For a start, it's much cheaper to implement from the beginning than to try to retrofit, and accessible applications are easier for everyone to use, not just those with disabilities or impairments. Most of the pointers in this article are so obvious they shouldn't have to be stated – but unfortunately many people aren't even aware of the need to think about them, let alone possessed of the skill to design for accessibility.
https://rob.al/2KyTO2k
Seven easy-to-implement guidelines to design a more accessible web ❤️

Alibaba Debuts ‘AI Copywriter’ | Alizila.com

Chinese Tech Titan Alibaba has introduced a new feature to help sellers write compelling and useful copy for adverts with a few clicks of the neural network. Producing millions of suggestions each day, the "AI Copywriter" aims to reduce the "repetitive, low-value work" activities associated with creating multiple formats of an advert for different media. Claiming that the system "allows people to devote more energy to richly creative work", this will clearly put lower priced (although not necessarily lower skilled) copywriters in a difficult spot, and would concentrate spend on a smaller number of more "elite" copywriters.
https://rob.al/2lOKvwi
The technology has passed the Turing test and is capable of producing 20,000 lines of copy in a second, said digital marketing arm Alimama.

Self-driving cars are headed toward an AI roadblock

Self driving cars always seem to be "tomorrow's promise". One major reason is the way that machine learning struggles with "generalising" from more specific data. A child doesn't need to be shown every possible type of chair to learn what a chair is – but throw a few pixels out and your CNN is likely to miscategorise that wolf as a bear (https://rob.al/2u3owoW), which could have catastrophic consequences, especially if the knowledge is used maliciously. The Verge is asking whether this limit on capability is leading to a dead end – without significant progress in generalisation driving may be simply too unpredictable to be achieveable
https://rob.al/2z7dswK
Skeptics say full autonomy could be farther away than the industry admits

Luxury goods makers confront rise of the robot

This discussion about automation in the luxury goods market (https://rob.al/2lthZQF) reminded me of the chapters in The Man In the High Castle (https://rob.al/2lvvKOx) where it's suggested that some hand crafted items are so beautiful that they possess a factor, wu, that makes them desirable, and one of the character's acquaintances wishes to clone them as "most of the masses still believe in magic". But cloning the items removes what is intrinsically valuable. To me, automation manufacture of luxury goods seems to follow the same path – removing the skill and artisan nature of their creation threatens the very soul of the items they produce.
https://rob.al/2lthZQF
Response by European groups to robot revolution is as varied as their runway styles

Facebook’s new AI research is a real eye-opener

As AI becomes closer than ever to creating digital artifacts which are indistinguishable from those generated in real life, I'm left wondering how we manage the risks to our understanding of law and justice – think perhaps of a generated "CCTV recording" of a political opponent committing a crime being submitted as evidence in court, and no person nor machine can definitively prove whether it's fake or genuine.
https://rob.al/2ltTi6K
There are plenty of ways to manipulate photos to make you look better, remove red eye or lens flare, and so on. But so far the blink has proven a tenacious opponent of good snapshots. That may chan…

Amazon launches Alexa for Hospitality to bring voice-enabled services to hotel guests

We make a lot of use of our Alexa at home, and i'm interested to see how it can help in hotels. Being able to order important but not time-critical services ("alexa, have someone pick up my laundry"), or get information ("alexa, what floor is the gym on") come to mind. But is it going to be more than a gimmick? I still occasionally visit hotels with those massive Bose speakers with an iPhone 30 pin connector on them. Even when that was the right connector, who ever used them?? I know i just unplugged them to plug my laptop in instead.
https://rob.al/2IgfY38
Amazon has announced a new program designed to help hotels deploy Alexa’s voice-enabled smarts across their properties. Though Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo speakers are growing in popula…

Oracle defends cloud business disclosures

I've long found the sustainability Oracle's business model questionable – and their latest move to hide (lack of?) cloud revenue growth in their financials further reinforces my view that they are a company on the way down.
https://rob.al/2tqoFlW
Shares slide as analyst worries it may be ‘obfuscating weakness’