What’s Wrong with Uber – Kalanick’s Leave of Absence, Holder’s Report

Uber has grown into one of the fastest-growing, most successful tech startups in the world. Uber is easy to use, has tons of drivers, and is generally better than other transportation options. Despite the company’s success, news has spread of Uber’s harsh, sexist culture.


CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick recently declared a leave of absence in hopes to repair the company’s culture. Concerns of sexual harassment and other inappropriate conduct surfaced in past weeks, calling for Eric Holder, United States Attorney General, to suggest changes that may fix Uber’s culture.


Uber has been recommended by Holder to put a stop on personal, extracurricular relationships between employees, ban the use of alcohol and other substances at work, and better deal with employees’ concerns. Significant structural changes such as these generally requires executives to assume other responsibilities, or even step down.


The culture of the mobile-based transportation provider has been tagged as a “bro” culture, disregarding women and facilitating harmful sexist views.


After Eric Holder’s month-long research of Uber, over 20 people were fired for sexual harassment, bullying, and discrimination. Holder reviews more than 215 unaddressed employee complaints.


Executives — not just lower- and mid-level employees — have recently left Uber, such as Emil Michael, former president of business, and company president Jeff Jones. Uber is currently seeking to fill empty spots of COO and CFO.


CEO Travis Kalanick is also dealing with personal issues that are undoubtedly adding on to the mess currently under Uber’s roof. Kalanick’s mother unfortunately passed away in a freak boating accident, hurting his father as well.


Uber’s HR division has been reported to disregard employee complaints, which sounds likely based on its 215 unaddressed employee complaints. Uber is undoubtedly a successful business and is likely to succeed in coming years, but only if their corporate culture is fixed.


Tesla Wants to Take Most of Its Car Charging Stations Off the Grid with Solar Power

Electric Cars Need to Get Power from Somewhere


Tesla’s electric cars are great for the environment for many different reasons, but they still need to be charged up with electricity. The electricity from a city’s power grid can come from a wide variety of sources, and not all of them are as environmentally friendly as they could be. That is why Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, wants to take its car charging stations off the grid, and each station would only use solar panels to gather energy.


Tesla plans to equip as many of its stations as possible with special solar charging arrays, and they have been discussing the idea since 2012. This is the first time the CEO has come out with a bold claim to back up these station upgrades, though. Some doubt that Tesla’s stations will go off the grid.



The New Solar Charging Stations


Six charging stations currently operate using Tesla’s solar arrays. It requires a significant amount of sun to charge the massive central battery, but with enough sun, electric cars can be charged without reliance on public power grids.


Tesla may discover a lot of problems implementing the new technology on a grand scale. Many regions, such as Seattle, receive relatively little bright sunlight during the course of a given year. This drastically reduces the amount of power that Tesla’s standard solar arrays can absorb, and it isn’t clear yet whether the CEO’s goals are feasible.



Grid Disconnection and Tesla’s Overall Goals


Tesla wants to disconnect their stations from the grid, but some scientists question the need for complete grid disconnection. After all, Tesla could supply excess power back into the electrical grid. This would bring Tesla extra income, and it would also be good for the environment.


As a company, Tesla appears to be working hard to create environmentally friendly technologies. Their new charging stations may be high-tech and modern, but it isn’t clear how they will implement their solar array charging stations at this point.



Verizon Closed the Yahoo Acquisition, Meyer Ousted

News about Verizon acquiring Yahoo, a popular search engine, news, and email hosting site, have populated headlines in recent months. Today, Verizon closed out its acquisition of Yahoo. The popular does-it-all Internet site sold for $4.48 billion, with the deal closing right on schedule.


Acquisitions and mergers are often associated with closings of departments, divisions, and firing of employees. Now-former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was paid a $23 million severance package — now that’s a great way to get fired!


Verizon plans to bring together Yahoo with AOL, another one of its many subsidiaries, and form Oath. Tim Armstrong is slated to head Oath, which includes more than 50 other media brands, such as Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Verizon Digital Media Services. Armstrong was most recently the CEO of AOL before Verizon acquired it, as well.


Yahoo used to be the number-one search engine until now-giant Google came into play. Yahoo has had its fair share of struggles, dealing with a large-scale security crisis earlier this year. Two breaches of personal, private email accounts Yahoo hosted occurred, affecting approximately 1.5 billion — with a B, not an M — accounts.


The upcoming merger of Yahoo and AOL will keep approximately 85% of current employees, cutting roughly 2,100 positions. Retaining 85% of employees is considered good for a large-scale merger such as the upcoming Oath conglomerate.


Yahoo is slated to transform into an investment firm with a new name of Altaba Inc., although the new company is not fully formed yet. This new company will hold a 15% stake in Asia-based Internet giant Alibaba, along with a 35.5% stake in Yahoo Japan.


Verizon negotiated a $550 million chunk from its $4.48 billion sale price earlier this year because of its two massive data security failures.


What’s New With Apple: ARKit, iMac Pro, and watchOS 3

Apple is known for innovation in technology, releasing new products several times each year. The largest technology company in the world is known for releasing new versions of smartphones, computers, and other similar gadgets. Apple is expanding its already-prospective horizons and venturing into the car business, as CEO Tim Cook recently confirmed their plans to develop and produce an “Apple car.”


Rather than creating a sporty, fuel-efficient, trendy vehicle, Apple is hopping onboard the self-driving, autonomous car trend. The tech giant is not focused on creating eye-popping vehicles, instead opting for fully autonomous vehicles as their objective.


Apple hopes to advance artificial intelligence in coming years with the advent of an autonomous, Apple-brand vehicle, although no definite plans for release or mass production are set in stone at this time. While autonomous cars are very interesting, arguably more interesting than anything else Apple offers, the company has informed consumers of upcoming releases and upgraded technologies.


The Apple Watch will be getting a new update, watchOS 3, that should be released this fall. The touchscreen watch will also be the future home of Toy Story backgrounds and watch faces, coming around the time watchOS 3 is due.


Apple’s computer operating systems is getting another regular reboot, upgrading macOS Sierra to macOS High Sierra. Presenters made clear that invasive cookies will be thoroughly blocked, virtual reality devices will be easier to use, and Safari browser will be quicker.


The iMac Pro was mentioned, pricing starting at $4,999 — yeah, that’s a lot for a computer — featuring 6 Thunderbolt 3 ports, fast Ethernet, and more. The new, beefed-up computer is not likely to be released soon, with a release date as early as 2018.


Developers will be getting more help with ARKit, an upcoming, developer-friendly API. Depths of objects will be automatically gauged, along with the streamlining of placing objects on concrete surfaces, rather than playing guessing games of where they look natural.




Major Changes for Yahoo

After more than two decades, Yahoo will cease to be an independent company, CNN Tech reports. Verizon has completed its acquisition of the company for almost $4.5 billion. As the deal get wrapped up, Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer will step down with a golden parachute of $23 million.


Under her leadership, Yahoo acquired multiple start-ups hoping to be able to compete in the mobile area. But, these bets haven’t paid off as well as expected.


Yahoo and AOL, which is also a part of Verizon, will form a new digital media business called Oath. Verizon hopes that this will make it easier to compete for advertising dollars against such giants as Google and Facebook. There will also be reductions in the workforce. As many as 2,100 employees are likely to be laid off. This represents 15 percent of the workers. The rest of Yahoo will be named Altaba. Essentially, this will be a holding company for shares of Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce giant.


The deal took a year to complete and was almost called off after more than a billion users were affected by massive security breaches. To complete the deal after these incidents, Yahoo agreed to decrease its acquisition price by $350 million, and also has consented to split potential liabilities resulting from these breaches.


Yahoo is one of the Internet pioneers. The company was among the first and most recognized directories, and later portals and search engines. During the speculative mania of late 1990s, Yahoo was valued more than $100 billion. But, later it couldn’t compete with the likes of Google and Facebook. Another Verizon’s purchase, AOL, is a fallen angel as well.


Currently, Yahoo has a market cap around $50 billion dollars. Its buyer, Verizon, is valued at $190 billion.



Figure 1 (a.k.a. Instagram for Doctors) Receives $10 Million in Investment

For years, software developers and tech companies have attempted to create applications and social media platforms that could benefit the health industry. After all, the health industry accumulates billions per year. There is of course an ethical component as well as software and emerging technologies can add a lot of benefit to various health fields. Figure 1, also known as the Instagram for doctors, is a software developed purely for doctors and other medical professionals. In short, Figure 1 helps members share unique treatments, see rare conditions and elaborate on different cases. Figure 1 is essentially a social media developed primarily for health care professionals.


Founded by Gregory Levey, Figure 1 has attracted international attention and significant investment. Recently, the software has received another $10 million worth of investments from multiple companies and private firms. Kensington Capital Partners made the first round of investment. Samsung NEXT and John Hancock insurance group were among other notable investors. This latest round of investments raises Figure 1’s worth to $20 million in total. This is an impressive amount for a small startup that is only four years in the making. Based in Toronto, Figure 1 only has 50 employees as of 2017.


While only medical professionals such as doctors can make posts and changes to the apps contents, anybody can sign up to use the service. Figure 1 intends to keep the service under strict monitoring to ensure that it can be continued to use for purely scientific and professional use. Two-thirds of the user base is located in the United States with Latin America being the second largest demographic. However, there are users around the world attracted to Figure 1 for its unique combination of professional content and social media functioning. These latest investments totaling $10 million will help Figure 1 continue development and production for the future. These forms of professional applications could bring a new wave of technology into the medical field.


Android Creator Tackles Samsung and Apple

Andy Rubin, creator of the Android operating system, is now the CEO of the startup “Essential”. The goal of Essential is create innovative and tech forward gadgets. Their first offering is the Essential PH-1, a cell phone which he hopes will rival Samsung and iPhone in popularity. Recently, Rubin conducted an interview with Steve Covich, of Business Insider-Tech Insider, in which he discussed his future plans in full (http://www.businessinsider.com/qa-with-andy-rubin-essential-ceo-2017-6).


Rubin’s plan is to create a platform upon which products will be compatible across all operating systems. With his platform, these products will be able to “speak” across the board to all existing devices. And in doing so, companies will be able to support the efforts other companies and the products that they offer.


Rubin states that his Essential Home product is not only a touch interface, but it also has an array of microphones that support far-field speech recognition. With his operating system, Rubin plans to extend developer capability to the mass-market consumer. He plans for the consumer to have a drag-and-drop capability when creating programs.


Rubin feels that consumers become complacent with two companies owning 40% of the market and are not inspired to come up with new innovations. With his Essential Phone, Rubin invites consumers to participate in the development of future cell phone technology. Rubin feels that the era of cell phone innovations has passed and the market is now saturated with lack-luster phone upgrades. Rubin’s goal is to “continuously produce innovation and show it to the consumer happening in real time.”


Rubin’s plan includes products that are completely wireless, including cell phones and laptop. He feels that consumers deserve better than devices that are useless when their connectors become obsolete. Rubin also has plans to keep his products at a reasonable price in order to reach more consumers.



Verizon Finalizes Deal to Acquire Yahoo

Yahoo, well known in the early years of the internet as a search engine and email platform, has been purchased by Verizon for 4.48 billion dollars. This deal, while substantial, is 350 million dollars less than originally announced. The decreased price is due in part to data breaches that affected more than 1 billion user accounts, as discussed further here:

While the acquisition means the end of Yahoo as an independent company, Verizon is combining the company with AOL assets (which it also purchased in 2015) to create a new company called Oath. Verizon hopes to attract the massive communities of people that used Yahoo and AOL to bolster users and get advertising revenues for Oath to rival those of Facebook and Google. The CEO of Oath will be former AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, further highlighting the combination of the two companies. The remainder of Yahoo’s assets will be renamed as Altaba. These assets include stakes in Yahoo Japan and an E-commerce company called Alibaba. The new CEO of Altaba will be former Yahoo board member Thomas McInerney.

The rest of Yahoo’s assets, including some employees, will merge fairly seamlessly with AOL and Verizon, with a few exceptions. The former CEO of Yahoo, Melissa Mayer, resigned as the deal was announced, and is rumored to be receiving a severance package of around 23 million dollars. She left an open letter to the company and her former employees, expressing gratitude for her time working there. However, some Yahoo employees may not feel as thankful. While Verizon has not officially announced any cuts, around 2,000 jobs are rumored to be on the chopping block during the integration process between AOL, Yahoo, and Verizon.

Apple Unveils DNDWD

The tech world and social media are always flooded with acronyms, but DNDWD is a bit different and you may soon start seeing it more often. The letters stand for: Do Not Disturb While Driving.” The moniker is applied to a new feature on Apple’s iOS 11, which will be released in the fall of 2017. iPhone users who opt-in to the technology will connect their devices to their vehicle’s Bluetooth system. When anyone tries to contact the driver they will receive a Do Not Disturb While Driving notification. The person making contact will also receive the option to mark the message as urgent. An urgent notification will be received by the driver.


Safety advocates are pleased that Apple is taking distracted driving seriously and hope that other smartphone makers will include similar features in their products. The question will be whether or not drivers use the option. For those addicted to their phones, the feature might be similar to a nicotine patch. DNDWD can be a good way for distracted drivers to develop good habits but that doesn’t mean they won’t find a way around the system once their cravings kick in.


For drivers who find themselves attached to their phones, using the technology will still take a great deal of will power. First, the DNDW function can be avoided entirely by not attaching the phone to Bluetooth. Second, non-drivers are able to opt out of the DNDWD mode with one easy click. Opting out might be something drivers choose to select as well. Plus, the urgent function could very easily be abused. It may be necessary for users to let their friends understand what they consider to be an urgent situation.


Drivers who already exercise restraint won’t need the feature much, but it can improve their likability. The option provides the driver with a polite way of declining messages, and for a reason that is increasingly respected as distracted driving accidents continue to increase.


Robot’s Arms Learn to Grip Like A Human

While robots are excellent at doing things they have been programmed for, they are horrible at improvising a solution to an unfamiliar issue. DexNet is a special AI system that has been designed to augment a robotic arm’s capacity to handle objects without prior training. It is the hope of DexNet’s programmers that their system will allow robots to solve a physics-oriented problem with full competence, without a trace of hesitation and faster, if not as fast, than a human could ever hope to achieve.


The underlying framework of DexNet’s artificial intelligence, referred to as “deep learning,” is that it learns to grip objects in the same manner that humans learn to do so; we notice an item, get an understanding of its particular shape, compare and contrast that object to objects we remember from past life experience and then combine those details in order to hypothesize the best approach to manipulating the item. Unlike humans, who have the benefit of vision and memory, DexNet’s creators have uploaded over six million computer simulated objects into their system, complete with the best ways that those objects can best be manipulated. The execution of this system results in the robot analyzing an object, comparing it to the database of objects in DexNet’s system and then proceeding with the most recommended approach.


In their test work, the researchers, a group of roboticists at Berkeley University, presented the robotic arm with a variety of objects it had never encountered before, such as rubber ducks, spray bottles and shoes. Despite being presented with a wide array of materials, the DexNet-connected arm only failed to correctly grip a single object. This rate of failure would seem to indicate that the system is quite robust for one built on synthetic data. Additionally, the arm was able to decide on a proper grip in less than a second, an average speed nearly three times as fast as the initial version of DexNet.


DexNet’s research team is set to present their latest iteration of the system, DexNet 2.0, at a July conference. They also have plans to publicize their collection of object data and point clouds. Their intended application for this pursuit is in the field of industry, particularly within supply chains and manufacturing.