Solar Hits Parity in 10 States, 47 by 2016 (Bloomberg) — The reason solar-power generation will increasingly dominate: it’s a technology, not a fuel. As such, efficiency increases and prices fall as time goes on. The price of Earth’s limited fossil fuels tends to go the other direction.
Facebook’s Top Open Data Problems (Facebook Research) — even if you’re not interested in Facebook’s Very First World Problems, this is full of factoids like Facebook’s social graph store TAO, for example, provides access to tens of petabytes of data, but answers most queries by checking a single page in a single machine. (via Greg Linden)
Project Naptha — automatically applies state-of-the-art computer vision algorithms on every image you see while browsing the web. The result is a seamless and intuitive experience, where you can highlight as well as copy and paste and even edit and translate the text formerly trapped within an image. Chrome extension. (via Anil Dash)
Garbage Trucks and FedEx Vans (IEEE) — Foo alum, Ian Wright, found traction for his electric car biz by selling powertrains for garbage trucks and Fedex vans. Trucks have 20-30y lifetime, but powertrains are replaced several times; the trucks for fleets are custom; and “The average garbage truck in the U.S. spends $55,000 a year on fuel, and up to $30,000 a year on maintenance, mostly brake replacements.”
Microsoft’s Quantum Mechanics (MIT TR) — the race for the “topological qubit”, involving newly-discovered fundamental particles and large technology companies racing to be the first to make something that works.
Maciej Ceglowski on Our Internet — If you haven’t already read this because someone pushed it into your hands, read it now. If these vast databases are valuable enough, it doesn’t matter who they belong to. The government will always find a way to query them. Who pays for the servers is just an implementation detail.
Design Changes Possible With Robot Cars (Brad Templeton) — While a nice windshield may be good for visibility for forward-facing passengers, there is no need to have a large unobstructed view for safety. The windshield can be reinforced with bars, for example, allowing it to be much stronger in the case of impacts, notably impacts with animals. Other than for passenger comfort, the windshield barely has to be there at all. On behalf of everyone who has ever driven in Australia at dusk … I for one welcome our new robot chauffeurs. (via The Atlantic)
Inside Google’s Self-Driving Car (Atlantic Cities) — Urmson says the value of maps is one of the key insights that emerged from the DARPA challenges. They give the car a baseline expectation of its environment; they’re the difference between the car opening its eyes in a completely new place and having some prior idea what’s going on around it. This is a long and interesting piece on the experience and the creator’s concerns around the self-driving cars. Still looking for the comprehensive piece on the subject.
How One Woman Hid Her Pregnancy From Big Data (Mashable) — “I really couldn’t have done it without Tor, because Tor was really the only way to manage totally untraceable browsing. I know it’s gotten a bad reputation for Bitcoin trading and buying drugs online, but I used it for BabyCenter.com.”
Connected for a Purpose (Jim Stogdill) — At a recent conference, an executive at a major auto manufacturer described his company’s efforts to digitize their line-up like this: “We’re basically wrapping a two-ton car around an iPad. Eloquent critique of the Internet of Shallow Things.
Why Nate Silver Can’t Explain It All — Data extrapolation is a very impressive trick when performed with skill and grace, like ice sculpting or analytical philosophy, but it doesn’t come equipped with the humility we should demand from our writers. Would be a shame for Nate Silver to become Malcolm Gladwell: nice stories but they don’t really hold up.
Gender and VR (danah boyd) — Although there was variability across the board, biological men were significantly more likely to prioritize motion parallax. Biological women relied more heavily on shape-from-shading. In other words, men are more likely to use the cues that 3D virtual reality systems relied on. Great article, especially notable for there are more sex hormones on the retina than in anywhere else in the body except for the gonads.
Even The Innocent Should Worry About Sex Offender Apps (Quartz) — And when data becomes compressed by third parties, when it gets flattened out into one single data stream, your present and your past collide with potentially huge ramifications for your future. When it comes to personal data—of any kind—we not only need to consider what it will be used for but how that data will be represented, and what such representation might mean for us and others. Data policies are like justice systems: either you suffer a few innocent people being wrongly condemned (bad uses of open data0, or your system permits some wrongdoers to escape (mould grows in the dark).
On Managers (Mike Migurski) — Managers might be difficult, hostile, or useless, but because they are parts of an explicit power structure they can be evaluated explicitly.
Big Data: Humans Required (Sherri Hammons) — the heart of the problem with data: interpretation. Data by itself is of little value. It is only when it is interpreted and understood that it begins to become information. GovTech recently wrote an article outlining why search engines will not likely replace actual people in the near future. If it were merely a question of pointing technology at the problem, we could all go home and wait for the Answer to Everything. But, data doesn’t happen that way. Data is very much like a computer: it will do just as it’s told. No more, no less. A human is required to really understand what data makes sense and what doesn’t. (via Anne Zelenka)
Morgan Stanley on the Economic Benefits of Driverless Cars — The total savings of over $5.6 trillion annually are not envisioned until a couple of decades as Morgan Stanley see four phases of adoption of self-driving vehicles. Phase 1 is already underway, Phase 2 will be semi-autonomous, Phase 3 will be within 5 to 10 years, by which time we will see fully self-driving vehicles on the roads – but not widespread usage. The authors say Phase 4, which will have the biggest impact, is when 100% of all vehicles on the roads will be fully autonomous, they say this may take a couple of decades.
Worse (Marco Arment) — I’ve been sitting on this but can’t fault it. In the last few years, Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter have all made huge attempts to move into major parts of each others’ businesses, usually at the detriment of their customers or users.
Meet the People Making New Games for Old Hardware — “We’re all fighting for the same goal,” Cobb says. “There’s something artistic, and disciplined, about creating games for machines with limited hardware. You can’t pass off bloat as content, and you can’t drop in a licensed album in place of a hand-crafted digital soundtrack. To make something great you have to work hard, and straight from the heart. That’s what a lot of gamers still wish to see. And we’re happy to provide it for them.”
DeepFace: Closing the Gap to Human-Level Performance in Face Verification — Facebook research into using deep neural networks for face recognition. Our method reaches an accuracy of 97.25% on the Labeled Faces in the Wild (LFW) dataset, reducing the error of the current state of the art by more than 25%, closely approaching human-level performance. “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.” —Jeff Hammerbacher.
Helsinki Does Uber for Buses — Helsinki’s Kutsuplus lets you select your pick-up and drop-off locations and times, using a phone app, and then sends out a bus to take you exactly where you need to go.
Ford Invites Open-Source Community to Tinker Away — One example: Nelson has re-tasked the motor from a Microsoft Xbox 360 game controller to create an OpenXC shift knob that vibrates to signal gear shifts in a standard-transmission Mustang. The 3D-printed prototype shift knob uses Ford’s OpenXC research platform to link devices to the car via Bluetooth, and shares vehicle data from the on-board diagnostics port. Nelson has tested his prototype in a Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 that vibrates at the optimal time to shift.
Cost-Efficient Continuous Integration at Mozilla — CI on a big project can imply hundreds if not thousands of VMs on Amazon spinning up to handle compiles and tests. This blog post talks about Mozilla’s efforts to reduce its CI-induced spend without reducing the effectiveness of its CI practices.