GM Starts Mass Producing Self-Driving Electric Cars; Firefox Gets Multiprocess Update (Finally); Amazon Patents Delivery Drone with Winch

It’s likely that the Tesla Model S can be fully self-driving with software activation, but isn’t yet. Meanwhile, they aren’t asleep at the switch at General Motors. GM has cranked out 130 electric Bolts on a production line. according to engadget.com, the General had already built 50 self-driving Bolt EVs, but this latest batch is fully mass produced, and more advanced than the hand finished models. The future really is coming at warp speed.

Mozilla has finally released Firefox with multiprocess architecture, 8 years after starting the project. Arstechnica.com says, without getting into the weeds, the net is that it’s faster and more stable, and despite multiprocess platforms hogging more memory, they were able to build it so it is quicker and uses less RAM than Google’s Chrome. It’ probably worth giving a spin if you’re not already a Firefox user.

Amazon has patented a couple of interesting things for drones. Geekwire.com reports that one is a winch setup that can lower packages to the ground on a tether. It has a counterbalance to keep the package from swaying wildly on its way to your porch or other delivery spot. Another patent is for folding wings, that fold in half, but then extend themselves for flight. Amazon had previously experimented with dropping packages with a small parachute.


Snap Working on Drone; Twitter Ups Troll Protections; Facebook Using AI for Suicide Prevention

Snap has reportedly been working on a drone. The New York Times says it’s not clear that it’s a product that will make it to production, but the company has said they feel we are just at the beginning of what cameras can do, and that their products are moving towards making taking videos a fun and seamless part of everyday life.

Twitter has been a virtual haven for trolls over the years, and now the company is announcing some new features to help stem harassment. According to recode.net, you will be able to mute specific words including usernames from your timeline. You can mute for a day, month, or permanently. You can also mute ‘eggs’, those accounts that use the egg avatar and haven’t provided a photo. Further, you can block accounts without confirmed email addresses or phone numbers. While this won’t kill off trolling completely, it will at least thin them out and slow them down.

Facebook has started using artificial intelligence to spot people that may be at risk of killing themselves. BBC.com reports that the algorithms pick up on comments in posts or the comments friends leave, and then a human review team jumps in to contact the person and works to suggest ways the person might get help. Right now, the AI tool is just testing in the US.


Galaxy S8; Microsoft’s Surface Event; How Amazon Drones Will Land for You

Even after the catastrophe with fiery Galaxy Note 7’s, time marches on for Samsung and everyone else. According to bgr.com, Sammy is pressing ahead with the expected Galaxy S8 models for February 26th rollout. Expect an edge to edge 4K Super AMOLED screen (and wraparound in the case of the Edge), with just a bezel at the top and bottom. Screen real estate is supposed to be 80% of the front, so it sounds like they are getting rid of the home button. Inside, expect a faster processor, and either 6 or 8 gigs of RAM!

Microsoft’s Surface event is tomorrow, the 26th. Theverge.com reports that it will be jam packed, but look for the spotlight to be on a new Surface all-in-one PC. Think of a Microsoft iMac, only with a hinge to lay flat on a desk. It will rock a touchscreen and have stylus support. Other big areas to watch for are emphasis on creating 3D content, and it looks like Redmond will be letting 3rd parties build their own HoloLens headsets. Microsoft may also show an Amazon Echo competitor with Cortana built in.

We’ve been reporting for over a year about Amazon’s drone program. All well and good, but how are those little rascals going to find a place to drop off your package?
Geekwire.com says Amazon plans for you to print out a symbol on your printer, and put it where you want the drone to land. You’ll have to supply your own rocks to keep the paper from blowing down the street!


Ford Driving for 2021 for Self-Driving Car; Amazon Patents Several Drone Systems

Ford announced yesterday that they expect to have self-driving cars on the road by 2021…the same time frame as Google and Apple’s secretive Project Titan. According to appleinsider.com, the car will be specifically built ‘’for ride sharing and ride hailing.’ The cars will have no steering wheel or pedals, and will only drive a pre-programmed area that’s been 3D mapped. Ford says these will meet SAE Level 4 standards for autonomous operation…Tesla and Mercedes only make Level 2 right now. Ford didn’t say if the cars would be hybrid, electric, or even still take old-fashioned gasoline.

A couple of interesting patents show that Amazon is looking at different kinds of drones for different applications. Geekwire.com reports that one shows 4 rotors in a protective shroud. Another design has shrouded rotors, plus two smaller pusher props, and a fixed wing. It’s thought the shrouds are to protect people and property in the event of a crash. The extended wing would provide extra lift, perhaps giving the small electric motors more range and a better flying time than 20 minutes, like a lot of drones out there now. Amazon has said they have a goal of delivering small packages weighing 5 pounds or less in a half hour or less.


Blue iPhone 7 After All; Alphabet Gets Approval to Test Delivery Drones

Early on, it was rumored Apple may add a blue color with the iPhone 7. That’s been tamped down up to now…until pictures appeared from China Unicom. Bgr.com reports that China Unicom posted an image that actually says iPhone 7, and shows 4 different colors….including blue! The others shown are the present Space Grey, Gold, and Rose Gold. The graphic also shows the double sized camera opening, as has show up in a number of leaks, and believed to be from the iPhone 7 Plus or Pro.

Alphabet’s Project Wing will be allowed to test its unmanned aerial vehicles in designated areas in the US. The test flights were announced as part of a new initiative unveiled by the US National Science Foundation, which plans to spend $35 million over the next five years on unmanned flight research. This just comes after Britain gave permission for Amazon to test delivery drones there a couple weeks ago. Google has said it plans to start using drones for delivery by 2017.


Amazon’s British Drone Tests; New (Old) Apple Car Boss; Future iPhones—Iris Scanning and Glasses-Free 3D

Amazon has gotten permission to test drone deliveries in the United Kingdom, according to venturebeat.com. They will test beyond line of sight operations, obstacle avoidance, and single-person supervision of multiple, highly-automated drones. FedEx and UPS have also shown interest in drone delivery.

Former Apple exec under Steve Jobs Bob Mansfield has come out of retirement to run Project Titan, the Apple car project. Businessinsider.com reports that he originally intended to retire in 2012, but moved to a special projects team that built the Apple Watch. Since then, not much has been heard from him. Apple allegedly intends to start selling vehicles in 2021.

A couple of interesting features may be coming to iPhones, one in 2018. Appleinsider.com says we might see ‘Iris ID’ replace Touch ID, as Apple brings iris scanners to the iPhone family. Meanwhile, Samsung may introduce iris recognition tech in its flagship Galaxy S series this year. More exciting than Iris ID, Apple has patented a method of ‘autostereoscopic’ displays. This would allow for 3D without the special glasses. It uses a pixel array featuring a second array of subpixels and lens structures, the latter emitting light at a number of different angles. The key component though would be the “beam steerer,” pointing the correct light at the viewer. No word on when we might have this in our hands yet.


Distance Detector May Make Routers Safer; Transparent Wood Could Replace Glass

Whether it’s someone outside a cafe stealing WiFi, or concerns about someone snooping or hacking into your home system, geniuses at MIT have developed a slick solution. Engadget.com says that in the past, it took multiple routers to triangulate in order to figure out if someone was outside a business or your home, but the MIT engineers calculate ‘time of flight’ for the signal and then multiply by the speed of light to get the distance. It’s 20 times more accurate than triangulation, and can pick out a correct room in a home 94% of the time and if someone is outside a cafe 97% of the time. It also works with drones with a 2 inch margin of error. There’s already a working prototype, so your next router may be much better at keeping out thieves or hackers.

Transparent wood? What are those Swedes smoking? Actually, scientists at the Royal Institute of Technology have found a way to make transparent wood that is suitable for mass production. It can not only be used for eye catching architecture, but could lead to cheaper solar panels and windows. According to gizmodo.com, they strip out the organic compound that makes the wood brown, then add a polymer to increase strength and provide transparency. Veneer can be made from the material, and it can be laminated to make load bearing panels and beams. Hail resistant skylights could let in more natural light, and lower your heating bills. You may be spending more on curtains or blinds, though!