Facebook Messenger Autoroll Ads; Disney Sweetens Fox Offer; Uber EV Incentive; EU Internet Copyright Vote

 Well, people are going to love this. Facebook is starting to put autoplay video ads in Messenger.. Recode.net says they appear in the inbox right next to messages from friends and family.  The company has complained of late that they were running out of room in the main Facebook app for ads, so are moving on to Messenger and also Marketplace, their quasi-Craigslist. Facebook does say they will be monitoring how the ads are received, and peoples’ behavior, to see if they turn people off. Note to Facebook…you’re not Stan Freeberg or a major creative ad shop, so they probably will! 

 The battle over content and eyeballs has heated up. Disney is making a $70.3 billion counterbid for Fox’s entertainment businesses following Comcast’s $65 billion offer for the company. The fight for Twenty-First Century Fox reflects a new imperative among entertainment and telecommunications firms. They are building up ever more programming to better compete with technology companies such as Amazon and Netflix for viewers’ attention – and dollars. The deal would include Fox film and TV studios, some cable networks and international assets, but not Fox News Channel or the Fox television network.  AT&T just bought Time Warner for $81 billion, after a federal judge rejected the government’s antitrust concerns.  Disney had made a $52.5 billion all-stock offer in December. It’s now offering $38 per Twenty-First Century Fox share, up from $28 per share. Who knows if Disney or Comcast will win, but we can definitively say that Rupert Murdoch will be the real winner!

 Uber has launched a pilot program to encourage drivers to start using electric vehicles. the program runs in 8 cities in the US and Canada, including San Francisco. According to mashable.com, the EV Champions Initiative includes a number of features…including one in the driver app that helps combat range anxiety, a key issue with electric cars. Uber has already alerted drivers of rides that will run over 45 minutes before they accept…for EVs, that will be dropped to 30 minutes. Other incentives include a buck or $1.50 back per electric ride, and free access to fast charging networks. Earlier this year, arch competitor Lyft set its EV and environmental goals, including a billion carbon neutral rides by 2025. 

 While Wall Street and the world worry about trade war, now there’s another issue creeping up that may drastically change the internet as we know it. AN EU Parliament committee has voted to make content providers to filter for copyright infringement. While the Article 13 rule still has to be agreed on by representatives from the EU’s 28 governments before becoming law, this vote reduces the chances of serious changes. Over 70 experts…including Tim Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales have said this will turn the internet into’a tool for the automated surveillance and control’ of it’s users. Theverge.com notes that such talk sounds like hype, but the rule would essentially be something of a YouTube Content ID for the entire internet. Internet platforms would have to filter uploads for copyright infringement.

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Possible Folding Samsung Phone Features; Toyota Plans 10 Battery EV Models; Twitter Enforces Hate & Violence Policies; Facebook Demotes Clickbait Posts

Another patent has surfaced for the folding Galaxy phone from Samsung. This one seems to indicate that the phone will not fold in half compactly like the old flip phones, but will open like a book, according to bgr.com. Also, when not in use, one screen can act as a touchpad for the other. The screens are attached with hinges, and can fold outward as well as inward to protect them, and stylus support appears to be in the plan. Ok…the phone in the drawings is really ugly and kludgy, but we’ll see what….if anything actually gets built.

Every car maker is now in full EV future mode. Reuters.com reports that Toyota is shooting for more than 10 battery EV models by the early 2020’s. They will initially bulk up EV sales in China, then move into Japan, India, the US, and Europe. Every Toyota and Lexus model will have either an electric hybrid or full battery electric version by 2025!

It’s been the wild, wild west up to now, but Twitter says it’s starting to enforce the new rules they announced a month ago about abuse, hateful conduct, and threats of violence. Theverge.com says the rules will apply to usernames and profiles as well as Tweets. They will also extend to cover accounts affiliated with hate groups both on and off the platform. They won’t apply to military or government entities, so don’t expect to see a lot of kindler and gentler posts from a well-known Tweeter on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C.

Rejoice, Facebookers! Facebook is starting to crack down on clickbait posts! According to recode.net, they have adjusted their algorithm to drop such posts down in News Feeds. The vast majority of us won’t miss those ‘like and share if you agree’ posts. It’s doubtful they can keep all such posts off our walls, but less of them will be a welcome change!


YouTube Updates Desktop and Mobile Apps; Google Maps Adds Parking Lots in 25 Cities; Aston Martin Going All-Electric or Hybrid

YouTube is rolling out updates to its desktop and mobile versions. Cnet.com reports that it will have a more consistent look across platforms. They have also added a feature to mobile that the desktop had…speeding up or slowing down playback. The newer apps will also adjust to fit the video format you are watching. If the video is vertical, the player will become vertical. They have also added a Dark Theme for the desktop that lets you make the background go dark.

Google Maps has added a feature called ‘Find Parking,’ 9to5google.com says it will show you parking lots and garages in 25 major cities in the US on the Android app. San Francisco, LA, Houston, Detroit, Chicago, and Boston are included…although parking is obviously not the issue in Houston right now! The feature works in tandem with the Parking Difficulty one Google rolled out in January that indicates how tough parking is based on machine learning and current parking data.

In the future, Bond…James Bond, will be looking for a Supercharger instead of pulling into a gas station. Storied British sports car maker Aston Martin has announced that they will be 100% hybrid by the mid 2020’s, and a quarter of all DB models will be EVs by 2030. Maybe Q can rig one up that uses an electric powered lightening bolt instead of the usual machine guns and rockets 007 has used to make his high speed escapes from SPECTRE. Arstechnica.com says the first all-electric Aston Martin will be the RapidE, a quick 4 seater due on the pavement in 2019.


Lyft & Waymo Partner on Self-Drivers; EV Battery That Charges in 5 Min; 10.5 Inch iPad Pro at WWDC, Google Asst Coming to iOS

Lyft and Google’s Waymo will team up on self-driving cars, according to a report from the New York Times. The plan is to introduce a wide swath of people to them using fleet services. Waymo had already started a public pilot in Arizona where they will pick up people and families on demand. The Lyft deal will quickly help them to expand that, and explore not only demand modeling, but efficient routing as well. Meanwhile, a judge has banned a Uber employee, who was a former Google manager and is the subject of a lawsuit, from working with Lidar at all for the time being.

If this pans out to any degree, it will be a game changer for electric vehicles. StoreDot, and Israeli startup, has shown its new battery model for EVs at the CUBE Tech Fair in Berlin. Engadget.com reports that the battery can reach full charge in FIVE minutes, and run the car for 300 miles! Compare that to Tesla’s Supercharger, which takes two hours to fully charge a Tesla EV. StoreDot also claims their batteries are safer than litihum-ion. They use layers of nano materials and proprietary organic compounds not used in batteries before.

Apple will probably show a new 10.5 inch iPad Pro at WWDC next month. Theverge.com says KGI Securities, generally one of the most reliable sources, is reporting this. Ming-Chi Kuo, of KGI also says it’s 50-50 that Apple will launch their Siri powered speaker at WWDC.

Siri could be in for some ‘Siri-ous’ competition soon. Google may be rolling out Google Assistant on iOS, and could show it at I/O this week! It will debut first in the US, and apparently will be slightly different than the Android version. The voice controls will be the same, but it will used the chat style fro Allo. This is probably necessary since it will be a free standing app, and not a baked in extension that’s part of the Google platform.


Apple Car Delayed at Least A Year; Dyson Tests Robot Vac With 360 Degree Vision

This was probably telegraphed by the fact that Steve Zadesky, who’d led Project Titan for Apple, left after 16 years with the company, but now it looks like we won’t be seeing an Apple car before 2021. 9to5mac.com says Cupertino had been shooting for 2020. One tidbit…Apple is apparently looking into its own charging systems that would replace gas stations for EV drivers. Earlier this week, Elon Musk over at Tesla claimed that 2020 would be too late for Apple to enter the market…but anyone who remembers what happened when Apple entered the mp3 player market late with the iPod isn’t going to believe that! Right now, about 600 people are still working on Project Titan, the alleged Apple car.

Dyson has been hard at work on their ‘360 Eye,’ a robotic vacuum with 360 degree vision and connectivity. It’s bigger than a Roomba, and Dyson claims it will be far better, as the software and cameras plus sensors will let it get around rooms better and easier, even if you move the couch. According to techcrunch.com, Dyson has been refining the 360 Eye concept for 18 years, and is now working on version 3. After a lot of testing in Japan and then release, the 360 Eye launches in Canada today, and will roll out in the US soon. Dyson claims they can update the software over the air, and that they plan to do so frequently. They also hint that the tech in the vacuums is more widely applicable…will we see a Dyson household robot some day like Rosie from the Jetsons?


German Car Makers Heating Up on Hydrogen; Samsung New Smartwatch/Fitness Tracker?

Audi and Mercedes are getting excited about hydrogen fueled cars. For Mercedes, it’s back to the future…they first had a fleet of them in 1980, but with a 150 mile range and 45 minutes to fuel up, killed the project. Now Audi has showed it’s h-tron Quttro fuel cell SUV at the North American International Auto Show, and according to arstechnica.com, Mercedes has green-lighted production of it’s fuel cell version of the GLC SUV to sell in 2017. BMW has showed an i8 and a 5 series with fuel cells, but neither is set for production so far. General Motors has partnered with the Army to investigate suitability of fuel cell EVs for military use. Toyota and Honda are well along in hydrogen fuel cell tech, too. Toyota has the 2016 Mirai that’s actually for sale. California…where you can buy a fuel cell EV, has now increased the subsidy on them up to $6500 on top of any federal incentive. A combination of hydrogen fuel cell and electric may be the wave of the automotive future…along with driving by Jarvis, apparently.

Details are sketchy, but Samsung may be about ready to launch new wearable, possibly to replace the less than exciting Gear Fit. It’s called SM-R150 for now, and a watch version has a rotating bezel like the Gear Fit. The interesting thing is a picture with one on a shirt…like a removable that you don’t have to keep on your wrist. Engadget.com points out that leaks so far don’t indicate if it will be a full blown smart watch or something more like a Fitbit, but expect it to be revealed in the coming months.