Apple makes a splash in the AR space with its newest acquisition


Apple‘s newest acquisition leaves little doubt that long-rumored augmented reality glasses are on the horizon. Details are hazy, but here’s what we know. Apple, yesterday, confirmed it had acquired Akonia Holographics. Akonia is a Colorado-based company perhaps best known for its portfolio of patents. One of these patents, for holographic storage technology, is licensed to Nintendo and a handful of others. Interesting. On the surface, it wouldn’t appear that Apple has a lot of interest in holographic storage, at least not as a primary focus for the deal. It’s Akonia’s 200 other patents that Apple appears most interested in, including…

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Twitter fixed the biggest problem with its promoted political tweets


Twitter announced it was making a change to its policy on political ad tweets, and in doing so it’s fixed on of the biggest problems with those promoted tweets — namely, that the information about them wasn’t easily accessible. The policy applies to ads that “advocate for legislative issues of national importance,” such as gun control, climate change, abortion, immigration, national security, and the like. Now those ads will be marked with a label such as this: See that blue hyperlink that says “Learn More”? That right there fixes a heretofore unaddressed problem with political ads on the site. When…

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Google Assistant is now way better for bilingual homes


Using voice assistants in a multilingual home is an exercise in frustration, as they can usually only be set to one language at a time. That’s a particular inconvenience if someone in your family isn’t fully fluent in the language of choice. An update to GoogleAssistant will now remove that hassle, if your languages are supported. You’ll be able to set Google Assistant to a pair of languages, with no need to manually switch between them. Just speak in the language you prefer. Take my own case. I bought a pair of Google Home Minis for my parents last Christmas,…

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Leak: Here’s our first look at the iPhone XS and Apple Watch Series 4


Two weeks before their expected announcement, we just got our first good look at some of Apple’s new devices courtesy of 9to5Mac. Say hello the iPhone XS and Apple Watch Series 4. The iPhone XS leak appears to be an official render of the upcoming 5.8 and 6.5-inch flagship models, but the image doesn’t reveal anything we didn’t expect. That said, it does seem to confirm two different sizes of the device, and that they’ll come in a gold trim. The bezels also look a tiny bit smaller than on the current 5.8-inch model, but it’s hard to tell without a…

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Google’s definitely biased, but not in the way Trump thinks


In two tweets early Tuesday morning, President Trump reignited the debate about censorship on America’s most popular tech platforms. Citing dubious research, he claimed that Google was censoring search results in an effort to smear the Trump administration. He said: Pegging tech platforms as liberal conduits isn’t new. Accusing them of silencing conservative voices isn’t either. Google, for its part, denies any culpability. A spokesperson told The Washington Post: When users type queries into the Google Search bar, our goal is to make sure they receive the most relevant answers in a matter of seconds. Search is not used to…

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Trump: Google, Amazon, and Facebook could be an ‘antitrust situation’

Trump
President Donald Trump. (BigStock Photo / palinchak)

President Donald Trump continued to accuse top tech companies of using their power to promote a liberal agenda Thursday. He suggested that Google, Amazon, and Facebook raise antitrust concerns in an interview with Bloomberg News.

“I won’t comment on the breaking up, of whether it’s that or Amazon or Facebook,” he said. “As you know, many people think it is a very anti-trust situation, the three of them. But I just, I won’t comment on that.”

Trump added, “Conservatives have been treated very unfairly.”

The comments piled onto a series of tweets accusing Google of serving up “rigged” search results and failing to promote Trump’s State of the Union address as the company did during President Barack Obama’s. Google disputes that claim and Internet Archive screenshots show that Trump’s State of the Union was promoted on the company’s homepage.

Google is the main target of Trump’s ire this week but the president has also gone after other big tech companies. In comments to reporters Tuesday, he said Facebook, Twitter, and Google were “treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful.”

In the past, Trump has targeted Amazon, claiming the e-commerce giant has strongarmed the U.S. Postal Service into unfair terms. He also takes frequent aim at the company because its CEO Jeff Bezos independently owns The Washington Post, which the president considers to be biased.

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TLDR: Amazon stock hits $2K, Microsoft’s new parental leave policy, Google debunks Trump video

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CEO of Seattle-area tech staffing firms arrested in alleged H-1B visa fraud scheme

h-1b
(BigStock Photo).

The Department of Justice is pressing charges against the CEO of two Bellevue, Wash., technology staffing firms claiming he faked more than 100 applications for H-1B visas, the type tech companies use to hire skilled, international talent.

Pradyumna Kumar Samal was arrested at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Wednesday, according to a DOJ statement. He was returning from India when he was taken into custody. The charges, filed in U.S. District Court, allege that Samal engaged in a “bench and switch” scheme to make applications for 137 H-1B visas look more attractive.

Samal’s attorneys could not be immediately reached for comment.

Samal is chief executive of Azimetry and Divensi; the latter lists Amazon, Microsoft, Tableau and other tech companies as clients. DOJ claims that Samal forged documents to make it look like two corporate clients had jobs lined up for the employees named in the visa applications.

“In fact, neither client had agreed to do so,” the DOJ statement says. “The forged documents included forged letters and fraudulent statements of work, which appeared as if they had been signed by senior executives at the two clients.”

If Samal’s companies were not able to place the visa recipients in jobs immediately, they were allegedly “benched” without pay. Those employees were charged partially refundable “security deposits” of up to $5,000 for the visa applications, DOJ says.

The H-1B visa program has become an area of focus under the current federal administration. In early 2017, President Donald Trump signed the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order pledging to crack down on abuse of work visas. Tech workers and their spouses have reported increased difficulty obtaining and maintaining work status in the U.S. since.

Big tech companies like Microsoft and Amazon rely on H-1B visas to fill their talent gaps. They have also called for the federal government to curb abuse of work visas by IT staffing firms.

Read the full DOJ complaint below.

DOJ vs. Samal by GeekWire on Scribd

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Boeing wins $805M contract to build U.S. Navy’s MQ-25A robotic refueling planes

MQ-25 Stingray drone tanker
Boeing’s MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueler, known as T1, is currently being tested at Boeing’s St. Louis site. T1 has completed engine runs and deck handling demonstrations designed to prove the agility and ability of the aircraft to move around within the tight confines of a carrier deck. (Boeing Photo / Eric Shindelbower)

After a months-long competition with the likes of Lockheed Martin, Boeing has won a $805.3 million contract from the Pentagon to build the first four MQ-25A autonomous refueling planes for the Navy.

The MQ-25 Stingray is meant to refuel Navy fighter jets such as the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II in midair to extend their range. It will be tasked with delivering about 15,000 pounds of fuel, 500 nautical miles out from an aircraft carrier. That should give fighters an additional 300 to 400 miles of flight range over what they have now.

The drones will launch and land on aircraft carriers, so they’ll have to integrate with the Navy’s catapult launch and recovery systems.

Boeing was in competition for the contract with two teams that were led by Lockheed Martin and General Atomics. Northrop Grumman was invited to submit a bid, but dropped out of the competition last October.

The contract covers “design, development, fabrication, test, verification, certification, delivery and support” of four MQ-25A vehicles, the Department of Defense said today in its award announcement. Almost half of the work will be done at Boeing’s Phantom Works plant in St. Louis, with the rest performed at a wide range of facilities inside and outside the U.S.

The first four Stingrays are to be delivered by August 2024. Over the years to come, the Navy is expected to buy as many as 72 of the planes with an estimated total price tag of as much as $13 billion.

Update for 5:45 p.m. PT Aug. 30: Today’s award was hailed by Boeing and the U.S. Navy, just as you’d expect.

“This is an historic day,” Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, said in a Navy news release.. “We will look back on this day and recognize that this event represents a dramatic shift in the way we define warfighting requirements, work with industry, integrate unmanned and manned aircraft, and improve the lethality of the airwing — all at relevant speed.  Everyone who helped achieve this milestone should be proud we’re here.  But we have a lot more to do. It’s not the time to take our foot off the gas.  Let’s keep charging.”

Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, was similarly effusive in Boeing’s news release.

“As a company, we made an investment in both our team and in an unmanned aircraft system that meets the U.S. Navy’s refueling requirements,” Caret said. “The fact that we’re already preparing for first flight is thanks to an outstanding team who understands the Navy and their need to have this important asset on carrier decks around the world.”

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Volunteers scour drone footage online in search for woman who went missing on hike north of Seattle

Samantha “Sam” Sayers went missing at the beginning of August on a hike north of Seattle. (FindSamSayers.com Photo)

The official search has ended for a hiker who went missing in the mountains northeast of Seattle on Aug. 1. But an online search is ongoing, and it’s being powered by volunteers who are scouring drone footage being shot in the North Cascades of Snohomish County, Washington.

Samantha “Sam” Sayers was last seen during a solo outing to Vesper Peak, in which the 28-year-old was spotted at the summit but never made it back to her vehicle at the Sunrise Mine Trailhead.

Huffington Post reported this week on an army of online volunteers who are using digital evidence to try to locate Sayers. That evidence is being provided by Steve Monchak, the owner of PNW Dronetography in Darrington, Wash. Monchak is using a Phantom 4 Pro to fly over and film the mountainous terrain where Sayers was last seen.

At FindSamSayers.com, one page is dedicated to drone footage and featured 16 videos as of Thursday afternoon. The YouTube videos range in length from about 2 minutes to as long as 12 minutes. The rocky landscape is dotted with trees and patches of snow.

The hope is that someone will spot something — an article of clothing or a piece of gear — in an area that may have been inaccessible to searchers on foot.

“The online aspect of this is huge,” Monchak told HuffPost. “I couldn’t do it alone. After you look through a couple hundred images, your eyes get pretty tired, so these people are a great help. They are finding things and notifying us of unusual objects. It just proves we can all work together on the same project from anywhere.”

People using the website are encouraged to submit a clue or a sighting through a link on the site.

According to HuffPost, Monchak has covered about 23 miles of terrain in the three weeks he’s spent helping out. He’s typically hired to photograph weddings and real estate.

“I hike up the mountain and can fly out about 3 to 4 miles from where I am standing,” he told the website. “I can easily cover more area in a day than 100 searchers can, and it’s being done without endangering lives. The drone can cover steep faces of the mountain without having to send someone in on foot, and it can examine crevices without having to have someone rope down them.”

Monchak said hundreds of volunteers have spent countless hours looking at his images and some are even using photo software to identify specific colors of items Sayers had with her when she disappeared.

A recent map shows the areas searched where Sam Sayers went missing. (FindSamSayers.com image)

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