Diebold Nixdorf won a federal court case involving a patent dispute with the ATM company Nautilus Hyosung.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the decision issued by the International Trade Commission against Diebold in a patent dispute with Hyosung, the Green maker of ATMs said Wednesday.
The dispute involved automated teller machines with a certain module made by Diebold Nixdorf.
The court agreed with Diebold Nixdorf that Hyosung’s sole remaining patent in the case is invalid and unenforceable. That reversed the ITC’s judgment that Hyosung’s patent was valid and infringed by Diebold Nixdorf, the company said in a news release.
The decision can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dieobld Nixdorf said Hyosung was retaliating against a complaint that Hyosung was infringing on Diebold Nixdorf patents.
AUSTIN, Texas: Some of the nation’s largest technology and social media companies have tried to stop Alex Jones and his conspiracy theories. But in a digital world, their attempts seem to have barely slowed him down.
After YouTube, Facebook and others last week removed content by Jones and his website, the InfoWars leader and talk-show host fired back, accusing the companies of censorship and urging his audience to fight back against what he called an “unprecedented attack.”
Meanwhile, Jones’ website and other online platforms have remained popular destinations.
InfoWars continues to see more than 1 million page visits per day and has trended upward this month, according to Amazon’s Alexa website traffic report, which also said InfoWars averages more than 25 million page views per month.
Consumers still can access InfoWars through the same tech companies that just banned it. Google still offers the Infowars app for Android users, and Apple customers can download it through the App Store.
As of Friday, the show’s phone app remained near the top of the charts in the Apple App and Google Play stores. Infowars Official, an app that lets viewers stream Jones’ shows and read news of the day, was ranked fourth among trending apps in the Google Play store Friday. In the news category on Apple’s App Store, Infowars earned the fourth slot under the top free apps, behind Twitter and News Break, a local and breaking news service, revealing a sudden boost of user downloads.
Apple told the Washington Post in a written statement: “We put great effort into curating the App Store to provide the very best experience for everyone. We strongly support all points of view being represented on the App Store, as long as the apps are respectful to users with differing opinions, and follow our clear guidelines, ensuring the App Store is a safe marketplace for all.”
On Twitter, where Jones hasn’t been banned, his follower count has reached almost 900,000.
“Alex Jones has been doing this for a long time,” said Adam Curry, a former host on MTV and longtime podcast personality in Austin. “When he started off, there was no YouTube, etc. We have the belief that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are the internet, but it’s not. You can’t stop people from posting, and he has a very loyal following.”
Jones has said his platforms reach 70 million people per week.
In a way, Curry said, Jones’ banishment from major websites has helped the host, giving him ammunition to rile up his followers and further promote his initiatives.
For years, Jones has peddled conspiracy theories through his platforms. He has claimed, for example, that the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax. Some of the parents whose children were killed at Sandy Hook have filed a defamation lawsuit against the host. Jones’ attorney was in court in Austin this month seeking to have that and another, separate defamation suit dismissed. A ruling has yet to be made.
After multiple complaints against Jones, some major tech and social media companies decided to take action.
On Monday, Facebook unpublished four pages and YouTube, Apple and Spotify also have removed multiple InfoWars videos and podcasts.
The companies cited hate speech as the cause, including pages with content that glorified violence and used dehumanizing language toward Muslims.
True to character, however, Jones has fought back.
His website has been promoting an “unprecedented attack” on Jones and displayed photos of him with tape around his mouth. On Twitter, he accused YouTube, Apple and others of censorship, and those posts have amassed hundreds of retweets from his followers.
Jones did not return a call from the Austin American-Statesman.
NEW YORK: Major tech companies have begun to ban right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from their services, reflecting a more aggressive enforcement of policies against hate speech following protests on social media.
Facebook has taken down four pages belonging to Jones, including two featuring his “Infowars” show, for violating its hate speech and bullying policies. Over the past several days, both Apple and Spotify have also removed material published by Jones. Twitter has faced similar calls, but has so far taken no action against Jones.
Facebook said in a statement Monday that it has also suspended Jones’ account for 30 days because he repeatedly violated the company’s community standards against hate speech that “attacks or dehumanizes others.” Facebook did not immediately respond Monday asking what would happen after the 30 days are up, and why it hadn’t taken action earlier. The 30-day suspension of Jones himself appears to have gone into effect in late July.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a message for comment Monday. YouTube said in a statement that when users violate its policies against hate speech and harassment, “we terminate their accounts.” But the company did not give specifics on Jones or Infowars.
It’s unclear why the companies are cracking down on Jones now, after allowing him to publish for years. Facebook has been under fire recently for not banning Jones, but as recently as July 12 it tweeted that it sees pages “on both the left and right pumping out what they consider opinion or analysis — but others call fake news.”
“We believe banning these Pages would be contrary to the basic principles of free speech,” Facebook posted in response to a question from CNN reported Oliver Darcy, who had been pressing the company on why it continued to allow “Infowars” on its platform.
On Monday, the company said that it “unpublished” the four pages after receiving reports that they contained content “glorifying violence” and used “dehumanizing language” to describe Muslims, immigrants and transgender people.
Facebook is the latest tech company to take action against Jones following social-media backlash. BuzzFeed News reported Sunday that Apple has removed five of Infowars’ six podcasts from its iTunes and Podcast apps for violating hate speech guidelines.
Apple said it “does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users.”
Last week, music streaming service Spotify removed some episodes of “The Alex Jones Show” podcast for breaching its hate content policy.
Jones says his shows, which are broadcast on radio, YouTube and other platforms, reach at least 70 million people a week.
Among his claims is that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, which left 20 children and six adults dead, was a hoax. Families of some of the victims have sued him for defamation and he now acknowledges that the shooting occurred but says his claims were free speech.
Last month, the parents of one of the children killed in the shooting wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling on him to ban “conspiracy groups and anti-government provocateurs” that use social media to call the massacre a hoax and harass and threaten the families of the victims.
“Our families are in danger as a direct result of the hundreds of thousands of people who see and believe the lies and hate speech, which you have decided should be protected,” wrote Lenny Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, the parents of Noah, who was six years old when he died at Sandy Hook.
Brent Bozell, the president of the nonprofit Media Research Council, whose stated mission is to “to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left: the national news media,” called the crackdown in Infowars a “slippery slope.”
“(It’s) a dangerous cliff that these social media companies are jumping off to satisfy CNN and other liberal outlets,” Bozell said in a statement. “Social media sites are supposedly neutral platforms, but they are increasingly becoming opportunities for the left and major media to censor any content that they don’t like.”
AP Business Writer Kelvin Chan contributed to this report from London.
NEW YORK: For a company bent on making the world more open, Facebook has long been secretive about the details of how it runs its social network — particularly how things go wrong and what it does about them.
Yet on Tuesday, Facebook rushed forward to alert Congress and the public that it had recently detected a small but “sophisticated” case of possible Russian election manipulation. Has the social network finally acknowledged the need to keep the world informed about the big problems it’s grappling with, rather than doing so only when dragged kicking and screaming to the podium?
While the unprompted revelation does signal a new, albeit tightly controlled openness for the company, there is still plenty that Facebook isn’t saying. Many experts remain unconvinced that this is a true culture change and not mere window dressing.
“This is all calculated very carefully,” said Timothy Carone, a business professor at the University of Notre Dame. He and other analysts noted that Facebook announced its discovery of 32 accounts and pages intended to stir up U.S. political discord just a week after the company’s stock dropped almost 20 percent — its worst plunge since going public.
But Facebook’s proactive disclosure, including a conference call for reporters with chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, struck a markedly different tone from the company’s ham-handed approach to a string of scandals and setbacks over the past two years. That has included:
— CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s infamous dismissal of the idea that fake news on Facebook could have influenced the 2016 election as “a pretty crazy idea”;
— The company’s foot-dragging as evidence mounted of a 2016 Russian election-interference effort conducted on Facebook and other social-media sites;
— Zuckerberg, again, declining for nearly a week to publicly address the privacy furor over a Trump campaign consultant, Cambridge Analytica, that scavenged data from tens of millions of Facebook users for its own election-influence efforts.
A chastened Facebook has since taken steps toward transparency, many of them easy to overlook. In April, it published for the first time the detailed guidelines its moderators use to police unacceptable material. It has provided additional, if partial, explanations of how it collects user data and what it does with it. And it has forced disclosure of the funding and audience targeting of political advertisements, which it now also archives for public scrutiny.
All of that is in keeping with the image of Facebook that Zuckerberg relentlessly promotes. In his telling, the giant, data-and-ad-driven social network is a force for good in the world that must now reluctantly do battle with “bad actors,” such as Russian agents, who threaten Facebook’s noble mission of “connecting the world.”
Solving such problems, in Facebook’s view, is mostly a matter of more investment, more hard work, more hires, and better technology — particularly artificial intelligence.
And Facebook’s newfound passion for openness only goes so far. Of the 32 apparently fake accounts and pages it found, it only released eight to researchers. In a conference call this week, executives declined to characterize the accounts, even in terms of whether they leaned right or left. Facebook left it to researchers at the nonprofit Atlantic Council, a think tank that is helping the company on election interference, to draw those conclusions.
Facebook said its timing was motivated by an upcoming protest event in Washington that was promoted by a suspicious page connected to a Russian troll farm, the Internet Research Agency. Several people connected to the IRA have been indicted by the U.S. special counsel for attempting to interfere in the 2016 election.
Despite Zuckerberg’s repeated mantra — delivered to relentless effect in some 10 hours of testimony before Congress in April — that the company now really gets it, some who know the company best have their doubts.
David Kirkpatrick, the author a Facebook history, argues that neither Zuckerberg nor Sandberg have ever shown themselves to be “deeply alarmed in public.” As a result, he suggests, Facebook seems more concerned with managing its image than with solving the actual problem at hand.
Such issues run deep for the company. Some of its biggest critics, including former employees such as Sandy Parakilas and early Facebook investor Roger McNamee, say the company needs to revamp its business model from the ground up to see any meaningful change.
These critics would like to see Facebook rely less on tracking its users in order to sell targeted advertising, and to cut back on addicting features such as endless notifications that keep drawing people back in. Parakilas, for example, has advocated for a subscription-based model, letting users pay to user Facebook instead of having their data harvested.
Merely hiring more moderators, or hanging hopes on the evolution of artificial intelligence, isn’t going to cut it, in their view. There have also been widespread calls for Facebook to acknowledge that it is, in a sense, a media company, responsible for what happens on its platforms — a characterization the social network has long fought.
For all that, Facebook is well ahead of Silicon Valley rivals such as Google and Twitter when it comes to openness — even if only because it’s attracted the lion’s share of criticism, said Paul Levinson, a media studies professor at Fordham University.
But Facebook “can’t win at this game,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, a University of Virginia professor of media studies whose 2018 book “Antisocial Media” critiques Facebook’s effect on democracy and society. Because it’s so huge — 2.2 billion global users and counting — and so difficult to police, he said, “it will always be vulnerable to hijacking and will never completely clean up its content.”
Worse, he says, there is no real solution. “It is hopeless,” he said. “The problem with Facebook is Facebook.”
CHICAGO: Nina Tomasieski logs on to Twitter before the sun rises. Seated at her dining room table with a nearby TV constantly tuned to Fox News, the 70-year-old grandmother spends up to 14 hours a day tweeting the praises of President Donald Trump and his political allies, particularly those on the ballot this fall, and deriding their opponents.
She’s part of a dedicated band of Trump supporters who tweet and retweet Keep America Great messages thousands of times a day.
“Time to walk away Dems and vote RED in the primaries,” she declared in one of her voluminous tweets, adding, “Say NO to socialism & hate.”
While her goal is simply to advance the agenda of a president she adores, she and her friends have been swept up in an expanded effort by Twitter and other social media companies to crack down on nefarious tactics used to meddle in the 2016 election.
And without meaning to, the tweeters have demonstrated the difficulty such crackdowns face — particularly when it comes to telling a political die-hard from a surreptitious computer robot.
Last week, Facebook said it had removed 32 fake accounts apparently created to manipulate U.S. politics — efforts that may be linked to Russia.
Twitter and other sites also have targeted automated or robot-like accounts known as bots, which authorities say were used to cloak efforts by foreign governments and political bad actors in the 2016 elections.
But the screening has repeatedly and erroneously flagged Tomasieski and users like her.
Their accounts have been suspended or frozen for “suspicious” behavior — apparently because of the frequency and relentlessness of their messages. When they started tweeting support for a conservative lawmaker in the GOP primary for Illinois governor this spring, news stories warned that right-wing “propaganda bots” were trying to influence the election.
“Almost all of us are considered a bot,” says Tomasieski, who lives in Tennessee but is tweeting for GOP candidates across the U.S.
Cynthia Smith has been locked out of her account and “shadow banned,” meaning tweets aren’t as visible to others, because of suspected “automated behavior.”
“I’m a gal in Southern California,” Smith said. “I am no bot.”
The actions have drawn criticism from conservatives, who have accused Twitter, Facebook and other companies of having a liberal bias and censorship. It also raises a question: Can the companies outsmart the ever-evolving tactics of U.S. adversaries if they can’t be sure who’s a robot and who’s Nina?
“It’s going to take a really long time, I think years, before Twitter and Facebook and other platforms are able to deal with a lot of these issues,” said Timothy Carone, who teaches technology at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.
The core problem is that people are coming up with new ways to use the platforms faster than the companies can manage them, he said.
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. But the company has said it identified and challenged close to 10 million suspected bot or spam accounts in May, up from 3.2 million last September. It’s also trying to weed out “trolls,” or accounts that harass other users, pick fights or tweet material that’s considered inflammatory.
Twitter acknowledges that there will be some “false positives.”
“Our goal is to learn fast and make our processes and tools smarter,” Twitter executives said in a blog post earlier this year.
Tomasieski and her conservative friends use so-called Twitter “rooms” — which operate using the group messaging function — to amplify their voices.
She participates in about 10 rooms, each with 50 members who are invited in once they hit a certain number of followers. That number varies, but “newbies” might have around 3,000, Tomasieski says. Some have far more.
Everyone in the room tweets their own material and also retweets everyone else’s. So a tweet that Tomasieski sends may be seen by her roughly 51,000 followers, but then be retweeted by dozens more people, each of whom may have 50,000 or more followers.
She says she’s learned some tricks to avoid trouble with Twitter. She’s careful not to exceed limits of roughly 100 tweets or retweets an hour. She doesn’t use profanity, and she tries to mix up her subjects to appear more human and less bot-like.
During a recent afternoon, Tomasieski retweeted messages criticizing immigrants in the U.S. illegally, Democratic socialists and the media. One noted an Associated Press story about an increase in the number of Muslims running for public office — news the user described as “alarming.”
Tomasieski says she loves to write. But most important is helping “my guy.”
“There is as much enthusiasm today as there was when Trump was elected. It’s very quiet, but it’s there. My job is to get them to the polls,” she said. “That’s rewarding. I go to bed feeling like I have accomplished something.”
Diebold Nixdorf’s stock got whacked on Wednesday.
Shares lost more than a third of their value in trading by the afternoon to their lowest point in a year after the Green maker of ATMs reported a substantial second-quarter loss and lowered its earnings outlook for the full year.
Shares closed down $4.30, or 37.9 percent, to $7.05 Wednesday afternoon. The stock has traded as high as $23.50 in the past 52 weeks; $7 was the low over the same period.
Diebold Nixdorf said it lost $138.5 million, or $1.82 a share, on revenue of $1.1 billion for the quarter ending June 30. That compares to a loss of $30.6 million, or 41 cents per share, on revenue of slightly more than $1.1 billion a year ago.
Income was below analyst expectations while revenue was in line.
Diebold said it now expects to lose between $325 million and $365 million on revenue of $4.5 billion this year, with adjusted earnings showing a profit of $280 million to $320 million.
The company previously said it expected to lose between $75 million and $95 million on revenue of $4.5 billion to $4.7 billion for the year. Adjusted earnings were forecast to show a profit of $380 million to $410 million.
“While revenue was in line with our expectations, the company’s bottom-line results were clearly disappointing as we experienced higher service and delivery costs during the quarter,” Gerrard Schmid, Diebold Nixdorf president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. “Contributing to this performance is a high degree of complexity that permeates our business, and we are focused on several actions to simplify our operations and rationalize our cost structure.”
Because of higher-than-expected service and delivery costs coupled with its revenue outlook, the company lowered its adjusted earnings for 2018, Christopher A. Chapman, senior vice president and chief financial officer, said in a news release.
“While we are currently in compliance with our debt covenants, we have engaged our principal lenders to amend our credit agreement as a result of our revised financial outlook,” Chapman said.
The company in the second quarter began implementing a plan called ‘DN Now’ intended to deliver greater, more sustainable profitability.
DN Now actions include:
• Implementing a customer-centric operating model with expected savings of around $100 million by the third quarter of 2019.
• Divesting noncore businesses amounting to approximately 5 to 10 percent of total revenue. Proceeds will be used to reduce debt.
• Reducing delivery cycles and improving supply chain performance.
The company said it is also implementing a comprehensive plan to improve services delivery and efficiency, and will make targeted investments in what it calls “next-generation solutions” to be more competitive.
Diebold Nixdorf’s long-term plan is to become more software and services focused, with less reliance on ATM sales and manufacturing. As part of a goal to simplify, the company expects to offer 30 percent fewer ATM models by the end of the year.
“The expected benefit is reduced complexity in both sales and supply chain as well as shorter lead times, which will help to increase both operating profits and cash flow,” Schmid said in a conference call with industry analysts.
The company also changed its reporting segments to Eurasia Banking, Americas Banking and Retail, with two business lines: Services and software, and products. It previously reported three lines of business: services, systems and software, three geographic regions and two solutions segments, banking and retail.
And Diebold Nixdorf recently introduced a redesigned corporate logo.
LONDON: The U.K. government should increase oversight of social media like Facebook and election campaigns to protect democracy in the digital age, a parliamentary committee has recommended in a scathing report on fake news, data misuse and interference by Russia.
The interim report by the House of Commons’ media committee to be released Sunday said democracy is facing a crisis because the combination of data analysis and social media allows campaigns to target voters with messages of hate without their consent.
Tech giants like Facebook, which operate in a largely unregulated environment, are complicit because they haven’t done enough to protect personal information and remove harmful content, the committee said.
“The light of transparency must be allowed to shine on their operations and they must be made responsible, and liable, for the way in which harmful and misleading content is shared on their sites,” committee Chairman Damian Collins said in a statement.
The study was due to be published Sunday, but a copy was leaked on Friday by Dominic Cummings, the director of the official campaign group backing Britain’s departure from the European Union.
Social media companies are under scrutiny worldwide following allegations that political consultant Cambridge Analytica used data from tens of millions of Facebook accounts to profile voters and help President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
The committee is also investigating the impact of fake news distributed via social media sites.
Collins ripped Facebook for allowing Russian agencies to use its platform to spread disinformation and influence elections.
“I believe what we have discovered so far is the tip of the iceberg,” he said, adding that more work needs to be done to expose how fake accounts target people during elections.
“The ever-increasing sophistication of these campaigns, which will soon be helped by developments in augmented reality technology, make this an urgent necessity.”
The committee recommended that the British government increase the power of the Information Commissioner’s Office to regulate social media sites, update electoral laws to reflect modern campaign techniques, and increase the transparency of political advertising on social media.
Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to address the issue in a so-called White Paper to be released in the fall. She signaled her unease last year, accusing Russia of meddling in elections and planting fake news to sow discord in the West.
The committee began its work in January 2017, interviewing 61 witnesses during 20 hearings that took on an investigatory tone not normally found in such forums in the House of Commons.
Goodyear tires in space?
Sort of — and it’s a return trip.
The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plans to test tire components in space as part of a project later this year on the International Space Station U.S. Laboratory, it announced Tuesday.
The Akron company will study the formation of silica particles in the weak gravity, or microgravity, of the space station.
Silica particles are commonly used in the car, SUV and truck tires that most of us drive on.
It’s not the first time Goodyear has sent its tires or tire components to space.
“Goodyear has been a pioneer in tire innovations related to space, with the first and only tires on the moon, numerous projects with NASA and now this,” Eric Mizner, Goodyear’s director of global materials science, said in a prepared statement.
Goodyear announced the project during the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in San Francisco.
The experiments in space could lead to improvements in fuel efficiency, traction and other performance factors on Earth.
The in-space project is part of an agreement with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, a nonprofit group selected to manage the space station U.S. National Laboratory.
“It underscores our passion for going to the ends of the earth — and beyond — to develop new technologies that help us deliver breakthrough products with true consumer benefits,” Mizner said.
Ohio needs to significantly invest and innovate so it can grow and thrive, a business-led group says.
The danger to not acting quickly risks placing Ohio at a severe economic disadvantage in upcoming years as other states innovate and pull ahead with more competitive workforces and industries, according to the group’s in-depth report.
The report, Ohio BOLD: A Blueprint for Accelerating the Innovation Economy, was released Wednesday by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation and research and analysis firm Teconomy Partners LLC.
Ohio has “pockets of success” but the state needs to do much better and at a much quicker pace to turn innovation into economic growth, they said.
“We want to raise the entire state,” said Katie Koglman, executive director of the chamber research foundation.
“Generally speaking, we’re not moving as fast as we want to be, or should be,” said Brian Hicks, president of the research foundation’s board and one of the authors. “This is ambitious, which is why we’re calling it Ohio BOLD.”
A main goal is to get the state’s top policy makers and political leadership, no matter who is elected into office in November, to rally around the group’s findings and take action. The authors recently presented their plan to the staff of Ohio’s two major gubernatorial candidates before going public with the report.
The group spent months talking with numerous people around Ohio and pored over economic data to identify and analyze trends before coming up with recommendations.
Ohio’s economy is growing, but not as quickly as other peer states, Hicks and others said.
That results in:
• Slower population growth
• Slower growth in income and wages
• Increased poverty
• An aging and nondiverse population.
A fast-paced statewide approach is needed to make things better and to attract and retain young, talented people and vibrant businesses, the Ohio BOLD authors said.
Ohio needs to build on its strengths and invest in four key areas, or platforms, the group said:
• Next generation manufacturing.
• Innovative health care.
• Smart infrastructure, including driverless vehicles.
• Data analytics.
Failure to advance what the group calls “the four innovation platforms” will hurt Ohio in upcoming years, they said.
The group calls for the creation of four statewide innovation hubs, funded in part by taxpayers and in part by the private sector, to address the platforms.
In particular, Ohio manufacturing and production industries need to innovate because they are especially vulnerable to disruption by new technologies and automation and represent a sizable portion of the state’s industry strength, according to the report
Modern, innovative health care will improve Ohio’s quality-of-life attractiveness, while smart infrastructure leadership is key in branding the state’s future attractiveness, the report said.
Ohio is behind other regions in realizing long-term success is tied to the importance of a data analytics talent base to improve business intelligence and insights, the report said.
“We think data analytics is driving a lot of the innovation economy,” Hicks said.
While the report doesn’t put a specific price tag on how to achieve key goals, the cost to achieve the four key goals won’t be cheap, Hicks said. A similar effort in smaller Massachusetts calls for spending as much as $1 billion over 10 years, he and the report authors said.
“$50 million, $100 million won’t be big enough to have an impact,” Hicks said. “We think there is a price tag for not doing it.”
The full report can be found online at http://ohiochamberfoundation.com/about/ohio-bold/
By the end of the year, the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty will open the first portion of what will be the world’s biggest autonomous vehicle testing facility.
TRC, Ohio State University and the state of Ohio broke ground on the $45 million, 540-acre Smart Center on Monday, the first portion of which, a high-speed intersection, should be functional by the end of the year.
Gov. John Kasich hailed the new project as the global epicenter for testing autonomous vehicle technology.
“I said seven years ago that Ohio needs to be cool,” Kasich said. “This is one aspect of the things we are doing to get Ohio on the map.”
The Smart Center will be inside the 4,500-acre TRC and run by the center. It will consist of roadways and structures meant to mimic high-speed intersections, rural roads, urban areas and neighborhoods. The idea is to give researchers and vehicle developers access to as many variables as a real autonomous car would face out in the world.
TRC’s chief executive, Brett Roubinek, said the facility has researched an autonomous vehicle center for more than five years, and can now put the infrastructure in place to make it happen.
“Every day, the technology is advancing at the speed of light,” Roubinek said. “We’ll be able to adapt to the technology as it rolls out.”
NEW YORK: Apple and Facebook have figured out how to keep us glued to their devices and platforms. But they haven’t figured out how to curb the misinformation that plagued them during the 2016 election and have struggled to regain public trust. And now, as the midterm elections approach, they certainly don’t agree on a solution.
Last week, Apple launched a human-curated political news section to help readers steer clear of falsehoods surrounding the midterms. The company’s announcement reignited a fiery debate with Facebook about whether tech giants should hire people to curate news or rely on algorithms instead.
Apple has used human editors to curate news content in “Top News” and other specialized sections since the application first launched in 2015, and said it will continue to do so for the midterm elections news section. The company uses a combination of human editors and machine learning to manage more tailored content in personalized feeds for users.
“News was kind of going a little crazy,” said Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook at the recent Fortune CEO Initiative, subtly referring to Facebook’s struggle with the foreign actors such as Russia, profiteers and bots that took advantage of its News Feed algorithms for financial and political gain during the presidential election. “We felt the top stories should be selected by humans,” Cook said.
Apple’s midterm election section will feature material from the Washington Post, Politico and Axios, in addition to coverage from other sources the company describes as “trustworthy.”
But critics contend this coverage is limited, given that Apple’s curators will only promote articles from a few legacy outlets. The inclusion of the Trump administration-friendly Fox News also struck a chord.
Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs once called Fox News a “destructive force in our society,” according to Walter Isaacson’s biography of the tech mogul. The company’s current leadership contends that all content featured in the midterm election news section, including articles from Fox News, will be vetted for high-quality reporting and sourcing.
“This election season, our editors will highlight the most important, rigorously reported news to help you understand key races and your fellow voters,” wrote Apple News Editor-in-Chief Lauren Kern in a note on the news app. “We won’t shy away from controversial topics, but our goal is to illuminate, not enrage.”
But human editors and algorithms can display repetitive patterns of behavior when curating the news, warned Pete Brown, the author of a June study published by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism that examined Apple News’ editorial decisions on Twitter and in newsletters.
“Humans, like algorithms, are prone to habit,” Brown wrote. “Apple News may have fallen into a pattern that Facebook and others have been trying to avoid: editorial bias.”
The study, which analyzed almost 7,000 news recommendations made by Apple News, found that editors had a strong tendency to favor a select group of legacy media outlets. For example, editors in the U.S. showed a preference for the New York Times over smaller, regionally oriented outlets.
The study didn’t analyze any news recommendations featured on the app itself — which is the primary means by which Apple delivers news to users.
Apple declined to comment on its plans for the midterms.
However, while human curators may display patterned behavior in selecting certain news articles, they can explain their decision processes. Computers can’t.
“There is always going to be a greater degree of transparency with human editors than with algorithms,” Brown said. “We can ask, ‘Why are you choosing these publications over another one? What are the criteria in which you’re making these decisions?’
“Whatever happens, there’s going to be criticism from both political sides”
During the last presidential campaign, Facebook relied on human editors to curate the popular news topics listed in its “Trending” section. But when it received criticism from conservatives who felt it was prioritizing liberal-leaning content, the company replaced its editors with algorithms.
“Making these changes to the product allows our team to make fewer individual decisions about topics,” Facebook said in a statement after it dismantled the team of editors in August 2016.
But those algorithms have also brought Facebook a whirlwind of congressional hearings and headaches. In recent months, the company abandoned its automated “Trending” feature and restructured the News Feed algorithm to rank news sources on a trustworthiness scale determined by users.
Fox News has benefited from Facebook’s algorithmic changes to highlight “trustworthy” sources. This past April, the outlet generated the most engagement on Facebook, outpacing sources such as CNN, NBC and The New York Times, according to social media analytics company NewsWhip.
Among other attempts to curb misinformation, Facebook recently announced the expansion of its fact-checking operation and the creation of new automated “Breaking News” labels for quality content.
Media critics and journalists take issue with what they deem Facebook’s lack of transparency.
“Algorithmic transparency is basically nonexistent,” Brown said. “We know very little about how these black boxes curate news.”
Facebook couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
With the midterms just months away, the tech giants are wary of backlash from both ends of the political spectrum, no matter what decision they make. “Whatever happens, there’s going to be criticism from both political sides,” Brown said. “That’s all the more reason to be transparent about that curation process.”
WASHINGTON: Hey, did my congressman really say that? Is that really President Donald Trump on that video, or am I being duped?
New technology on the internet lets anyone make videos of real people appearing to say things they’ve never said. Republicans and Democrats predict this high-tech way of putting words in someone’s mouth will become the latest weapon in disinformation wars against the United States and other Western democracies.
We’re not talking about lip-syncing videos. This technology uses facial mapping and artificial intelligence to produce videos that appear so genuine it’s hard to spot the phonies. Lawmakers and intelligence officials worry that the bogus videos — called deepfakes — could be used to threaten national security or interfere in elections.
So far, that hasn’t happened, but experts say it’s not a question of if, but when.
“I expect that here in the United States we will start to see this content in the upcoming midterms and national election two years from now,” said Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. “The technology, of course, knows no borders, so I expect the impact to ripple around the globe.”
When an average person can create a realistic fake video of the president saying anything they want, Farid said, “we have entered a new world where it is going to be difficult to know how to believe what we see.” The reverse is a concern, too. People may dismiss as fake genuine footage, say of a real atrocity, to score political points.
Realizing the implications of the technology, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is already two years into a four-year program to develop technologies that can detect fake images and videos. Right now, it takes extensive analysis to identify phony videos. It’s unclear if new ways to authenticate images or detect fakes will keep pace with deepfake technology.
AI mimics reality
Deepfakes are so named because they utilize deep learning, a form of artificial intelligence. They are made by feeding a computer an algorithm, or set of instructions, lots of images and audio of a certain person. The computer program learns how to mimic the person’s facial expressions, mannerisms, voice and inflections. If you have enough video and audio of someone, you can combine a fake video of the person with a fake audio and get them to say anything you want.
So far, deepfakes have mostly been used to smear celebrities or as gags, but it’s easy to foresee a nation state using them for nefarious activities against the U.S., said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of several members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who are expressing concern about deepfakes.
A foreign intelligence agency could use the technology to produce a fake video of an American politician using a racial epithet or taking a bribe, Rubio says. They could use a fake video of a U.S. soldier massacring civilians overseas, or one of a U.S. official supposedly admitting a secret plan to carry out a conspiracy. Imagine a fake video of a U.S. leader — or an official from North Korea or Iran — warning the United States of an impending disaster.
“It’s a weapon that could be used — timed appropriately and placed appropriately — in the same way fake news is used, except in a video form, which could create real chaos and instability on the eve of an election or a major decision of any sort,” Rubio told the Associated Press.
Deepfake technology still has a few hitches. For instance, people’s blinking in fake videos may appear unnatural. But the technology is improving.
“Within a year or two, it’s going to be really hard for a person to distinguish between a real video and a fake video,” said Andrew Grotto, an international security fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University in California.
“This technology, I think, will be irresistible for nation states to use in disinformation campaigns to manipulate public opinion, deceive populations and undermine confidence in our institutions,” Grotto said. He called for government leaders and politicians to clearly say it has no place in civilized political debate.
Fakes already in use
Crude videos have been used for malicious political purposes for years, so there’s no reason to believe the higher-tech ones, which are more realistic, won’t become tools in future disinformation campaigns.
Rubio noted that in 2009, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow complained to the Russian Foreign Ministry about a fake sex video it said was made to damage the reputation of a U.S. diplomat. The video showed the married diplomat, who was a liaison to Russian religious and human rights groups, making telephone calls on a dark street. The video then showed the diplomat in his hotel room, scenes that apparently were shot with a hidden camera. Later, the video appeared to show a man and a woman having sex in the same room with the lights off, although it was not at all clear that the man was the diplomat.
John Beyrle, who was the U.S. ambassador in Moscow at the time, blamed the Russian government for the video, which he said was clearly fabricated.
Michael McFaul, who was American ambassador in Russia between 2012 and 2014, said Russia has engaged in disinformation videos against various political actors for years and that he too had been a target. He has said that Russian state propaganda inserted his face into photographs and “spliced my speeches to make me say things I never uttered and even accused me of pedophilia.”
Associated Press video journalists Padmananda Rama in Washington, D.C., and Terry Chea in Palo Alto, California, contributed to this report.
Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises Inc. on Thursday laid off 51 people in Barberton and Copley as part of a larger 74-person reduction in its workforce.
Employees were notified Thursday morning that they were being let go, with most of the reductions effective immediately, company spokeswoman Sharyn Brooks said.
“They are technical, nontechnical and support roles,” she said. Before Thursday’s job cuts, B&W had 630 employees in Barberton and 125 in Copley; with the reductions, the total local head count with the reduction in force is now slightly above 700.
The job cuts were made to align costs with revenue, Brooks said. “The market continues to change and we need to change with it,” Brooks said.
B&W’s corporate headquarters is in Charlotte, N.C.; the company has about 5,000 employees globally. B&W makes and services coal-fired boilers and pollution control equipment for power plants and is involved in related industries. It has been struggling to compete in part because of the growth in power plants fueled by cheap fracked natural gas instead of coal.
In May, B&W reported it lost $120.3 million, or $2.73 per share, on revenue of $311.4 million for the quarter ending March 31. A year earlier B&W had lost $13 million, or 14 cents per share, on revenue of $391.1 million.
This month, financially struggling B&W agreed to sell its MEGTEC and Universal businesses, both in Wisconsin, to German company Dürr AG for $130 million. Proceeds will be used to pay down debt and improve B&W’s balance sheet.
In addition, B&W’s largest shareholder, Steel Partners, has revealed that it has offered to buy all of the company.
B&W shares on Thursday were down 5 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $2.37 as of 2:34 p.m.
WASHINGTON: AT&T has completed its $81 billion takeover of Time Warner, one of the biggest media deals ever. A federal judge approved the combination just two days earlier over objections by the Trump Justice Department that it would hurt consumers.
The merger could shape the way consumers stream TV and movies and how much they pay, and stands to usher in a new era of accelerating change and deal making in the media and telecom worlds.
The announcement came late Thursday from Dallas-based AT&T, a telephone, cable and satellite behemoth that now will own an array of TV networks and sought-after programming. The deadline to complete the merger was next week, but the closing came swiftly after the Justice Department signaled it wouldn’t ask the court to postpone the merger while it pondered an appeal of the judge’s decision.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled against the government’s attempt to block the megamerger on anti-competitive grounds. It was the first time in decades that the government had sued to block a merger of two companies that don’t compete directly with each other.
A Justice Department official said regulators will continue to consider a possible appeal. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because a decision on an appeal hasn’t been made.
In a statement announcing completion of the merger, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said the merger will let AT&T create “the future of media entertainment.”
Leon’s ruling followed a six-week trial that showcased the biggest legal wrangling over competition in decades. He rejected the government’s argument that the phone and pay-TV giant’s takeover of the entertainment conglomerate would hurt competition, limit choices and jack up prices for consumers to stream TV and movies.
The ruling allowed AT&T to absorb the owner of CNN, HBO, the Warner Bros. movie studio and sports programming.
Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes has agreed to remain with the company as a senior adviser during a transition period, AT&T’s announcement said.
Leon noted the “drop dead” deadline for completing the deal was June 21, and if wasn’t wrapped up by then, either company could walk away and AT&T would have to pay Time Warner a $500 million “breakup” fee.
Some legal experts believe the government could have a hard time convincing the appeals court to overturn Leon’s decision. Opposing the merger forced the antitrust regulators to argue against standing legal doctrine that favors mergers among companies that don’t compete directly with each other.
AT&T has committed to certain conditions under which it will run Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN. It will manage the Turner networks as part of a separate business unit, distinct from operations of AT&T Communications, which includes DirecTV and U-verse.
The merger will fuse a company that produces news and entertainment with one that funnels that programming to consumers. AT&T cast it as a necessary step to compete against the likes of Amazon, Google and Netflix.
A. Schulman Inc. shareholders vote Thursday morning on the Fairlawn polymer company’s pending acquisition by LyondellBasell Industries for $2.25 billion.
The meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Sheraton Suites on Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls.
Schulman’s board is recommending shareholders approve the merger.
If approved, A. Schulman will become a wholly owned subsidiary of LyondellBasell, a Houston-based global plastics, chemical and refining company with about $34.5 billion in annual revenue. The deal, which was first announced in February, is expected to close in the second half of the year pending shareholder and regulatory approvals.
A. Schulman stockholders will receive $42 in cash for each Schulman share they own under the merger proposals.
They also will receive one contingent value right for each share of A. Schulman common stock owned. That will allow shareholders to receive any proceeds that may come from A. Schulman’s litigation involving its Citadel subsidiary purchase.
Virginia Drosos took over the top leadership spot at Signet Jewelers Ltd. during a low point for the national retailer.
“The last few years have been challenging,” Drosos acknowledged in a recent interview.
She stepped up when Mark Light stepped down as chief executive officer for health reasons last summer after 35 years at the company. The firm has about 2,000 employees at its Akron campus.
At the time, Signet, whose brands include jewelry stores Kay, Jared and Zales, was embroiled in publicly embarrassing lawsuits and national media stories alleging gender discrimination and widespread sexual harassment at the company. Financial underperformance hurt the stock price, with the company losing more than half its value.
Also, like other retailers, Signet is dealing with changes in how customers buy goods and services.
With Light’s resignation effective on July 31, Drosos, a member of Signet’s board of directors since 2012, transitioned to CEO a day later. She’s a Georgia native with years of executive experience at other Ohio companies.
Less than a year into the Signet job, she’s dealt with unexpected, costly problems selling off the company’s credit portfolio, signed off on a key acquisition and led the company in a cultural and financial transformation.
There are signs the transformation plan already is paying off.
“Signet is far and away the market leader in what is a large and fast-growing, fragmented category,” Drosos said. “The U.S. jewelry business is over $90 billion in sales and growing 3 to 4 percent every year. We have about a 7 percent share, which is larger than any other competitor by three times.”
But market share needs to grow, she said.
Path to Brilliance
Enter the Signet Path to Brilliance announced in March.
“Path for Brilliance is a transformation plan. It’s a bold plan, named by our employees,” Drosos said. It’s not about the shine of a diamond but “to bring the shine and luster back to our company,” she said.
The plan has three key strategies, she said.
“I developed the plan through really intense listening and study of the business over my first six months as CEO,” Drosos said.
The three strategies:
• Customer first.
• Omnichannel, or smoothly integrating online shopping with bricks-and-mortar.
• Building a culture of agility and efficiency.
“The strategy is not nearly as hard as the execution and the culture,” Drosos said. “We’ve broken down all of our strategies into very clear action plans, some of which we can accomplish this year, some of which will take us a couple of years to get fully in place.”
Based on its latest financial report, Signet appears to be moving in the right direction.
The company this past week posted stronger-than-expected first-quarter results and reaffirmed its outlook for the year, including sales of $5.9 billion to $6.1 billion.
Signet’s share price soared on the news, bouncing well up from 52-week lows. Industry analysts said they like what they see so far.
“We are most encouraged by management’s deep commitment to uphold their 3-year transformation plan of ‘Signet Path to Brilliance’ to transform the business,” Oliver Chen, analyst with N.Y.-based investment firm Cowen International, wrote in a June 6 note to clients.
“We appreciate management’s dedication to improve and modernize the business in a rapidly changing jewelry industry to capture demand,” Chen said.
That modernization includes adapting to how customers, particularly millennials, prefer to shop for jewelry, Drosos said.
A customer’s journey to buy a diamond engagement ring can involve seven to nine steps, she said.
“More than half the time, the journey starts online,” Drosos said. “And more than 90 percent of the time, the journey ends in-store.”
Work to create a seamless customer journey speaks to Signet’s $328 million purchase last August of longtime business partner R2Net, largely for the New York company’s innovative online shopping technology.
“I’m very proud of that acquisition. It was my first decision really as CEO of the company,” Drosos said.
Some of R2Net’s technology allows Signet to market 100,000 diamonds online through a virtual diamond vault, letting customers first see diamonds from all angles and at large magnification on computer screens. It’s in 70 Jared stores so far.
Signet technology also lets people virtually try on rings over a computer screen via a scan of their hands and fingers.
Signet is making other changes. It plans to close 200 underperforming stores this year, many in malls, while trying out new formats, Drosos said. The closures still leaveSignet with about 3,500 stores.
Drosos and Signet has been busy elsewhere.
Six of company’s 12 directors are now women, where the board had been predominantly male not too many years ago. The senior executive suite also has an increasing female presence.
Last week, Signet announced the hiring of Mary Elizabeth Finn as chief people officer. Responsibilities include fostering diversity and inclusion and leading training and development in the company. The areas of responsibility touch on issues raised in litigation against Signet.
Finn, former chief human resources officer at $6.2 billion Nielsen, reports directly to Drosos.
When Drosos was first brought onto Signets’ board of directors six years ago, the company cited her executive experience and expertise in branding, marketing, global operations and business expansions.
Drosos, who is 55, said her skill set and experience proved the perfect fit for Signet when Mark Light decided to step down.
Her background includes being president and CEO of Assurex Health, an Ohio company founded in 2006 that specializes in pharmacogenomics, the study of the interaction of a person’s genetic makeup with medicines. Before that, she was a longtime employee at Procter & Gamble.
Building a diverse board and leadership team is about creating an environment to make great decisions, Drosos said.
“You really want diversity of experience, diversity of gender” and diversity in other areas, she said. Signet now has one of the most gender diverse boards among publicly traded companies, she said. In addition, the company lists Drosos and four other women among its top 10 senior executives.
“When you surround yourself with a diverse team, you see in all directions,” she said.
Drosos said she considers herself a continual learner and an empowering and pragmatic leader who gets inspiration from the people around her.
“I think I have the ability to set a very clear vision for the organization,” Drosos said.
“I’m really all about moving aside the barriers so we can execute excellence.”
BEIJING: Chinese phone maker Huawei said Wednesday it has never collected or stored Facebook user data, after the social media giant acknowledged it shared such data with Huawei and other manufacturers.
Huawei, a company flagged by U.S. intelligence officials as a national security threat, was the latest device maker at the center of a fresh wave of allegations over Facebook’s handling of private data.
Chinese firms Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL were among numerous handset makers that were given access to Facebook data in a “controlled” way approved by Facebook, according to a statement Tuesday from Francisco Varela, Facebook’s vice president of mobile partnerships.
The development marked the latest privacy gaffe for Facebook since allegations emerged in March that a Trump-affiliated political consultancy firm, Cambridge Analytica, had improperly harvested data from tens of millions of Facebook users in an effort to influence elections.
On Wednesday, the former CEO of the now-defunct firm, Alexander Nix, clashed with British lawmakers as he denied his firm was unethical.
Nix said he’s embarrassed at having been caught on camera boasting that he could entrap political figures by compromising them with bribes and Ukrainian women. But he insisted he was entrapped by unscrupulous, undercover journalists — a claim Channel 4 News rejected. Nix added that the firm was unfairly blamed for putting Donald Trump in office, a vote that “put an incredibly huge target” on the back of his firm.
As for Facebook’s partnerships with phone makers, The New York Times has detailed how Facebook has given device makers deep access to data, including work history, relationship status and likes on device users and their friends.
In a follow-up report, the Times said the recipients of Facebook data included Huawei and other Chinese firms that have long been labeled a national security threat by Congress. Facebook said it would end its data partnership with Huawei by the end of this week.
While Facebook is banned in China, the government could have had access to user profiles elsewhere, including those of Americans with Huawei phones. However, there’s no evidence that happened. Facebook said it helped design and approved Huawei’s app, so it knows the data remained on users’ phones and wasn’t transferred to Huawei.
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the news raises legitimate concerns and wanted to know how Facebook ensured data was not transferred to Chinese servers.
Huawei spokesman Joe Kelly said in a text message Wednesday that the arrangement was about making Facebook services more convenient for users.
Facebook said it granted smartphone access to users’ data before mobile apps became popular, as a way of making its service work on a broad range of devices. Device makers could then build their own software that incorporated Facebook functions, for things like messaging or posting photos. User would log into their Facebook accounts, allowing the phone software to pull in data from Facebook itself.
The partnerships were used for older phones to make Facebook work or at least work better, according to the company. Newer phones are more powerful and don’t need such data sharing. Nonetheless, Facebook didn’t get around to reviewing these partnerships until after the Cambridge Analytica scandal developed.
Apple said it has worked with Facebook for years to let users share things on Facebook through iPhone and Mac apps. Apple said it used data pulled in from Facebook to let people post photos and other items on Facebook without opening the Facebook app. It ended that practice on the iPhone last September, although similar features persist on Mac computers.
Hua Chunying, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, declined to comment on the issue but said: “We hope the U.S. can provide a fair, transparent, open and friendly environment for Chinese companies’ operation and investment.”
The company, founded by former Chinese military officer Ren Zhengfei, has long denied that its products pose security risks even as it grew into the world’s largest telecom equipment provider and a leading phone manufacturer — behind only Apple and Samsung.
Huawei and its Shenzhen-based rival ZTE have been the subject of security misgivings in the U.S. for years, but they have come under particular scrutiny since the start of the Trump administration amid rising U.S.-China tensions on a range of subjects.
The Pentagon in May banned the sale of Huawei and ZTE phones on military bases, four months after AT&T dropped a deal to sell a new Huawei smartphone.
AP writers Danica Kirka in London and Barbara Ortutay in New York contributed to this report.
Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises Inc. has agreed to sell its MEGTEC and Universal businesses to Dürr AG for $130 million.
The sale is expected to close in the third quarter after meeting closing conditions. The deal is subject to adjustment, Charlotte, N.C.-based B&W said in a news release.
The two businesses being sold are based in Wisconsin, with no employees in Barberton or Copley, where B&W has a significant presence.
Dürr is a global mechanical and plant engineering firm based in Germany.
B&W’s largest shareholder, Steel Partners, in May said it has offered to buy all of Babcock & Wilcox, including MEGTEC and Universal, for $3 to $3.50 a share. At the time of the May announcement, New York-based Steel Partners owned 17.8 percent of B&W.
B&W’s news release did not mention Steel Partners. B&W has said it does not intend to comment on the buyout offer.
Shares of B&W closed up 2 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $2.55 at market’s closing Wednesday.
Proceeds from the sale will be used to pay down debt and to improve B&W’s balance sheet and financial flexibility, the company said.
MEGTEC is in De Pere and supplies environmental control technologies, engineered products, dryers, ovens and more for industrial customers.
Universal, in Stoughton, Wis., provides custom-engineered ancillary equipment and more for the power generation, oil and gas, industrial processing, rail transportation, and backup power markets.
NEW YORK: Spotify is backpedaling on its recently announced anti-hate policy after some music industry players criticized it.
The company said in blog post that when it announced the policy on May 10 it “created confusion and concern” and that Spotify “didn’t spend enough time getting input from our own team.” Last month Spotify said it would remove from its playlists music from R. Kelly, who has been accused of sexual abuse, and XXXTentacion, who’s awaiting trial on charges he beat his pregnant girlfriend. XXXTentacion has pleaded innocent to the charges against him and Kelly faces no criminal case; he was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.
Some praised the company’s decision, but others criticized it, saying it targeted specific artists.
Spotify said Friday it is “moving away from implementing a policy around artist conduct.”
Spotify didn’t officially say it would begin promoting XXXTentacion and R. Kelly’s music. XXXTentacion, however, is now back on Spotify’s Rap Caviar playlist.
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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Apple is expected to preview new capabilities for its Siri digital assistant and showcase other upcoming software features to help build anticipation for the next iPhones.
The peek at the new software will come Monday at a gathering in San Jose, California, for thousands of app developers and other computer programmers looking to create their own features for making iPhones, iPads, Macs and other Apple products more useful.
Analysts believe Apple will try to inject more artificial intelligence and other new powers into Siri to make it more competitive with Google’s digital assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. Apple just gave its HomePod smart speaker new features, including calendar reminders — something Google and Amazon devices have long offered. Apple has been emphasizing the HomePod’s high-fidelity acoustics, including the ability to pair two devices in stereo mode, in an effort to distinguish its product from Google’s and Amazon’s speakers, which primarily serve as hubs for those companies’ voice-activated assistants. Monday’s preview could include more on that front.
Apple also may introduce new ways to help people manage their health and assist apps in the use of augmented reality — the blending of digital images and information with a physical setting through the camera.
Investors will be looking for more opportunities for the Cupertino, California, company to make money from the apps and other services baked into its devices. Apple’s services division, which generates revenue from subscriptions, commissions and maintenance plans tied to Apple devices, already has become the fastest growing piece of the massive company. The division’s revenue surged by 31 percent from the previous year in Apple’s most recent quarter. The growth comes as Apple’s top-selling product, the iPhone, hasn’t been selling as briskly as investors had hoped after last fall’s much-anticipated release of the super-premium iPhone X.
Whatever Apple does, the software updates likely won’t be available for a few months. The iPhone software update usually comes for free in September, shortly after the company unveils its latest iPhones.
Apple occasionally uses its annual software preview to release a new gadget or the latest version of an existing product line. The company may launch a wireless charging pad called the AirPower that it announced last year. A new Mac is also a possibility, though not considered likely.
The event comes a month after Google showed off its latest software, including upgrades to the Android operating system that powers roughly four out of five smartphones in the world. Google also upped the ante on artificial intelligence with a new twist on an assistant that can sound more like a human than robot when making phone calls to schedule appointments and make reservations.