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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

GM looks to 3D printing and algorithms to improve future cars – Roadshow

Keeping components light will help improve efficiency, no matter how the vehicle is powered.
Source: CNET

NASA astronaut captures striking full 'moonset' from ISS – CNET

Behold the beauty of the moon setting behind the curve of Earth as seen from the International Space Station.
Source: CNET

Star Wars wants you to roar like Chewbacca for charity – CNET

If you imitate Chewie and post on social media, Lucasfilm and Disney will donate up to $1 million to Unicef.
Source: CNET

Cortana and Alexa courtship still not ready for consummation – CNET

Microsoft says the long-awaited integration of smart assistants will be a “great experience.”
Source: CNET

Cyberattack crashes Tennessee county's website on election night – CNET

The DDoS attack shut down the Knox County Election Commission’s websites as polls closed on Tuesday night.
Source: CNET

Amazon opens up in-skill purchases to all Alexa developers

Amazon today launched in-skill purchasing to all Alexa developers, along with Amazon Pay for skills. That means developers have a way to generate revenue from their voice applications on Alexa-powered devices, like Amazon’s Echo speakers. For example, developers could charge for additional packs to go along with their voice-based games, or offer other premium content to expand their free voice app experience.

The feature was previously announced in November 2017, but was only available at the time to a small handful of voice app developers, like Jeopardy!, plus other game publishers.

When in-skill purchasing is added to a voice application – Amazon calls these apps Alexa’s “skills” – customers can ask to shop the purchase suggestions offered, and then pay by voice using the payment information already associated with their Amazon account.

Developers are in control of what content is offered at which price, but Amazon will handle the actual purchasing flow. It also offers self-serve tools to help developers manage their in-skill purchases and optimize their sales.

While any Alexa device owner can buy the available in-skill purchases, Amazon Prime members will get the best deal.

Amazon says that in-skill purchases must offer some sort of value-add for Prime subscribers, like a discounted price, exclusive content or early access. Developers are paid 70 percent of the list price for their in-skill purchase, before any Amazon discount is applied.

Already, Sony’s Jeopardy!, Teen Jeopardy!, Sports Jeopardy!; The Ellen Show’s Heads Up; Fremantle’s Match Game; HISTORY’s Ultimate HISTORY Quiz, and TuneIn Live, have launched Alexa skills with premium content.

To kick off today’s launch of general availability, Amazon is announcing a handful of others who will do the same. This includes NBCU’s SYFY WIRE, which will offer three additional weekly podcasts exclusive to Alexa (Geeksplain, Debate Club, and Untold Story); Volley Inc.’s Yes Sire, which offers an expansion pack for its role-playing game; and Volley Inc.’s Word of the Day, which will soon add new vocabulary packs to purchase.

In-skill purchases is only one of the ways that Amazon offers a way for developers to generate revenue.

The company is also now offering a way for brands and merchants to sell products and services (like event tickets or flower delivery) through Alexa, using Amazon Pay for Alexa Skills. Amazon Pay integrates with existing CRM and order management solutions, says Amazon, allowing merchants to manage sales in their current process. This is generally available as of today, too.

And it’s been paying top developers directly through its Developer Rewards program, which is an attempt to seed the ecosystem with skills ahead of a more robust system for skill monetization.

The news was announced alongside an update on Alexa’s skill ecosystem, which has 40,000 skills available, up from 25,000 last December.

However, the ecosystem today has a very long tail. Many of the skills are those with few or even no users, or just represent apps from those toying around with voice app development. Research on how customers are actually engaging with their voice devices has shown that generally, people are largely using them for things like news and information, smart home control, and setting timers and reminders – not necessarily things that require voice apps.

 


Source: TechCrunch

Telegram’s billion-dollar ICO has become a mess

Telegram’s ICO was supposed to be a record-breaker to develop a platform that brings the decentralized internet to life. Instead, it has become a mess with the tightly controlled fundraising process in disarray as early backers sell their tokens for handsome returns.

The company recently canceled the public sale piece of its ICO, the Wall Street Journal reported this week, after it raised $1.7 billion from private sale investors, according to SEC filings. But the issues date back further.

Telegram’s grand vision is to build the TON (Telegram Open Network), a blockchain-based platform that extends its messaging app, which counts 200 million active users, into a range of services that include payments, file storage, censorship-proof browsing and decentralized apps hosted on the platform. According to the original whitepaper, the plan was to raise $1.2 billion using both invite-only private investors and an open sale to the public.

Telegram later extended the raise to $1.7 billion before it canceled the public sale altogether. That’s almost certainly because it had already raised enough money to develop TON without the risk of running into the SEC’s ongoing ICO probe by soliciting money from the public.

The result is that the ordinary people can’t buy Telegram’s Gram crypto token until it is released on exchanges. There’s currently no timeline for that. But, with massive demand for the messaging app and deep discounts for early backers, a secondary market for buying and selling tokens early has emerged — with huge returns already realized by some.

One source said an early investor who acquired a tranche of tokens at a price of $0.37 is actively seeking to sell for $1.30 — potentially a 3.5-fold increase for a token that hasn’t left the gate yet. TechCrunch understands many others deals have been closed at different rates but other middlemen are sliding in to profit, too. A number of ‘brokerages’ have moved in on the opportunity to connect sellers and buyers for a fee.

That’s just some of the examples of unofficial deals that are flowing as early backers who got Gram tokens cash in on demand, which has only increased following the cancellation of the public sale. Added to that, discounts of up to 50 percent on the token price have made it easy to return a big multiple.

Given the cooling off of the price of bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies this year, a three-fold return with no risk is not to be sniffed at.

Another source told TechCrunch that Telegram is aware of the unofficial sales but, since they do not violate any laws — because ICOs are not regulated — there is nothing that it can do but watch. The issue with early sales is that the market can influence, or even set, the price of a token through unofficial deals which could complicate listing it on exchanges or setting a post-ICO price.

Added to that, the fact that Telegram isn’t in control of the flow of capital at this early stage doesn’t look good.

The Telegram ICO has already raised considerably more than any other project to date — the nearest being Filecoin’s $250 million-plus ICO — but it has not set a shining example.

Looking beyond the messy sales process, the project has been heavily criticized for ambiguity. Pantera Capital’s Charles Noyes called it “opportunistic” with a white paper that is “essentially a wishlist of things they want to have, and how it will work assuming that their wishlist doesn’t crash and burn.” MIT Technology Review called it “bold but short on ideas,” while others have pointed out that much of the technical theory laid out in the document is recycled from other projects.

Telegram’s immediate challenges go beyond the ICO at this point. The Russian government has gone after the messaging app through crude censorship campaign that knocked out swathes of IP addresses — potentially as many as 19 million — in order to prevent Telegram evading its crackdown. That hammer-headed approach also knocked out services like Twitch, Slack, Soundcloud, Viber, Spotify, Fifa, Nintendo in the process.

TechCrunch contacted Telegram CEO Pavel Durov for comment but we had not heard back at the time of writing.

Disclosure: Jon Russell owns small amounts of cryptocurrency.


Source: TechCrunch

Watch these robotic soccer players play a nail-biter of a match

As a hater of all sports, I am particularly excited about the imminent replacement of humans with robots in soccer. If this exciting match, the Standard Platform League (SPL) final of the German Open featuring the Nao-Team HTWK vs. Nao Devils, is any indication, the future is going to be great.

The robots are all NAO robots by SoftBank and they are all designed according to the requirements of the Standard Platform League. The robots can run (sort of), kick (sort of), and lift themselves up if they fall. The 21 minute video is a bit of a slog and the spectators are definitely not drunk hooligans but darned if it isn’t great to see little robots hitting the turf to grab a ball before it hits the goal.

I, for one, welcome our soccer-playing robot overlords.


Source: TechCrunch

Want to Hunt Aliens? Go to West Virginia's Low-Tech 'Quiet Zone'

The 13,000-square-mile swathe of silence at the Green Bank Observatory is the perfect place for scientists to listen in on outer space.
Source: Wired

Figure Out Where You Are With Nothing But a Watch and Protractor

Teach yourself the basics of celestial navigation.
Source: Wired

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