As more governments move to re-open public life, Uber, the world’s leading ride-hailing app, has announced a variety of new safety precautions to keep drivers and passengers safe from the spread of COVID-19.
Starting Monday, Uber will require all drivers and passengers to wear facial coverings while using the service, and to go through a digital checklist that includes putting on a mask and sanitizing hands.
Uber will use artificial intelligence built into its app to verify that its drivers are complying by the new safety regulations. They will be required to prove that they’re wearing a mask by sending a selfie to the Uber app, and riders will receive a notification to confirm that their driver has complied. Passengers will additionally be asked to sit in the back seat only, and to keep windows open for ventilation.
“It’s important to us that you know what to expect,” Uber said in a statement. “Over the last two months, our tech and safety teams have been hard at work building a new product experience that will help protect everyone, every time they use Uber.”
“Everyone must take proper precautions not only to protect yourself but also the driver and the next person getting in the car after,” added Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshani. “It’s about protecting not only yourself but everyone around you.”
To ensure compliance by all Uber participants, drivers and riders alike are being asked to notify the company if they witness any violations of the safety protocol. Repeat offenders risk having their accounts terminated.
“We are encouraging drivers to cancel trips without penalty if they don’t feel safe, including if the rider isn’t wearing a face cover,” the company said.
As a further commitment to the new health regulations, Uber says it has allocated $50 million for buying masks, disinfectant spray, wipes, hand sanitizer, and gloves for drivers and riders. Uber claims it has already obtained some 23 million masks.
Its leading ride-hailing rival, Lyft, announced similar guidelines this month. Both international companies will apply their rules uniformly in all markets to ensure that safety is a priority for app-users in every region across the world.
Facebook announced Friday that it would be acquiring GIPHY, the leading purveyor of animated GIFs, in a reported $400 million deal. The acquisition envisions a streamlined use of GIFs on Facebook-owned Instagram, where users already enjoy using short animations in GIF form to communicate.
GIPHY is a platform for the creation and sharing of Graphic Interchange Format (GIF) media, which are typically just a few seconds long, and have become an indelible part of meme culture. Invented in the ’80s, GIFs have become ubiquitous in recent years as a way to convey tone and emotion over text-based modes of communication. GIPHY’s vast library includes short, soundless, looped videos that draw from film and television, and are categorized by an exhaustive list of tags. (You can find GIFs that convey happiness, excitement, annoyance…the list is endless).
GIPHY’s library is already accessible on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram Direct Message, where users can search for their desired GIF image, copy it, and paste it into their text-based conversation. And the easy integration of the GIPHY library into a variety of different apps has made it one of the most accessed GIF libraries out there.
Details on The Long-Desired Acquisition
This is not Facebook’s first attempt at acquiring GIPHY. Back in 2015, the social media giant tried to buy-out a young GIPHY, but the start-up declined the offer, opting instead to make deals with a variety of social media platforms and seek to grow its fanbase.
Now, Facebook has succeeded in its purchase, with a stated goal of integrating GIPHY into Instagram “so that people can find just the right way to express themselves.” And while the $400 million price-tag may seem high for a program that was already accessible on Instagram, it makes sense when you consider how many other platforms make use of GIPHY’s library.
Slack, Twitter, and iMessage have all integrated GIPHY into their respective services, and there are no signs that such platforms plan to disassociate from the function now that it’s a Facebook asset. In fact, Facebook hopes that users continue to access GIPHY, regardless of their preferred messaging app.
“People will still be able to upload GIFs,” assured Vishal Shah, Vice President of Product at Instagram. “Developers and API partners will continue to have the same access to GIPHY’s APIs; and GIPHY’s creative community will still be able to create great content.”
Potential Legal Challenge?
While Facebook has recently faced scrutiny by antitrust advocates in Congress, the acquisition of GIPHY is unlikely to trigger any related inquiry, a source familiar with the transaction confided to The Washington Post. Only deals of a certain magnitude would warrant government review.
Still, in February of this year, the Federal Trade Commission revealed it would launch a wide-ranging inquiry into past Facebook acquisitions, as well as similar transactions by other tech giants that have been too small to catch the attention of government watchdogs. In the process, the agency warned that it could unwind those deals it deems to be in violation of antitrust rules.
To this moment, Facebook’s acquisition of GIPHY has garnered no official legal backlash.
While it sounds like the stuff of dystopian science-fiction, quantum supremacy is actually a very real milestone for a super-computer. It’s achieved when such a processor can perform a calculation in a matter of seconds that would take a normal computer several years.
Google recently claimed that its 54-qubit Sycamore processor achieved quantum supremacy when it cracked a calculation in 200 seconds that would have taken the world’s leading super-computers 10,000 years. Though Google’s declaration has been disputed by some, it’s worth taking a look at what the real-life applications of such quantum capability could be.
Currently, any hacker or entity trying to use brute-force on an encrypted password could waste years trying to gain access. But quantum computers have the potential to gain brute-force entry in a matter of seconds, eviscerating encryption as we know it. On the other hand, quantum computers would also be able to create even more complex forms of encryption, ultimately making passwords even stronger.
Currently, in order to see the effects of a drug, scientists must synthesize the molecule and observe its interactions with other molecules. This takes a lot of trial and error time and resources. But quantum computers could model and run simulations of drug interactions in record time. While this would save researchers time and money, it would also save lives in the log run as the trial periods of life-saving medications could be aggressively shortened – sounds like a pandemic must-have.
Quantum computer’s ability to solve complex problems involving hefty amounts of information in a matter of seconds is sure to bolster the rise of artificial intelligence, which will need to process data at lightning-speed to reach its true potential.
Trading and risk assessment involve large-scale models and simulations, and quantum computers have the potential to give investors a huge edge. The Monte Carlo simulation, for instance, which visualizes the impact of risk and uncertainty in an investment, could be drawn-up in just a few seconds by a quantum super-computer.
Earth is a complex ecosystem made up of hundreds of smaller systems. Mapping out the interactions and synergistic relationships between them is a tall order. This complexity is what makes it hard for current climate models to be perfectly accurate. With quantum computing, we could create more accurate models that could handle more variables, which could give us a better idea of how we can realistically slow or reverse the effects of climate change.
Having a drone deliver medicine seems like something out of a sci-fi movie, but believe it or not, it’s already happening today. Given the demand for delivery drivers in densely populated areas, remote and rural communities that need medical supplies are suffering, which has caused a demand for non-human delivery methods.
In October 2019, the FAA approved a UPS request to deliver medicine via drones, a practice already being used in the UK, Ireland and Rwanda.
Companies in the mix
The top two companies behind drone deliveries of medical supplies are Zipline and Medical Drones. In addition to delivering medicine, they can deliver blood and microbiology specimens such as semen and cultures.
Now consider the importance that such instantaneous shipment could have for the healthcare field. Immediate delivery of medicine via drone could be the difference between life and death, particularly for those who live far away from hospitals. Childhood vaccines that decrease infant mortality rates could be readily available to people in rural regions. And during this pandemic, drones could be providing just-in-time delivery of test kits, reagents, medicine and, maybe one day soon, a COVID-19 vaccine.
Changing the retail landscape
But it’s not just the medical community that has jumped aboard the drone ship. While services aren’t available just yet, Amazon has long planned the launch of “Amazon Prime Air,” a drone system that could delivery all sorts of shipments in select cities. Though the first successful test delivery was done in 2016, Amazon’s plan has since been waylaid by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Amazon Prime Air has the potential to be the second time the company completely changes consumer culture. Imagine ordering a phone case and having a drone deliver it to your door within 30 minutes! That’s the type of fast and efficient delivery method Amazon imagines providing to its customers.
While automation has its downsides, like replacing human workers, it could be crucial to raising the quality of life for so many around the world.
Bill Gates, business tycoon and philanthropist, has spent much of his recent career watching and responding to global health disasters. Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he has funded international vaccination efforts and has long advocated for the need to prepare for a global pandemic.
This week, Gates released a lengthy post to his personal blog, where he enumerates the five urgent tasks to rehabilitating the world and setting us back on the path to normalcy. The five innovations he believes are most imperative are effective treatment, a reliable vaccine, widespread testing, contact tracing, and a plan to responsibly reopen the economy.
Here’s what that all means:
Before people feel comfortable returning to large gatherings outside the home, Gates says that we need a treatment that is at least 95% effective. Without such an assurance, he says, people will not feel safe enough to come into contact with strangers. One such treatment that he proposes is being tested in several laboratories. It involves the use of blood from recovered Covid-19 victims, which can provide those still fighting the disease with plasma full of virus-fighting antibodies. Still, if we cannot find a 95% effective treatment, Gates says that a vaccine will be even more essential.
Gates concedes that it typically takes five years to develop an effective vaccine, but is optimistic that it could happen faster. CDC estimates for A coronavirus vaccine are 12 to 18 months. A vaccine would give those injected with it immunity from the disease. Historically, plagues that ravaged whole swaths of the world, like smallpox and polio, were nearly eradicated as a result of wide-spread vaccination programs.
Tests will be critical in allowing countries to reopen, as they can confirm whether an individual has the virus, even if they are showing no symptoms. Gates advocates for the availability of at-home tests, which would make it easier for more people to check themselves without risking infection by waiting in a long line at a clinic.
4. Contact Tracing
Tracking down people who have been exposed to the virus, or who have come into contact with infected individuals, can help prevent a widespread resurgence of the virus. Gates says that such a task would require a large corps of workers. He looks to the model adapted by Germany, wherein individuals who test positive submit information to the state in regard to where they have been in the past 14 days, to better inform anyone who may have become compromised as a result.
5. Reopening the Economy
Gates says that leaders will have to make compromises in determining which parts of our society can open, and how soon. Opening schools, Gates says, should be top priority, as they provide a larger benefit to society, not just to the students they educate, but to the parents who can work during the day instead of managing their children. But we will probably need to wait longer for large events like major sports or concerts to resume. Other considerations we will have to make include how many people can be seated in a restaurant and how far apart factory workers will have to stand from each other.
The concept of regulated screen time is starting to look like a thing of the past.
With students across the country spending hours on the computer each day to receive distance instruction, parents concerned with how much exposure their children are getting to the internet or digital screens may feel helpless.
If you feel that way, you’re not alone, but your anxiety might not be all that necessary. We are living in strange times, but it’s not a permanent situation. Giving your kids a little more free-range online or in front of a television is not going to harm them forever, because this situation won’t last forever.
Still, if you are growing concerned that your kids have become addicted to staring at a screen and you want to have a better window into what they’re looking at for hours on-end, there are plenty of resources to assist you. Keep reading for three of the best apps to help you monitor your kids’ screen time, even if you’re sheltered in place.
This app is ideal for parents who want more control over which sites or apps their children have access to. Using AI to block questionable websites, Net Nanny can also lock kids out of specific sites that their parents don’t want them accessing. (Say you don’t want you kids to watch Netflix unless you’re in the room. Net Nanny can help you block access.) It also gives parents access to their children’s internet history and sends alerts if their kids have navigated to inappropriate content. Net Nanny has a $40/year plan for one Mac computer, a $55/year plan for up to 5 devices of any brand including mobile devices, and a $90/year plan that covers up to 20 devices.
Bark is a good choice if you have preteen or teenage kids, as it monitors texts and emails, as well as YouTube, Instagram, and over two dozen other social media outlets for questionable content your child might be searching or viewing. Bark detects signs of cyberbullying, depression, online predators, and adult content, and sends parents alerts of such activity. It also gives parents flexibility as to which sites they monitor, so they can grant their children a little privacy. Bark has a 7-day free trial and then costs $14/month per family with iOS and Android devices.
This app helps parents monitor screen time on iOS and Android devices for free! The app lets parents limit access to certain apps, filter websites, enable GPS monitoring and schedule screen time and recurring activities like bedtime. Premium features include use of the app on up to 20 devices, and ability to label certain apps as either Always Blocked, Per Schedule, or Always Allowed.
The Premium version also enables a spendable screen time allowance, the family locator feature, a geo-fence creator for alerts, text blocking and web filters. And while Premium typically costs $7/month, in light of coronavirus isolation measures, OurPact says its offering three months access to these features for free.