Opinion: Saudi Arabia was wrong to give citizenship to a robot


Saudi Arabia last week granted citizenship to a robot. While the middle-eastern country may be much maligned for its stances on women’s equality and LGBTQ rights, it’s clear the Kingdom doesn’t have a problem with machines. A robot called Sophia, made by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics, was given citizenship during an investment event where plans to build a supercity full of robotic technology were unveiled to a crowd of wealthy attendees. Sophia features some clever programming, and it has the potential to become a figure synonymous with robotics and AI. But granting it rights that humans continue to fight for,…

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Russians orchestrated rallies and protests across America using Facebook


Russian-backed Facebook Pages were responsible for dozens of real-world political events in the US, including a “Blue Lives Matter” rally in one city and a police brutality protest in another – on the same days. The extent to which the Russian propaganda machine has influenced Americans continues to unfold, and it’s becoming apparent ads purchased by bad actors may be the least of our worries. A Wall Street Journal investigation today revealed at least 60 marches, rallies, or protests were orchestrated, publicized or financed by eight Russian-backed Facebook Pages. By the numbers, the report seems to indicate a level of…

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After 10 years the Like Button still gets a thumbs up from us


The Like Button, made famous by Facebook, has officially hit its 10th anniversary — and it’s so ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine our internet without it. In case you don’t remember the dark, wild time of 2007, let me give you a quick crash course: Facebook didn’t create the Like button, per se. The button originally debuted October 30, 2007 on a platform called FriendFeed. At the time, it just looked like a blue hyperlink with the word “Like” as anchor text. Like, ten years, today!https://t.co/n42z9g1SgD @btaylor pic.twitter.com/8gHhvTaiIj — Paul Buchheit (@paultoo) October 30, 2017 FriendFeed, which was acquired…

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NASA released a playlist of creepy space sounds in time for Halloween


NASA has released “spooky” sounds from space and it’s the stuff of nightmares — just in time for Halloween. To most of us, space is deafeningly silent. But that’s only because the human ear can’t capture the electromagnetic pulses and radio bursts, amongst other sounds that live out there. Thankfully NASA converted these raw radial emissions it collected into an audible format for us to hear. The playlist, named “Spooky Sounds from Across the Solar System,” contains 22 different sounds, ranging from “Beware of Jupiter’s Largest Moon Ganymede,” which sounds like a sci-fi movie plot, to “Whistler Waves,” something like…

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GameStop’s new subscription plan is like Netflix for used games


GameStop is getting its own Netflix-like subscription plan. For $60, gamers get a six-month subscription — dubbed ‘Power Pass’ — that allows them to pick any title from GameStop’s pre-owned inventory. Once done, they can return the title and select another, just like Netflix’s DVD plan — which still exists, apparently. Unlike the existing trade-in system, gamers no longer have to worry about the trade-in value of the title. The $60 Power Pass covers any pre-owned game in the library, and even allows them to keep it at the end of their subscription. Sign-ups start on November 19, and according…

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Reports: 126M Facebook users saw content from Russian agents around Election Day

Facebook
Facebook is under new scrutiny for facilitating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
(BigStock Photo)

Russian government-backed agents created posts that reached about 126 million Facebook users around the Nov. 8 election, according to reports from The New York Times and Recode. For reference, there are roughly 200 million registered voters in America.

That number comes from prepared remarks that Facebook lawyers will deliver to Congress this week in a series of hearings on the role U.S. tech companies played in Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter will testify on ads and other content Russian agents used to foment discord among Americans during the election season before the Senate and House Intelligence committees on Wednesday.

Prepared remarks — shared with Congress and obtained by the media — also reveal that Russian agents uploaded more than 1,000 videos to Google’s YouTube platform. Google plans to confirm that it can link about $4,700 worth of additional ads to Russia.

The Facebook content includes ads and organic posts created by users backed by the Russian government to sow discord among U.S. voters on hot-button issues like gun violence and immigration. A group linked with the Kremlin disseminated about 80,000 pieces of divisive content that was shared, eventually reaching 126 million people. That may seem like a striking number, but Facebook plans to show that it is a tiny percentage of the overall content its platform hosts. Google and Twitter plan to employ a similar strategy, according to Recode. 

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Educational robot maker Wonder Workshop raises $41M from Tencent, Madrona and others

Wonder Workshop robots Dot and Dash. (Wonder Workshop Photo)

Wonder Workshop, which makes robots that teach children computer science concepts, said it has raised $41 million in a Series C round.

The funding round includes global tech giants like Tencent and Softbank Korea, as well as Seattle venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group, among several others. In a press release, Wonder Workshop said it would use the funds to expand its software platform, while pushing deeper into the consumer market and investing in its bread-and-butter area of selling to schools.

“Today’s children already have the most important traits for tomorrow’s economy: budding, curious minds. But we owe them access to tools that will unlock their incredible capacity for invention and exploration,” Vikas Gupta, CEO and co-founder of Wonder Workshop said in a statement. “We founded Wonder Workshop to provide all children — girls and boys of all ages — with the skills needed to succeed in the future economy.”

The San Mateo, Calif.-based startup was founded in 2012, and it sells robots that sync with a mobile app and help children understand basic computer science concepts. It has 12,000 schools around the world using its product.

The new funding comes on the heels of the September release of Wonder Workshop’s newest robot Cue. The interactive robot can chat and text and provides coding-oriented games and challenges.

Gupta previously sold his last company, Social Gold, to Google in 2010. Before that, he spent seven years at Amazon working directly with Jeff Bezos and helping to establish the Amazon India development center.

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Apptio beats revenue expectations again during its third quarter

(Nasdaq Photo)

Apptio’s third-quarter earnings results showed that the company is still on a path of strong revenue growth and narrowing losses.

The Bellevue-based company reported third-quarter revenue of $47 million Monday, up 16 percent from the prior year. That was ahead of analyst expectations of $44.9 million, and investors gave Apptio’s stock a slight boost in after-hours trading.

Apptio lost $5.2 million in the quarter according to GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) measures, or $0.13 a share, but backing out one-time special items produced a net loss of $0.02, slightly more than analyst expectations of a $0.01 loss per share.

Subscription revenue for Apptio’s financial-management application rose 18 percent during the quarter to $39.4 million, a slightly faster year-over-year increase in that category compared to its second quarter. The company’s products help finance organizations inside companies understand where their cloud expenses are going, which is attractive in an era when IT staff and developers can quickly and easily sign up for new cloud services with the company credit card.

Apptio brought on a new engineering leader during the quarter, with Theo Beack joining the company as executive vice president of products and engineering. Ted Kummert, who had been leading the group, rejoined Madrona Venture Group as a partner at the same time.

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Reports: T-Mobile-Sprint merger crumbling as parent companies disagree on ownership

T-Mobile CEO John Legere speaks at CES in January. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

The long-rumored merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, the nation’s third and fourth largest wireless carriers, is falling apart, according to news reports.

Nikkei reported that a disagreement over ownership of a combined T-Mobile-Sprint entity has proven a sticking point in the deal, and Sprint parent company SoftBank is preparing to pull out of negotiations with T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom as soon as tomorrow. Nikkei and Wall Street Journal report that Deutsche Telekom wants a controlling stake in the combined company, and SoftBank balked, spelling the beginning of the end of the deal.

T-Mobile and Sprint did not respond to requests for comment.

T-Mobile stock dropped 5 percent Monday, while Sprint was down close more than 9 percent at the end of the day.

T-Mobile and Sprint have been talking about a merger for several years. SoftBank nearly acquired T-Mobile in 2014 but the deal fell through after U.S. officials expressed concerns.

Any acquisition talks in the wireless industry were put on hold for the better part of a year as the Federal Communications Commission held a spectrum auction. That process ended in April and T-Mobile spent close to $8 billion to buy up huge chunks of low-band spectrum meant to shore up signal strength within buildings and in rural areas.

About a month later, talks between T-Mobile and Sprint parent companies started up again, and it looked like the two sides were close to a deal earlier this year.

Since the initial round of talks, T-Mobile has surged under CEO John Legere, passing Sprint to become the third largest wireless carrier in 2015. Legere and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure have developed a rivalry, with the two chief executives lobbing insults back and forth over the years as the companies jockeyed to be the main challenger to AT&T and Verizon.

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Inrix lays off a ‘handful of people’ as traffic data provider reorganizes

Inrix has laid off a “handful of people” as the traffic data provider reorganizes its company structure.

The layoffs, first reported by The Seattle Times, are the first in Inrix’s 13-year history. A company spokesperson confirmed the cuts and provided this statement to GeekWire.

“After three global acquisitions, including two in the past two years and more than 90 new employees, INRIX is reorganizing to better integrate our global teams and execute on our four core product areas (Traffic, Parking, Analytics and OpenCar),” the company said in a statement. “For the first time in our history, we have made the decision to lay off a handful of people from our global workforce. While this was a difficult decision, we believe having one global organization will help us better execute on our priorities.”

The Kirkland, Wash.-based company now employs “roughly” 450 people, according to the spokesperson, which is the same number Inrix provided in June. It has 10 offices worldwide.

Inrix makes money by providing traffic and parking-related data to clients around the globe, ranging from public sector agencies to top automakers. The company acquired OpenCar last year; it also acquired ParkMe in 2015 and bought ITIS Holdings in 2011.

CBInsights pegged Inrix as a potential IPO candidate for 2017.

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