Odds and Ends 

MIT develops a way for autonomous delivery robots to find your front door

Researchers at MIT have developed a new method of navigation for robots that could be very useful for the range of companies working on autonomous last-mile delivery. In short, the team has worked out how a robot can figure out the location of a front door, without being provided a specific map in advance. Most last-mile autonomous delivery robots today, including the “wheeled cooler”-style variety that was pioneered by Starship and has since been adopted by a number of other companies, including Postmates, basically meet customers at the curb. Mapping…

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How our home delivery habit reshaped the world

The long read: The great trick of online retail has been to get us to shop more and think less about how our purchases reach our homes A decade ago, the British department-store chain John Lewis built itself a long warehouse, painted in gradations of sky blue. The shed, as it is called in the industry, cost 100m and covered 650,000 sq ft. Windsor Castle could easily fit inside it. John Lewis named the shed Magna Park 1, after the site where it stands: a logistics campus of warehouses, roads,…

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‘Your throat hurts. Your brain hurts’: the secret life of the audiobook star

As the business booms, narrators talk tricky accents, lonely shifts and tackling 100 pages a day The author Bill Bryson is sitting before a lectern in Audibles London headquarters, narrating his latest book, a disquisition on human biology called The Body: A Guide For Occupants. Seen through the window of the recording booth, Brysons face is largely obscured by the microphone in front of him, but his voice is clear and measured. On the other side of the glass, Brysons producer follows the text on an iPad, adding cryptic marks…

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Facebook confirms bug grants access to iPhone users’ cameras

A worrying system bug has been allowing app to access cameras as users scroll through their feed A system bug has been allowing Facebook to access iPhone cameras as users scroll through their feed, the company confirmed on Tuesday. Twitter user Joshua Maddux also noticed the glitch earlier in the month, one calling it a little worrying. Facebook confirmed the bug in the latest version of the iOS app on Tuesday. A spokesman said the issue would cause the Facebook app to navigate to the camera screen adjacent to News…

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Sri Lankans sound alarm over Facebook fake news ahead of election

Facebooks decision to allow politicians to promote content already rated false by factcheckers has been widely condemned Sri Lankan civil society groups are sounding alarms about Facebooks policies in advance of the countrys 16 November presidential election, with warnings that the companys controversial decision to allow politicians to advertise misinformation is inappropriate and incendiary to boot. Sanjana Hattotuwa, a senior researcher for the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), on 7 November published Sunday Times of Sri Lanka. Desphapriya also said he was not satisfied with Facebooks record on removing questionable…

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Facebook’s ‘free speech’ claims don’t work when democracy is crumbling | Julia Carrie Wong

What do Zuckerbergs bromides about American values mean to Facebook users in Kashmir or the Philippines? When Facebook wrote to Joe Bidens campaign to say it would not back down from its decision to exempt politicians from its ban on advertising false statements, it was not Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg who signed op-ed in USA Today this week. Fundamentally we believe that, in a democracy, its better to let voters make their own decisions, not companies like Facebook. Amid all this attention, Harbaths the goes, Harbath is a Trojan…

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Gods gift: how to look like Chris Hemsworth

More than 1 million people have already downloaded Chris Hemsworths fitness app. Why? Is it because they too want to look like a Norse demi-god, asks Alex Moshakis The actor Chris Hemsworth Hollywood leading man, make-believe Thor employs a small army of fitness professionals to maintain peak condition. There is the personal trainer he has known since he was eight, and the nutritionist and the Pilates coach and the yoga coach and the meditation guru. Even Hemsworths stunt double is part of the gang. Collectively the army is known as…

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Amazon profits drop sharply amid big spending to speed package delivery

Quarterly profits down to $2.1bn from $2.9bn a year earlier as US politicians focus greater scrutiny on Amazons business practices Amazons profits slid 26% in the last quarter as the company poured money into free shipping and its cloud storage business. While the companys revenues rose sharply, up 24% to $70bn for the quarter or more than $23bn a month, its profits fell to $2.1bn down from $2.9bn from a year earlier. The financial miss comes as Amazon is facing greater scrutiny from Washington, with politicians from both sides calling…

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The Dominos pizza checker is just the beginning workplace surveillance is coming for you | Arwa Mahdawi

The company, which uses a smart scanner to analyse whether food has been made correctly, is far from the only business to use tech to track workers, writes Arwa Mahdawi Hello? Is that Dominos? I would like a large cheese pizza with an ominous side of surveillance, please. Earlier this year, Dominos, the worldwide purveyor of mediocre pizza, introduced a snazzy tool called om Pizza Checker to its Australia and New Zealand locations. According to its website, in-store cameras use advanced machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensor technology to identify…

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I left Russia to escape Putins assault on reason. Now I fear the UK is on the same path | Peter Pomarentsev

We need to develop a more collaborative political discourse, built on facts, not spin Nothing is true and everything is possible. That was my one-line attempt to sum up the politics and propaganda that enveloped Russia at the start of the 21st century. It was a world where politicians no longer cared whether they were caught lying; where old ideologies were dead and conspiracy thinking had become the new way to explain the world; where all the old political categories (socialist and liberal, conservative and communist) seemed utterly meaningless and…

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After Caroline Calloway: should ghostwriters speak out against their subjects?

Natalie Beachs tell-all about the controversial influencer wasnt the first case of a ghost exposing their subject, following Julian Assange and Donald Trump Thirty years after ghostwriting Donald Trumps The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz described the experience as like putting lipstick on a pig. He felt a deep sense of remorse at helping bring the man who would become president gain wider attention. Andrew OHagan famously detailed the extraordinary essay in influencer Caroline Calloway: from Instagram captions to the aborted book that once attracted a $375,000 (300,000) publishing…

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Australian who says he invented bitcoin ordered to hand over up to $5bn

US court orders Craig Wright to share cryptocurrency haul with the estate of American programmer David Kleiman The Australian man who claimed to have invented cryptocurrency bitcoin has been ordered to hand over half of his alleged bitcoin holdings, reported to be worth up to $5bn. The IT security consultant Craig Wright, 49, Australian Taxation Office over his involvement with bitcoin with his Sydney home raided by the Australian federal police, leading to speculation he might be Nakamoto. In 2016, Wright questioned the evidence he provided. He promised to provide…

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Uber to ban riders with low ratings: will you pass the test?

Failure to tip, a refusal to chat even where you sit could influence how drivers rate you and under a new policy could see you banned Will your Uber rating be docked if youdont tip? What side of the car should you sit on? Small talk or silence? Since Uber first began to allow users to check their ratings on the app in 2017, riders have harbored growing anxiety about how many stars their behavior in the back seat will earn them. Now those are being magnified by another new…

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Great fanfare as Uber gets its stock on the road, but app stalls in New York

Could this be the moment the sentiment on Wall Street turned against the tech sector? Ubers stock market debut came with all the usual razzmatazz of a big American technology IPO. The chief executive spent weeks making sweeping statements about how the business was just getting started and had new worlds to conquer everything from pizza delivery to international freight. In the background, investment bankers whipped up buyers for the transportation stock of the 21st century. And, when immediately went into reverse. Priced at $45 a share, valuing Uber at…

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Still boiling rice rather than steaming it? How old-fashioned

Joyoungs slick, advanced, gigantic S5 rice cooker promises perfect fluffy rice. But is it worth the gulp 310 pricetag? In the great war between kitchen gadget fanciers and kitchen gadget cynics, one thing rarely comes up: the rice cooker. Ive heard more domestic arguments about Brevilles than I have about these wonders, even though the toastie is a much less aspirational foodstuff than perfect, fluffy rice. Rice cookers dont have to be expensive, and you can do plenty of things in them that arent rice, such as vegetables and even…

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