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Gitamini is a cute, compact, cargo-carrying robot that will follow you around like a dog

Piaggio Fast Forward, a subsidiary of storied Italian automotive firm Piaggio, has launched its second robot, a compact version of its cargo-carrying bot Gita named Gitamini.

The form and function of Gitamini remain the same as that of full-sized Gita (the name is Italian for a small trip or outing). The robot consists of two large wheels, a central trunk, and a machine vision system that it uses to identify and follow its owner. Gitamini weighs 28 pounds and can carry up to 20 pounds in its interior for 21 miles. That makes an interesting comparison to Gita, which can carry more — 40 pounds but only for 12 miles.

Gitamini uses an array of cameras and sensors, including radar (not available for the original Gita), to navigate and follow its user. To activate this follow mode, you simply stand in front of the Gitamini and tap a pairing button. The robot will then lock on to you using vision only (no GPS or Bluetooth are utilized) and will follow you at speeds of up to 6mph.

The original Gita (left) and new Gitamini (right).
Image: Piaggio Fast Forward

The robot’s trunk can be locked and its follow mode disabled, but there are no active theft mitigation features. When asked about this, Piaggio Fast Forward’s CEO Greg Lynn told The Verge that it was “unlikely someone could get away with walking away with it unnoticed” as it’s such a noticeable object. “A stolen Gita isn’t of much use to anyone as it uses a secure connection to a phone to be unlocked, updated, and used,” says Lynn. “We have yet to learn of a Gita being stolen or broken into while being used or when parked.”

The Gita has always been a bit of an odd product. It certainly looks fantastic, and videos suggest it works more or less as advertised (though it’s noisier than you might expect). But it’s not clear exactly who’s going to spend thousands of dollars on something that only carries a few bags and is stymied by steps and stairs. Gitamini doesn’t change any of these basic annoyances, though it is at least a little cheaper — it costs $1,850 (and will be available to buy from October 15th at mygita.com) while the launch sees the price of the original Gita drop to $2,950.

When we asked CEO Greg Lynn about the robot, he declined to share any sales figures with us but said there were Gita robots operating in “half the states in the US […] with a focus on the Southern belt where outdoor weather is more friendly year-round.”

“Most of the consumer Gitas are being used to replace car trips for neighborhood errands in a variety of communities, and they are used outdoors for round trips of a mile or more,” said Lynn. Though, he noted that the company had some business customers, too. There are currently Gitas in eight airports in the US (including JFK and LAX) and a number more in planned communities, like Water Street Tampa in Florida and Ontario Ranch in California.

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Why making Facebook follow the First Amendment would be catastrophic

Former US president Donald Trump’s family businesses are in jeopardy. His financial future is in flux. And the entire world’s waiting to see if he or one of his children will be charged with a crime soon. It’s safe to say he isn’t having his best week.

And, of course, that means he’s filed a frivolous lawsuit to rile up and distract his base of sycophants from the reality of his unfolding legal situation.

As TNW’s Thomas Macaulay reported earlier today, Trump’s filed a class suit against the CEOs of Google, Facebook, and Twitter. He’s alleging they violated his Constitutional rights and demanding a provisional reinstatement of his social media accounts immediately.

Here we go again

Donald Trump’s been promising to curb and dominate social media companies since his official political title was candidate Trump.

As part of his whiny strongman routine, the former president issued numerous official statements decrying social media censorship – hundreds of which were made on social media – and swearing to end 230 protection for social media companies unless they capitulated to conservatives’ increasingly weird demands.

In the beginning, before Trump lost all his social media accounts, the accusations against Facebook, Google, and Twitter came from right wing provocateurs who’d had their social media accounts banned for terms of service violations.

To date, conservatives have demonstrated absolutely no evidence of bias against conservative ideologies. In fact, numerous peer-reviewed studies have shown a clear, demonstrable, undeniable bias toward conservative personalities when it comes to the enforcement of platform rules.

In other words: conservatives benefit from the myth that there’s a conservative bias against them. But there isn’t. And furthermore, none of that has anything to do with Free Speech.

The distinct difference between a First Amendment violation and censorship is that only the government can violate your Constitutional right to Free Speech.

We’ve all seen the XKDC comic about Free Speech at this point.

But what if that weren’t the case? What if we could 100% call the conservatives’ bluff?

What if Facebook were forced to follow the First Amendment?

In a word: chaos

The First Amendment gives US citizens the right to assemble and protest and it guarantees the freedom of the press, among other things.

In the US there are no laws preventing Alex Jones from telling his audience that the Sandy Hook massacre never happened. Just as there are no laws preventing Tucker Carlson from telling his audience that the NSA is illegally spying on him.

To the best of my knowledge, there’s no evidence to support any of the above conspiracy theories. And that’s why Alex Jones struggles to find a platform that will allow him to make his ridiculous claims, and why Tucker Carlson’s pool of advertisers is about three drops deep.

However, there are also no laws forcing Fox News to host Tucker Carlson. So we can infer whatever we want from its choice to continue doing so. And, thankfully, there’s no law forcing anyone to host Alex Jones.

But Trump is asking the courts to create a law forcing Facebook and Twitter to host him and others who’ve been banned. He’s asking for the creation of a law giving the government the authority to arbitrate whether Google‘s Search results are fair to conservatives.

Freedom

Companies in the US are free to set their own standards when it comes to speech. Whether we’re talking about Facebook’s employees not being allowed to badmouth Facebook on their personal accounts, McDonald’s demanding that all employees wear the proper uniform while on the clock, or the NFL deciding that fans aren’t allowed to protest on the field during games, every company has limits on speech that the Constitution prevents the government itself from instituting on its citizens.

Any precedence that forces companies to observe Free Speech would lead to catastrophe – there has to be limits on expression in order for commerce, business, and society to function properly.

It’s not illegal to yell “I love cake,” but if you go into a bank and start screaming it, and refuse to stop when asked or to leave when told, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually end up being charged with trespassing. The same holds true for yelling “fire” in a crowded theater when there’s no threat, making violent threats, or engaging in hate speech – almost every facet of US life operates with some constraints on Free Speech.

It’s up to us, as citizens and business owners, to decide what is and isn’t appropriate. Currently, the First Amendment guarantees that the government won’t make those decisions for us.

What former US president Donald Trump and his conservative supporters are asking for is an end to that protection.

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Tech News

Chrome “Follow” experiment brings Google Reader back from the dead

Almost eight years ago, Google retired its Google Reader service much to the dismay of its many users. Reasons presented for its demise varied but most of those revolved around how the open yet outdated RSS format has seemingly gone out of fashion in lieu of social media. Of course, RSS feeds are still alive and kicking and, almost ironically, Google is playing around with a Chrome feature that acknowledges that while somewhat bringing Google Reader back as a built-in feature in the web browser.

The principle behind RSS is pretty simple and predates the now-common “Subscribe” feature on many social platforms. An RSS or feed reader application or service, just like the old Google Reader, would regularly check for new articles that site owners and publishers have posted by updating their RSS feeds with the correct data and metadata. Depending on the app’s settings, users will be able to read a condensed version of the content or even a full version, sometimes stripped down to text and images only.

The rise of social media seemingly put an end to that workflow with more and more people taking to Twitter and Facebook for their news and updates. Of course, that never happened and RSS is still in wide use today, even if not as widespread as before. Acknowledging that fact, Google’s developers are doing an experiment that turns Chrome into an RSS reader as well, at least on Android.

Those using the unstable Canary version of Chrome for Android might see a “Follow” button in the browser’s menu on web pages that offer RSS feeds so you don’t have to hunt for the exact URL anymore. Whenever those pages have new content available, they will show up in a new Following section in Chrome’s New Tab page.

Of course, this feature wouldn’t just happen by magic and requires that site owners implement proper RSS support. Google does have guidance for those and will see if it catches on enough to roll it out to all Chrome users in the near future.

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Chrome’s new ‘follow’ button test has serious Google Reader vibes

Google killed its much-loved Reader product in 2013, but has hardly made any solid attempt to replace it. However, a new test in Chrome gives up a glimmer of hope.

In a blog post, Google said that it’s experimenting with a ‘follow’ button in the browser that will subscribe you to a site’s RSS feed, so you get its latest content delivered to you as it’s published.. All websites you follow will show up in a separate tab in the Google Search app, besides the For You section. The follow button will show up in the overflow menu situated on the top right-hand corner.

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Patients are less likely to follow advice from AI doctors that know their names

Engineers often strive to make our interactions with AI more human-like, but a new study suggests a personal touch isn’t always welcome.

Researchers from Penn State and the University of California, Santa Barbara found that people are less likely to follow the advice of an AI doctor that knows their name and medical history.

Their two-phase study randomly assigned participants to chatbots that identified themselves as either AI, human, or human assisted by AI.

The first part of the study was framed as a visit to a new doctor on an e-health platform. 

[Read moreThis dude drove an EV from the Netherlands to New Zealand — here are his 3 top road trip tips]

The 295 participants were first asked to fill out a health form. They then read the following description of the doctor they were about to meet:

Human doctor Dr. Alex received a medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2005, and he is board certified in pulmonary (lung) medicine. His area of focus includes cough, obstructive lung disease, and respiratory problems. Dr. Alex says, “I strive to provide accurate diagnosis and treatment for the patients.”
AI doctor AI Dr. Alex is a deep learning-based AI algorithm for detection of influenza, lung disease, and respiratory problems. The algorithm was developed by several research groups at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine with a massive real-world dataset. In practice, AI Dr. Alex has achieved high accuracy in diagnosis and treatment.
AI-assisted human doctor Dr. Alex is a board-certified pulmonary specialist who received a medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2005.
The AI medical system assisting Dr. Alex is based on deep learning algorithms for the detection of influenza, lung disease, and respiratory problems.

The doctor then entered the chat and the interaction began.

Each chatbot was programmed to ask eight questions about COVID-19 symptoms and behaviours. Finally, they offered diagnosis and recommendations based on the CDC Coronavirus Self-Checker.

Around 10 days later, the participants were invited to a second session. Each of them was matched with a chatbot with the same identity as in the first part of the study. But this time, some were assigned to a bot that referred to details from their previous interaction, while others were allocated a bot that made no reference to their personal information.

After the chat, the participants were given a questionnaire to evaluate the doctor and their interaction. They were then told that all the doctors were bots, regardless of their professed identity.

Diagnosing AI

The study found that patients were less likely to heed the advice of AI doctors that referred to personal information — and more likely to  consider the chatbot intrusive. However, the reverse pattern was observed in views on chatbots that were presented as human.

Per the study paper:

In line with the uncanny valley theory of mind, it could be that individuation is viewed as being unique to human-human interaction. Individuation from AI is probably viewed as a pretense, i.e., a disingenuous attempt at caring and closeness. On the other hand, when a human doctor does not individuate and repeatedly asks patients’ name, medical history, and behavior, individuals tend to perceive greater intrusiveness which leads to less patient compliance.

The findings about human doctors, however, come with a caveat: 78% of participants in this group thought they’d interacted with an AI doctor. The researchers suspect this was due to the chatbots’ mechanical responses and the lack of a human presence on the interface, such as a profile photo.

Ultimately, the team hopes that the research leads to improvements in how medical chatbots are designed. It could also offers pointers on how human doctors should interact with patients online.

You can read the study paper here.

Greetings Humanoids! Did you know we have a newsletter all about AI? You can subscribe to it right here.

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Twitter Super Follow borrows OnlyFans strategy to charge for tweets

Twitter is preparing to launch paid tweets, with a new Super Follow system which will work a little like Patreon or OnlyFans. Announced during the company’s investors presentation, Super Follow will offer a new way for those with followings on Twitter to monetize that audience, with everything from exclusive content to special badging.

Twitter has long talked about – and, according to rumors and leaks, been working on internally – a way to squeeze more profit out of its service than through advertising alone. One of the most common expectations has been a monthly or annual subscription, which would remove ads from users’ timelines, among other potential perks.

This Twitter Super Follow system, however, takes a different approach. In effect, it would allow users of the service to individually monetize their own shared content, much in the way that services like Patreon and OnlyFans do today. Exactly what could be offered seems to be down to the individual user’s preferences.

In an example shared by Twitter, for instance, that could be anything from a badge showing that you’re a supporter of a certain tweeter, or subscriber-only newsletters. It might include exclusive content that wouldn’t be available to non-Super Followers, or deals & discounts for certain products and services.

Individual tweets shared with Super Followers would only support viewing and replying by those subscribers, according to screenshots posted by The Verge.

Finally, there’s also “Community access,” a reference to another new feature that was revealed today. Twitter Communities are effectively closed groups, built around individual topics: that could be gardening, exercise, or even hashtags such as #SocialJustice, Twitter suggested. Communities could seemingly be open to any Twitter user wanting to join, or closed and require invitation – potentially after signing up as a Super Follower first – to take part.

Twitter is presumably envisaging following the strategy of other sites, and taking a cut of Super Follow fees. Exactly how much it’ll cost will seemingly depending on the individual creator: Twitter’s example is $4.99 per month with the ability to cancel at any time. However it’s likely that users would be able to set their own amount based on what they believe their community will pay.

There’s no indication as to when the new features will launch.

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New Amazon CEO assures company game studio won’t follow Stadia

No one was really surprised though the disappointment and the fear were still thick when Google made a bombshell announcement on Monday. Although it doesn’t affect the game streaming service directly, the shutdown of the first-party Stadia Games & Entertainment studio still puts Google’s commitment into question. In the midst of that uncertainty both for game streaming and for the e-commerce giant itself, newly-named Amazon CEO Andy Jassy reaffirmed his commitment to this market, despite repeated failures of the company’s own Amazon Game Studios.

Amazon’s sudden dive into the video game market has always been a source of curiosity and doubt, given how different it was even from the company’s music and video businesses. It eventually became clear that AWS would be an important element in that enterprise and the launch of Amazon’s own cloud-based game streaming service, Luna, was proof of that.

Despite its billions, Amazon has so far failed to make a lasting mark in that market, at least a positive mark. Its two big attempts to launch a game have largely been considered disastrous and canceled projects further stoked the rumors. It didn’t help that Amazon Game Studios and its head, Mike Frazzini, have been mired in controversy from day one.

Jassy’s email to Amazon staff was pretty much an expression of support for Frazzini. Jassy, who will be filling in the gigantic shoes left by Jeff Bezos, believes that the studio will eventually be successful if they persist. Amazon does have a record of sticking to its guns even if the initial reception has been mediocre or even negative, far longer than Google usually takes to scrap a project or product.

That said, Amazon is also known for a few catastrophic failures like the Fire Phone. It remains to be seen how much resources the new chief exec will be willing to put into AGS to prove his trust but it might be the least of Amazon’s worries as the company faces not only a transition of leadership but also ongoing legal scrutiny.

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