Americans want tech companies to fix the internet, not the government

After first rocketing on to the scene as a “thing” in 2016, it didn’t take “fake news” long to worm its way into the American lexicon. And while bogus information in the digital age is as old as the internet itself, 2016 was the first time we found the words to articulate it, even crassly. Americans understand the problem, now more than ever. But according to a new poll by Pew Research, it’s not lawmakers the majority of citizens are counting on to fix it. Quite the opposite, actually. Nearly 60 percent of those polled agree the mess belongs to…

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CIA plans to replace spies with AI

Human spies will soon be relics of the past, and the CIA knows it. Dawn Meyerriecks, the Agency’s deputy director for technology development, recently told an audience at an intelligence conference in Florida the CIA was adapting to a new landscape where its primary adversary is a machine, not a foreign agent. Meyerriecks, speaking to CNN after the conference, said other countries have relied on AI to track enemy agents for years. She went on to explain the difficulties encountered by current CIA spies trying to live under an assumed identity in the era of digital tracking and social media,…

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Uber to hide dropoff locations so sketchy drivers don’t know where you live

In a small change which could improve the peace of mind of its passengers, Uber will now obscure the exact pick-up and drop-off locations in its drivers’ records. What it is: After this feature goes live, drivers will no longer have a record of precisely where they picked you up and dropped you off. Instead the app will show them the general vicinity of each location. According to Gizmodo, this feature will roll out around the same time as Uber’s new driver app is out for everyone, which should be within the next few weeks. The details: Uber’s making the change in order…

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Study: This is how long it takes adults to make new friends

In a landmark study, a University of Kansas professor now believes he knows why making friends as an adult is just so difficult. Short answer? Time. The study: Published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Associate Professor of Communications Studies, Jeffrey Hall, found that it takes about 50 hours to cement a friendship between two adults. That is to say, going from mere acquaintance — that person you find yourself waxing poetic about the utility of avocados in the super market every week with — to a casual friend. If you’re ready to kick it up a notch,…

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Survey: Amazon beats Google and Apple for ‘most positive’ impact on society

What is it: A recent poll by SurveyMonkey and Recode indicated that 20 percent of Americans believe Amazon has the most positive impact on society among major tech companies. That was the highest of all companies listed, and was followed by Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Tesla, and others. 20 percent also selected ‘none of the above.’ Why it matters: Amazon consistently ranks among the most the most loved tech companies in surveys; it achieved a similar result in a poll held by The Verge last year. By contrast, the company has frequently come under fire for the way it treats some…

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Paul Allen’s shipwreck sleuths help Aussies document World War I submarine’s remains

Stern torpedo tube of AE1
A remotely operated vehicle uses its robotic arm to inspect the stern torpedo tube of the Australian submarine AE1. (Image courtesy of Paul G. Allen, Find AE1, ANMM and Curtin University / © Navigea Ltd.)

Score another undersea revelation for the crew of the Petrel, a research vessel backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

This time it’s the AE1, Australia’s first submarine and the first Allied submarine loss of World War I.

The AE1 was lost at sea with 35 officers and crew on board on Sept. 14, 1914, after it sailed away on patrol near the Duke of York Islands, east of Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean.

For more than a century, the Royal Australian Navy had no idea what happened to the sub. Not a trace of it was found — until last December. That’s when an autonomous underwater vehicle operated by the Royal Australian Navy used side-scan sonar to detect the wreck on the seafloor, more than 300 meters (984 feet) beneath the surface.

The precise location wasn’t disclosed, to keep salvagers from interfering with what’s essentially an underwater gravesite. But the Australian search effort, coordinated by a company called Find AE1 Ltd., enlisted the Petrel and its remotely operated vehicle to capture high-resolution video and stills of the remains.

The Petrel joined the documentation effort after discovering a string of World War II shipwrecks, including the USS Lexington, the USS Juneau and the USS Helena.

“The AE1 has a special place in Australian maritime history, and I’m proud of our partnership with the Australian National Maritime Museum and others that brought an end to the mystery of the AE1’s final resting place,” Allen said in a statement. “For all of us associated with Petrel, we view this work as a means to honor the courage and sacrifice of the crew of the AE1.”

The data collected during the survey will be used by the Australian National Maritime Museum to develop a shipwreck management plan in cooperation with Papua New Guinea’s government and the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery.

Kevin Sumption, the director and CEO of the Australian National Maritime Museum, expressed his gratitude to Allen, Vulcan Inc. and the Petrel’s crew.

“These incredible images and the new information they provide will help the museum tell the story of AE1 and its brave crew, and ensure their service and sacrifice are remembered by future generations,” he said.

AE1 artwork
R/V Petrel
AE1 starboard propeller
Fin and forward periscope
Fin and implosion rubble
Bridge steering position
ROV control room on Petrel
Conning tower steering position

Implosion in forward torpedo compartment
Whitetip shark near wreck
ROV retrieved
AE1 search crew
Commemorative flags on seafloor

Experts still aren’t exactly sure why the AE1 sank. The current leading theory is that it suffered a mechanical failure and was crushed during a deep dive.

The latest images don’t show definitive signs that the sub came under German attack, but researchers were surprised to see that the cap on the AE1’s rear torpedo tube was fully opened.

“We didn’t expect that at all,” expedition coordinator Peter Briggs, a rear admiral in the Royal Australian Navy, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

The Petrel’s still images of the shipwreck site will be developed into a detailed 3-D digital model, using techniques developed by Curtin University and the Western Australian Museum. That model could help the Find AE1 team and museum researchers get a better sense of what happened more than 103 years ago.

The survey was undertaken by the crew of the Petrel, coordinated by Find AE1 Ltd. in partnership with the Australian National Maritime Museum, the Royal Australian Navy, Curtin University, the Western Australian Museum and the Submarine Institute of Australia. Approval for the survey was granted by Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery.

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New Seattle venture fund hooks $27M to bankroll AI startups — and it’s not done fishing for fresh cash

Flying Fish managing partners Geoff Harris, Heather Redman, and Frank Chang, with Flying Fish CFO Tri Tran.

Flying Fish Partners is ready to cast its pole deep underneath Seattle’s iceberg.

The new venture firm has raised $27.8 million as part of a larger $80 million fund that will be used to invest in Pacific Northwest startups building artificial intelligence and machine learning technology.

Flying Fish launched last year and already has seven companies in its portfolio, ranging from Element Data to Ad Lightning.

But now the firm is ready to double down on a region it believes lacks sufficient capital to match the quality of available talent.

“We think we have the biggest iceberg of talent in North America. It could not be higher in quality, but the deals that investors are seeing today are just the very tip of that iceberg,” explained Heather Redman, a longtime Seattle-area tech veteran and general partner at Flying Fish. “The amount of the iceberg that’s underwater is 90 percent — once we get capital in front of that part, we will see a huge increase in deals.”

Seattle Skyline Super Moon
Seattle skyline. (GeekWire photo / Kevin Lisota)

Flying Fish isn’t the only group in town that sees opportunity to raise new funds in a region long-criticized for its lack of venture capital. Just last week, Seattle startup studio Pioneer Square Labs launched its own $80 million fund with a focus on new startups across the Pacific Northwest.

Both firms believe there are hundreds of potential entrepreneurs that aren’t making the startup leap, instead opting to keep comfortable high-paying gigs at one of the local tech giants or various Silicon Valley engineering centers.

“If you are a rational person here in Seattle and see a couple seed funds that could potentially fund the idea you have in mind, that doesn’t seem like great odds,” said Flying Fish general partner Geoff Harris. “That same person in the Valley might see 100 seed funds — those odds seem a lot better.”

Flying Fish plans to make investments ranging from $500,000 to $5 million, with a focus on the region’s artificial intelligence and machine learning clout. Not only are local tech giants like Amazon and Microsoft recruiting heavily for those technologies, but other out-of-town giants like Baidu and Tencent have opened Seattle-area offices to tap into the rich talent pool.

“We believe it’s the biggest thing since the industrial revolution in terms of the impact on our economy and our lives,” Redman said. “And we think Seattle is the epicenter of talent for that technology.”

Related: What’s wrong with Seattle’s startup scene? Despite top talent, a lack of venture capital stunts growth

Harris is a Microsoft vet with a background in natural language processing, machine learning, and digital commerce. Frank Chang, the firm’s other general partner, also brings expertise in machine learning from companies like Amazon, Audible, Microsoft and Reef Technologies.

Redman, who held leadership positions at companies like Indix, Atom Entertainment, and Getty Images, said the firm’s knowledge and experience with new technology sets it apart from other traditional investment groups in town. She described Flying Fish as “VC 2.0” — a group that can do more than sign checks and provide financial or legal advice.

“We’re far more technical and operational than a typical VC that you would see in the first generation of VC firms,” Redman said.

The initial raise for Flying Fish’s fund comes from a majority of individual investors or small family offices, all of which are based in the Pacific Northwest or have ties to the region. Redman noted that 35 percent of the investors are women.

The firm plans to reach its $80 million goal by the end of 2018; Flying Fish will ultimately invest in 20-to-25 companies with the fund.

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Boeing HorizonX co-leads funding round for Morf3D additive manufacturing startup

Morf3D Innovation Center
Morf3D’s R&D Innovation Center is aimed at advancing the state of the art in additive manufacturing. (Morf3D Photo)

The latest addition to Boeing’s venture-capital portfolio is Morf3D, a California startup that focuses on aerospace applications for 3-D printing.

Boeing HorizonX Ventures is a co-leader of the Series A investment round, announced by the companies today. Neither Boeing nor Morf3D detailed how much Boeing was investing, or the total amount raised. However, HorizonX’s investments typically range from seven figures to the low eight figures.

Morf3D is based in El Segundo, Calif., and has been producing 3-D-printed aluminum and titanium components for Boeing satellites and helicopters since the startup was founded in late 2015.

The company uses state-of-the-art software and engineering expertise to reduce mass and increase the performance and functionality of metal parts created through additive manufacturing.

In a statement, Morf3D CEO Ivan Madera said his company was “excited to be a distinguished and trusted partner of Boeing’s additive manufacturing supplier base.”

“This investment will enable us to increase our engineering staff and expand our technology footprint of EOS M400-4 DMLS systems to better serve the growing demands of our aerospace customers,” Madera said.

Boeing will get a boost from having Morf3D as part of its investment portfolio as well as a supplier, said Kim Smith, vice president and general manager of Boeing Fabrication and leader of Boeing’s additive manufacturing team.

“Developing standard additive manufacturing processes for aerospace components benefits both companies and empowers us to fully unleash the value of this transformative technology,” she said.

HorizonX was created last year to serve as Boeing’s channel for outside investments in technologies that are relevant to the company’s interests in aerospace, manufacturing and communication. Other companies in the HorizonX Ventures portfolio include:

  • Reaction Engines, a British venture focusing on hypersonic flight.
  • Myriota, an Australian venture focusing on satellite communication services for Internet of Things devices.
  • Fortem Technologies for drone radar navigation systems.
  • Cuberg for advanced batteries.
  • Gamma Alloys, for next-generation aluminum alloys.
  • Near Earth Autonomy for autonomous flight control systems.
  • C360 for augmented reality and virtual reality used in immersive videos.
  • Upskill for augmented-reality solutions for industrial settings.
  • SparkCognition for AI tools used with the Internet of Things.
  • Zunum Aero for hybrid-electric airplane propulsion.

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RFID-maker Impinj expects $4.1M charge related to workforce reduction, office closures

Impinj’s Seattle office. (Impinj Photo)

Seattle-based Impinj expects to spend $4.1 million on expenses related to a restructuring that includes layoffs and remote office closures.

In an amended SEC filing, the RFID-maker updated the estimated cost of a restructuring that went into effect Feb. 13 and included a 9 percent workforce cut and the closure of some remote offices. The move is intended “to match strategic and financial objectives and optimize resources for long term growth,” according to the company.

Impinj currently employs 300 people. A company spokesperson declined to specify the number of employees before and after the restructuring, and did not say which offices were closed.

Impinj has seen shares drop from around $60 in June to just $12.85 as of Monday. Its most recent earnings report fell short of expectations as revenue dipped 20 percent from the year-ago quarter to $26.9 million. For the fourth quarter, Impinj posted a net loss of $9.3 million, compared with a profit of $103,000 in the same quarter a year ago.

RFID tags and technologies from Impinj are used in healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and other industries. The company launched in 2000 and made its initial public offering in 2016. Its CFO, Evan Fein, left the company last month after 17 years.

Impinj will report Q1 earnings on May 7.

“As we announced earlier this month, we anticipate softness in our first-quarter 2018 endpoint IC volumes and revenue due to shortened lead times contributing to a reduction in our order backlog, as well as ongoing reductions in inlay-partner inventory,” Impinj CEO Chris Diorio said in a statement in February. “We remain confident in our market opportunity, position, and in our vision of identifying, locating and authenticating every item in our everyday world, and connecting every one of those items to the cloud.”

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