Researchers used a laser to hack Alexa and other voice assistants


San Francisco (CNN Business)Usually you have to talk to voice assistants to get them to do what you want. But a group of researchers determined they can also command them by shining a laser at smart speakers and other gadgets that house virtual helpers such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant.

Researchers at the University of Michigan and Japan’s University of Electro-Communications figured out they could do this silently and from hundreds of feet away, as long as they had a line of sight to the smart gadget. The finding could enable anyone (with motivation and a few hundred dollars’ worth of electronics) to attack a smart speaker from outside your house, making it do anything from playing music to opening a smart garage door to buying you stuff on Amazon.

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Amazon is making two-hour grocery delivery free for all Prime members


Amazon just added a new perk to its popular Prime membership program: free grocery delivery.

 Amazon Prime members will now be able to get two-hour grocery delivery for free.

Until now, Prime members had to pay an additional $14.99 per month to get access to Amazon Fresh, the company’s grocery delivery service.

The change reflects Amazon’s growing delivery efficiency, as it looks to shorten delivery time — which in turn leads to more frequent purchases and bigger spending.

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Amazon reportedly has an ambitious plan to change the way we grocery shop — here’s what we know about it so far


Amazon is looking into creating a new grocery chain that would likely be separate from Whole Foods, according to The New York Times.

This new chain would blend aspects of online ordering and traditional shopping, and may be inspired by a 2017 internal memo circulated ahead of the Whole Foods acquisition.

The report also describes certain areas in which Amazon has struggled to integrate with Whole Foods, such as when it comes to cutting prices and incorporating the upscale grocer into its delivery system.

Amazon is brainstorming a new type of grocery store that would combine traditional shopping with online pickup, according to The New York Times. Such a move would mark another push by Amazon to establish dominance in the grocery shopping space following its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017.

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Amazon taps truck startup Rivian to build 100,000 electric vans

Rivian Render grey

Rivian, the startup electric truck manufacturer, will build 100,000 custom electric delivery vehicles exclusively for Amazon beginning in 2021, the companies said. — Amazon/dpa

Rivian, the startup electric truck manufacturer, will build 100,000 custom electric delivery vehicles exclusively for Amazon beginning in 2021, the companies have announced.

The huge order by Amazon represents a previously unrevealed commercial vehicle to be designed and built at Rivian’s factory in downstate Normal, alongside the manufacturer’s consumer-focused electric truck and SUV lines. Online retail giant Amazon is also a significant investor in Rivian.

“This has been in the works for some time,” Rivian spokeswoman Amy Mast said Thursday. “The idea that you can marry consumer applications to these more commercial applications … is just really exciting.”

Target production is to have 10,000 electric delivery vans on the road for Amazon by late 2022, ramping up to the full 100,000 order by 2030. The first of the new vans are expected to begin delivering packages in 2021, the companies said.

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Amazon delivery robots are officially on the streets of California


Amazon has robots on the streets. It’s a good bet urban delivery will never be the same.

Amazon has officially rolled out its last-mile delivery robots in a Southern California testbed. Called Scout, the delivery robot is designed to autonomously ferry parcels from urban distribution points to Amazon Prime customers, removing the need for vans and cars in last-mile delivery.

Amazon has previously tested its delivery robots in Washington State, but this marks the first California deployment. The robots, deployed in the Irvine area, will drive during daytime hours. Though designed to operate autonomously, the test robots will be accompanied by humans to ensure nothing goes wrong. So-called “Scout Ambassadors” will also be gauging public reaction to the robots, which is a big X-factor in plans to deploy autonomous mobile robots on city streets.

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Amazon’s revolutionary retail strategy? Recycling old ideas



I SOMETIMES THINK that if you could look in the safe behind Jeff Bezos’ desk, instead of the sports almanac from Back to the Future you’d find an Encyclopedia of Retail, written in maybe 1985. There would be Post-It notes on every page, and every one of those notes would have been turned into a team and maybe a product.

Amazon is so new, and so dramatic in its speed and scale and aggression, that we can easily forget how many of the things it’s doing are actually very old. And we can forget how many of the slightly dusty incumbent retailers we all grew up with were also once considered radical, daring, piratical new businesses that made people angry with their new ideas.

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Amazon just got FAA approval to fly drones for deliveries


 Your Amazon prime packages are one step closer to being delivered by drones.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a certificate to Amazon Prime Air on Wednesday, allowing the company to operate its MK27 unmanned aircraft for package deliveries, the federal agency said in a statement.

On the same day, Amazon (AMZN) announced it will begin delivering packages to customers by drone “within months” at its artificial intelligence, robotics and space conference re:Mars in Las Vegas. Amazon’s certificate is valid for one year and is eligible for renewal, according to the FAA.

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Education vs. Training: Corporate America’s role



What do you really need to know? Would a sixth-grade education give you enough basic skills to enable you to use online tools to learn a trade or become a service worker or a knowledge worker? Would you need eighth-grade skills? Tenth-grade? Perhaps a four-year college degree?

How much education do you need to learn to create and configure a new Aurora Serverless DB cluster on AWS? One of our engineers just taught a high-school intern how to do it in a few hours. This particular intern is about 150 hours of training away from being in a position to earn about $90k annually. With what he has learned in the past 50 hours of training, this young man could earn enough during the rest of the summer to pay for his first year of college – which he may not actually need.

But if he doesn’t need to go to college, or even finish high-school, what kind of education does he need? We need to shift the conversation from education to training – and that is precisely what corporate America is starting to do.

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Amazon wants to sell “surveillance as a service”


In case Amazon’s surveillance capabilities weren’t extensive enough with its Echo, Ring, and Key products, not to mention all the data Amazon routinely collects on its customers, the company recently received a US patent to provide “surveillance as a service.”

The patent is for an “unmanned aerial vehicle”—the technical term for a drone—that “may perform a surveillance action at a property of an authorized party” and could “image the property to generate surveillance images.” Amazon suggests in its patent, filed June 12, 2015, and granted June 4 of this year, that drone-based surveillance would be superior to traditional video-camera installations that have limited range, are liable to miss things, and can be manipulated or damaged by an intruder.

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Amazon is leasing more planes so it can deliver packages on its own

(CNN)Amazon’s fleet of cargo jets is getting larger, as it expands plans to deliver more of its packages itself.

The online retailer announced it will lease an additional 15 cargo planes from GE Capital Aviation Services. The deal was announced Tuesday at the Paris Air Show.

Amazon has been stepping up efforts to handle more packages fully on its own. The company is buying vans so more deliveries to customers’ doors can be made by independent contractors rather than providers such as the US Postal Service, United Parcel Service (UPS) and FedEx (FDX). Earlier this month FedEx announced it wouldn’t renew its US contract with Amazon to transport packages on FedEx Express.

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Watch Amazon’s all-new delivery drone zipping through the sky

Amazon has taken the wraps off the latest iteration of its Prime Air delivery drone that it says could be delivering online orders to customers’ doors “in the coming months.”

Considering the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) cautious approach to commercial drone deliveries, it’s a bold claim, but more on that later.

First, the drone. Amazon unveiled its new-look flying machine at its re:MARS Conference (Machine learning, Automation, Robotics, and Space) event in Las Vegas on Wednesday, June 5.

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Mary Meeker’s most important trends on the internet

Mary Meeker, Code 2019/Recode

It’s the holiday season for data nerds: That is, Mary Meeker is delivering her annual Internet Trends Report — the most highly anticipated slide deck in Silicon Valley — again at Code Conference 2019.

The general partner at venture capital firm Bond Capital delivered a rapid-fire 333-page slideshow that looked back at every important internet trend in the last year and looked forward about what these trends tell us to expect in the year ahead. The “Queen of the Internet” and former Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner touched on everything from accelerating internet ad spend in the US to the growth of digital delivery services in Latin America.

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