Alphabet will use beams of light to deliver internet in Kenya

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The moonshot project has a new name, too.

 It’s been a while since we’ve heard about Alphabet’s Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC) project. If you’ve forgotten all about it, we don’t blame you: the acronym doesn’t stick in the mind quite like Google Fiber or Project Loon. To solve the problem, Alphabet’s ‘X’ division has renamed the initiative Project Taara. (I like it, though Project Tidal already starts with the letter ’T.’ If both moonshots ’graduate’ and become fully-fledged companies, one will have to rebrand or ruin Alphabet’s otherwise immaculate naming scheme.) It suggests that Google’s parent company now sees the technology, which uses laser-beaming boxes to deliver connectivity, as something that can eventually become a real business.

In a blog post, Taara general manager Mahesh Krishnaswamy announced that the team is formally working with telecoms giant Econet in Africa. It’s not clear, however, if any money is changing hands. Initially, Taara’s hardware will support Econet subsidiary Liquid Telecom in Kenya. It’s an obvious move given that the moonshot has already trialed its technology in the country, which followed pilots in Andhra Pradesh, a state in India.

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The 10 highest-paying IT certifications of 2020

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COVID-19 isolation might be a good time to add to your IT skill set, as we’re seeing several new entries on our annual list of the 10 highest-paying IT certifications. Cloud technology, information security, and project management certs are on the rise this year.

IT is one profession where the optimal skill set is a constantly moving target. We keep track of the ten highest-paying IT certifications on a running bases, and for 2020, we’re seeing some of the highest-paid certifications challenged yet again by new entrants while average salaries are on the rise across the board.

Fortunately, if you’re trapped in your home during the coronavirus pandemic, you’re far from helpless if you want to learn new skills. Many certifications are fully optimized for remote learners with most of the guided lessons, practice sandboxes, and even the certification exam itself being fully available online and on demand. This preparing for and achieving a new certification com pletely viable for people that are working from home.

Hot specializations range from information systems management, networking, cloud computing, project management, and security. Eighty percent of IT professionals say that certifications are useful for their careers, the challenge is determining which area to focus on.

We looked at data provided by professional development solutions and course provider Global Knowledge to determine the highest-paying IT certifications in the world right now. The data is based on what Global Knowledge’s customers are studying as well as the jobs they find after they graduate. We’ve broken down the top choices based on a description of the specialization as well as a corresponding pay range. Cloud and project management certifications currently dominate the top five spots.

Kindly note that these figures change from year to year, so we update this piece whenever Global Knowledge releases new data. Be sure to return to this list to check out which certification tops the rankings the next time you’re thinking of changing career gears. Let’s look at the most in-demand certifications for 2020 and their corresponding salaries.

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Physna aims to be Google of 3D search with geometry-based AI

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Physna, a midwestern U.S. startup founded in 2015, is trying to do for physical object (3D model) search what Google did for text and image search. Using geometric deep-learning technology and proprietary algorithms, Physna is able to understand, map and compare 3D models and index them based on their geometry. While it has been possible to search for 3D models using text, images, tags and more, this is the first time that searching for physical objects based on their fundamental geometry, their physical ‘DNA’ (hence the name PHYSNA according to its founder Paul Powers), has been made possible and available, with the launch of Thangs.com.

“We live in a 3D world, but digital technology is two-dimensional,” said Paul Powers, CEO of Physna. “Over 70% of the economy is centered around physical goods, but less than 1% of software is capable of handling 3D data. Physna was founded on the principle that computers should be taught to “think” in 3D, and accurately describe the real, 3D world around us. By enabling 3D models to be treated and analyzed like other code, Physna’s technology bridges the gap between the physical world and digital world of software. By democratizing the ability to design, interact with and analyze 3D models of the world around them, more people will have the ability to create and drive innovation in product design, 3D printing, augmented and virtual reality, gaming, healthcare and beyond.”

By identifying specific geometry ‘clusters’, the proprietary algorithms characterize and categorize 3D models in a unique way – and directly use this to search for other models that may be similar, different, or exact matches. With this approach of decomposing and linking 3D models by their geometry, Physna is able to capture 10,000 times more data points than a traditional scanned model, by codifying 3D model data for use in software applications. It essentially provides a platform for 3D designers and engineers similar to what software engineers have.

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Busting up big tech is popular, but here’s what the US may lose

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies remotely during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on antitrust on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Washington.

Lawmakers don’t like them, but what they bring to the competition with China may be too valuable to break up.

The heads of Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon appeared before angry lawmakers Wednesday as Congress prepares to weigh new anti-monopoly regulations, including possibly breaking them up. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg turned to a familiar argument, saying that breaking up the big tech companies would hurt U.S. competitiveness against China in developing new technologies and America’s ability to curb Chinese influence globally.

So are U.S tech giants an asset to the U.S. in its competition with China or a hindrance?

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Google will pay publishers to license content for ‘new news experience’

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Google announced it will begin paying news publishers for “high-quality content” with the launch of a “new news experience” later this year. The move marks a major departure for Google, which has until now steadfastly refused to compensate news publishers for content. As news organizations’ digital advertising revenues have plunged, critics in the media, and even many politicians, have been pressuring Google to pay to license content.

Many details of the new program remain unclear. But with the news industry further weakened by economic fallout from the coronavirus, any potential revenue will likely be welcomed.

“A vibrant news industry matters — perhaps now more than ever, as people look for information they can count on amid a global pandemic and growing concerns about racial injustice around the world,” Google vice president for news Brad Bender wrote in a blog post. “But these events are happening at a time when the news industry is also being challenged financially. We care deeply about providing access to information and supporting the publishers who report on these important topics.”

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Facebook wants to make thought-hearing glasses

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Plus smart glasses from Google, transforming drones, AR clothing and other patents from Big Tech.

It’s the weekend! Time to switch my digital avatar’s outfit from a suit to lounge pants. I don’t actually live in VR yet (though I did try working in it this week), but a new patent from Amazon might make that a reality sooner rather than later. The company’s also working on drones that could get deliveries to me even quicker than its other drones, and Facebook is working on making immersive videos work on any screen in my house. Who needs to go outside when I can bring the entire world to my couch? Big Tech’s patents this week seem very on board with me staying at home as long as I want to.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

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Internet giants to staff: Plan to work from home for 2020

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Google exec says science drives decision to return to offices

Elon Musk wants people to return to work. Google and Facebook Inc. have another message for their staff: get ready to stay home for all of 2020.

Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google and its parent, Alphabet Inc., told employees on Thursday to prepare to work remotely through October and possibly to the end of the year, according to people familiar with the decision. A spokeswoman confirmed that the majority of staff is expected to work from home until 2021.

Two weeks ago, Pichai wrote an email to his workforce that said some offices would open as soon as June. On Friday, Pichai told employees only about 10% to 15% of the workers would be on-site in June, with more returns varying by division and location, according to an internal memo. About 5% of employees now are working in Google offices, Pichai said. CNBC reported earlier on the memo. Most of the workforce won’t return until at least the end of October, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

On Thursday, Facebook told employees that they can work remotely through 2020 if they like. The social media company doesn’t expect to open most offices until July 6 at the earliest.

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Coronavirus: Google reveals travel habits during the pandemic

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Google is to publicly track people’s movements over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

The tech firm will publish details of the different types of places people are going to on a county-by-county basis in the UK, as well as similar data for 130 other countries.

The plan is to issue a regular updates with the figures referring back to activity from two or three days prior.

The company has promised that individuals’ privacy will be preserved.

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Google is using AI to design chips that will accelerate AI

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A new reinforcement-learning algorithm has learned to optimize the placement of components on a computer chip to make it more efficient and less power-hungry.

3D Tetris: Chip placement, also known as chip floor planning, is a complex three-dimensional design problem. It requires the careful configuration of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of components across multiple layers in a constrained area. Traditionally, engineers will manually design configurations that minimize the amount of wire used between components as a proxy for efficiency. They then use electronic design automation software to simulate and verify their performance, which can take up to 30 hours for a single floor plan.

Time lag: Because of the time investment put into each chip design, chips are traditionally supposed to last between two and five years. But as machine-learning algorithms have rapidly advanced, the need for new chip architectures has also accelerated. In recent years, several algorithms for optimizing chip floor planning have sought to speed up the design process, but they’ve been limited in their ability to optimize across multiple goals, including the chip’s power draw, computational performance, and area.

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Inside the race to build the best quantum computer on Earth

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IBM thinks quantum supremacy is not the milestone we should care about.

Google’s most advanced computer isn’t at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, nor anywhere in the febrile sprawl of Silicon Valley. It’s a few hours’ drive south in Santa Barbara, in a flat, soulless office park inhabited mostly by technology firms you’ve never heard of.

An open-plan office holds several dozen desks. There’s an indoor bicycle rack and designated “surfboard parking,” with boards resting on brackets that jut out from the wall. Wide double doors lead into a lab the size of a large classroom. There, amidst computer racks and jumbles of instrumentation, a handful of cylindrical vessels—each a little bigger than an oil drum—hang from vibration-damping rigs like enormous steel pupae.

On one of them, the outer vessel has been removed to expose a multi-tiered tangle of steel and brass innards known as “the chandelier.” It’s basically a supercharged refrigerator that gets colder with each layer down. At the bottom, kept in a vacuum a hair’s breadth above absolute zero, is what looks to the naked eye like an ordinary silicon chip. But rather than transistors, it’s etched with tiny superconducting circuits that, at these low temperatures, behave as if they were single atoms obeying the laws of quantum physics. Each one is a quantum bit, or qubit—the basic information–storage unit of a quantum computer.

Late last October, Google announced that one of those chips, called Sycamore, had become the first to demonstrate “quantum supremacy” by performing a task that would be practically impossible on a classical machine. With just 53 qubits, Sycamore had completed a calculation in a few minutes that, according to Google, would have taken the world’s most powerful existing supercomputer, Summit, 10,000 years. Google touted this as a major breakthrough, comparing it to the launch of Sputnik or the first flight by the Wright brothers—the threshold of a new era of machines that would make today’s mightiest computer look like an abacus.

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New Google AI tool detects breast cancer better than radiologists, study suggests

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Fox Business’s Susan Li told Stuart Varney that data from Google Health’s new breast cancer study, while positive, needs more development.

A new Google artificial intelligence model appears capable of more accurately spotting breast cancer in mammograms than radiologists.

In a study published in the scientific journal Nature, researchers from Google Health, Northwestern University and three British medical institutions wrote in their abstract that they had aimed to “identify breast cancer before symptoms appear, enabling earlier therapy for [a] more treatable disease.”

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The 10 best examples of how AI is already used in our everyday life

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When you hear news about artificial intelligence (AI), it might be easy to assume it has nothing to do with you. You might imagine that artificial intelligence is only something the big tech giants are focused on, and that AI doesn’t impact your everyday life. In reality, artificial intelligence is encountered by most people from morning until night. Here are 10 of the best examples of how AI is already used in our everyday lives.

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