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It has been a busy time in tech, from a bevy of market-moving earnings reports to an ever-growing list of ways Facebook is ruining civilization as we know it to the truly bizarre spat involving Amazon’s founder, the president of the United States, and a man named Pecker. You can’t make this stuff up.
This week the industry’s news will emanate even more than usual from San Francisco, where two big events promise to drive up the price of every hotel room in town.
Goldman Sachs hosts its annual technology and internet conference, which means investors and tech-industry executives will be mixing it up at and around the Palace Hotel downtown. As one of the top investment banks for Silicon Valley, Goldman draws an important crowd. Top speakers will include Thomas Kurian, the recently departed Oracle product chief who now heads Google’s cloud business; Rajeev Misra, who runs the SoftBank Vision Fund; Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd; Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter; and Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco. In a two-CEO twist, Goldman’s David Solomon will interview Marc Benioff of Salesforce. The former is new in the job and facing heat over his firm’s role in the 1MDB debacle in Malaysia; the latter recently bought Time magazine.
Just a few blocks away IBM is hosting its partner-focused THINK conference, “think” being an old favorite word of the company still formally known as International Business Machines. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty will headline her own event (and meet with reporters). A slew of other IBMers will talk too, as will author Roger McNamee. Non-tech-industry celebrity speakers will include Chelsea Clinton (a political daughter), Joe Montana (a football player), and Tony Hawk (a skateboarder).
In case you missed it, The Wall Street Journal interviewed the mother of the teenager who found its FaceTime bug. She contributed a priceless nugget to the lore of Apple’s secrecy. According to the paper, Apple sent an executive to thank the teen and learn why he had such a hard time contacting Apple to report the problem. His mother pulled the kid out of steel-drums class to meet the Apple emissary. The bug catcher asked what any smart teenager would ask: When will Apple release the second version of its popular AirPod wireless headphones? The answer he got is one with which any journalist or analyst covering Apple would be very familiar: ‘Apple does not comment on future products.’
More brilliants bots. As noted here the other day, Ikea is trying to get more digital. One of its helpers, shopping A.I. startup GrokStyle, must have done a pretty good job. It attracted the attention of Facebook, which is acquiring the company for undisclosed terms. Nationwide, A.I. research should get a boost from an executive order expected to be signed by President Donald Trump on Monday. The order will prioritize A.I.-related projects and open government data to private researchers.
Getting the band back together. Hopefully they haven’t closed down the Amazon team that conducted the year-long search for a second headquarters. After deciding to split HQ2 between Long Island City and Northern Virginia, Amazon is now reportedly reconsidering the New York spot due to growing local opposition.
Semi-doomed. The streaming wars move ever forward. I would not bet much on the new $6-per-month service from Epix once Disney, Apple and other heavyweights get into the fray.
Not as easy as it looks. In a wide-ranging interview with TechCrunch, Dimitri Dolgov recounts the early days of Google’s self-driving car project. By the end of 2010, the group already had vehicles undertaking 100 mile journeys. So why still no nationwide products in 2019? “There is a huge difference between having a prototype that can do something once or twice or a handful of times versus building a product that people can start using in their daily lives,”Dolgov explains.
Get a grip. Swedish doctors are claiming that they have implanted the first “dexterous and sentient” artificial hand on a human patient. The hand prosthesis is connected directly to the patient’s own arm muscles and nerves, allowing for fine motor control and even some sensory feedback.
Rude épreuve. Paris filed suit against Airbnb, seeking $14 million in penalties over carrying an alleged 1,000 listings that violate the city’s home sharing restrictions. Under a law passed last year, Airbnb can be held liable for such listings.
(Updated Feb. 11, 2019 to correct who was interviewed by TechCrunch about the early days of Google’s self-driving car and to clarify current product offerings.)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Voice-controlled computing is taking off, thanks to the Star Trek-inspired visions of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and other products. Casey Ross of Stat News takes a look at how such voice-controlled apps can help in a healthcare setting, where making something hands-free can mean avoiding life-threatening contamination. The main use so far is more about collecting data from patients and reducing costs. But the potential for more critical uses exists:
Dr. Sandhya Pruthi, medical director of global business solutions at Mayo, said its study on the use of voice to diagnose cardiovascular disease — it found analyzing speech signals such as tone and intensity could help detect coronary artery disease — points to an exciting future for the technology. Several companies, such as Sonde Health, are developing diagnostic tools based on changes in a person’s voice. The hope is that analyzing subtle shifts in tone, clarity, and cadence will help predict the onset of psychotic episodes, stroke, and other health emergencies. “It opens possibilities to deliver care at a distance,” Pruthi said. “Think about people living in small towns who aren’t always getting access to care and knowing when to get health care. Could this be an opportunity if someone had symptoms to say, ‘It’s time for this to get checked out?’”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Why Palladium Is Now More Valuable than Gold By Grace Dobush
Microsoft: Drag Internet Explorer to the Trash. No, Really By Alyssa Newcomb
If You Use an Ad Blocker on Spotify, Your Account Might Get Terminated By Lisa Marie Segarra
Fitbit Has a New Activity Tracker. But You Can’t Buy It in Stores By Lisa Marie Segarra
BEFORE YOU GO
Speaking of Sweden, you may or may not be a fan of ski racing. It’s a high adrenaline sport where the difference between a winner and 10th place may be measured in just a few seconds. But hopefully you’ve been delighted and impressed by the record-setting career of Lindsey Vonn, who retired after her last race on Sunday in Are, Sweden—and with an unprecedented 82 wins in women’s World Cup events (not to mention three Olympic medals). In a final photo essay for her fans, Vonn took to Instagram to explain her philosophy: “If you always give everything you have you’ll be happy no matter what the outcome.”