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Ford Wants This Headless Humanoid to Make Door-to-Door Deliveries

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As I type this, I am awaiting a delivery from the postman of a parcel I ordered online yesterday.

I am part of the problem.

According to Ford Chief Technology Officer Ken Washington, perks like one-click shopping and two-day delivery are taking a toll on our cities and neighborhoods—not to mention the postal service.

And Ford wants to help.

Together with Agility Robotics, the automaker this week introduced last-mile solution Digit.

The two-legged humanoid robot curls up in the back of an autonomous delivery van, then unfolds to talk packages directly to your door.

Designed to look and move like a human (albeit a decapitated one), Digit can lift packages weighing up to 40 lbs., move up and down stairs, and navigate uneven terrain. It even reacts to being bumped without losing its balance or falling over.

“But Digit isn’t just capable of traversing obstacles—it has a hidden advantage,” Washington wrote in a blog announcement.

The bot, he explained, can tap into the resources of its self-driving vehicle, wirelessly sharing data like detailed maps and other analytics.

“After all, both Digit and the self-driving car need to know where they are in the world, where they need to go, and how to get there,” Washington added.

Equipped with LiDAR and stereo cameras, Digit is smart enough to handle basic scenarios. But what if a strong wind has blown the trash cans into its path? Or a garden ornament is slightly askew?

No worries: Digit simply sends an image to the vehicle, which comes up with a solution and dispatches it via the cloud, where the android retrieves it and follows through.

Once a self-driving vehicle arrives at its destination, Digit can be deployed to grab a package from and carry out the final step in the delivery process (via Ford)

“Whether we are working side-by-side with robots in our numerous factories around the world or living with them as they help push packages to our door, our primary goal is to ensure they are safe, reliable, and capable of working alongside people in intelligent ways,” Washington said.

“Through our collaboration with Agility,” he continued, we are striving to determine the best way for our self-driving vehicles to cooperate with Digit and understand how this new delivery method can be taken advantage of in the future.”

Ford is no stranger to bizarre innovations.

In December, the firm unveiled a prototype noise-cancelling kennel, using the same technology found in cars and headphones to protect sensitive canine ears during loud fireworks displays.

And I’ve had my eye on the lane-keeping smart bed: a revolving mattress which, just as Ford’s Lane-Keeping Aid avoids accidents by “nudging” the steering wheel in the correct direction, gently shifts bed hogs back into position.

Last month, Ford Europe revealed a self-braking trolley inspired by its Pre-Collision Assist technology, and aimed at ushering in a new era of supermarket shopping.

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You’ll Need Very Deep Pockets to Book Airbnb Luxe Accommodation

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Always dreamt of spending a night in a French castle or Tuscan villa? Airbnb’s got you covered.

The lodging service this week introduced Luxe: a new rental tier aimed at people with cash to burn: lavish accommodations cost more than $1,000 per night*.

Boasting homes that are “destinations in themselves,” Airbnb has offerings for every type of one-percenter:

Literary fans may seek inspiration (and beachfront views) at The Fleming Villa in Jamaica, where Ian Fleming wrote his famous spy novels. Introverts, meanwhile, can plan the ideal vacation by booking an entire island (with its own self-declared time zone) in French Polynesia.

“Airbnb Luxe provides access to unique and spectacular properties with dedicated trip designers to ensure bespoke experiences and services to make every stay truly magical,” the company wrote in an announcement.

The new platform—based on the “deep expertise” Airbnb gained from its 2017 acquisition of Luxury Retreats—launches with more than 2,000 handpicked homes around the world.

Each dwelling must pass meet 300-plus criteria in design and function: everything from premium materials and rare features to group spaces, chef-grade appliances, and “the proper amount of bathrooms corresponding to each bedroom.”

The medieval farm-to-table experience of Castello di Vicarello in Tuscany, the eco-friendly design of Te Kahu in New Zealand, and the chef, driver, and butler services that come with Grace Bay Residences in Turks and Caicos don’t hurt, either.

Each Airbnb Luxe booking promises 24/7 access to a trip designer—a sort of personal travel agent—who will ensure the stay is tailored to your needs (including arranging childcare, private chefs, in-house massage therapists, and, for the truly dedicated, personal training sessions in a private gym).

“Today’s luxury traveler is craving more than just high-end accommodations,” Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky said in a statement. “They seek transformation and experiences that leave them feeling more connected to each other and to their destination.”

As impossibly out-of-reach these Caribbean islands and ski chalets seem to most people, there appears to be a real market for luxury properties and experiences.

In 2018, the number of Airbnb booking for listings worth at least $1,000 per night increased more than 60 percent (to what number, it isn’t clear).

The hospitality firm recently announced a new Adventures program, which offers extraordinary experiences like the chance to travel around the world in 80 days, track lions on foot in Kenya, and hunt for UFOs in Arizona. Perhaps a six-day Galapagos Slow Food Safari or camping on a Colorado cliff is more your style.

Ranging in price from $79 for an overnight trip to $5,000 for a 10-day trek, adventures are led by local experts and meet certain quality and safety standards.

* Much, much, much more

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Amazon Prime Day 2019 Promises 48 Hours of Deals

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Next month’s Amazon Prime Day 2019 will be a two-day parade of deals.

The annual sale kicks off at midnight PT on Monday, July 15, and—for the first time ever—runs for a full 48 hours.

Subscribers have two days to shop more than 1 million deals, including limited-time offers and exclusive launches. (I am most looking forward to stocking up on discounted Alexa-enabled devices.)

“Get ready, as we pull back the curtain to reveal exclusive products, special performances, and two full days of phenomenal deals this Prime Day,” Jeff Wilke, CEO of worldwide consumer at Amazon, said in a statement.

Mark-downs apply to Prime members the world over: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, the United Arab Emirates (new this year), the UK, and the US.

To participate, sign up online to join Prime or start a 30-day free trial.

“Our vision is that Prime Day should be the absolute best time to be a member,” Wilke said. “When you can enjoy shopping, savings, entertainment, and some of the best deals Prime members have ever seen.”

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Whether you brazenly browse on the office computer, hide your habits in a bathroom stall, or take a “sick day” to stay home and spend money, Amazon encourages buyers to remain alert.

You don’t have to wait three weeks for the deals roll in, though.

Starting today, Prime members can save $120 on a Toshiba HD 43-inch Fire TV Edition Smart TV—now only $179.99 (through June 30, or while supplies last).

Also available now: Alexa-compatible Jabra Elite85h wireless headphones with SmartSound and the iOttie Easy One Touch Connect smartphone car mount.

Plus, members can gear up for Prime Day in-home deliveries with 40 percent off the Key for Garage myQ Smart Garage Hub + Amazon Cloud Cam (Key Edition) kit, on sale for the reasonable price of $99.98.

As part of the company’s 20th anniversary, Amazon launched Prime Day in 2015, hoping to entice buyers with discount prices on a scale you’d expect to see only on Black Friday.

The inaugural event—a mix of “Deals of the Day” and “Lightning Deals”—lasted 24 hours. Prime Day 2017 boasted 30 hours of deals for techies, beauty fans, gamers, kids, home chefs, bookworms, fitness buffs, DIYers, sports enthusiasts, and other stereotypes.

Last year, Prime members had a record 36 hours to shop.

At this rate, the 2024 affair will last all week.

“Stay tuned as we reveal exclusive savings at Whole Foods Market, thousands of new product launches, as well as world-class entertainment and more, leading up to Prime Day,” Wilke said.

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Google Wants to Teach Kids About Phishing, Fake News

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When I was a kid, the only computer literacy I learned was Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.

Fast forward 25 years, and there is a whole online world children must learn to navigate.

Thankfully, Google is here to help.

The company in 2017 introduced its “Be Internet Awesome” curriculum to teach young people the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety.

Now it’s launching six new activities designed to aid kids in analyzing and evaluating online media.

Developed in partnership with the Net Safety Collaborative and National Association for Media Literacy Education, the new program covers everything from responsible communication and fake news to personal security and anti-bullying.

“We need the right tools and resources to help kids make the most of technology,” Amy Mascott, educator and founder of teachmama.com, wrote in a Google blog post. “And while good digital safety and citizenship resources exist for families, more can be done for media literacy.”

Through instruction, activities, and discussions, these new classes provide students with vital information, like how to avoid phishing attacks, prevent identity theft, identify credible sources, spot fake URLs, create strong passwords, recognize harassment or bullying, and more.

Frankly, we could all use a refresher course on how to be a decent person on the Internet.

“Kids today need a guide to the Internet and media just as they need instruction on other topics,” Mascott said. “We need help teaching them about credible sources, the power of words and images, and more importantly, how to be smart and savvy when seeing different media while browsing the Web.”

Google’s new curriculum is available online in English, Spanish, and eight other languages for teachers, parents, and guardians.

Its overall goal, according to TechCrunch, is to encourage kids to make checking news and information a habit—not only those headlines and links that seem suspicious.

The company is partnering with the YMCA and National PTA to host online safety workshops across multiple cities.

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