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Pencil-Sized AI Device to Protect Wildlife From Poachers

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Nonprofit Resolve and Intel teamed up to create TrailGuard AI, an artificially intelligent camera that detects poachers in near real time.

The system can spot hunters entering Africa’s wildlife reserves, and alert park rangers in near real time.

“By pairing AI technology with human decision-makers, we can solve some of our greatest challenges, including illegal poaching of endangered animals,” Anna Bethke, leader of AI for Social Good at Intel, said in a statement.

“With TrailGuard AI,” she explained, “Intel’s Movidius technology enables the camera to capture suspected poacher images and alerts park rangers, who will ultimately decide the most appropriate response.”

Deep neural network algorithms allow the updated device to recognize humans and vehicles with “a high degree of accuracy,” Intel boasted; no more mass panic at shifting cloud cover, birds, or passing creatures.

Designed to perform in the wild for up to 1.5 years without battery replacement, TrailGuard AI is about the size of a pencil—easy to hide and camouflage from hunters and animals.

Intel’s Movidius Myriad 2 chip uses artificial intelligence to identify potential poachers (via Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation)

According to Resolve, a D.C.-based public policy dispute resolution organization, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes by a poacher, at a rate of approximately 35,000 pachyderms per year.

Experts predict elephants will be extinct within a decade.

Other large animals like rhinos, gorillas, and tigers are also in danger, as well as giraffes, antelopes, and wildebeest, which can get caught in poachers’ snares.

TrailGuard AI will initially deploy in 100 African reserves through the year—starting with Serengeti and Garamba; manufacturers plan to expand into Southeast Asia and South America in the future.

The University of Southern California Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society has long applied AI to protect wildlife.

Analysts initially used artificial intelligence and game theory to anticipate poachers’ haunts. Now they have the technology to stop them in their tracks (so to speak).

Last year, USC applied deep learning to spot hunters in near real time, turning poachers into prey.

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Watch 20 Minutes of Ads to Earn Free Movie Tickets

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Summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders don’t come cheap: The average price for a cinema ticket in 2018 was more than $9, according to the National Association of Theater Owners.

But what if you could watch first-run movies, in theaters, absolutely free?

That’s the idea behind PreShow, established by Stacy Spikes, co-founder of MoviePass and the Urbanworld Film Festival.

Since it launched Thursday on Kickstarter, the project has collected more than $9,000 from 251 backers, putting it well on its way to reaching Spikes’ $10,000 goal.

Inspired by the $11-billion-a-year product placement business, the movie-loving entrepreneur wants to bring advertising and audiences closer together.

Enter PreShow, a platform that allows people to attend films for free by watching branded content ads.

“The only people that will be able to participate are from the Kickstarter community,” Spikes said. “This is your invitation.”

Get your invitation on Kickstarter (via PreShow)

Choose from one of three Kickstarter tiers to join; each member also receives a limited number of codes to dispense among cinema-going mates:

  • $15 for you and five friends
  • $25 for you and 10 friends
  • $60 for you and 30 friends

(The obvious tactic is to charge pals per code, easily earning your money back.)

After the campaign ends in April, PreShow will start rolling out computer-generated keys to backers—first to big spenders in July, then second-wave supporters in September, and finally cheapskates in November.

Once connected, download the mobile app and log in to choose any 2D film playing at any theater.

You’ll need to watch a 15- to 20-minute video of branded content before receiving a virtual credit, which can be used to purchase tickets in advance, “the same way you normally would,” according to the project page.

Don’t expect to simply press play and walk away, though. A built-in facial recognition feature automatically pauses the video as soon as you look away from the screen or move out of view.

But with great technology comes great responsibility: PreShow promises privacy is a “top concern.”

“Nobody is recorded, no personally identifiable data is shared, all data is aggregated and anonymized to brand partners,” the site said. “If a member chooses to opt into a brand offering, they will be connected directly to the brand.”

You have 36 days to join PreShow, or convince a friend to back the campaign.

Spikes’ former firm MoviePass this week launched a new version of its “Uncapped” subscription service, now available for a limited-time price of $9.95 for 12 months, or $14.95 per month.

For reference, the standard price of MoviePass Uncapped will be $19.95 per month.

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AT&T, Comcast Team Up to Fight Annoying Robocalls

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Robocalls are the bane of human existence. Thankfully, more mobile carriers are taking steps to fight them.

AT&T and Comcast this week announced a cross-network authentication system to verify calls between separate providers.

Expected to roll out later this year, the so-called “milestone”—believed to be the nation’s first—allows customers to see verified calls from all participating networks.

A test, conducted March 5 between AT&T Phone digital home service and Comcast Xfinity Voice home phone service, used phones “on the companies’ consumer networks—not in a lab or restricted to special equipment,” according to a joint press release.

They employed the new “SHAKEN” (Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs) and “STIR” (Secure Telephone Identity Revisited) protocols meant to curb spoofed phone numbers.

“For example, a call that is illegally ‘spoofed’—or shows a faked number—will fail the SHAKEN/STIR Caller ID verification and will not be marked as verified,” the firms explained. “By contrast, verification will confirm that a call is really coming from the identified number or entity.”

So, those weekly calls from Mom will continue, but a prankster trying to reach you from “The White House” would be challenged.

“Over the coming months, major service providers will be conducting similar tests with each other’s systems, verifying that their SHAKEN/STIR implementations are compatible,” the press release said.

There is currently no timeline for the Comcast/AT&T certification program launch.

A whopping 26.3 billion automated messages were received in the US last year, according to Seattle-based caller profile firm Hiya. Up 46 percent over 2017’s total of 18 billion, the number averages out to 10 spam calls per person, per month.

“While authentication won’t solve the problem of unwanted robocalls by itself,” the firms admitted, “it is a key step toward giving customers greater confidence and control over the calls they receive.”

Verizon recently announced plans to step up its spam protection efforts via free anti-robocall tools, scheduled for launch this month. New call-blocking and spam-alerting notifications alert wireless customers of potentially dangerous communications.

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Volvo Adds In-Car Cameras to Monitor Drunk, Distracted Drivers

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Speeding, intoxication, and distraction are primary traffic safety concerns.

And since Volvo already addressed the first with a new top speed limit, the Swedish automaker is moving on to the next two.

In a Wednesday announcement, Volvo revealed plans to install a suite of in-car cameras and sensors to monitor drivers.

If, for instance, a clearly drunk or distracted motorist doesn’t respond to warning signals, the vehicle could automatically intervene by limiting its speed, alerting the Volvo on Call assistance service, or even slowing down and parking the car.

“When it comes to safety, our aim is to avoid accidents altogether rather than limit the impact when an accident is imminent and unavoidable,” according to Henrik Green, senior vice president of research and development at Volvo Cars. “In this case, cameras will monitor for behavior that may lead to serious injury or death.”

That could mean someone who has fallen asleep at the wheel or is preoccupied with a mobile phone, as well as extreme weaving across lanes or excessively slow reaction times.

Cameras will begin appearing in all Volvo models starting in the early 2020s; details on the number of sensors and their placement will be revealed closer to launch.

“There are many accidents that occur as a result of intoxicated drivers,” Trent Victor, professor of driver behavior at Volvo Cars, said in a statement. “Some people still believe that they can drive after having had a drink, and that this will not affect their capabilities.

“We want to ensure that people are not put in danger as a result of intoxication,” he added.

As part of Volvo Vision 2020—a plan to reduce the number of people who die or are seriously injured in road traffic accidents to zero—the company identified “gaps” in its safety protocols.

Unsurprisingly, speeding is a “very prominent” one.

Early this month, Volvo sent a “strong signal” about the dangers of speeding by promising to limit cars’ top rate of motion at 112 mph. The manufacturer is also looking into how a combination of smart speed control and geofencing technology can automatically slow down vehicles near schools and hospitals.

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