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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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FTC, Law Enforcement ‘Call It Quits’ On Robocallers

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and law enforcement officials teamed up to crack down on illegal robocalls.

Their joint “Operation Call It Quits” effort targets U.S. enterprises responsible for more than 1 billion calls pitching various products and services.

“We’re all fed up with the tens of billions of illegal robocalls we get every year,” Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement.

Already, the agency has four new cases and three new settlements, bringing its total number of claims against illegal robocallers and Do Not Call (DNC) violators to 145.

State partners announcing enforcement actions this week include the Attorneys General Offices for Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia; the Consumer Protection Divisions of the District Attorneys for Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, and Santa Clara, Calif.; the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; and the Los Angeles City Attorney.

“Every year, our office gets more consumer complaints about unwanted robocalls than just about any other issue,” according to Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill. “At best, these calls represent a nuisance for families just wanting to enjoy peace and privacy without needless disturbances interrupting their routine.

“At worst,” he said, “they represent scams that successfully steal people’s identities or hard-earned money.”

In addition to the actions by the FTC, 25 federal, state, and local agencies have brought 87 enforcement actions as part of the “Operation Call It Quits” initiative.

The U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern District of Georgia, Middle District of Florida, and Southern District of Texas—with support from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration—also contributed five criminal actions.

The join effort, Smith added, “shows that combating this scourge remains a top priority for law enforcement agencies around the nation.”

Part of the Commission’s ongoing effort to help curb pre-recorded telemarketing, the movement also includes information to educate consumers about illegal robocalls.

You can find additional information on ways to limit bothersome calls online.

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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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