US Safety Board: More Tech Investment Needed to Prevent Aviation Accidents

The US National Transportation Safety Board logo
The US National Transportation Safety Board logo
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US Safety Board: More Tech Investment Needed to Prevent Aviation Accidents

The US National Transportation Safety Board logo
The US National Transportation Safety Board logo

The US needs to invest more in aviation safety technology solutions after a series of close-call runway incidents this year, the head of the US National Transportation Safety Board said on Tuesday.

The NTSB is investigating six runway incursion events since January including some that could have been catastrophic.

Technology systems that help detect aircraft and ground vehicles at airports to prevent runway incursion are currently used at 43 US airports. That technology needs to be upgraded and all other commercial airports also need additional technology, Jennifer Homendy, chair of the NTSB, told reporters.

She was speaking after a five-hour meeting with industry, union, government and academic representatives on ways to address runway incursions.

"We have to make sure all these upgrades to safety can be funded," Homendy said, adding that proper pilot and air traffic control staffing was also important.

The US has about 500 commercial airports.

The US runway incursion rate steadily increased from late 2022 and into 2023, peaking in March at 33 per 1 million takeoffs and landings. That rate fell to 19 in April.

According to Reuters, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the rate was coming closer to normal levels and vowed continued vigilance.

The US has not had a major fatal US passenger airline crash since February 2009.

In March, the FAA said it was taking steps to improve air traffic control, convening a safety summit and issuing a safety alert. In April, it named an independent safety review team and on Monday, it announced an investment of $100 million in 12 airports for improvements to taxiways and lighting to reduce runway incursions.

Homendy said a FedEx cargo plane and a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 that came within about 115 feet (35 meters) of each other in Austin on Feb. 4 in poor visibility conditions could have been a "terrible tragedy."

She disclosed Tuesday that the FedEx plane's first officer saw a single light from the Southwest 737 and then a silhouette of the plane before they aborted their planned landing.

"The first officer said, 'Hey this is what I see' and then says 'I think we should perform a go around,'" Homendy told reporters. "This crew did a great job."

Near-miss incidents have also occurred in Boston, Florida and include a near collision at New York's JFK airport between a Delta Air Lines plane and an American Airlines Boeing 777.



Google to Pause Gemini AI Model's Image Generation of People

A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024.  EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024. EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
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Google to Pause Gemini AI Model's Image Generation of People

A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024.  EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024. EPA/ERIK S. LESSER

Alphabet's Google said on Thursday it is pausing AI model Gemini's image generation of people and will release an improved version soon.

"We're aware that Gemini is offering inaccuracies in some historical image generation depictions," Google had said on Wednesday.

Google started offering image generation through its Gemini AI models earlier this month, but over the past few days some users on social media had flagged that the model returns historical images which are sometimes inaccurate.


US Smartphone Sales Slump in January on Fewer Device Upgrades, Counterpoint Finds

Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)
Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)
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US Smartphone Sales Slump in January on Fewer Device Upgrades, Counterpoint Finds

Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)
Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)

US smartphone sales plunged 10% in January on weak demand for cheaper Android devices and as customers delayed upgrades ahead of the launch of Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S24 series, according to data from Counterpoint Research.

The research firm said U.S. smartphone sales last month were nearly half of the record levels seen in the same period in 2017, underscoring fears that the market may have peaked.

"Tough times in the volume-driven low-end coupled with delayed upgrades in anticipation of new products drove the market lower," said Maurice Klaehne, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research.

Smartphone sales have waned after the pandemic-driven boom, as an uncertain economic outlook and lack of major new features led consumers to stick with their existing devices.

Samsung has tried to drum up interest for its new Galaxy smartphones, which went on sale on Jan. 17, by offering multiple artificial intelligence (AI) functions including a two-way voice translation in real-time.

Counterpoint said the S24 series has performed well in the US market during the initial 1-2 weeks of launch, and that it could spark a rebound in smartphone sales in February.

Apple, meanwhile, continued to gain market share in the US last month, thanks to promotional offers for its iPhone 15 series, and as cost-conscious consumers sought its older iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 devices, whose prices have come down.

"This combination is enabling Apple to maintain stability in a market experiencing double-digit declines," Counterpoint said.


White House Wades into Debate on 'Open' Versus 'Closed' Artificial Intelligence Systems

FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
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White House Wades into Debate on 'Open' Versus 'Closed' Artificial Intelligence Systems

FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

The Biden administration is wading into a contentious debate about whether the most powerful artificial intelligence systems should be “open-source” or closed.
The White House said Wednesday it is seeking public comment on the risks and benefits of having an AI system's key components publicly available for anyone to use and modify. The inquiry is one piece of the broader executive order that President Joe Biden signed in October to manage the fast-evolving technology, The Associated Press said.
Tech companies are divided on how open they make their AI models, with some emphasizing the dangers of widely accessible AI model components and others stressing that open science is important for researchers and startups. Among the most vocal promoters of an open approach have been Facebook parent Meta Platforms and IBM.
Biden’s order described open models with the technical name of “dual-use foundation models with widely available weights” and said they needed further study. Weights are numerical values that influence how an AI model performs.
When those weights are publicly posted on the internet, “there can be substantial benefits to innovation, but also substantial security risks, such as the removal of safeguards within the model,” Biden’s order said. He gave Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo until July to talk to experts and come back with recommendations on how to manage the potential benefits and risks.
Now the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration says it is also opening a 30-day comment period to field ideas that will be included in a report to the president.
“One piece of encouraging news is that it’s clear to the experts that this is not a binary issue. There are gradients of openness,” said Alan Davidson, an assistant Commerce secretary and the NTIA's administrator. Davidson told reporters Tuesday that it's possible to find solutions that promote both innovation and safety.


Nvidia’s Stock Rally Sputters Ahead of Quarterly Report

A view of a Nvidia logo at their headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan May 31, 2023. (Reuters)
A view of a Nvidia logo at their headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan May 31, 2023. (Reuters)
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Nvidia’s Stock Rally Sputters Ahead of Quarterly Report

A view of a Nvidia logo at their headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan May 31, 2023. (Reuters)
A view of a Nvidia logo at their headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan May 31, 2023. (Reuters)

A scorching rally in Nvidia's shares this year came to a halt on Tuesday as investors worried if the high-flying chip designer's quarterly results would justify its towering valuation.

The stock fell 5.3% to $687.91. If losses hold, it could be the biggest percentage drop in more than eight months.

Nvidia has been at the heart of the frenzy around artificial intelligence (AI). A more than 40% surge in its stock this year helped it replace Alphabet as the third most valuable US company, behind Microsoft and Apple.

The market capitalization of Nvidia was $1.79 trillion on Friday.

"The market is maybe a little bit hesitant whether they (Nvidia) can deliver a strong enough guidance to reinvigorate the market even higher," said Frank Lee, head of technology research at HSBC.

The company will report quarterly results on Feb. 21. Analysts expect earnings of $4.56 a share and revenue to rise to $20.378 billion from $6.05 billion a year earlier, according to LSEG estimates.

Still, Nvidia's eye-popping run this year that pushed it to new peaks and powered gains in US stock markets could make the stock vulnerable if earnings are less than stunning.

"You can't come out and simply meet or slightly beat for the stock to go higher, Nvidia's going to need to blow it away," said Dennis Dick, a trader at Triple D Trading.

Nvidia options are pricing a swing of about 11% in either direction following results, according to data from options analytics service ORATS.

Other AI-focused stocks such as Super Micro Computer fell 11.6% and Arm Holdings dropped 7.3%.

Advanced Micro Devices was down nearly 6%, having recorded double-digit gains on a year-to-date basis.

Nvidia's shares are trading at 32 times its forward earnings estimates compared with the industry median of 25.4.


Saudi Media Minister, SDAIA President Launch AI Center for Media

The projects aim to foresee the future of AI and its applications in all forms of media. (SPA)
The projects aim to foresee the future of AI and its applications in all forms of media. (SPA)
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Saudi Media Minister, SDAIA President Launch AI Center for Media

The projects aim to foresee the future of AI and its applications in all forms of media. (SPA)
The projects aim to foresee the future of AI and its applications in all forms of media. (SPA)

Saudi Minister of Media Salman bin Yousef Al-Dosary and Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) President Dr. Abdullah bin Sharaf Al-Ghamdi launched on Tuesday the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Center for Media and the Future Camp of Generative Artificial Intelligence for Media.

The two launches, at the start of the Saudi Media Forum 3 held in Riyadh, aim to foresee the future of AI and its applications in all forms of media in a way that enhances the Kingdom's position as a leading country in the AI data field to achieve the goals of the Kingdom's Vision 2030.

The projects aim to boost the national media competencies' benefits of AI to ensure a competitive environment in the media sector's advancement by utilizing advanced technologies.

The launches come within the cooperation framework between the Ministry of Media and SDAIA to achieve integration in the services of the two sectors to meet the aspirations of the wise leadership that aim to achieve the benefit of advanced technologies and reflect them on various government sectors.


Nintendo Shares Slide on Reports of Delayed Switch Successor Release 

A customer browses the gaming section of Nintendo products in a shop in Tokyo, Japan, May 6, 2021. (AFP)
A customer browses the gaming section of Nintendo products in a shop in Tokyo, Japan, May 6, 2021. (AFP)
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Nintendo Shares Slide on Reports of Delayed Switch Successor Release 

A customer browses the gaming section of Nintendo products in a shop in Tokyo, Japan, May 6, 2021. (AFP)
A customer browses the gaming section of Nintendo products in a shop in Tokyo, Japan, May 6, 2021. (AFP)

Nintendo shares fell 6% on Monday after reports by games media and Bloomberg that its next-generation console will be delayed until early 2025 from later this year.

While Nintendo has not commented on plans for a successor device beyond saying that it is always working on new hardware and software, the Kyoto-based gaming firm is widely expected to be planning to launch a new device to succeed its aging Switch console.

The company raised the full-year sales forecast for the Switch earlier this month as the hybrid home-portable device continues to attract consumers even as it nears its eighth year on the market.

"We want to maintain the momentum of the Switch business," Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa told an earnings briefing at the time.


AI-Operated Robots Assist Visitors to the Grand Mosque

The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque has deployed AI-operated robots to assist worshippers and visitors at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)
The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque has deployed AI-operated robots to assist worshippers and visitors at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)
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AI-Operated Robots Assist Visitors to the Grand Mosque

The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque has deployed AI-operated robots to assist worshippers and visitors at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)
The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque has deployed AI-operated robots to assist worshippers and visitors at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)

The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque has deployed AI-operated robots to assist worshippers and visitors at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, SPA said on Sunday.
The robots provide information and guidance on a variety of topics, including how to perform the Hajj and Umrah rituals, Islamic rulings and fatwas, directions to different locations within the mosque, and translations in multiple languages.
Each robot is equipped with a touchscreen display, a high-definition camera, and a powerful speaker system. It can also connect to the internet via Wi-Fi, thus able to access real-time information, in 11 languages: Arabic, English, French, Russian, Persian, Turkish, Malay, Urdu, Chinese, Bengali, and Hausa.


OpenAI Reveals Sora, a Tool to Make Instant Videos from Written Prompts 

The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston. (AP)
The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston. (AP)
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OpenAI Reveals Sora, a Tool to Make Instant Videos from Written Prompts 

The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston. (AP)
The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston. (AP)

The maker of ChatGPT on Thursday unveiled its next leap into generative artificial intelligence with a tool that instantly makes short videos in response to written commands.

San Francisco-based OpenAI’s new text-to-video generator, called Sora, isn’t the first of its kind. Google, Meta and the startup Runway ML are among the other companies to have demonstrated similar technology.

But the high quality of videos displayed by OpenAI — some after CEO Sam Altman asked social media users to send in ideas for written prompts — astounded observers while also raising fears about the ethical and societal implications.

“An instructional cooking session for homemade gnocchi hosted by a grandmother social media influencer set in a rustic Tuscan country kitchen with cinematic lighting,” was a prompt suggested on X by a freelance photographer from New Hampshire. Altman responded a short time later with a realistic video that depicted what the prompt described.

The tool isn’t yet publicly available and OpenAI has revealed limited information about how it was built. The company, which has been sued by some authors and The New York Times over its use of copyrighted works of writing to train ChatGPT, also hasn’t disclosed what imagery and video sources were used to train Sora. (OpenAI pays an undisclosed fee to The Associated Press to license its text news archive).

OpenAI said in a blog post that it’s engaging with artists, policymakers and others before releasing the new tool to the public.

“We are working with red teamers  —  domain experts in areas like misinformation, hateful content, and bias  —  who will be adversarially testing the model,” the company said. “We’re also building tools to help detect misleading content such as a detection classifier that can tell when a video was generated by Sora.”


Microsoft Is Making 4 Exclusive Xbox Video Games Available to Rival Consoles 

The Xbox logo is pictured at the Paris Games Week in Paris, Nov. 3, 2017. (AP)
The Xbox logo is pictured at the Paris Games Week in Paris, Nov. 3, 2017. (AP)
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Microsoft Is Making 4 Exclusive Xbox Video Games Available to Rival Consoles 

The Xbox logo is pictured at the Paris Games Week in Paris, Nov. 3, 2017. (AP)
The Xbox logo is pictured at the Paris Games Week in Paris, Nov. 3, 2017. (AP)

Several exclusive Xbox games will be soon making their way to rival consoles, the video gaming brand and its parent company, Microsoft, announced Thursday.

In a special edition of the Official Xbox Podcast, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer confirmed that four Xbox games will no longer be exclusive. That means players should be able to access them on other companies’ platforms.

Spencer did not provide a firm timeframe or identify the four games but said that two will be “community-driven” games and two will be smaller titles.

“The teams that are building those games have announced plans that are not too far away,” he said. “I won’t be talking about the titles specifically, but I think when they come out, it’ll make sense.”

He did say that Microsoft-owned Bethesda titles Starfield and Indiana Jones were not among them.

Makers of gaming hardware often license popular video games in hopes of getting consumers to buy the devices that hold their exclusive rights.

Xbox’s Thursday announcement suggests that the brand is rethinking that strategy. While Microsoft maintained that there was no fundamental change to its exclusivity approach, Spencer noted that he believes games that are exclusive to one piece of hardware “are going to be a smaller and smaller part of the game industry” within the next five or 10 years.

Microsoft has already been moving away from this through its “Game Pass” subscription service that works something like a Netflix for video games.

The tech giant’s recent acquisition of video game maker Activision Blizzard allows that service to grow even further. On Thursday, Xbox President Sarah Bond announced that the first Activision Blizzard game on Xbox Game Pass will be Diablo IV, starting March 28.

“It’s all part of our commitment to make Xbox, the Xbox experience, and the games that we build as widely available as possible,” Bond said.

Xbox, which has previously ranked third in sales behind PlayStation and Nintendo, is expected to see a significant boost from the Activision Blizzard roster — which, beyond Diablo, also includes blockbuster games like Call of Duty and Overwatch.

Revenue for Microsoft’s Windows-led personal computing business, which includes Xbox games and services, already grew 19% to $16.89 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023 — largely reflecting Activision Blizzard’s impact. Microsoft’s Xbox-related revenues grew by 61% for the period, although the company attributed 55 points of that figure to the addition of Activision Blizzard.

Microsoft completed its purchase of Activision Blizzard for $69 billion back in October, nearly two years after announcing the deal. The Redmond, Washington-based tech giant had to fend off ample global opposition from antitrust regulators and rivals over competition concerns.

Sony, for example, told regulators that it feared Microsoft will deprive its dominant PlayStation game console of popular Activision games or offer subpar versions. But as it sought to persuade regulators and judges to approve the Activision purchase, Microsoft repeatedly defended its approach as good for gaming, saying its goal was to get Activision games to more people on more platforms rather than trying to deprive those games from rival console-makers.


EU Rules Policing Digital Content Kick in Saturday

The DSA is a mammoth law that will force digital giants to aggressively police content online. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP/File
The DSA is a mammoth law that will force digital giants to aggressively police content online. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP/File
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EU Rules Policing Digital Content Kick in Saturday

The DSA is a mammoth law that will force digital giants to aggressively police content online. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP/File
The DSA is a mammoth law that will force digital giants to aggressively police content online. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP/File

Digital companies will have nowhere to hide after the EU's landmark content law enters into full force from Saturday, with the risk of heavy fines for any violations.
The new rules, known as the Digital Services Act (DSA), kicked in last year for the world's largest platforms, including Facebook and TikTok, but will now apply to all except the smallest companies, AFP said.
When the European Union proposed the law in 2020, the objective was simple: to tame the wild west online, where Brussels felt companies were not doing enough to block illegal content or acting sufficiently to protect consumers.
Brussels has already bared its teeth, showing the tech titans that it means business.
There have been a wave of probes launched by the European Commission to quiz the largest platforms on how they are addressing an array of concerns from consumer protection to children's activity online.
So far, the EU has launched formal infringement proceedings against tech billionaire Elon Musk's X, formerly Twitter, over "illegal content and disinformation".
Punishment for violations of the DSA will be harsh.
Those that breach the rules could be fined up to six percent of their global annual turnover, or even banned in the EU for serious and repeated violations.
The EU will officially be able to hit companies with sanctions, including fines, for any violations from Saturday.
But beyond the prospect of fines, Alexandre de Streel of the think tank Centre on Regulation in Europe (CERRE), said the law aimed ultimately to change the culture of digital firms.
"The DSA is a gradual system, everything is not going to change in one minute and not on February 17," he said. "The goal isn't to impose fines, it's that platforms change their practices."
Enforcement across the bloc
Keeping an eye on firms will be a duty split between the commission, with its team of more than 120 experts, and EU states.
As an example of their new obligations, platforms that offer shopping services must act swiftly to stop the sale of counterfeit products and block repeat fraudsters.
The EU also prohibits targeted advertising for children and seeks to make it easier for users to report illegal content, complain and seek compensation for rule breaches.
The commission will supervise the largest platforms but states will need to set up "digital services coordinators" to monitor the smaller firms.
Firms with fewer than 50 staff and a turnover of less than 10 million euros ($10.8 million) will be exempted from the most burdensome rules.
Challenges
The law entered into force in August for "very large" platforms owned by Google's Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, TikTok parent ByteDance, Facebook owner Meta and Microsoft.
The EU believes these platforms must do more since their size and reach means they have greater responsibilities to address the higher risks to users.
The 22 platforms facing more stringent rules include booking.com, Google Search, Instagram, Snapchat and X as well as three major porn platforms.
They are obliged to be more transparent, giving access to researchers to scrutinize the platforms as well as publishing yearly risk assessments at their own cost.
The new law has already seen its share of controversy.
The DSA has faced a slew of legal challenges from Amazon and Zalando over their designations as "very large" firms, and from Meta and TikTok over a fee to pay for enforcement.
Meta paid around 11 million euros while TikTok refused to say how much it paid.