Mario invades Google Maps to help you avoid bananas while driving

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Google is celebrating Mario Day (March 10th, MAR10) in style this year. Nintendo and Google have partnered up to bring Mario to Google Maps on iOS or Android. Mario Time, as Google calls it, will be available in the latest Google Maps mobile apps starting today. A new yellow “?” icon will appear next to destinations, which will enable Mario to become the navigation arrow in his kart and accompany you along your commute.

There won’t be any red shell throwing or bananas along the route, so if you’re leading the pack then you don’t need to worry about a surprise spiny shell at all. Mario will be available as a simple position marker across Google Maps worldwide for a week. There’s even a hidden Easter egg: if you tap the “?” icon 100 times…

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AI’s Role in Driving the Sales Experience

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Much has been made of AI’s role in serving customers, and AI-supported smart devices have invaded homes everywhere — Amazon’s Alexa was even used to order millions more Alexas as Christmas presents in 2017. Artificial intelligence is embedding itself in our technology-obsessed culture, but not every industry has taken advantage of AI’s utility.

Adam Honig and his co-founders at Spiro saw an opening to use AI to drive the sales experience. Businesses utilize CRMs to compile and track the data needed to support ongoing sales efforts and pinpoint new sales opportunities. But Honig, the CEO of Spiro, says that many companies aren’t getting the data they need from these platforms — they aren’t used correctly, fully, or consistently, meaning the information these sales teams are working from is skewed.

Spiro is an AI-driven CRM, complete with a conversational email interface, or an email bot, that utilizes existing data — from salespeople’s calendars, emails, and more — to lay out a schedule or to-do list for a salesperson and anticipate next moves. The AI function can process existing information more quickly than humans poring over spreadsheets can, empowering the CRM to predict how many follow-ups it may take — and what format will be most effective — to close a deal.

But that’s not where Spiro sees AI’s intersection with the sales experience ending.

How a People-Driven Industry Benefits From AI

It’s well-known that AI can process data better than humans can — a Massachusetts Institute of Technology startup’s software developed stronger predictive models than the majority of its human competitors did, and some predict that AI will be better than us at everything by 2060. But even then, there are limits: Eleni Vasilaki of the University of Sheffield says there’s “little evidence that AI with human-like versatility will appear any time soon.”

That’s what confounds many: How could an industry fueled by personal relationships, charisma, and camaraderie be driven by AI? Sales is surely a people-driven arena, but it’s already focused on tracking metrics and moving the needle by predicting human behavior. Honig and his co-founders realized, through their CRM work with more than 3,000 companies, that the problem lies in the data being gathered.

“To say that salespeople hate CRM is an understatement; most consider it a soul-sucking beast of burden that doesn’t add any value to their sales life,” Honig says. “We knew that salespeople desperately needed a CRM that would help them make more money, not give them more work. When I saw the movie ‘Her,’ I realized that the new AI technologies that were emerging would be perfect to automate non-sales tasks so they could focus on selling.”

Is This the End of Sales as We Know It?

Beyond increasing productivity and efficiency, automation can relieve salespeople from manual tasks, freeing them up for more high-level strategic efforts. Though many predict that AI will lead to mass unemployment as human beings are relieved of their duties, AI is designed to elevate the skill sets needed in each industry so complex, nuanced problems with big implications are solved by humans who will have to absorb those outcomes.

That’s why Honig believes AI will augment, not replace, salespeople. “In some ways, AI is already replacing salespeople at a fast pace,” he says. “’s AI algorithms make specific purchase recommendations and provide a high level of service that’s hard for retail salespeople to match.”

What that means is that to compete, salespeople selling to businesses have to be prepared to embrace solutions that make them more effective with customers. “In practice, this means using AI solutions to do things that technology can do better, like entering data, and let them focus on the things that people do better, like building rapport and really understanding the needs of a customer,” Honig explains.

The Productive Path Forward

The biggest benefit AI may offer to the sales process is its data-gathering capabilities. Whereas some salespeople operate from instinct or their “gut feeling” about a customer and his needs, sales is often now held to the same standard and expectation of ROI as most marketers and advertisers. Without numbers, it’s hard to maintain a budget, commission, or even a permanent position.

Despite this need for hard data, many sales departments track information haphazardly, failing to record final contract numbers in a database or neglecting to indicate how many touchpoints a lead went through before finding his way to the bottom of the sales funnel. That lack of information may not impact that specific sales process, but it can alter an entire team’s goals and predictions. AI-driven platforms like Spiro can grab the data where it’s buried and build their own reports, adding a layer of analysis and interpretation for human reviewers. Honig says Spiro’s reports have been shown to contain eight times more data than regular CRM reports, underscoring the power of AI.

The other side of AI’s productivity can be seen in its ability to look at an overview of a person’s behavior, add context, and predict future actions. “Imagine if your CRM could advise you who you should call and follow up with to drive all your leads and deals forward,” Honig says. “That’s what we do. Spiro uses a machine learning algorithm that was trained by more than 15,000 salespeople to identify the best times for follow-up, the best email templates to be used, and the best contacts to focus on.”

Thanks to these insights, Spiro’s customers have indicated they reach up to 47 percent more prospects each week. A big factor in reaching more customers is having the AI predict which prospects won’t close so salespeople can focus on others. Human hope makes it hard for sales professionals to shut down a potential source of income when they can’t see where the road ends.

“Artificial intelligence will do more and more for salespeople,” Honig says. “Beyond advising them who to call and follow up with, it will automatically identify similar prospects and suggest that salespeople call them. It will listen in on sales calls and provide real-time feedback to help make the pitch even better. It will learn from emails, calendar appointments, and phone calls to craft specific proposals based on what’s already happened.”

In other words, Honig predicts AI will become salespeople’s constant companion, designed to help them make more money. Sales may be a people-driven industry, but AI is on a path to ensure it values data as much as instincts.

The post AI’s Role in Driving the Sales Experience appeared first on ReadWrite.


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Driving for Uber or Lyft Is Awful, New Study Shows

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If you are driving for Uber or Lyft, you aren’t going to make any money. In fact, you may actually be paying for the privilege of working at a ridesharing company. According to a study published by MIT, the median profit for drivers is an abysmal $ 3.37 an hour, and that’s before taxes. Ultimately, 74 percent of drivers earn less than minimum wage and, once vehicle expenses are taken into account, 30 percent actually lose money every mile they drive.

We’re just getting started.

The researcher also found that, in the U.S., an overwhelming majority of profits made while driving for Uber and Lyft aren’t taxed. For each mile driven, drivers incur about $ 0.30 in costs; however, they are able to claim a Standard Mileage Deduction of $ 0.54 per a mile on their taxes — a difference that amounts to billions of dollars in untaxed income.

So the drivers aren’t the only ones paying the price. We all are.

The Future of Transport: 24 Astounding Facts About Uber
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In an interview with The Guardian, an Uber spokesperson stated that the paper is little more than sensationalism, calling the methodology and findings “deeply flawed.” Yet, MIT isn’t exactly known for being a sensationalist publication.

In any case, the research paints a dark picture of the revolutionary ridesharing industry; however, it’s far from the first time the ride-hailing apps have faced censure. In September of last year, London decided not to renew Uber’s license to operate in the city, citing lacking corporate responsibility as one of the primary determinants.

Yet, the study is significant in that it highlights serious and untenable flaws in the gig economy model — a model that is fast creating a financial culture in which most people can’t survive. Mark Tluszcz, co-founder and CEO of Mangrove Capital Partners, succinctly summed the problem in an interview with TechCrunch: “We’re creating the next lost generation of people who simply don’t have enough money to live, and those companies are fundamentally enabling it under the premise that they’re offering a cheaper service to consumers.”

The problem stems from the fact that current policies weren’t written under a gig economy model, so platforms like Uber and Lyft are able to exploit loopholes in policy and avoid regulations that traditional companies must abide by. Studies like this highlight the reality that, for many, a secure financial future may depend on immediate updates to employment law.

The post Driving for Uber or Lyft Is Awful, New Study Shows appeared first on Futurism.


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After five million miles of autonomous driving, Alphabet’s Waymo wants to get consumers comfortable with self-driving

The company put out a new video that shows consumers what its self-driving cars see.

Two years ago — and some of 2017 — the self-driving space was in the midst of a period of consolidation, as automakers scrambled to get ahold of the tech companies building out the driverless software.

Last year, automakers regained some of the upper hand, as tech companies sought out manufacturing partners and as more driverless tests began popping up on public roads.

This year, self-driving companies will focus on gaining rider trust as they ramp up to launch their commercial ride-hail services.

In a new video, Alphabet’s self-driving arm, Waymo, is taking potential passengers inside its driverless Chrysler Pacifica vans and giving them a 360-degree view of what the car sees, as well as how it works.

GIF from Waymo’s YouTube video showing the perspective of the self-driving car Waymo YouTube

It’s no secret that Waymo has made considerable progress since its 2009 inception. Nine years later, the company has driven five million miles in autonomous mode — the last million of which Waymo achieved in just three months. It’s a considerable feat for a company that took six years to drive the first million miles.

While the company, which is already operating a fully driverless service in a small part of Phoenix, Ariz., is working out the technical side of operating self-driving cars, it has also been focusing on educating consumers on how it works — a logical step as Waymo prepares to expand its pilot and begin operating a ride-hail service.

We’ve already seen a glimpse of initial attempts from other companies to garner consumer trust with, for instance, Intel’s recent self-driving commercial starring LeBron James and Uber’s educational campaign aimed at humanizing the experience of both building the cars and riding in them.

For Waymo, this is the third in a series of steps to gain the trust of the public. The first was to start a public education campaign in partnership with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other organizations in response to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s call to companies to step up and raise awareness about the technology.

In addition to these public-awareness campaigns, companies like Waymo and Uber have also worked on gaining riders’ trust by showing what self-driving cars see on screens inside the vehicle.

Watch the full video video below:

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Octo Telematics evaluates 186 billion miles of IoT driving data

Akamai launches intelligent platform for IoT

Cloudera machine learning platform used to crunch IoT data from millions of connected cars.

Octo Telematics says it has analysed 186 billion miles of driving data from connected cars and used a cloud-based machine learning and analytics platform to predict and model driver risk from the data.

The firm used the cloud platform from Cloudera to gain insights for over 100 insurance companies around the world. Octo Telematics’ platform, built on Cloudera Enterprise, aggregates over 11 billion new data points daily from 5.4 million connected cars and sensors.

The company said that every relevant type of contextual, driving, behavioural, and crash data is used to forecast individual driving habits, improve crash notifications and responses, evaluate crash dynamics, and detect fraud.

20 million miles of road

By running data between cloud and on-premise environments via Cloudera Enterprise, Octo Telematics is able to store, process, and analyse data that reflects over 20 million miles of driving per minute, it said. The captured data includes a range of telematics insights, including location, acceleration, braking, idling, collisions, and cornering.

The processed data is then made available to analytics algorithms that revolve around driver risk-scoring and modelling, pricing, accident reconstruction, claims management, crash analysis, driver behaviour, and vehicle health.

Octo Telematics said that by building machine learning models on this massive and constantly updated data set, it can formulate more accurate predictions and risk models for individual drivers. Plus, modellers can test new ideas and techniques two times faster, refining them on the fly to produce innovative products and services – using data volumes that have never been possible before.

“Octo Telematics needed the flexibility, agility, and scale to run its machine learning risk models and predictive applications, both in the cloud and on premise, to meet service-level and economic goals,” said Dave Shuman, IoT and manufacturing industry leader at Cloudera.

“Using Cloudera Enterprise to replace a bespoke data platform, Octo has been able to increase its capabilities to scale with the explosion of data volumes and analytic workloads. With Cloudera, they have been able to transform the automotive insurance industry, and these capabilities translate into better outcomes for consumers and underwriters.”

Internet of Business says

Fast forward to a world of autonomous vehicles, fleets, and driverless cars and it stands to reason that a smart, connected vehicle won’t just update itself every day with data about how it has been used, but also with the data about how every other vehicle like it has been used worldwide. The long-term implications of that global data stream could be extraordinary in terms of making travel faster, safer, more efficient, and more sustainable.

Read more: #MWC18: New partners rev up for SAP Vehicles Network

Read more: Analysis: Why Uber and Waymo parked their self-drive dispute

The post Octo Telematics evaluates 186 billion miles of IoT driving data appeared first on Internet of Business.

Internet of Business

Please don’t use your phone at all while driving

It Can Wait

I don’t see a lot of the initiative anymore, but there was a while there, at least a couple of years ago or so, where there seemed to be a concerted effort to get people to stop using their phones while they were driving. I saw commercials all the time, and hashtags all over social network.

I’m not saying that the movement has stopped entirely. At least, I hope it hasn’t. Just that I don’t see a lot of the material anymore. For what felt like a really long time I was seeing “#itcanwait” all over the place, but not so much anymore.

I did see a sticker that said the same thing once, though, on the back of a car. That should count for extra points.

Not texting and driving is one of those situations that I feel should be a no-brainer. But you and I both know it isn’t. Any time I go out I see someone on their phone. It happens a lot when people are stopped, waiting for a light to change or something, but I see it enough when cars are in motion that it’s genuinely disheartening.

I’m not going to tell you that I’ve never done it, because that would be deliberately untruthful. Over the years, a notification has typically been enough to grab my attention and I’ve taken a look while driving. But I was young then. Young and stupid. And as I’ve grown older, I have realized that it’s just not worth it. Whatever’s there on the phone will still be there whenever I get to where I’m going. And if I think it might be important, there is usually a way to find somewhere to park and check.

Ignoring my phone while I’m in the car has gotten easier thanks to a a couple of different things. First, I just keep it in my pocket. Out of sight is out of mind, especially hen it’s paired with the second thing: Do Not Disturb While Driving, one of the newer features Apple introduced into iOS. It turns on when I start driving (as the phone’s connected via Bluetooth), and at that point no alerts or notifications will show up or make a sound while I’m driving.

Calls still come through, though.

Keeping the phone out of sight and the notifications disabled helps a great deal.

But, even then, I think it goes beyond those things. I don’t agree with folks who want to use their phone at any point in time if they are behind the wheel of their vehicle. We can get sucked into whatever we’re looking at, which means we can be quick to react to something that catches our attention in the periphery. That can lead to some stupid mistakes.

I bring all of this up because I had an accident today (the day I’m writing this). It was minor and I’m fine, as is the driver of the other vehicle. Cars are fine, too. But the 20-something kid was on his phone, stopped behind me, while we were waiting for a red light to change. Meanwhile, the lanes on his left were turn lanes, and they were allowed to go first.

So he was on his phone, looking at whatever he was looking at (I caught sight of him in my rearview mirror just a few moments before the accident), and then when the cars on his left started going he thought his lane was moving, too. He hit the gas and ran right into me.

When we pulled over and had the obligatory chat, he told me that he was sorry, that he was in a hurry because he was late for work, and he saw the cars moving so he went for it. He didn’t bring up the phone. Before we parted ways, I told him that he should probably keep his phone in his pocket. He looked embarrassed, which I can understand, and then said he would.

He immediately ran a red light to turn right back onto the street we were on, so I just assume he won’t heed my advice.

Consider this my public service announcement. A plea, even. Please don’t use your phone while you’re behind the wheel of your car. Not even when you’re stopped at a light. It’s not just your life that could be changed forever because you were distracted, but anyone around you in that moment. It’s not worth it, and, yeah, it can wait. So, please. Wait. – Latest videos, reviews, articles, news and posts

Google Maps for iOS picks up Explore, Driving & Transit tabs

Google said yesterday that the most recent update to its mapping and navigation app on App Store has brought three new tabs—Explore, Driving and Transit—that Android customers have had for more than a year…. Read the rest of this post here

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Google say pets are driving car searches

Car companies might want to spend more time thinking about building features for dogs and cats into their new vehicles: dog hammocks and other pet-friendly accessories are among the top searches consumers make for their vehicles in the US, according to findings released today in Google’s 2018 Auto Trends Report.

“When it comes to the US, pets are a huge market: Starbucks is offering “Puppuccinos.” There’s farm-to-table pet food,” says Yarden Horwitz, the trendspotting lead for Google in an interview with The Verge. “Consumers are also going to figure out how to enhance the driving experience for the pet who is their newest family member. Millennials are thinking of pets as their family members, so they are going to rethink how a car is…

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Ride along with the dummy driving Elon Musk’s Tesla to Mars

Mere minutes after successfully launching the Falcon Heavy rocket on the first try, SpaceX is now live streaming footage from Tesla Roadster it released into space. Now we know what CEO Elon Musk meant yesterday when he teased that there would be “epic views” if the launch went well.

The Roadster is still attached to the Falcon Heavy’s upper stage, which is currently an hour or so into what is supposed to be a six-hour “coast” through the Van Allen radiation belts. If the upper stage’s systems survive being bombarded with all that radiation, then it will fire one last time, pushing the Tesla out towards its elliptical orbit around Mars.

The stream is currently oscillating between the three cameras mounted to the car and the data feed…

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A UK Project Wants to Make Autonomous Driving More Human

Autonomous Driving

Researchers at the University of Leeds in the U.K are aiming to make autonomous driving more human. A 30-month-long event, known as the “HumanDrive” project, will conclude with the most challenging journey ever attempted across the U.K. by vehicles without any driver control.

This collaborative effort, which includes Nissan’s European Technical Centre, is to ensure that autonomous driving technologies are able to handle the often unexpected, human scenarios they will be presented with real-world circumstances. The hope is to more seamlessly integrate autonomous vehicles into our society, said Natasha Merat, the principal investigator for the project research that is based at the Institute for Transport Studies at Leeds.

The HumanDrive Project aims to make autonomous driving more human. Image Credit: Transport Systems Catapult
The HumanDrive Project aims to make autonomous driving more human. Image Credit: Transport Systems Catapult

“The project aim is for the HumanDrive car to travel in a way that would appear human to the outside world, navigating through all road types and driving conditions,” Merat said in a press release. “Our algorithm development is trying to achieve this along with an understanding of what people want from an automated driving experience.”

Driverless Ambitions

This test mission will be a 320 km (200-mile) long course. which will be attempted in December 2019. Perhaps the autonomous technologies that are being developed will allow the HumanDrive car to truly capture human driving behaviors (minus those that cause accidents and increase risk) by the official launch date.

The Technologies That Power Self-Driving Cars [INFOGRAPHIC]
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This project is emerging as self-driving cars are becoming more and more ubiquitous. Autonomous vehicles are being tested on the streets, sent out in fleets, and expanded to include both smaller sedans and minivans.

As greater numbers of people take advantage of self-driving cars, technologies like the ones being investigated by HumanDrive could go a long way towards smoothing society’s transition to this new age of transportation.

“This pioneering project will considerably enhance the experience of drivers who use future autonomous vehicles,” Mark Westwood, Transport Systems Catapult Chief Technology Officer, said in the press release. “We’ve only just scratched the surface in terms of the capability of machine learning and AI in driving.”

The post A UK Project Wants to Make Autonomous Driving More Human appeared first on Futurism.