Posts tagged with "Google"

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a Wing ‘air carrier,’ now approved by the FAA

April 25, 2019

Logistics has gone upwardly mobile: The Federal Aviation Administration has certified Wing—a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Mountain View, California-based Google—to operate as an airline, in a first for U.S. drone delivery companies, Wing reported on Medium on April 23.

Wing, which began as a Google X project, has been testing its autonomous drones in southwest Virginia and elsewhere.Now, it plans on launching its package-delivery service within months out of a Blacksburg, Virginia, work site.

“This is an important step for the FAA and the drone industry in the United States; the result of years of work to safely integrate drones into the national airspace,” the company said. We’re grateful for the vision of the administration, the Department of Transportation, and the FAA for creating the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (UAS IPP) to advance the drone industry in the United States.”

“This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy. Safety continues to be our Number One priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential,” said Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

Company executives said they plan to expand to other parts of Virginia and around the nation, although the timeline for that remains unclear, The Washington Post reported. Uber, UPS and other companies also are working on securing related approvals from federal officials, who have been pushing to expand drone use—even as concerns about security and privacy remain.

Wing executives said they’ll ask residents and businesses in southwestern Virginia what they want delivered, as they have in Australia, where the company received permission to expand operations. Over-the-counter medicines and food are in the mix.

“In the short term, you look at what people do every day, especially people with really busy schedules or parents with young children who have a lot of demands on their time,” Wing CEO James Ryan Burgess told the Post. “Getting what you need late at night or “a healthy meal delivered, hot and fresh, in just a few minutes, can make a pretty transformative impact in quality of life,” he said.

As for how neighbors’ quality of life might be affected by buzzing next-door deliveries, the company said its drones “are quieter than a range of noises you would experience in a suburb, but they make a unique sound that people are unlikely to be familiar with.” Wing said it is working to develop “new, quieter and lower-pitched propellers.”

Wing also has emphasized the importance of community feedback and cooperation with local authorities, the DC-based news outlet said. Before launching Wing’s commercial service in Blacksburg, home of Virginia Tech, and neighboring Christiansburg later this year, Burgess said, company executives are planning surveys and other outreach, including decidedly analog efforts such as “putting fliers in peoples’ mailboxes and even door-knocking and holding town hall meetings,” Burgess said.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Home free: Amazon sends gratis samples to its most gung-ho shoppers

January 9, 2019

Axios reported on January 8 that online retail giant Amazon has a “stealth pilot” in progress—testing whether consumer brands such as Maybelline and Folgers can pique consumer interest by sending out free samples.

The brands pay Amazon to ship out their complimentary goodies, based on what the popular website already knows its frequent customers are most likely to buy.

Everyone likes a freebie—and by using samples as “targeted ads,” Amazon is playing on its major strength as a trusted delivery service of everyday goods, Axios said. What’s more, this is a new gambit that Amazon is betting its biggest competitors—Google and Facebook— cannot duplicate.

Indeed, the Seattle-based tech giant has the purchasing data and logistics infrastructure to offer samples of actual products, whereas Facebook and Google currently can only offer display ads or search ads, respectively, for certain kinds of consumer packaged goods brands.

To date, Amazon, itself, has made most of its roughly $5 billion in ad revenue through its own display ads. But the company now says that marrying old-school samples with its customer data will provide brands “a higher likelihood of conversion than display ads,” according to a summer job posting.

With 100 million subscribers to its Prime services alone, Amazon certainly has the numbers and the established long-term relationships with customers who purchase goods regularly, to make this strategy work, Axios pointed out.

“Having this huge installed base of users, or really Prime subscribers, and putting something in the box that people will have a high proclivity for liking — that seems like a brilliant Amazon strategy,” Rich Greenfield, a managing director and media analyst at BTIG Research, told the news outlet.

Samples of new products are sent to customers selected using machine learning based on Amazon’s data about consumer habits, according to recent job postings and details listed on its site.

Right now, Amazon is keeping the pilot project under wraps among its other advertisers, but its legal terms for advertisers include details about how its sample program functions. “No later than the date specified by Amazon, Advertiser will deliver to Amazon at the location(s) designated by Amazon and at Advertiser’s expense, all Samples to be delivered or distributed by Amazon,” the terms say.

Most analysts are bullish on the program, Axios reports. However, there could be privacy concerns.

“Amazon sent me a random coffee sample!” said one Twitter user in August. “Is it because I have like 15 [different] types of coffee in my cart?” A package pictured in the tweet included both Amazon and Folgers branding, and a link to a website devoted to the new coffee offering.

On its website, Amazon promises that privacy conscious consumers will have the option to opt out. But will confidentiality win out over avid consumption? Stay tuned.

Research contact: @rebeccazisser

Way to go: Waymo debuts commercial ride-share service

December 6, 2018

After months of testing and millions of miles developing self-driving vehicle technology, Waymo—a subsidiary of Alphabet that originated as a Google project in 2009—has officially launched the country’s first commercial autonomous ride-share service, CNBC reported on December 5.

Based in Mountain View, California (like Google), Waymo stands for “a new way forward in mobility.” Since testing began, the company’s fleet of self-driving vehicles has included modified Toyota Priuses, Lexus SUVs, a custom-built prototype vehicle (named “Firefly”), and now, fully self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. In addition, Waymo has partnered with Jaguar to create the world’s first premium electric self-driving car—the Jaguar I-Pace.

The company’s Waymo One program gives riders access to an app that they can use on their smart phones to call its self-driving vehicles, 24/7. Initially, the service will be limited to cities surrounding Phoenix, including Tempe, Mesa, and Chandler, CNBC said. Customers in the Phoenix area include hundreds of people who have been test users of the Waymo self-driving vehicle fleet that has been in development since April 2017.

“Self-driving technology is new to many, so we’re proceeding carefully with the comfort and convenience of our riders in mind,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik told CNBC. One example of Waymo taking a cautious approach rolling out its ride-share service is the company’s use of safety drivers to supervise the rides, at least initially

“For now,” the company says on its website, “Waymo-trained drivers are in the cars to make sure our riders have a great experience and serve as a backup only.” In addition, the company’s app and consoles in the Waymo One vehicles will allow riders to instantly connect with support agents who can assist riders with questions.

Alphabet‘s Waymo One marks the start of the race by automakers, tech companies and other firms to launch autonomous ride-share services, CNBC notes. General Motors subsidiary Cruise plans to launch a similar service using self-driving vehicles next year.

What’s driving the competition? The pursuit of greater profits. Studies of have shown the biggest cost for ride-share operations is the expense of paying a driver. General Motors estimates it costs ride -share companies more than $3 per mile in San Francisco. However, GM believes that cost could drop to roughly $1 per mile by 2025 with driverless vehicles in ride-share fleets.

According to CNBC, Waymo has said it expects the cost to consumers for using Waymo One to be competitive with Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing services.

Research contact:  @Lebeaucarnews

All in the family? DNA doesn’t determine longevity

November 15, 2018

If most people in your family live to a ripe old age, that might just be luck or coincidence. Findings of a study of the family trees of more than 400 million people indicate that the heritability of life span is well below past estimates.

Indeed, the research—conducted by Calico Life Sciences in cooperation with AncestryDNA—has determined that previous investigations into the role of genetics in longevity have failed to account for our tendency to select partners with similar traits to our own.

The new findings have been published in the November edition of Genetics, a journal of the Genetics Society of America.

“We can potentially learn many things about the biology of aging from human genetics, but if the heritability of life span is low, it tempers our expectations about what types of things we can learn and how easy it will be,” says lead author Graham Ruby of San Francisco-based Calico—a Google-funded research and development company that uses advanced technologies to further understand  the biology that controls lifespan.

Heritability is a measure of how much of the variation in a trait—in this case, life span—can be explained by genetic differences, as opposed to non-genetic differences such as lifestyle, sociocultural factors, and accidents. Previous estimates of human life span heritability have ranged from around 15% to 30%.

Starting from 54 million subscriber-generated public family trees representing 6 billion ancestors, Ancestry removed redundant entries and those from people who were still living, stitching the remaining pedigrees together. Before sharing the data with the Calico research team, Ancestry stripped away all identifiable information from the pedigrees, leaving only the year of birth, year of death, place of birth (to the resolution of state within the US and country outside the US), and familial connections that make up the tree structure itself.

They ended up with a set of pedigrees that included over 400 million people—largely Americans of European descent—each connected to another by either a parent-child or a spouse-spouse relationship. The team was then able to estimate heritability from the tree by examining the similarity of life span between relatives.

Using an approach that combines mathematical and statistical modeling, the researchers focused on relatives who were born across the 19th and early 20th centuries, finding heritability estimates for siblings and first cousins to be roughly the same as previously reported. But, as was also observed in some of the previous studies, they noted that the life span of spouses tended to be correlated: They were more similar, in fact, than in siblings of opposite gender.

This correlation between spouses could be due to the many non-genetic factors that accompany living in the same household—their shared environment. But the story really started to take shape when the authors compared different types of in-laws, some with quite remote relationships.

The first hint that something more than either genetics or shared environment might be at work was the finding that siblings-in-law and first-cousins-in-law had correlated life spans—despite not being blood relatives and not generally sharing households.

The size of their data set allowed the team to zoom in on longevity correlations for other more remote relationship types, including aunts and uncles-in-law, first cousins-once-removed-in-law, and different configurations of co-siblings-in-law. The finding that a person’s sibling’s spouse’s sibling or their spouse’s sibling’s spouse had a similar life span to their own made it clear that something else was at play.

If they don’t share genetic backgrounds and they don’t share households, what best accounts for the similarity in life span between individuals with these relationship types? Going back to their impressive data set, the researchers were able to perform analyses that detected assortative mating.

“What assortative mating means here is that the factors that are important for life span tend to be very similar between mates,” says Ruby. In other words, people tend to select partners with traits like their own—in this case, how long they live.

Of course, you can’t easily guess the longevity of a potential mate. “Generally, people get married before either one of them has died,” jokes Ruby. Because you can’t tell someone’s life span in advance, assortative mating in humans must be based on other characteristics.

The basis of this mate choice could be genetic or sociocultural—or both. For a non-genetic example, if income influences life span, and wealthy people tend to marry other wealthy people, that would lead to correlated longevity. The same would occur for traits more controlled by genetics: If, for example, tall people prefer tall spouses, and height is correlated in some way with how long you live, this would also inflate estimates of life span heritability.

By correcting for these effects of assortative mating, the new analysis found life span heritability is likely no more than 7 percent, perhaps even lower.

The upshot? Choose your mate wisely. How long you live has less to do with your genes than you might think.

Research contact:graham@calicolabs.com

Beauty shoppers spend 80% of ‘purchase experience’ looking at ads, articles, social media

July 17, 2018

A relatively self-serving study sponsored by Condé Nast—publisher of such magazines as Allure, Glamour, Self, Vogue, and W—has found that, in the beauty category, consumers spend 80% of their time in the “pre-search” or “influence” phase of shopping, with a spate of publications, social media, advertising, and celebrities affecting their final purchases.

The study, fielded by the research firm Tapestry and posted on Retail Dive on July 16, found that, similarly, fashion consumers spend 69% of their time in the pre-search stage and are most motivated by advertising; as compared to tech consumers, 65% of whom are influenced by ads “outside of their buying needs.”

Interestingly enough, both beauty and fashion buyers say a couple of brands are “top of mind”—even before they start looking. Fully 79% of respondents admitted they had brands in mind before their search—and 69% pay more attention to ads from sources they know and trust. In fact, more than half of shoppers (52%) spend their full decision time deciding between just two brands.

The outliers? Fifty-three percent of fashion consumers and 64% of 13- to 17-year-old shoppers purchase the brand they first considered.

With influential beauty and fashion publications in its inventory, Condé Nast found that its brands have three times more influence on consumer decisions than Google and Facebook, with three in four respondents saying they trust Condé Nast brands to recommend products. More than 90% trusted Glamour, GQ and Vogue for fashion recommendations; as well Glamour and Allure for cosmetics. Indeed, Consumers were 50% more likely to list a Condé Nast brand in the pre-search phase and think more highly of brands that advertise with Condé Nast, compared to Google and Facebook. Specifically, Condé Nast is 26% more likely to drive purchase intent than tech giants Facebook and Google, based on the study findings.

Other research has revealed that social media plays a major role in driving purchases, especially among younger consumers. A Yes Lifecycle Marketing report released last year found that 57% of consumers across different generations say social media influences their shopping decisions; while 80% of Gen-Zers and 74% of Millennials said social channels influence their shopping. Instagram was a key driver of fashion, beauty and style-focused purchase for 72%, a 2017 Dana Rebecca Designs survey found.

Research contact: @CondeNast