A leaked look at Facebook’s search engine for influencer marketing

Facebook’s next money-maker could be this tool for connecting marketers to social media creators so they can team up on sponsored-content Facebook ad campaigns. The Branded Content Matching search engine lets advertisers select the biographical characteristics of creators’ fans they want to reach, see stats about these audiences, and contact them to hammer out deals.

Leaked screenshots of Facebook’s promotional materials for the tool were first attained and published in German by AllFacebook.de. TechCrunch has now confirmed with Facebook the existence of the test of the search engine. Facebook first vaguely noted it would build a creator-brand tool in March, but now we know what it looks like and exactly how it works.

Even though Facebook will not actually broker or initially take a cut of the deals, the tool could equip brands with much more compelling and original marketing content. That could in turn encourage them to spend more on Facebook ads to spread that content, while also making more entertaining and tolerable the ads users see so they spend longer on the social network. By getting creators paid, even if not directly by Facebook, they’ll invest more in the quality of their content and size of their following on the app instead of with competitors.

How Facebook’s influencer marketing search engine works

A Facebook spokesperson explained the motive behind the tool like this. Facebook wants to help businesses find creators who can reach their target audience in an authentic way, while allowing creators a path to monetizing their Facebook content and fan base. Creators opt in to participating in the test and set up a portfolio showcasing their audience size and metrics plus their best branded content. Facebook is starting the program primarily with a set of lifestyle brands and creators.

Advertisers in the test can search for creators with specific audience demographics using a wide range of targeting options. Those include both general and industry-specific parameters, like:

  • Top countries where they’re popular
  • Interests
  • Gender
  • Education history
  • Relationship status
  • Life events
  • Home ownership status
  • Home type

The search engine’s results page shows a list of creators with each’s audience match percentage to the search terms, percentage of their followers they reach, engagement rate, follower count and video views. Advertisers can save their best matches to private lists, and reach out to contact the creators, though Facebook is still figuring out if it’s best to connect them through their Facebook Page or traditional contact info. One question is how Facebook will ensure it’s only connecting businesses to brand-safe creators who won’t get them in trouble by posting racist, sexist or objectionable content the way star YouTuber PewDiePie did.

The deals for product placement or sponsored content creation and sharing are then worked out between the brand and creator without Facebook’s involvement. The platform is not taking any revenue cut during the testing phase, but longer-term will evaluate whether it should. The only thing Facebook doesn’t allow is pure re-sharing deals where influencers are paid to just post the brand’s pre-made content they didn’t help create.

The crowdsourced future of advertising

Foreshadowed in the launch of its dedicated Facebook Creator app in November, this is the company’s first serious foray into influencer marketing. This emerging industry holds the potential to overhaul the way advertising content is produced. In days of old, brands couldn’t target very narrow segments of their customers because they were using broadcast mediums like TV commercials, magazine ads and billboards, or endorsements from mainstream celebrities like movie actors. They might only make a few separate styles of marketing campaigns that would appeal to wide swaths of their target audience.

With the internet and targeting data-rich social networks like Facebook, they can reach extremely specific subsets of their customers with marketing messages tuned to their identity. But reaching these niche audiences with corporate content that feels authentic rather than fake and smarmy is difficult. That’s where social media creators come in. Not only do they have a pre-existing and intimate relationship with their fans who’ll take their endorsements to heart, they’ve also already spent years figuring out exactly what type of content appeals to these specific people. When they team up with brands, the businesses get their products recontextualized and interpreted for that audience with content they could never come up with themselves.

Twitter realized this early, which is why it acquired creator-brand deal broker Niche for a reported $50 million back in 2015. [Disclosure: I got fascinated with this industry because my cousin Darren Lachtman is one of the co-founders of Niche.] But now as Facebook seeks to attract influencers and their audiences to its social network, it’s trying to find ways to get them paid. Otherwise, they’re likely to stray to YouTube’s ad revenue shares and Patreon’s subscription payments. So far Facebook has tested tipping and subscriptions from fans, as well as letting creators host ad breaks — essentially commercials — during their videos. But brands want the creators’ help designing the content, not just distributing it.

But what about Instagram and YouTube influencers?

The Branded Content Matching search engine will help brands find those creators… but only on Facebook for now. The tool doesn’t pull in their audience sizes and metrics from other important platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat or Twitch. Brands don’t get a holistic view of the value and reach of a creator, who might be way more popular on another platform than Facebook.

And really, Instagram is where all these influencers spend their time and share their content. Though Facebook owns it, it says it’s not showing Instagram influencers in the tool at the moment. Adding them in, the same way advertisers can push ads to Facebook and Instagram from one interface, would make the search engine much more powerful.

There’s already a whole industry of independent creator search engines and databases for marketers like Hypr, Whalar, Fohr Card, Tap Influence and Creator IQ. If Facebook built one with first-party data from across its properties, or even pulled stats from competing platforms, it might squash these startups. Alternatively, it might buy one to ramp up its efforts here like how Twitter bought Niche.

Facebook is running out of ad inventory in the News Feed. It needs to make each ad better and more watchable so it can grow revenue by charging more per ads rather than selling more ads. Meanwhile, yesterday it started testing ads in Facebook Stories, where brands will need help navigating the more personal, vertical video format. Awesome content made by creators could be the answer. And Facebook could finally start helping more of these artists, comedians and storytellers turn their passion into a profession.

Fortnite is finally coming to Android this summer

Fortnite is finally coming to Android…in a matter of months. After dominating the iOS gaming charts since March, the wildly popular sandbox survival game will be hitting the world’s top mobile operating system at some point this summer.

Creator Epic Games buried the news in the middle of a larger blog post titled, “The State of Mobile,” noting, vaguely, “We know many of you are excited for this release, and we promise that when we have more information to share, you’ll hear it from us first.”

That news comes amid a flurry of other Fortnite-related announcements this week. Earlier this morning, Epic unveiled a Battle Royale competition with a large in-game cash prize. This morning, the company also laid out plans to bring voice chat and improved gameplay and controls to the mobile side of things. Stats are coming to mobile, as well, along with a reduced install size.

Not that any of those issues have hampered the game’s success, of course. Earlier this year, the game was reportedly bringing in $126 million in monthly revenue — even before it arrived on iOS. With its imminent release on Android, that number’s likely to get a whole lot larger. 

Uber’s chief product officer is out

Uber Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden, who oversaw Uber Elevate, has left the company, Recode first reported. His last day was yesterday, TechCrunch confirmed.

On a day-to-day level, Holden was not that heavily involved. Manik Gupta, for example, is in charge of product, maps and marketplace at the VP level. There was also Uber Head of Product Daniel Graf, who left the company in March but was quickly replaced by former Amazon Alexa shopping lead Assaf Ronen.

Holden, instead, was more of a big-picture kind of executive, which entailed him taking ownership over Uber Elevate. Under his leadership, Uber brought on the CEO of flying taxi startup Zee Aero, Eric Allison.

Eric Allison at Uber Elevate in May 2018. (Photo by MRD)

“As demonstrated by last week’s Uber Elevate Summit, we’re incredibly bullish on the future of aerial ridesharing,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “Under the leadership of Eric Allison, the Elevate team is set up for success and will continue to chart the course for this growing industry.”

But it’s worth pointing out that Holden had a lengthy conversation with Federal Aviation Administration Acting Administrator Dan Elwell about regulation for uberAIR, the company’s upcoming aerial taxi service. That was just last week at Uber Elevate, the company’s two-day summit on aerial transportation. It seems odd that Holden was tasked with leading a conversation with the head of the FAA regarding what will arguably be the biggest hurdle uberAIR will face: regulation.

Prior to joining Uber, Holden served as Groupon’s senior vice president. It’s not clear what Holden’s next move is, but a source says Holden is pursuing another opportunity somewhere.

WARD is an app for placing fantasy predictions on esports games

Prediction markets, such as those that exist in the realm of fantasy sports, have taken off amongst consumers in the last few years. But fantasy sports have yet to make much of a play in one of the hottest areas online right now, namely esports. And it’s a big market.

Fantasy esports have been thriving across international markets. In 2017, more than 360 million viewers watched League of Legends alone, significantly overtaking the Super Bowl viewership. By 2020, the esports industry is estimated to be worth more than $1.5 billion, with the target audience being 21-35 years old. But quite how to take advantage of this arena has been a conundrum.

Now a new startup thinks it has the answer. What if you could create a live predictions market around esports as it happens?

That’s the aim of WARD, a startup out of Berlin that has created a “pick and predict” real-time prediction smartphone game, where players can win real prizes.

Billed as a fantasy esports game that provides a second-screen real-time experience for tournaments, WARD has now secured a $600,000 seed round. The backers are Impulse VC, SmartHub and a number of European angel investors. The seed investment will be used to build out the product, but also to expand in the lucrative markets of Asia and the U.S.

So how does it work? Well, fans who watch a championship or a specific esports game can predict their version of in-game events in real-time. So, for example, in the League of Legends game, a user can make a prediction about who will spill “first blood” or which team will destroy the first tower in the game, and so on.

For every prediction users make correctly, they are awarded points. Users who acquire the most points can top the leaderboard and go on to win prizes. These can include headphones, tickets for championships and signed merchandise such as team jerseys. Of course, this depends on the partner paying WARD to be featured. But, the more the user wins, the better prizes they get and the bigger the brand uplift for the team or sponsor.

Kirill Belov, managing partner at Impulse VC, says he was “stunned by the WARD technology, team and global vision. It is our first funding in the esports industry, and WARD is one of the best platforms to expand the scope of further investments.” High praise indeed.

WARD has so far run beta tests in Berlin based around the European League of Legends Championship Series, but the official launch is set for June 2018 with an aim to attract 3 million downloads by the end of the year.

The plans also include global expansion to Asia and adding new esports disciplines, such as Overwatch, CounterStrike (CSGO) to the app.

You can download the app here.

YouTube TV adds Tastemade and The Young Turks as it expands its digital media content

In April, YouTube TV confirmed rumors it was expanding its service by way of digital-only networks by launching two news channels from Cheddar. The streaming service was also expected to roll out channels from Tastemade and The Young Turks soon, reports said — something YouTube TV hoped would differentiate its service from the now numerous live TV streaming rivals, while leveraging the power of big-name online brands to attract new subscribers.

On Thursday, YouTube TV alerted customers by way of email it had added new channels Tastemade and TYT, along with Cheddar and Cheddar Big News, which arrived earlier.

The company also confirmed the news in an interview with Variety, where the company explained how it saw this as the first step toward YouTube TV fulfilling its original promise of delivering a streaming service that combined traditional TV content with that from YouTube publishers.

Those efforts will continue, as YouTube TV says it’s in talks now with other partners to carry their digital media content on its network, too.

One challenge for YouTube TV in going about these new deals involves getting the publishers to craft unique content for its service — otherwise, the service could even blur the lines too much between YouTube proper, where some of the digital content may currently reside, and its paid, subscription-based TV service.

In Tastemade and TYT’s case, the publishers committed to producing original shows for YouTube TV, equating to several hundred hours of programming for subscribers, Variety noted. That’s 10 new series from Tastemade this year, and four from TYT Network at launch, with more to follow in 2018.

For the networks themselves, the deal allows them to reach new viewers who may have before only had minimal or no exposure to their content. And for Tastemade in particular, the channel will benefit from YouTube TV’s lack of food and travel channels — the service doesn’t carry Scripps/Discovery networks, which produce a lot of this type of content.

Despite the advantages with YouTube TV distribution, these digital publishers are by no means putting all their eggs in one basket — they expect to do similar deals with other over-the-top services. The Young Turks even just launched its own iOS app, following its $20 million raise last summer.

Amazon Prime members now get 10% off sale items at Whole Foods, plus other weekly discounts

Amazon announced today it will begin offering exclusive discounts to Prime members who shop at Whole Foods — a move that’s been expected since Amazon acquired the grocer last year for $13.7 billion, and more recently shut down Whole Foods’ rewards program and digital coupons. Prime members, starting today, will be able to take 10 percent off Whole Foods’ hundreds of sale items, as well as receive other “weekly deep discounts” on best sellers, Amazon says.

The savings are rolling out initially to the Whole Foods stores in Florida, but will expand to all U.S. Whole Foods Market and Whole Foods Market 365 stores this summer.

Whole Foods currently has over 470 stores in the U.S., Canada and U.K. combined, but the majority – 463 – are in the U.S.

Amazon has made fairly quick work of leveraging its investment in the brick-and-mortar grocery chain. Almost immediately following the acquisition, it began slashing prices in Whole Foods’ stores. And it already offered special coupons to Prime members to help them save more at times — like when it discounted Thanksgiving turkeys, for example.

Today’s news is now formalizing those prior efforts with a standard rewards program where Prime members can expect to take 10 percent off sale items on a consistent basis, in addition to other weekly discounts on select items. These will be labeled in store with yellow “10% off” sale signs, and “Prime Member Deal” signs, respectively.

For example, this week (5/16-5/22), Prime members at supported stores will receive the following savings:

  • Sustainably sourced, wild-caught halibut steaks: $9.99/lb., save $10/lb.
  • Organic strawberries: 1 lb. for $2.99, save $2
  • Cold-brew coffee at Allegro coffee bars: 50 percent off 16 oz.
  • KIND granola: 11 oz. bag 2/$6
  • 365 Everyday Value sparkling water: 12-pack case buy one, get one free
  • Magic Mushroom Powder: 50 percent off

It’s common for grocery stores to offer weekly savings, but in Whole Foods’ case, customers won’t have to sign up for a loyalty card or clip coupons from a circular — they have to join Amazon Prime to enjoy these savings. That could be a lure for Prime members who already shop Whole Foods, but could push price-conscious shoppers further away from the chain, given its existing reputation for high prices.

To take advantage of the new program, Prime members will need the Whole Foods mobile app, where they sign in with their Amazon account and then scan the app’s “Prime Code” barcode at checkout to apply the appropriate discounts. Alternately, they can opt in to use their phone number at checkout, if preferred.

Amazon has also set up a dedicated site for more information about the discount program (amazon.com/primesavings).

These in-store savings are not the only way Amazon has been tying Whole Foods to its larger business.

The companies also launched two-hour delivery from Whole Foods via Amazon’s Prime Now service in 10 cities across the U.S., with more to come this year, Amazon says. Plus, Amazon Prime members get 5 percent back on Whole Foods purchases with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card, the companies announced earlier this year.

And the stores themselves are serving as the brick-and-mortar presence for Amazon’s online store, with things like Amazon Lockers, support for returns, and the ability to shop Amazon hardware, like Echo speakers and Fire TV.

“This new Prime benefit at Whole Foods Market is a perfect pairing of healthy and delicious food at even more affordable prices,” said Cem Sibay, vice president, Amazon Prime, in a statement about the discount program’s launch. “Our vision is that every day Prime makes your life better, easier and more fun, and shopping at Whole Foods Market with exclusive deals and savings is all of this and more.”

Watch a laser-powered RoboFly flap its tiny wings

Making something fly involves a lot of trade-offs. Bigger stuff can hold more fuel or batteries, but too big and the lift required is too much. Small stuff takes less lift to fly but might not hold a battery with enough energy to do so. Insect-sized drones have had that problem in the past — but now this RoboFly is taking its first flaps into the air… all thanks to the power of lasers.

We’ve seen bug-sized flying bots before, like the RoboBee, but as you can see it has wires attached to it that provide power. Batteries on board would weigh it down too much, so researchers have focused in the past on demonstrating that flight is possible in the first place at that scale.

But what if you could provide power externally without wires? That’s the idea behind the University of Washington’s RoboFly, a sort of spiritual successor to the RoboBee that gets its power from a laser trained on an attached photovoltaic cell.

“It was the most efficient way to quickly transmit a lot of power to RoboFly without adding much weight,” said co-author of the paper describing the bot, Shyam Gollakota. He’s obviously very concerned with power efficiency — last month he and his colleagues published a way of transmitting video with 99 percent less power than usual.

There’s more than enough power in the laser to drive the robot’s wings; it gets adjusted to the correct voltage by an integrated circuit, and a microcontroller sends that power to the wings depending on what they need to do. Here it goes:

“To make the wings flap forward swiftly, it sends a series of pulses in rapid succession and then slows the pulsing down as you get near the top of the wave. And then it does this in reverse to make the wings flap smoothly in the other direction,” explained lead author Johannes James.

At present the bot just takes off, travels almost no distance and lands — but that’s just to prove the concept of a wirelessly powered robot insect (it isn’t obvious). The next steps are to improve onboard telemetry so it can control itself, and make a steered laser that can follow the little bug’s movements and continuously beam power in its direction.

The team is headed to Australia next week to present the RoboFly at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Brisbane.

White House sheds cyber coordinator role

The White House has opted to eliminate the cyber coordinator role on the National Security Council, in what some see as a step back in strong cybersecurity policy. The duties formerly performed by the coordinator will be taken up by the other two senior directors of the NSC’s cyber team. Politico first reported the news.

Rob Joyce, who left the role on Friday, was chief of an NSA hacking outfit (Tailored Access Operations) last March. John Bolton, Trump’s national security advisor, ended the role with Joyce’s departure; a memo sent to NSC employees explained that the elimination is to “streamline authority” in the Council. The other directors will pick up the slack.

The cyber coordinator role was first created by President Obama in 2009; its occupant in charge of, as you might expect, coordinating national cybersecurity policy across the many places in the government where it is being addressed.

In a time when cyber policy is increasing in importance and cyber-threats are clear and present in the country’s elections and other critical infrastructure, it seems a strange decision to “streamline” rather than bolster an important cybersecurity-related office.

Trump’s administration has made noises about taking cybersecurity seriously, and in other areas has taken steps to improve things — for instance, its choice in August to elevate the Military’s Cyber Command and give it more independence. This added roles, rather than subtracting them. But Bolton’s moves put more hats on fewer people, which would seem to complicate authority rather than streamline it.

It is possible that this is all part of a larger plan that will ultimately result in better decision-making capabilities and an improved cyber policy organ, but if so, the plan is unclear, even to those in the know.

Mr. President, if you really want to put America first, don’t cut the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator — the only person in the federal government tasked with delivering a coordinated, whole-of-government response to the growing cyber threats facing our nation. https://t.co/MRkwA8et7y

— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) May 15, 2018

It’s almost as if the federal government’s policies on cybersecurity aren’t quite in sync. Maybe they should appoint someone to coordinate them!

Yes, HTC is working on a ‘blockchain phone’

A few weeks ahead of its latest flagship announcement, HTC just revealed another piece of hardware. While the Taiwanese company has consolidated much of its mobile offerings in recent years, it announced today at the Consensus 2018 blockchain conference in New York that its upcoming Exodus handset is embracing everyone’s favorite tech buzzword.

So, what makes a phone a blockchain phone, exactly? Security and cryptocurrency support, mostly. According to HTC’s Exodus landing page, “Our vision is to expand the blockchain ecosystem by creating the world’s first phone dedicated to decentralized applications and security. With the release of the HTC Exodus we can now make this a reality.”

The Exodus will support Bitcoin and Ethereum, among others, courtesy of a universal wallet, secure hardware and decentralized apps. According to The Next Web, HTC has also outlined plans to create a native blockchain network, whereby cryptocurrency can be traded amongst Exodus users. Naturally, users will also be able to purchase the phone itself using cryptocurrency. That price and the release date, however, have yet to be revealed.

There’s not really a lot of information beyond that and the above drawing, but HTC is clearly gunning to make a splash as its numbers have shrunk in overall proportion to a declining smartphone market. Even with rapidly increasing awareness and interest in the cryptocurrency space, however, it’s hard to imagine Exodus making much of a splash.

Society needs the Artificial Intelligence Data Protection Act now

On December 31, 2015, I published my original call to arms for society’s rational regulation of artificial intelligence before it is too late. I explained certain reasons why someone who is against solving problems through regulation would propose precisely that mechanism to help hedge the threats created by AI, and announced my proposed legislation: The Artificial Intelligence Data Protection Act (AIDPA).

Since 2015, we have witnessed AI’s rapidly evolving national and international growth and adoption that will soon impact every phase of mankind’s life, from birth to death, sex to religion, politics to war, education to emotion, jobs to unemployment.

Three of many recent developments confirm why now is the time for the AIDPA: (1) a McKinsey study from late 2017 determined that up to 800 million workers worldwide may lose their jobs to AI by 2030, half of contemporary work functions could be automated by 2055 and other recent studies suggest as many as 47 percent of U.S. jobs could be threatened by automation or AI over the next few decades; (2) AI has now created IP with little or no human involvement and continues to be programmed, tested and used to do so; see my Twitter for a library of media reports on AI-created IP; (3) tech giants and regulators are starting to acknowledge that industries that create and use AI should be at least partially responsible for minimizing the impact of AI-displaced workers.

Now – and not later — society must address AI’s legal, economic and social implications with regard to IP and employment. Current legislation does not adequately account for the new challenges, threats and needs presented by the impact of AI. The question is not “if” but “when” society will regulate AI. Rather than leave the job solely to politicians, industry should lead the way through the AIDPA. The urgency to finalize and enact the AIDPA cannot be understated.

This article addresses the AIDPA’s twin focuses (AI’s threats to intellectual property rights and the labor force) and presents a proposed framework to address them. The AIDPA is intended to provide industry with a voice in regulating AI while promoting its safe, secure and ethical use. The United States must lead the way in regulating AI, and leaders in industry, technology and ethics should join together to finalize and enact the AIDPA — the first and most important legislation of its kind.

Intellectual property considerations

The AIDPA’s focuses on ownership of IP and the security risks resulting from machine learning that exceeds its initial programming and/or that by virtue of its programming becomes capable of autonomous human-like reasoning. For a host of legal and technical reasons, current IP laws cannot adequately account for IP created by AI working independent of human involvement or oversight (music, art, medical techniques, processes to communicate, processes to kill, etc.) or that exceeds its initial programming. AI also will acquire vast amounts of confidential information through its ability to collect, process, analyze and utilize mass amounts of data.

Chief AI officer

The AIDPA will require covered entities (see below) to employ a “chief AI officer,” who, among other things, is responsible for monitoring AI within the workplace, creating company-wide plans for AI-impacted employment, implementing the AIDPA regulations, enacting company-wide safeguards that monitor for and respond to malicious AI activity and accounting for AI-created IP.

Governing body

The AIDPA will also establish a governing body (the “AI Board”), staffed with industry, technical, ethical and legal experts, designed to bring specialized expertise and consistency to regulating AI in industry, encourage industry participation, promulgate safety and ethical regulations and adjudicate AI-related IP disputes. The AIB will also ensure that covered entities, through their CIAO, determine if and when certain AI should be outlawed, constrained in specific ways, and/or “terminated” and, where necessary, will enforce the AIDPA’s mandates by making these ultimate determinations.

Industry also will have annual AI-related worker displacement reporting requirements and the AIB will be responsible for analyzing and reporting on AI’s displacement impact on the labor market. Finally, the AIB will administrate and adjudicate disputes related to the AI Worker Realignment Program, which will be funded under the AIDPA.

Ownership, infringement and misappropriation

With regard to AI-created IP, there are many questions of ownership and liability for infringement and misappropriation. Under current IP laws, ownership (and standing to sue) are generally restricted to humans. The AIDPA will allow, under certain circumstances, for IP to be owned by the AI which created it (and in certain circumstances the entity or individual who “owns” the AI machine) in the context of addressing and defining IP rights for non-human created works, set the parameters for human ownership of AI-created IP and, as noted above, determine what AI is off-limits and when AI ownership and even the AI itself must be restrained or terminated.

With regard to infringement and misappropriation, existing law provides that a person or entity is generally liable for infringement regardless of their knowledge of the infringement. The AIDPA will limit the liability of corporations and humans for infringement to cases where there is knowledge of and/or active participation in the infringement.

Employment considerations

The AIDPA currently defines covered entities as government contractors and organizations with 300 or more employees or annual revenue in excess of $30 million that utilize AI or develop or deploy AI-created IP in a manner that results in (i) layoffs of at least 75 workers during a 30-day period on account of implementation and/or use of AI; or (ii) an AI facility opening defined as a covered employer establishing a new facility (brick and mortar), an operation (i.e. a new logistics hub with autonomous trucks and no human drivers) and/or a line of business (i.e. a call center staffed solely with AI-machines) that utilizes AI machines to perform job functions in lieu of what historically was performed by 40 or more humans or (iii) an AI Readjustment, defined as 30 or more workers who experience a reduction of 50 percent or more in their working hours or the loss of more than 75 percent of their job functions, either of which negatively alters the amount of their compensable time.

In the event of a triggering event, the AIDPA provides for certain notice requirements. For example, in the case of layoffs, the AIDPA requires covered entities to provide at least 60 days notice to the impacted workers, which period shall be extended to 180 days for employees who enter and continue approved educational and/or employment retraining through the AIDPA’s Worker Realignment Program. Impacted workers also will be eligible for certain supplemental payments funded through the AIDPA for specified periods. The AIDPA also requires covered entities to submit annual reports on the use of AI and its statistical impact on the labor market.

The dirty “T” word

Like it or not, the undeniable scope and societal impact of AI-caused worker displacement, coupled with the massive reduction in payroll expense for covered entities and the resulting loss in government revenue, mandates that covered entities play a substantial role in funding society’s efforts to respond to and retrain displaced workers.

If it is to be assumed that mass worker displacement left unchecked has the potential to cause serious societal disruption and that AI taxation by politicians is inevitable, then this is not a provocative proposition. It is simply society being intellectually honest with itself. In 2017, Bill Gates proposed a tax on companies using AI which could be used to finance programs for the elderly and others with unmet needs. That same year, San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim created a task force to explore an AI tax to fund education. And in Europe, Mady Delvaux, a member of the European Parliament, proposed a similar framework as part of an unsuccessful effort to enact AI legislation.

The question for industry is simple: Should the AI taxation framework be left solely to politicians, or should industry that will create and deploy AI play an important role in its formulation. The AIDPA answers that question by including a taxation component designed to secure the necessary funds for society to adjust to AI’s impact.

While still being studied and finalized, the AIDPA favors a tripartite approach for covered entities that is calculated based on (i) a minimum AI “flat” tax; plus a percentage of (ii) human labor cost savings; and (ii) profits generated by AI. The AIDPA provides that the revenue generated from the AI tax shall be used solely for two purposes: (i) retraining workers displaced by AI through the Work Realignment Program and (ii) basic supplemental income payments for AI-displaced workers for a set period.

Questions remain regarding how AI in the workplace should be regulated, but now is the time for lawyers, industry, academia, regulators and politicians to come together to finalize and enact the AIDPA.

First CubeSats to travel the solar system snap ‘Pale Blue Dot’ homage

The InSight launch earlier this month had a couple of stowaways: a pair of tiny CubeSats that are already the farthest such tiny satellites have ever been from Earth — by a long shot. And one of them got a chance to snap a picture of their home planet as an homage to the Voyager mission’s famous “Pale Blue Dot.” It’s hardly as amazing a shot as the original, but it’s still cool.

The CubeSats, named MarCO-A and B, are an experiment to test the suitability of pint-size craft for exploration of the solar system; previously they have only ever been deployed into orbit.

That changed on May 5, when the InSight mission took off, with the MarCO twins detaching on a similar trajectory to the geology-focused Mars lander. It wasn’t long before they went farther than any CubeSat has gone before.

A few days after launch MarCO-A and B were about a million kilometers (621,371 miles) from Earth, and it was time to unfold its high-gain antenna. A fisheye camera attached to the chassis had an eye on the process and took a picture to send back home to inform mission control that all was well.

But as a bonus (though not by accident — very few accidents happen on missions like this), Earth and the moon were in full view as MarCO-B took its antenna selfie. Here’s an annotated version of the one above:

“Consider it our homage to Voyager,” said JPL’s Andy Klesh in a news release. “CubeSats have never gone this far into space before, so it’s a big milestone. Both our CubeSats are healthy and functioning properly. We’re looking forward to seeing them travel even farther.”

So far it’s only good news and validation of the idea that cheap CubeSats could potentially be launched by the dozen to undertake minor science missions at a fraction of the cost of something like InSight.

Don’t expect any more snapshots from these guys, though. A JPL representative told me the cameras were really only included to make sure the antenna deployed properly. Really any pictures of Mars or other planets probably wouldn’t be worth looking at twice — these are utility cameras with fisheye lenses, not the special instruments that orbiters use to get those great planetary shots.

The MarCOs will pass by Mars at the same time that InSight is making its landing, and depending on how things go, they may even be able to pass on a little useful info to mission control while it happens. Tune in on November 26 for that!

Super wearable WHOOP launches $30 subscription service — wearable totally included

WHOOP, the world’s most informative wearable, is launching a new $30 subscription service for the everyday consumer, so everyone can get the benefits of its activity monitoring and analytics tools.

It’s the wearable that professional athletes and other performance-minded alpha-people use to find out how to optimize their workouts, sleep and rest periods to be the best selves they can be.

For $30 per month with a six-month mandatory commitment, anyone can become a member of what chief executive Will Ahmed is calling the WHOOP community.

Indeed, along with the hardware and analytics, which will report on and suggest recovery periods, ideal workouts and the optimal amount of sleep a body needs culled from the five variables WHOOP’s wearable collects 100 times per second, WHOOP is creating a social network where users can create teams and participate in challenges to encourage activity and use.

“We’ve now taken many learnings from the top performers and applied them to a consumer facing membership,” said Ahmed in a statement. “This is for a wider set of consumers — those that take performance seriously, whether that means securing a [personal record] on their next marathon, or improving their personal habits as a business executive on the road for work.”

The $180 sticker price for a WHOOP and membership to the service represents a deep discount from its previous pricing structure.

WHOOP’s devices retail for a not-insignificant $500 for the wearable, with an extra nominal fee to switch out the default band for something with a bit more swag. With the new funding the company will look to accelerate its global expansion so WHOOP can dominate still-more sporting events, and become the new accessory that the high-powered quantified executive (or health-obsessed paranoiac) won’t want to live without.

Indeed, one of WHOOP’s selling points to potential new members is the insights that can be gleaned from its high-performance athletes.

The company has an amazing roster of customers among the elite of American sports. The wearable has been approved for universal in-game use in Major League Baseball, while also getting a partnership with the NFLPA to track recovery times among football players. WHOOP actually is selling data on player performance to other teams so they can see how they stack up against the competition. It’s also talking to NFL broadcasters about displaying WHOOP data during games.

An assortment of NBA players use the app, which could explain the involvement of Kevin Durant’s new investment fund and the appearance of David Stern among the individual investors (to date, the NBA is one of the leagues in the U.S. that WHOOP hasn’t been able to crack). But the Duke University men’s basketball team is using the company’s wearables (even though the Blue Devils suck).

In addition to the new membership service, WHOOP also said it added strategic investor Bose Ventures as a backer. Bose’s investment comes on the heels of the $25 million WHOOP secured in its last financing round earlier this year.

Amazon’s cashier-less Go stores are coming to Chicago and San Francisco

Amazon is looking to open more of its cashier-less Go stores across the United States and it looks like San Francisco and Chicago will be among the next cities to get them, according to new job postings in those cities.

In response to the postings, discovered by The Seattle Times, an Amazon spokesperson confirmed that stores were being planned for both of the cities, though they didn’t specify what timing looked like.

There aren’t many details beyond the general job listings, but they do list a couple of management positions around these two sites.

Earlier this week, the SF Chronicle reported that an Amazon Go store could be coming to SF’s heavily trafficked Union Square downtown area. Meanwhile, the company has a permit for what would be a much smaller 635-square-foot “Amazon store” inside Chicago’s Loop area.

Amazon’s Go store is designed with the idea of getting consumers in and out of a convenient store-like grocery without ever having to go through the check-out process. The store relies heavily on cameras tracking customers and seeing what they select while charging them directly through an Amazon Go app. The company’s “store of the future” is currently only in Seattle and appears to be a wholly separate initiative from Whole Foods, which Amazon acquired last year.