Blood-delivering drone company Zipline readies for launch in Tanzania

Zipline, a California-based robotics company that has made a name for itself delivering blood by drone in Rwanda, has just announced plans to operate its services in Tanzania by early next year.

In an interview with The Verge, Zipline co-founder and chief executive Keller Rinaudo said that the company plans to work with the Tanzania Ministry of Health and the country’s Medical Stores Department to open four distribution centers in Tanzania over the next four years, with the intent to deliver blood via drone to over a thousand public health facilities in the country.

Zipline also wants to expand services in Tanzania to include on-demand delivery of other medical supplies, things such as emergency vaccines, HIV medications, and anti-malaria drugs. Emergency restocks “might not sound that exciting,” Rinaudo said, but “that’s the real goal, delivering all of these products. It’s been a problem for over a hundred years, but it’s a problem that global health experts have been trying to solve for the past 50 years.”

Credit: Zipline

Zipline first launched its services in Rwanda in the fall of 2016, calling it the world’s first national drone delivery service. The company has raised more than $35 million in venture capital funding to date.

Since last October, Rinaudo said, Zipline has completed 1400 commercial flights and delivered 2600 units of blood, a quarter of which were for emergency services. (These are numbers Zipline hasn’t shared previously.)

The company designs and builds its own 25-pound drones, called Zips, that can fly up to 150 kilometers per charge and carry up to 1.5 kilograms of blood. But the real value lies in Zipline’s software and logistics, not the hardware. Health professionals can use Zipline to order supplies via mobile phones — sometimes using WhatsApp, Rinaudo said — and can receive the necessary supplies within 30 minutes, on average. Fifty percent of the supplies are going to mothers with postpartum hemorrhaging, and 30 percent is going toward kids under the age of five who have severe anemia due to malaria.

This is not only vital in emergency situations, but it also helps eliminate waste: Rinaudo claimed that “zero units” of blood have expired in the Rwanda health centers that have been relying on Zipline over the past several months.

Credit: Zipline

For its Tanzania launch, Zipline says it will partner with the Human Development Impact Fund, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Saving Lives at Birth initiative to conduct research on the Zipline’s impact on the region.

Zipline has talked before about testing its services in the US, where it’s based, but so far this hasn’t happened in any official capacity. The regulatory environment for drones here is still too challenging, Rinaudo said, something he elaborated on earlier this year in a Recode podcast interview. Still, he’s hopeful, adding that the US government is “looking at what’s happening in Rwanda and is excited.”

“The cool thing is now that we’ve shown that this can be done safely, operate at national safety levels,” Rinaudo said. “There’s a lot of evidence and data that we can show.”

Nikon’s new D850 has 45.7 megapixels and enough features to tempt Canon shooters

Nikon has a new full-frame DSLR: the D850. Announced today, the D850 is a monster of a camera in terms of specs, and it’s one that will cost accordingly — the retail price is $3,299 for just the body when it goes on sale in September. The pro-level D5 may still be the king of Nikon’s current DSLR offerings, but at first glance it’s the D850 that will likely be the Nikon full-frame camera that gets the most use by pros, semi-pros, and amateurs with deep pockets. For all intents and purposes, this is Nikon’s flagship camera going forward.

So what does a 2017 flagship camera look like in Nikon’s eyes? Well, this camera has just about everything you could want from a full-frame DSLR these days. It’s built around a hefty 45.7-megapixel CMOS sensor that’s back-side illuminated — a first for any of Nikon’s full-frame cameras. That should make the D850 handle low light situations pretty well despite the high megapixel count, which usually limits low light quality. And to wrangle those mega files, Nikon’s included its top-line Expeed 5 image processor.

Nikon’s also following a major trend in digital cameras by not including a low pass filter on the D850, which — combined with the high megapixel count — means the camera should be able to capture incredible detail.

And yet, Nikon’s not positioning the D850 as simply a great tool for stills and studio photographers. In fact, there’s a pretty good case to be made for the D850 in almost any shooting scenario judging from its specs. More bluntly: it doesn’t carry as many of the tradeoffs for that resolution that high-resolution DSLRs like Canon’s two-year-old 50-megapixel 5DS line asks of its users. It also outclasses (on paper, at least) Canon’s own “jack of all trades” full-frame camera, the year-old 5D Mark IV.

That all starts with the D850’s video capabilities — it shoots 4K UHD footage at 30 or 24 frames per second, and 1080p video at up to 120 fps. It can record uncompressed 4:2:2 8-bit 4K UHD footage to an external recorder over the HDMI port while recording locally to a card at the same time. There’s an 8K time-lapse video mode, too, which is double the resolution that’s typically found on DSLRs these days.

But the camera is also relatively fast on the stills side when you consider the size of the files it’s dealing with. It has the same robust 153-point (99 cross type) autofocus system used in the D5, and can shoot 7 frames per second at full, 45.7-megapixel resolution. (If you buy the $399 battery grip, that max speed bumps up to 9 fps.) That’s with a 51-image buffer for 14-bit lossless RAW files, or 170 images shooting at 12-bit.

There’s also a “silent shooting” option — something more commonly seen on mirrorless cameras, not DSLRs — that lets users shoot up to 6 fps at full resolution (or up to 30 fps at 8.6-megapixels). This is done through the camera’s Live View mode, where the mirror stays up out of the way, and so the limitation here is that the camera’s exposure and focus will be locked from the first frame forward. But in the right setting this could be a big help, and it helps (slightly) make up for one of the biggest current shortcomings of DSLRs when compared to mirrorless cameras.

The D850 has two memory card slots — one XQD and one SD — to help capture all that data, and the battery will last for about 1,800 shots (or 70 minutes of video). On the back is a fairly standard 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, which is surrounded by those illuminated buttons that leaked a few weeks ago. It has a big viewfinder with 0.75x magnification, the highest ever in a Nikon DSLR, according to the company. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Snapbridge (the company’s solution for maintaining a constant connection to your smartphone) are all included as well.

I spent mere minutes with the D850, so I can’t speak to its performance in any meaningful way. But the viewfinder is immersive, the grip on the front is deeper than ever, and the body is sturdy even if it’s not very svelte. As for how it handles the outdoors, the D850 is basically the most weatherproof Nikon camera with the exception of the D5, which is in a league of its own, I was told.

The D850 looks like a mashup of the best things that Nikon is doing at both extremes of its DSLR lineup. It’s got most of the brains and brawn of pro-only cameras like the D5, but with much of the approachability and versatility you typically have to look for in the company’s entry-level and prosumer DSLRs. That “best of all worlds” approach obviously won’t come cheap, but don’t expect that to slow the D850 down. Barring unforeseen issues, this will be the camera that Nikon users will spend the next few years saving to buy, and the one that might cause Canon (or maybe even Sony) shooters to defect.

How to preorder the Galaxy Note 8

Yesterday, Samsung unveiled its latest flagship, and now you can officially put in a preorder for the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. In a limited promotional offer, the company is offering bundle deals for preorders that’ll include either its Gear 360 camera or a wireless charging pad and memory card, but you have to put in an order before September 24th.

Before you speed off to get the new phone, know that carriers and retailers aren’t all offering up preorders at the same time. Here are the ones that are available as of 12 AM today and otherwise. We’ll update this article as more information comes in.

Direct from Samsung, unlocked

You can get the Note 8 directly from Samsung, unlocked. That’s kind of a big deal, as most Galaxy devices are usually sold through the carriers and laden down with their extra software on the initial release. It runs $929 for the 64GB version, and we’ll update this post with more information when the deal goes live at midnight ET.



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Inside an investigation into Exxon Mobil’s climate change misinformation

For decades, the oil and gas company Exxon Mobil has waged a public-facing disinformation campaign about human-caused climate change — even as the company’s scientific publications and internal communications acknowledged its reality, a new study says.

Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes and postdoctoral fellow Geoffrey Supran analyzed internal, scientific, and public-facing communications from Exxon Mobil. They found the vast majority of the company’s peer-reviewed papers and internal documents confirmed that climate change is real and caused by human activity. But Exxon’s communications with the public through paid editorials, or ‘advertorials’, in the New York Times promoted climate skepticism.

This study is the latest in a series of probes investigating whether the oil and gas giant has misled the public and its shareholders about fossil fuel emissions and the reality of climate change. Investigative journalists at Inside Climate News and theLos Angeles Timesrevealed in 2015 that Exxon’s own scientists have known since the 1970s that fossil fuels contribute to climate change. But the company “put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming,” Inside Climate News reported.

Exxon Mobil published a rebuttal that accused the journalists (and Oreskes, who had written an op-ed about Inside Climate News’ investigation) of taking Exxon’s statements out of context. “Read the documents InsideClimate News cites that purportedly prove some conspiracy on ExxonMobil’s part to hide our climate science findings,” the company wrote, providing links to a 10-page bibliography and the documents Inside Climate News obtained. “[I]f you read the documents, it will become clear the opposite is true.”

So Supran and Oreskes read all 187 of the documents, tallying expressions of doubt or certainty in four main categories: whether climate change is real, caused by people, serious, and solvable. They found that 83 percent of peer-reviewed papers Exxon scientists had contributed to and 80 percent of internal documents said that climate change is real, and humans are driving it. But 81 percent of the New York Times advertorials the company bought at $31,000 a pop promoted doubt.

“Exxon Mobile [sic] was clearly identified as the source of the advertisements, which met with our advertising acceptability standards,” a spokesperson for the New York Times said in an email. Exxon Mobil did not respond to a request for comment.

The Verge spoke with Supran about his work. “They accused their critics of cherry picking statements,” Supran says. “But we looked at the whole cherry tree. And the trends we found are clear, and evident.”

The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

How did this research project start?

Exxon is under legal scrutiny from multiple fronts. We’ve got the attorneys general from New York and Massachusetts, the Security and Exchange Commission, as well as some of Exxon’s own employees and shareholders filing lawsuits. All of these investigations and lawsuits are asking the same basic question: has Exxon Mobil, through its history of climate communication, misled its customers, share holders, or the public?

Partly what prompted these suspicions were investigations by journalists atInside Climate News and the LA Times, which unearthed internal documents, internal memos from the company which they say showed that the company has known for decades about basic climate science and its implications.

In response, the company issued a whole list of articles saying these undercut the allegations against it. It said that journalists “had deliberately cherry picked statements” to come to their conclusions. And so it laid down this challenge for the public. It said: “Read all of these documents, and make up your own minds.”

So we took up that challenge! We thought, “We know how to read.” So, we brought to bear independent, peer-reviewed, established social science methods to consistently and systematically read and interpret all of Exxon’s documents — and that led us to this publication, and this work.

What were those documents?

We looked at 187 documents: all the internal documents unearthed by investigative journalists that formed the basis of their reporting. Plus the peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed academic articles put forward by Exxon in rebuttal to the allegations by those journalists.

We also looked at so-called advertorials that Exxon took out in the New York Times. These are op-ed styled advertisements that the company took out for 29 years, every Thursday in the bottom right corner of the op-ed page of the New York Times. Each one cost on average something like $31,000 in today’s money. We studied the subset that talked about climate change between change between 1989 and 2004. This was a massive public relations campaign.

How long did this take you?

It’s been a 13-month study, so just over a year. It’s taken awhile, but we got there.

Can you give me some specific examples?`

In 1996, one of Exxon’s climate scientists was a co-author on the famous chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [report], which concluded: “The body of statistical evidence … now points to a discernible human influence on global climate.” This was the first time when, at the international level, a scientific consensus began to form about the human contribution to climate change.

Then a year later, for example, in 1997 Exxon published an advertorial in the New York Times which said, “Let’s face it: The science of climate change is too uncertain to mandate a plan of action that could plunge economies into turmoil … Scientists cannot predict with certainty if temperatures will increase, by how much, and where changes will occur.”

There are many examples along those lines. That advertorial was called “Reset the alarm.” Others were called, “Unsettled Science.” And in some cases, which we discussed in the paper, these advertorials also expressed explicit, factual misrepresentations. For example, there’s one graph that they showed which, according to the independent scientist who produced the data, described the use of the data as, quote, “very misleading.” That’s the sense of it.

Are you or Dr. Oreskes making any money off of this study? Could you be accused of profiteering?

No. We have an explicit statement of no conflicts of interest at the end of the paper. Naomi is a world-renowned academic at Harvard University, and we’ve conducted peer-reviewed research. I received two months of summer stipend from the Rockefeller Family Fund last July and August, and after that, for a year, have been conducting this research on my own dime. I just finished my PhD, I’m 29, and I live in a shitty student apartment. So if this is what profiteering from my work looks like, I’m not very good at it.

When you were doing this, what was driving you? What change did you want to cause in the world from this paper?

Obviously it’s important to articulate that we’re not lawyers, and this isn’t a legal investigation. Clearly, as I said, Exxon is under scrutiny on multiple legal fronts, and on all those fronts, this same question is being asked: did the company mislead people about climate science and its implications? So the motivation was, we want to get to the bottom of that question.

It’s a very serious allegation to accuse professional journalists of deliberately cherry-picking statements. We realized that’s a testable assertion. So the motivation was to get to the bottom of this, to respond to Exxon’s challenge to read all the documents and make up our own minds. And that’s exactly what we’ve done. And I believe that the results will be of interest to a wide range of people, most probably including some of those investigating any potential wrongdoing.

I’ve devoted my entire adult life to developing technologies to try and address climate change. And to realize that we already have the technologies we need to start tackling this crisis, and yet what we don’t have is the political will to move these technologies out of the lab and into the real world. There’s this bottleneck, and part of the stranglehold on it has been decades of disinformation and climate denial. So that is a powerful motivator to uncover the truth, to expose the reality of Exxon’s contribution to decades of public confusion.

Facebook is getting serious about making hardware with ‘Aloha’ video chat device

A new report from Business Insiderconfirms rumored details about Facebook’s efforts to create consumer hardware, and also says that longtime Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth has been tapped to lead those efforts.

Earlier this month, sources told Bloomberg that Facebook’s Building 8 division was working on both a video chat device akin to the Amazon Echo Show, and a standalone smart speaker to compete with devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Business Insider’s new report confirms both projects are well underway.

The video chat device, apparently code-named Aloha, will have a large touchscreen (supposedly bigger than in competitor products), a wide-angle camera, microphones, speakers, and will be capable of recognizing faces. Aloha has been tested in employee homes for several months, and the company is said to have plans to bring the device to market in May 2018 with a price tag of $499.

Business Insider’s sources re-confirm Building 8 is also working on a smart speaker (which should carry a price of around $100), as well as a 360-degree camera. It is also exploring wearables, like a sensor-laden necklace.

Veteran Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth has been chosen to head up both Building 8 and Oculus, Facebook’s virtual reality division. Hugo Barra, Facebook’s new vice president of VR, will report to Bosworth as well as Regina Dugan, who moved from Google to Facebook in order to lead Building 8.

Though Building 8 has made headlines for some of its more creative endeavors — like a brain-computer interface to let you type with your thoughts — it seems its first products will be direct competitors in the consumer smart home market. Bosworth’s new role leading consumer hardware efforts could be a sign that Building 8 will be creating more shipping products than the experiments Dugan led at Google’s ATAP division, like Project Ara and as-yet unreleased Project Jacquard.

Facebook’s biggest battle when the devices are publicly available might not be market share, but privacy concerns. Although several home cameras, like the Nest Cam IQ, can already recognize people, Facebook has faced an uphill fight in convincing users that their privacy is intact. Business Insider says that the company is considering alternative ways to market Aloha, including brand names separate from Facebook and framing it as a way for the elderly to easily stay in touch with their families.

Apple TV is losing badly to Roku and Amazon in the living room, survey finds

Apple TV is continuing to lose ground to Roku and Amazon in the living room, a survey by Parks Associates has found. The consumer research company sampled 10,000 US homes and based its results on those which had at least one streaming player, according to AppleInsider. Roku jumped year-over-year from 32 percent to 37 percent, which is a foothold that none of its competitors can quite match. But Amazon is also gaining momentum and moved up from 16 percent to 24 percent.

Apple, by contrast, fell YOY from 19 percent to 15 percent marketshare. Consumers seem to be favoring the aggressively priced streaming sticks and boxes from Roku and Amazon over the comparatively expensive Apple TV, which sells for either $150 or $200 depending on storage capacity.

An Amazon Fire TV Stick costs just $40 and offers a fairly similar selection of streaming apps and services; the Fire TV box is also more affordable at $80. Roku’s lineup of hardware starts out as low as $29, so Apple is roundly being beaten on price appeal. Maybe it’s not all about price, though; Google’s Chromecast dipped down to 18 percent from 21 percent. Some consumers might just find the Rokus and Amazon Fire TV Sticks of the world a little easier and more straightforward to use than casting. Roku’s software also comes preinstalled as the operating system on many affordable TVs, a strategy Amazon has now taken after.

It’s expected that Apple will soon announce an updated Apple TV box that will likely be capable of 4K playback. A recent mess-up on the iTunes Store strongly hinted that the company is preparing to offer 4K and HDR content for purchase and rental. Amazon — a major hole in Apple’s roster of streaming services on the device — also confirmed back in June that a Prime Video app is in the works. But if it’s just an updated Apple TV that spits out higher resolution video, Apple might not be getting the message that a lot of people are prioritizing savings when choosing their gateway to Netflix. We definitely want the 4K box, but Apple should probably be thinking about a much cheaper streaming gadget to sell beneath it.

iOS 11 Safari will turn Google AMP links back into regular ones when sharing

Apple is adding a subtle new feature to Safari in iOS 11 that will automatically strip out Google AMP URLs when a webpage is shared or copy and pasted, as spotted by MacStories editor Federico Viticci.

Very nice: when sharing AMP pages to iMessage or Reading List, iOS 11 Safari automatically removes AMP’s crap from the URL. Go Apple

— Federico Viticci (@viticci) August 23, 2017

Google’s AMP is a standard for stripped-down, faster webpages that Google favors in search results. People have many feelings about it. You’ll note The Verge and Vox Media serve a lot of our pages in AMP.

While some AMP links do offer a place to pull the original URL for sharing, if you try and share the direct URL, you’ll end up sending a link to the AMP version of the page, instead of the canonical URL.

What’s more, AMP URLs aren’t standard — an AMP link for say, The Verge, looks different from that of another publisher — so Apple is presumably doing some work under the hood to find these canonical URLs. It’s also worth pointing out that forcing people to share original links is probably better for publishers looking to drive people toward the platforms (and ads) they directly control.

iOS 11 is expected to launch this fall.

You can track shifts in public perception of Taylor Swift via emoji use on Twitter

Last Friday, Taylor Swift began a long, winding publicity stunt that started with scrubbing her social-media accounts, and ended with snakes and an announcement that she had a new album coming out. It’s called Reputation; here’s the album art.

If you’ve been on Twitter in the past five days, you’ve probably had a hard time avoiding the saga, and maybe you’ve felt like this album rollout has been received differently than Swift’s past releases. The stakes established by Taylor’s attention-grabbing stunt were high, and the payoff turned out to be some newspaper papier-mâché collage and a lot of Ashlee Simpson references.

Fans and interested parties reacted quickly to the whole charade, just as they did back in 2014, when Swift’s last album, 1989, was released. Siobhan Murphy, a senior communications manager at Twitter, pulled data surrounding emoji use in tweets containing Swift’s handle (@taylorswift13) during the run-up to the Reputation announcement and the release of 1989. Turns out you can get a good sense of Twitter’s Taylor-related mood during those two time periods just by looking at emoji.





— Siobhan Murphy (@semurph) August 23, 2017


1. ♫



— Siobhan Murphy (@semurph) August 23, 2017

Generally, these shifts seem unsurprising. The snake emoji is a pretty literal interpretation of Swift’s recent promo videos, plus a nod to her long and well-documented history with the reptile emoji.

Then we’ve got the eyes emoji and the shocked no-eyes emoji, which have replaced the music note (too simple, in my opinion, to really be a useful emoji anymore) and the heart-eyes emoji. One conclusion to be drawn from this data is that we don’t know what to do with our eyes anymore. Where there once were hearts, now there is nothing. Or, this could be a reflection of how emoji use has changed in the past three years: we’re less celebratory now, and more suspicious. At the very least, we’re more suspicious of Taylor Swift than we used to be.

Samsung is releasing a new Gear VR because the Note 8 won’t fit in older headsets

Alongside the Galaxy Note 8 announced today, Samsung also revealed that it’s making yet another iteration of the Gear VR headset that’s designed to support the Note and its 6.3-inch display. Aside from accommodating Samsung’s newest phone, very little else seems different between this Gear VR and the previous one we saw a few months back that bundled in a handheld, physical controller. That one came out at the same time as the Galaxy S8 and S8+, but apparently Samsung wasn’t forward-thinking enough to be sure it’d work with the next Note. The headset still costs $129.99.

The Note 8 won’t work with existing Gear VR headsets — only the brand new one — but the just-announced headset is backwards compatible with all recent Samsung handsets including the S8 and S8+, S7 and S7 Edge, S6, S6 Edge, S6+, and the Note 5.

Curiously, Samsung didn’t really put much focus on VR during the Note unveiling event. It’s also not available as one of the preorder bonuses. That would’ve been a nice option since Samsung customers upgrading to the Note 8 will have no option but to buy the new headset if they want to strap into virtual reality experiences. Hopefully the Note 8 will also be compatible with Google Daydream — just like the S8 and S8+ — but the company hasn’t directly confirmed as much yet.

Uber is still a growing business despite its leadership strife

Amid the arguments between investors and board members, and the continued search for a new CEO, Uber executives are eagerly sharing that its business continues to grow.

Uber officials said Wednesday that gross bookings were up 17 percent in the second quarter of 2017 over the first, while losses shrank 14 percent to $645 million on revenue of $1.75 billion. The company reported $6.6 billion cash on hand, down from $7.1 billion at the last reporting period.

This financial report comes after a rocky month for Uber, following a suit from a major investor accusing former CEO Travis Kalanick of fraud and meddling in the search for a new top executive, while it’s still without a number of other leaders.

According to Bloomberg, the company bumped up booking fees in the United States and Canada, ranging from 15 cents to 50 cents per ride depending on location. That fee accounts for about $1.50 to $3 on each ride, according to Bloomberg. (Drivers do not receive this; it goes straight to Uber.)

It’s a sign that Uber is still looking for avenues to raise funds and improve its balance sheet as investors grow weary of the turmoil within the company.

There’s still a cloud of uncertainty at Uber, but continuing to tighten its belt when it comes to finances may give off the impression that the leadership drama isn’t enough to stall it altogether.