Month: May 2017

Mexico’s Hotel California Owners Reject the Eagles’ Trademark Claims

The owners of a Mexican hotel using the name Hotel California on Wednesday said a trademark infringement lawsuit by the Eagles, whose song “Hotel California” is arguably the band’s most famous, should be dismissed.

Hotel California Baja LLC, which runs the Todos Santos hotel in Baja California Sur, said the band long ago waived its trademark rights, having waited four decades to assert them since releasing the song “Hotel California” on a 1976 album with the same name.

The owner said it “flatly denies” the Eagles’ “baseless contention” that the 11-room hotel seeks to mislead travelers into thinking the property is associated with the band.

“Any alleged use of plaintiff’s trademarks is not likely to cause confusion, deception or mistake as to association, connection, sponsorship, endorsement, or approval of plaintiff,” the owner said in a filing in Los Angeles federal court.

Lawyers for the Eagles were not immediately available for comment.

In their May 1 lawsuit, the Eagles said the defendant encourages guests to believe their hotel is associated with the band, including piping its music through a sound system, to sell T-shirts and other merchandise.

The hotel is located about 1,000 miles (1,609 km) south of San Diego and 48 miles (77 km) north of Cabo San Lucas.

It was named Hotel California at its 1950 opening, underwent some name changes, and later revived the original name after a Canadian couple, John and Debbie Stewart, bought it in 2001.

U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner scheduled a conference in the case for Aug. 21.

The album “Hotel California,” won the 1977 Grammy Award for record of the year.

The case is Eagles Ltd v Hotel California Baja LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 17-03276.

more

Nest Security Camera Knows Who’s Home with Google Face Tech

Nest Labs is adding Google’s facial recognition technology to a high-resolution home-security camera, offering a glimpse of a future in which increasingly intelligent, internet-connected computers can see and understand what’s going on in people’s homes.

The Nest Cam IQ, unveiled Wednesday, will be Nest’s first device to draw upon the same human-like skills that Google has been programming into its computers — for instance, to identify people in images via its widely used photo app. Facebook deploys similar technology to automatically recognize and recommend tags of people in photos posted on its social network.

Nest can tap into Google’s expertise in artificial intelligence because both companies are owned by the same parent company, Alphabet Inc.

With the new feature, you could program the camera to recognize a child, friend or neighbor, after which it will send you notifications about that person being in the home.

Nest isn’t saying much about other potential uses down the road, though one can imagine the camera recognizing when grandparents are visiting and notifying Nest’s internet-connected thermostat to adjust the temperature to what they prefer. Or it might be trained to keep a close eye on the kids when they are home after school to monitor their activities and send alerts when they’re doing something besides a list of approved activities.

The cost of facial recognition

The new camera will begin shipping in late June for almost $300. You’ll also have to pay $10 a month for a plan that includes facial recognition technology. The same plan will also include other features, such as alerts generated by particular sounds — barking dogs, say — that occur out of the camera’s visual range.

The camera will only identify people you select through Nest’s app for iPhones and Android devices. It won’t try to recognize anyone that an owner hasn’t tagged. Even if a Nest Cam IQ video spies a burglar in a home, law enforcement officials will have to identify the suspect through their own investigation and analysis, according to Nest.

Privacy concerns

Facial recognition is becoming more common on home-security cameras. Netatmo, for instance, introduced a security camera touting a similar facial recognition system in 2015. That camera sells for about $200, or $100 less than the Nest Cam IQ.

The way that the Nest and Netatmo cameras are being used doesn’t raise serious privacy concerns because they are only verifying familiar faces, not those of complete strangers, said Jennifer Lynch, who specializes in biometrics as a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital advocacy group.

But Lynch believes privacy issues are bound to crop up as the resolution and zoom capabilities of home security cameras improve, and as engineers develop more sophisticated ways of identifying people even when an image is moving or only a part of a face is visible. Storing home-security videos in remote data centers also raises security concerns about the imagery being stolen by computer hackers. “It definitely could become a slippery slope,” Lynch said.

The privacy issues already are thorny enough that Nest decided against offering the facial recognition technology in Illinois, where state law forbids the collection and retention of an individual’s biometric information without prior notification and written permission.

Further details

Nest’s $10-a-month subscription includes video storage for 10 days. Video can be stored up to 30 days with an upgrade to a subscription plan costing $30 per month.

The high-end camera supplements lower-resolution indoor and outdoor cameras that Nest will continue to sell for almost $200. Neither of the lower-end cameras is equipped for facial recognition.

more

Trump Admonishes Comedian Kathy Griffin for Posting Gruesome Mock Image of Him

U.S. President Donald Trump admonished comedian Kathy Griffin Wednesday for appearing in a brief video holding a reproduction of a severed, bloody head that resembled the president.

In an early morning tweet, Trump said the image is disturbing – particularly to his children.

After seeing negative online reaction, Griffin apologized Tuesday night — saying she “moved the line” and then “crossed it.”

Griffin had shared the image in a tweet that has since been deleted at Griffin’s request.

The photo was taken by Tyler Shields, whose own biography notes he has evolved from Hollywood’s “bad boy of photography.”

The criticism came from liberals and conservatives alike, including the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and daughter of 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Chelsea Clinton, who called the image “vile and wrong.”

The CNN news channel, which has featured Griffin as a co-host on its New Year’s Eve coverage, said the picture was “disgusting and offensive.”

The cable news network said in a statement it is “evaluating our New Year’s coverage.”

more

Explainer: Carbon Dioxide and Climate Change

What is Cimate Change? This video explains the basic concept of this hot political topic.

more

Tech Show Displays Ways VR, AI Edging into People’s Lives

Inside the sprawling Acer stall at Computex Taipei, Asia’s largest tech show, staff displayed a laptop computer that’s ready for virtual reality play yet thinner than most PCs for gaming.  At the same exhibition, the Taiwanese tech hardware maker showed how its internet cloud uses artificial intelligence to predict what customers will do when shopping and allow the shop to make decisions accordingly.

VR and AI usher in a new world of technology

Acer was riding two major new themes at the annual show: virtual reality, often abbreviated to VR, and artificial intelligence, or AI.

Demand from gamers, a lucrative market of people willing to pay more than $10,000 for a personal computer (PC), is driving the VR side, compelling Acer and its peers to install new lines of processors that support immersive, 3D play with headgear and hand controls.

“You can see that the company is moving into more gaming centric, VR, new experience innovation,” said Vincent Lin, senior director of Acer’s global product marketing. “Not all gaming notebooks or not all notebooks are VR ready. There are certain requirements needed to be VR ready. VR, certainly it’s a growth area. It’s supposed to like grow five times or something over next 3 years.”

Revenue is forecast to rise quickly

Silicon Valley investment advisory firm Digi-Capital forecasts a surge in global revenue from $20 billion this year to $108 billion in 2021 in virtual reality technology and a similar technology known as augmented reality. 

The anticipation of growth inspired 60 Computex exhibitors to show games, gear or PCs that support virtual reality. The technology that first popped into public view in the 1980s is normally aimed now at computer gamers, though scientific researchers have used VR as well as the related augmented reality to model processes they can’t duplicate in real life. 

Near Acer’s stall, Computex visitors donned thick, black head-mounted goggles to race cars or fire at things, yelling in excitement through the dimly lit booths as they tested new products. 

PCs will be thinner, quieter and quicker to support VR

Developers were excited about Nvidia’s newly announced graphics processors that are designed to make PCs thinner and quieter. They also noticed the seventh update of Intel’s Core i5 processor, which stands to make PCs faster.

At one stall, Hong Kong developer Zotac showed off backpacks that can hold a gamer’s VR hardware system to prevent any tripping over wires – which might happen to someone immersed in a 3D scenario and unable to see the real floor.

“Right now the way the virtual reality equipment is made, you’re tethered to a system. That means you have to worry about tripping over cables, wrapping them around yourself as well,” Zotac product marketer Buu Ly said. “With our VR backpack, that removes those barriers so you are more free to experience VR the way it was supposed to be experienced.”

AI attracting much interest this year

Artificial intelligence also made its way into the show, where about 1,600 exhibitors occupied 5,010 booths, this year as companies test a relatively new technology that teaches computers to make decisions based on patterns they detect through analysis of user commands. 

Voice-activated assistants on mobile phones use artificial intelligence by searching the phone for requested information, even sending commands across apps to get answers.

Computex organizers have not tallied the number of exhibitors showing AI technology, but analysts in Taipei say a number are pursuing servers that can speed up development of AI functions allowed by the likes of Nvidia’s Jetson TX computer processing module.

With a compound annual growth rate of 63 percent from 2016 to 2022, the artificial intelligence market should be worth $16.06 billion by 2022, according to forecasts by the research firm Markets and Markets.

“AI has caught much of the spotlight in various exhibitions around the world and has become one of major deployment highlights for many companies in recent years,” said Ray Han, industry analyst with the Marketing Intelligence & Consulting Institute in Taipei. “The next battlefield will lie on platforms or chips.”

Internet of things

One contender is Socionext, a Japanese developer that has developed a processor partly for AI and the Internet of things, or IoT, which means using phones or PCs to control other electronic objects. Five customers are evaluating whether to install the chip, said Fumitaka Shiraishi, a Socionext business project management group member. 

“Our chip is a processor chip, so not too specific for AI but also suitable for AI because of the low power,” Shiraishi said. 

Artificial intelligence can help the Internet of things by picking the most relevant points from vast fields of data collected.

“In the future five years, I think IoT devices also need to judge some information — not just sensing,” Shiraishi said. 

more

New Graphene Water Filter Makes Salt Water Drinkable

The United Nations predicts that by 2025 nearly two billion people will be living in places where there’s not enough water to go around. And since on average water makes up about 60% of the human body, not having it has a host of devastating effects that go way beyond just being thirsty. That’s why some new technology to turn saltwater into drinkable water holds so much promise, VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

more

Forget Butterfly Nets; Today’s Naturalists Capture Specimens on Phones

Your smartphone can help scientists keep tabs on changes happening in the natural world. More than one hundred thousand citizen scientists around the globe are snapping pictures of all kinds of plants and animals using the iNaturalist app. It is giving researchers an unprecedented amount of information about what lives where, and how that is changing with humanity’s expanding footprint. Steve Baragona has details.

more

Solar Power Lights Up Syrian Refugee Camp in Jordan

Solar power is lighting up the night sky in Jordan and making life easier for the 20,000 Syrian refugees at a camp that once had no reliable source of electricity. Faith Lapidus reports.

more

Vietnam to Sign Deals for Up to $17B in US Goods, Services

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said Tuesday that he would sign deals for U.S. goods and services worth $15 billion to $17 billion during his visit to Washington, mainly for high-technology products and for services.

“Vietnam will increase the import of high technologies and services from the United States, and on the occasion of this visit, many important deals will be made,” Phuc told a U.S. Chamber of Commerce dinner.

Phuc, who is due to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday at the end of a three-day visit to the United States, did not provide further details of the transactions.

GE Power Chief Executive Officer Steve Bolze told the dinner that General Electric Co. would sign deals worth about $6 billion with Vietnam, but also offered no details.

Phuc’s comments came after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressed concern about the rapid growth of the U.S. trade deficit with Vietnam, saying this was a new challenge for the two countries and that he was looking to Phuc to help address it.

“Over the last decade, our bilateral trade deficit has risen from about $7 billion to nearly $32 billion,” Lighthizer said. “This concerning growth in our trade deficit presents new challenges and shows us that there is considerable potential to improve further our important trade relationship.”

Reducing deficits

Lighthizer and other Trump administration trade officials have pledged to work to reduce U.S. bilateral deficits with major trading partners. The $32 billion deficit with Vietnam last year — the sixth-largest U.S. trade deficit — reflects growing imports of Vietnamese semiconductors and other electronics products in addition to more traditional sectors such as footwear, apparel and furniture.

The trade issue has become a potential irritant in a relationship where Washington and Hanoi have stepped up security cooperation in recent years, given shared concerns about China’s increasingly assertive behavior in East Asia.

Phuc’s meeting with Trump makes him the first Southeast Asian leader to visit the White House under the new administration.

It reflected calls, letters, diplomatic contacts and lower-level visits that started long before Trump took office in Washington, where Vietnam retains a lobbyist at $30,000 a month.

Vietnam was disappointed when Trump ditched the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, in which Hanoi was expected to be one of the main beneficiaries, and focused U.S. trade policy on reducing deficits.

more

How ‘Wonder Woman’ Built a World of Women, Onscreen and Off

In a world of only women, there are no phallic structures.

At least that’s how Patty Jenkins imagined the island home of the Amazons and their heroic princess Diana, who grows up to become Wonder Woman.

“Like columns? They didn’t make that much sense to me,” Jenkins said in a recent interview. “They felt like an imposition on landscape, which didn’t feel like something that women are jonesing to do.”

As the director of “Wonder Woman,” Jenkins is creating new worlds for women both onscreen and off. Not only did she help dream up the look of the Amazon island and hire scores of actresses to serve as its resident warriors, she’s the first woman to direct a major superhero movie, and her success could pave the way for others.

 

As a child, she was inspired by Wonder Woman, describing Lynda Carter’s portrayal on TV as “the embodiment of everything that I wanted to be as a woman.”

“When I was playing Wonder Woman, I was able to do incredible things and save the world,” the 45-year-old filmmaker said.

 

That’s the feeling she hopes to evoke with viewers of “Wonder Woman,” in theaters Friday. Gal Gadot plays the title character, who discovers her superpowers and fights for justice alongside humans after following a charming spy (Chris Pine) to London during World War I.

‘An important movie’

The Israeli-born Gadot didn’t grow up with Wonder Woman, but she was always on the lookout for powerful characters to play.

“Usually the women are the damsel in distress or the heartbroken woman or the sidekick, but in real life it’s not the case. In real life, we bring life. We have babies. We have careers. We are so many other things,” said Gadot, a 32-year-old married mother of two.

“Wonder Woman symbolizes the magnificence of a woman and how amazing women are. And I think that it’s an important movie not only for women and girls, but it’s also great for boys and men, Gadot said. “You can’t empower women if you don’t educate the men and you don’t teach the boys, so as much as it’s important for girls to be exposed and see this movie, it’s important for boys to have a strong female figure that they can look up to.”

A first for Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman was created in 1941, yet this is her first solo feature film. Jenkins wanted to bring her to the big screen for more than a decade, but studios doubted the appeal of the lasso-wielding super heroine.

“I don’t understand why somebody who has had zero big blockbuster representation for 75 years still has 15 little girls a minute coming to my door dressed as her every Halloween, like how does that not equal dollar signs?” Jenkins said.

 

Connie Nielsen, who plays Diana’s mother, Amazon queen Hippolyta, also didn’t grow up with Wonder Woman, but had myriad other models of powerful women as a child in Denmark.

“The Denmark I grew up in was a Denmark in which women were, in fact, fully liberated and the whole world had been opened up to us,” she said. “In the magazines in the early ‘80s, it was men who were photographed doing the vacuum cleaning in the ads for vacuum cleaners and women were no longer posing on the Ford Mustang.”

So Nielsen felt entitled to question why, on an island populated by only women, her character would wear high heels. She and Gadot, both statuesque, wear wedges in the film.

“I actually had that conversation several times, and Patty was adamant,” Nielsen said. “She really felt like you stand a different way (in heels), and you do.”

Amazons were best part

The costumes, including the wedges, had to be considered during the physical training, which included horseback riding, archery and swords(wo)manship. For Robin Wright, who was raised on the “Wonder Woman” TV show, training and shooting with the Amazons was the best part.

“I think it was a little daunting for the men because it was very unusual. I think there were like 120 Amazons,” said Wright, who plays the warrior Antiope, Diana’s aunt and teacher. “That’s a different energy on the set, and great for us. We just felt like a team of women that had each other’s backs.”

She called Jenkins “the biggest cheerleader of them all.”

With the film’s arrival this week, Jenkins is thinking about what “Wonder Woman” might mean for a new generation of aspiring superheroes — and filmmakers.

“I am a filmmaker who wants to make successful films, of course. I want my film to be celebrated,” she said. “But there’s a whole other person in me who’s sitting and watching what’s happening right now who so hopes, not for me, that this movie defies expectation. Because I want to see the signal that that will send to the world.”

 

more