The Raspberry Pi 4’s Most Interesting Quirks

The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is finally here, a $35 device that packs a lot of useful technology on a single circuit board you can hold in your hand. It might even be your next budget computer, assuming you can stomach some of the trade-offs enthusiasts have identified in their early testing.

This tiny tool that powers plenty of people’s clever hacking projects—including dorm room parties—gets a lot of great upgrades for its fourth-generation release. On paper, the specs are impressive: a 1.5 GHz, quad-core, ARM Cortex-A72 processor; up to 4GB of memory (bumping the price to $55); Gigabit Ethernet; wireless-ac; and the ability to push 60 frames per second to a 4K display (or 30 frames per second to two connected 4K displays).

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That’s all well and good on paper, but what do these changes actually mean? Here’s what we know so far:

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It runs hot

If you’ve played with a Raspberry Pi previously—especially if you’ve been trying to crank as much performance out of it as possible—you’ve probably encountered some overheating issues. The Raspberry Pi 4 is no different; in fact, it’s hotter. As Gareth Halfacree writes for Medium:

“…after just a few minutes, the entire board feels warm to the touch. Start loading it heavily and that warmth becomes uncomfortable; while it’s still entirely possible to use the board without extra cooling, those looking to put one in a case will find active cooling is required to avoid thermal throttling.”

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He’s taken some lovely thermal shots of the Raspberry Pi 4 and its 2018 predecessor, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, which we’ve published below. Watch where you put your fingers.

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It sucks more power

This one’s a no-brainer. The Raspberry Pi 4 switched to USB-C for power—a necessity, since it now draws around 3.5 watts when it’s idle and up to 7.6 watts or so when it’s under duress. The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, by comparison, draws around 1.9 watts when idle and up to around 5 watts when you’re taxing it.

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The good news? Even if its running at its top speeds 24 hours a day, every single day of the year, the Raspberry Pi 4 should only cost you around $3 extra to operate.

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It can handle a 4K display, but…

One of the more eye-opening features of the Raspberry Pi 4 is its dual-HDMI configuration that, as mentioned, supports 60 frames per second on a 4K display or 30 frames per second on two 4K displays.

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It blows my mind to think that a tiny single-board computer can process 16.5 million pixels like that, but don’t let this spec fool you. The Raspberry Pi 4 might be able to handle a 4K display, but that doesn’t mean that it can run 4K video very well—or even 1080p video. From Avram Piltch over at Tom’s Hardware:

“While surfing the web, looking at still images and just enjoying all the extra screen real estate of 4K is great, video playback is the Raspberry Pi 4’s Achille’s heel, at least as of this writing. Whether we were attempting to stream a 4K video or use a downloaded file, we never got a smooth, workable 4K experience, either in Raspbian Buster or LibreElec, an OS that runs the Kodi media player. Several H.264 encoded videos, including Tears of Steel, did not play at all or showed as a jumble of colors. Even the sample jelly fish videos that the folks at Kodi recommended for my testing appeared as still pictures with no movement. Clearly, there’s a lot of optimization that still needs to be done both on the OS and software side to make the Raspberry Pi 4 capable of playing 4K video.

Unfortunately, even streaming 1080p YouTube videos is a challenge at this point. Running at 1080p resolution, full screen video trailer for Stranger Things showed obvious jerkiness. However, the playback was smooth when I watched the same clip in a smaller window. The same problem occurred, even when I dropped the stream’s resolution down to 480p.

Playing offline 1080p videos works well, provided your screen is at 1920 x 1080 or lower resolution. A downloaded trailer of Avenger’s Endgame was perfectly smooth when I watched it using the VLC player.”

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How well does the Raspberry Pi 4 handle common tasks?

It’s useful to run a ton of synthetic tests to compare devices, but it difficult to translate these kinds of scores what it might feel like to use a device for everyday tasks: video encoding, image manipulation, web browsing, et cetera.

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In addition to those thermal tests from earlier, Halfacree also ran the Raspberry Pi 4 through some real-world testing to give you a better sense of what it’s like to actually use one (and to give context to its hardware upgrades).

Though he didn’t specify the size of the file he was working with, which I’d be interested to know, he ran a quick file compression test and compared the Raspberry 4 versus every other version of a Raspberry Pi that’s existed (if I’m correct). As you might expect, the latest and greatest version of the single-board computer smokes its predecessors:

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When Halfacree ran the Raspberry Pi 4 through an image-editing test, the exact kind of action you might perform using your $35–$55 tiny PC, the performance improvements weren’t quite as extreme. What’s more telling from his testing—if you know your Raspberry Pi specs—is how much of a performance boost you get when you stick an adequate amount of memory in your device, at least if you’re planning to work with high-resolution files.

While the Raspberry Pi 4’s 1GB version is still solid compared to older versions of the Raspberry Pi, you might as well go big and splurge for the 4GB version if you’re intending to keep this device around for some time. It never hurts to have a little extra memory to work with, especially if you’re looking to run more than a few browser tabs at once, Piltch writes:

“Keeping my eye on Gnome System Monitor, I noticed that, even with just one or two tabs open, I was using more than 1GB of RAM. However, on the Pi 4 with 4GB of RAM, I had no problem running over 15 tabs at once, switching back and forth between them.”

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Bumping up to 4GB also helps the Raspberry Pi 4 crush Speedometer 2.0, a synthetic test that simulates web application responsiveness (in other words, what kind of an experience you might have with sites like Google Docs).

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How the Raspberry Pi 4 fixes previous Pi problems

Another interesting tidbit I caught in Halfacree’s testing was that the Raspberry Pi 4 has fixed some annoying issues that inhibited the performance of components that should have been a lot faster on previous Raspberry Pi computers. Case in point: Gigabit Ethernet.

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Though the Raspberry Pi received a Gigabit Ethernet connection with the launch of the Raspberry Pi 3 B+, its performance was bottlenecked by a the device’s design (a shared Ethernet/USB bus). That’s fixed on the Raspberry Pi 4, as Halfacree measured a maximum Ethernet throughput of 943 Mbps to a mere 237 Mbps on the Raspberry Pi 3 B+.

Similarly, the USB speeds on the Raspberry Pi 4 have seen a huge boost, thanks to the removal of the aforementioned USB bottleneck and an upgrade from slower USB 2.0 ports to USB 3.0. Now that the Raspberry Pi 4 is able to let USB 3.0 shine, it does—at least, when Halfacree connected up an SSD and ran some read and write tests.

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What to Watch for in the First Democratic Debates

Photo: Getty

Well, they’re finally here: the first Democratic presidential primary debates of the 2020 campaign.

Spread out over Wednesday and Thursday nights, the top 20 Democratic candidates (yes, there’s more than that) will duke it out in the first real face-to-face meeting of the 2020 campaign. Thus far, it’s been a relatively tame affair as candidates have crisscrossed early primary states—schmoozing with party officials, shaking hands with voters, and standing on furniture. Now they’ll have to share a stage together and try to stand out from the rest of the pack.

Here’s some of what we’ll be watching for in this week’s debates:

Will Elizabeth Warren stand out?

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has shot up in polls in recent weeks, putting her neck and neck with fellow progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, although both are still trailing former Vice President Joe Biden by some distance. But in the first round of debates, Warren got the short end of the stick; she’s headlining the Wednesday night debate, where the most notable candidates she’ll be debating are Sen. Cory Booker and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, both of whom have badly underperformed expectations so far. (The debate lineups were randomly chosen in a draw.)

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This could be a blessing in disguise for Warren, as it could give her a chance to shine on a stage where not many other candidates are getting a lot of traction. But Warren won’t get a chance to go toe to toe with Biden, the frontrunner and her nemesis for decades, in front of a national audience.

It’s also unclear whether other candidates will go after Warren in the debate as a proxy frontrunner. As we’ve seen in past presidential primaries, long-shot candidates can use these debates to their advantage to attack frontrunners and show much they stand out from the rest of the pack. But will candidates like O’Rourke and Booker and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee go after Biden, the true frontrunner as it stands, or Warren?

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Biden vs. Bernie (and everyone versus both of them)

The second night of debates has no shortage of heavy hitters, including Biden, Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris, and South Bend, IN, mayor Pete Buttigieg. Along with Warren, these four make up the top five in most national polling of the race so far.

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The most closely-watched part of the Thursday night debate, however, is going to be between Sanders and Biden, who most clearly represent the ideological struggle ongoing in the Democratic Party. Sanders preaches democratic socialism, Medicare for All, and a political revolution to redistribute wealth; Biden is running a campaign based on supposed moderation and unity, and has been reportedly telling wealthy donors that “nothing would fundamentally change” for them if he was in power. Both candidates also consistently occupy two of the top three spots in polls so far.

On the other hand, both Sanders and Biden are likely to be the most frequent target of attacks on the debate stage, with candidates running to Sanders’ right and Biden’s left looking to make a name for themselves. Harris and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper are two names to watch; Harris is a Medicare for All cosponsor who has criticized Biden for his recent comments about his segregationist friends, while Hickenlooper has focused much of his attacks so far on Sanders’ embrace of socialism, to not much success.

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Which also-ran will make the biggest splash?

There are going to be 20 candidates on the stage, but let’s face it: we don’t care that much about the large majority of them. No offense to Tim Ryan or John Delaney or Michael Bennet or Julián Castro or even—sorry—Kirsten Gillibrand, but they’re not the reason people are tuning into these debates, and if they stay where they are in the polling, this could be one of the last chances they have to make their case before a large national audience. So, as we said earlier, you can bet they’ll be trying to make as big a splash as possible. Whether through headline-courting attacks on big beasts like Biden and Sanders, or attempts at viral monologues about policy, people will be pulling out all the stops in an effort to break off from the losers pack and clamber up the ladder.

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Will under-covered topics get a hearing?

The 2016 debates were as notable for what didn’t happen as what did. Among other things, abortion barely featured in the primary debates, and climate change was almost completely ignored in the general election rounds. Since there have already been high-profile bust-ups about both topics in the 2020 primary, you can be sure they will come up in these debates, though the Democratic National Committee notably rejected the idea of a debate focused entirely on climate change. But what about under-covered topics like education, housing, and urban policy? What about war and militarism? What about political and constitutional reform? There are—sigh—so many things wrong with America, so there’s no shortage of stuff to get into.

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How brutal will it get?

The primary has, thus far, been relatively sedate; people have mostly focused on elevating themselves, not trying to tear other candidates down. But that can’t last forever! Eventually, you have to actively beat other people, and the debates are the first time any of the candidates will be, as it were, in the ring with each other, and there is a lot to discuss. So will they mix it up, or will they hang back? Will they try to look like the “adult in the room,” or will they really criticize each other? Will Kamala Harris suddenly turn on Bernie Sanders? Will Joe Biden try to take down Pete Buttigieg? Will Tulsi Gabbard take a pop at Bill de Blasio? (OK, maybe that last one is not anything to think about.) Whatever the case, this marks a new, more intense, and more interesting phase of this endless campaign. There’s no going back.

I Never Bothered to Air Dry Clothes Until I Bought This Stupid Hanging Rack

No Thought, Just BoughtBefore making most purchases, we meticulously research all of our options, wait for deals, and try to make an informed buying decision. But sometimes, we just buy things on a whim, and end up loving them anyway. No Thought, Just Bought is a space to share the impulse purchases that exceeded our expectations.  

We all know that the dryer is terrible for your delicates, but hanging them all up to air dry is maddening, especially if you live in an apartment without a clothesline.

For years, my attitude was “clothes wear out, we’ll buy new clothes, life’s too short for air drying.” But then, I came across this silly-looking Whitmor hanging rack on Amazon and bought it on the spot. It looks like some sort of parody product that SNL would have come up with in its heyday, it makes a delightful click-clacky sound when you pick it up, and I love it like a pet.

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It’s designed to clamp to your shower rod, and lets you go from having zero clothespins set up for air drying to having 26 clothespins set up for air drying in about two and a half seconds. It’s basically an old-timey backyard clothesline, but for millennials living in 700-square-foot apartments.

My beloved drying rack in “hibernation mode” on the side of my dryer.Photo: Shep McAllister

Is hanging clothes on this thing still more work than putting a giant ball of wet clothes into the dryer? Sure. But it’s easy enough that even I, a profoundly lazy individual, am willing to use it. I couldn’t honestly say the same about digging a bunch of vacant clothes hangers out of the closet and setting them up one by one.

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Clearly, a hanging rack like this is designed for small things like socks and underwear, but I’ve used it to hang wet bathing suits, dress shirts, and even sweaters in a pinch, though the latter required hanging a few other heavy things on the opposite side to keep the whole apparatus relatively balanced. I even stuck a little command hook onto the side of our dryer to hold the thing when I’m not using it, so it effectively doesn’t take up any space in my cramped apartment until I need it.

Now, I just need to get a laundry folding board to go with it.


Low-cost TV streaming service Philo comes to Android

Despite a slight price increase in April, Philo’s live TV streaming service is still one of the more affordable options on the market because of its strategic decision to not stream sports. That helps keep its costs down while providing an option for cord cutters who mainly want access to the traditional cable TV networks focused on entertainment, news, movies, kids, and other lifestyle content. But until today, Philo hasn’t been well-serving a large portion of its user base: Android users. That’s now changing with the official launch of a native Android app.

Before, Android users could only access Philo from a mobile web browser, while iOS users had their own dedicated app.

Android Home Page

The new Android app will be generally comparable to the iOS experience, though it has a somewhat different layout.  While iOS features navigation buttons for Home, Live, Saved, Search, and Settings, the Android version switches things up a bit. Instead, its navigation features Home, Guide, Saved, Search, and a user profile button.

Android Recommended

It also includes a Recommended section, in addition to the Trending Live and New and Upcoming sections. And instead of row of thumbnails in iOS’s Live, it presents a grid-like TV guide for finding something to watch in Guide. Many of the live TV services have switched over to the grid guide format, having realized that when it comes to finding live content, people still prefer to see things organized by what’s on now in a more standard layout.

Schedule Screenshot

Philo users can choose to either watch TV live or save shows to watch later, on up to three devices. The company recently did away with its multiple tiered pricing to combine packages into a single $20 per month option with 58 channels.

In addition to the Android native app, Philo is also today launching an app for Amazon’s Fire tablets (Fire OS 5 and up).

Android Saved Channels

These new apps join Philo’s existing lineup of apps for web (Chrome, Safari, Edge, and Firefox); TV (Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, and Roku); and iOS.

The company doesn’t disclose its subscriber numbers, but its app is further behind its rivals. Today, the iOS version ranks No. 153 on the App Store’s Entertainment category, according to App Annie. That’s behind live streaming TV services YouTube TV (No. 22), Sling TV (No. 68) and No. 2 Hulu — although the latter is top-ranked for its more popular on-demand product, not its live TV service. Sensor Tower says Philo has been downloaded close to 500,000 times on iOS to date, and grew around 181 percent (or 2.8x) year-over-year last month.

That said, Philo had been missing out on a reaching huge swath of potential customers until today. Now available cross-platform, it may better appeal to consumers who use multiple devices — as well as those who are budget conscious and own less expensive Android smartphones.

The app is available here on Google Play.

Bright Machines wants to put AI-driven automation in every factory

There’s a mythology around today’s factories that says everything is automated by robotics, and while there is some truth to that, it’s hard to bring that level of sophistication to every facility, especially those producing relatively small runs. Today, Bright Machines, a San Francisco startup announced its first product designed to put intelligence and automation in reach of every manufacturer, regardless of its size.

The startup, which emerged last fall with $179 million in Series A funding, has a mission to make every aspect of manufacturing run in a software-defined automated fashion. Company CEO Amar Hanspal understands it’s a challenging goal, and today’s announcement is about delivering version 1.0 of that vision.

“We have this ambitious idea to fundamentally change the way factories operate, and what we are all about is to get to autonomous programmable factories,” he said. To start on that journey, since getting its initial funding in October, the company has been building a team that includes manufacturing, software and artificial intelligence expertise. It brought in people from Autodesk, Amazon and Google and opened offices in Seattle and Tel Aviv.

The product it is releasing today is called the Software Defined Microfactory and it consists of hardware and software components that work in tandem. “What the Software Defined Microfactory does is package together robotics, computer vision, machine handling and converged systems in a modular way with hardware that you can plug and play, then the software comes in to instruct the factory on what to build and how to build it,” Hanspal explained.

Obviously, this is not an easy thing to do, and it’s taken a great deal of expertise to pull it together over the last months since the funding. It’s also required having testing partners. “We have about 20 product brands around the world and about 25 production lines in seven countries that have been iterating with us toward version one, what we are releasing today,” Hanspal said.

The company is concentrating on the assembly line for starters, especially when building smaller runs like say a specialized computer board or a network appliance where the manufacturer might produce just 50,000 in total, and could benefit from automation, but couldn’t justify the cost before.

“The idea here is going after the least automated part inside of factory, which is the assembly line, which is typically where people have to throw bodies at the problem and assembly lines have been hard to automate. The operations around assembly typically require human dexterity and judgment, trying to align things or plug things in,” Hanspal said.

The hope is to create a series of templates for different kinds of tooling, where they can get the majority of the way there with the software and robotics, and eventually just have to work on the more customized bits. It is an ambitious goal, and it’s not going to be easy to pull off, but today’s release is a first step.

Europe should ban AI for mass surveillance and social credit scoring, says advisory group

An independent expert group tasked with advising the European Commission to inform its regulatory response to artificial intelligence — to underpin EU lawmakers’ stated aim of ensuring AI developments are “human centric” — has published its policy and investment recommendations.

This follows earlier ethics guidelines for “trustworthy AI”, put out by the High Level Expert Group (HLEG) for AI back in April, when the Commission also called for participants to test the draft rules.

The AI HLEG’s full policy recommendations comprise a highly detailed 50-page document — which can be downloaded from this web page. The group, which was set up in June 2018, is made up of a mix of industry AI experts, civic society representatives, political advisers and policy wonks, academics and legal experts.

The document includes warnings on the use of AI for mass surveillance and scoring of EU citizens, such as China’s social credit system, with the group calling for an outright ban on “AI-enabled mass scale scoring of individuals”. It also urges governments to commit to not engage in blanket surveillance of populations for national security purposes. (So perhaps it’s just as well the UK has voted to leave the EU, given the swingeing state surveillance powers it passed into law at the end of 2016.) 

“While there may be a strong temptation for governments to ‘secure society’ by building a pervasive surveillance system based on AI systems, this would be extremely dangerous if pushed to extreme levels,” the HLEG writes. “Governments should commit not to engage in mass surveillance of individuals and to deploy and procure only Trustworthy AI systems, designed to be respectful of the law and fundamental rights, aligned with ethical principles and socio-technically robust.”

The group also calls for commercial surveillance of individuals and societies to be “countered” — suggesting the EU’s response to the potency and potential for misuse of AI technologies should include ensuring that online people-tracking is “strictly in line with fundamental rights such as privacy”, including (the group specifies) when it concerns ‘free’ services (albeit with a slight caveat on the need to consider how business models are impacted).

Last week the UK’s data protection watchdog fired an even more specific shot across the bows of the online behavioral ad industry — warning that adtech’s mass-scale processing of web users’ personal data for targeting ads does not comply with EU privacy standards. The industry was told its rights-infringing practices must change, even if the Information Commissioner’s Office isn’t about to bring down the hammer just yet. But the reform warning was clear.

As EU policymakers work on fashioning a rights-respecting regulatory framework for AI, seeking to steer  the next ten years+ of cutting-edge tech developments in the region, the wider attention and scrutiny that will draw to digital practices and business models looks set to drive a clean up of problematic digital practices that have been able to proliferate under no or very light touch regulation, prior to now.

The HLEG also calls for support for developing mechanisms for the protection of personal data, and for individuals to “control and be empowered by their data” — which they argue would address “some aspects of the requirements of trustworthy AI”.

“Tools should be developed to provide a technological implementation of the GDPR and develop privacy preserving/privacy by design technical methods to explain criteria, causality in personal data processing of AI systems (such as federated machine learning),” they write.

“Support technological development of anonymisation and encryption techniques and develop standards for secure data exchange based on personal data control. Promote the education of the general public in personal data management, including individuals’ awareness of and empowerment in AI personal data-based decision-making processes. Create technology solutions to provide individuals with information and control over how their data is being used, for example for research, on consent management and transparency across European borders, as well as any improvements and outcomes that have come from this, and develop standards for secure data exchange based on personal data control.”

Other policy suggestions among the many included in the HLEG’s report are that AI systems which interact with humans should include a mandatory self-identification. Which would mean no sneaky Google Duplex human-speech mimicking bots. In such a case the bot would have to introduce itself up front — thereby giving the human caller a chance to disengage.

The HLEG also recommends establishing a “European Strategy for Better and Safer AI for Children”. Concern and queasiness about rampant datafication of children, including via commercial tracking of their use of online services, has been raised  in multiple EU member states.

“The integrity and agency of future generations should be ensured by providing Europe’s children with a childhood where they can grow and learn untouched by unsolicited monitoring, profiling and interest invested habitualisation and manipulation,” the group writes. “Children should be ensured a free and unmonitored space of development and upon moving into adulthood should be provided with a “clean slate” of any public or private storage of data related to them. Equally, children’s formal education should be free from commercial and other interests.”

Member states and the Commission should also devise ways to continuously “analyse, measure and score the societal impact of AI”, suggests the HLEG — to keep tabs on positive and negative impacts so that policies can be adapted to take account of shifting effects.

“A variety of indices can be considered to measure and score AI’s societal impact such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Social Scoreboard Indicators of the European Social Pillar. The EU statistical programme of Eurostat, as well as other relevant EU Agencies, should be included in this mechanism to ensure that the information generated is trusted, of high and verifiable quality, sustainable and continuously available,” it suggests. “AI-based solutions can help the monitoring and measuring its societal impact.”

The report is also heavy on pushing for the Commission to bolster investment in AI — calling particularly for more help for startups and SMEs to access funding and advice, including via the InvestEU program.

Another suggestion is the creation of an EU-wide network of AI business incubators to connect academia and industry. “This could be coupled with the creation of EU-wide Open Innovation Labs, which could be built further on the structure of the Digital Innovation Hub network,” it continues. 

There are also calls to encourage public sector uptake of AI, such as by fostering digitalisation by transforming public data into a digital format; providing data literacy education to government agencies; creating European large annotated public non-personal databases for “high quality AI”; and funding and facilitating the development of AI tools that can assist in detecting biases and undue prejudice in governmental decision-making.

Another chunk of the report covers recommendations to try to bolster AI research in Europe — such as strengthening and creating additional Centres of Excellence which address strategic research topics and become “a European level multiplier for a specific AI topic”.

Investment in AI infrastructures, such as distributed clusters and edge computing, large RAM and fast networks, and a network of testing facilities and sandboxes is also urged; along with support for an EU-wide data repository “through common annotation and standardisation” — to work against data siloing, as well as trusted data spaces for specific sectors such as healthcare, automative and agri-food.

The push by the HLEG to accelerate uptake of AI has drawn some criticism, with digital rights group Access Now’s European policy manager, Fanny Hidvegi, writing that: “What we need now is not more AI uptake across all sectors in Europe, but rather clarity on safeguards, red lines, and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that the automated decision making systems — and AI more broadly — developed and deployed in Europe respect human rights.”

Other ideas in the HLEG’s report include developing and implementing a European curriculum for AI; and monitoring and restricting the development of automated lethal weapons — including technologies such as cyber attack tools which are not “actual weapons” but which the group points out “can have lethal consequences if deployed. 

The HLEG further suggests EU policymakers refrain from giving AI systems or robots legal personhood, writing: “We believe this to be fundamentally inconsistent with the principle of human agency, accountability and responsibility, and to pose a significant moral hazard.”

The report can downloaded in full here.

Facebook squeezes money from Instagram with new ads in Explore

Half of Instagram’s billion-plus users open its Explore tab each month to find fresh content and creators. Now the Facebook-owned app will do more to carry its weight by injecting ads into Instagram Explore for the first time. But rather than bombard users with marketing right on the Explore grid, Instagram will instead only show ads after users tap into a post and then start scrolling through similar imagery.

The move feels like a respectful way to monetize Explore without annoying users too much or breaking the high visual quality of the space. Instagram’s director of business product marketing Susan Bucker Rose tells me she believes the ads will feel natural because users already come to Explore “in the mindset of discovery. They want to be exposed to new accounts, people, and brands.”

Instagram Ads In Explore Tab

Instagram will test the ad slots itself at first to promote its ailing IGTV feature before they “launch to a handful of brands over the coming weeks” Rose says. That includes both big name corporations and smaller advertisers looking to drive conversions, video views, or reach. Instagram hopes to roll the ad format out broadly in the next few months.

Advertisers will buy the slots through the same Facebook ads manager and API they use to buy Instagram feed and Stories space. At first advertisers will have to opt in to placing their ads in Instagram Explore too, but eventually that will be the default with an opportunity to opt out.

Here’s how ads work in Instagram Explore. When you open the tab it will look the same as always with a scrollable grid of posts with high engagement that are personalized based on your interests. When you tap into a photo or video, you’ll first see that full-screen. But if you keep scrolling down, Instagram will show you a contextual feed of content similar to the original post where it will insert photo and video ads. And if you tap into one of the themed video channels and then keep scrolling after watching the clip to check out more videos in the same vein, you may see Instagram video ads.

Instagram describes the introduction as “slowly and thoughtfully” — which makes it sound like the volume of ads will ramp up over time.

Explore was first launched in 2012, some two years after Instagram itself, as a merger of the app’s search and “popular” tabs, with an aim of using algorithms that were informed by your existing interests to give you a new way to discover new people and themes to follow in the app beyond those you might pick up by way of you own social circles. It’s had a few revamps, such as the addition of topical channels and hashtags, and the addition of Stories, the format that has proven to be such a hit on Instagram itself. There won’t be any ads in Stories that recently started appearing in Explore.

But interestingly, through all of that, Instagram stayed hands-off when it came to advertising and Explore. The idea is that the content that each person sees in Explore is individualized, with algorithms detecting the kinds of things you like to show you photos, videos and subjects you might most want to see. Apparently Instagram didn’t want to deter browsing of this content.

On the other side of the coin, this has meant that up to now, individuals and brands have not been able to proactively request or pay to be in anyone’s specific Explore tab — although that doesn’t mean that people don’t game this situation (just Google “how to get on Instagram Explore” and you will find many how-to’s to show you the way).

Instagram Explore Ads

The move to bring ads into the Explore experience has some logic to it. Even before monetization made its way to Instagram in the form of feed advertising, shoppable links and sponsored content posted by influencers, brands and businesses had started using the platform to promote products and to connect with customers. Instagram says that today, 80 percent of its users follow at least one business on Instagram. Now instead of trying desperately to game the Explore algorithm, Instagram can just sell businesses space instead.

With Facebook’s News Feed usage in danger as attention shifts to Stories that it’s still learning to monetize, the company is leaning more on Instagram to keep revenue growing. But Instagram must be sure not to suffocate the golden goose with too many ads.

A Camp Counselor’s Tricks for Motivating Kids

Photo: Elva Etienne (Getty Images)

Summer camp: You might remember it as a place for making friends, braiding lanyards, eating s’mores, jumping in lakes and drenching your mosquito bites in calamine lotion. But for Jamie Lee Lardner, who spent years as a camper and counselor at Camp Pontiac in New York, it was also the ultimate training ground for her future role as a mom.

Lardner is a member of the Offspring Facebook group, and always has great parenting wisdom to share. When I asked her where she learned many of her tricks, she told me: “At camp.” It makes sense—summer camp counselors must be facilitators, coaches and mentors all at once. They encourage kids to take risks, work in teams and look out for others. They have to navigate a world of unpredictability —“Susie found what in her bunk?!”—with leadership and composure.

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One thing Lardner learned as a counselor was how to motivate kids. She shares some tips.

Instead of telling kids what not to do, encourage the behavior you wish to see

“When I was lifeguarding, instead of saying ‘Don’t run,’ I would always say “Walk with your safe feet,” Lardner says. “This was especially good for the younger kids.” Giving kid a clear picture of what they should be doing is much more effective than a list of “nos.”

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Give misbehaving kids a mission

At camp, Lardner remembers there were some kids who were always shoving others. She discovered a way to keep things peaceful: Turn the misbehaving kids into leaders. As a parent, she recently used the tactic. Lardner explains: “On a Disney cruise, this 10- or 11-year-old kept bumping kids out of the way to go on a water slide. He bumped my three-year-old out of her turn, so I met him at the bottom. I said, ‘Hey! You’re way older than these kids, so you’re supposed to be showing them how to wait in line and help them at the top.’ Then I said, ‘This is Mickey. She is three and is just learning how to wait her turn. Can you show her how the big kids wait their turn?’ The kid became her body guard for the rest of the day. When he got ice cream, he brought her some. In my experience, kids react better if you remind them they’re capable of leadership instead of screaming, ‘Hey, wait your turn!’”

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Remind kids what they’ve already accomplished

With the more timid kids at camp, Lardner says she would remind them of their past “brave steps” to encourage them to go even further. It’s a technique her therapist calls “priming.” For instance, with a child who’s afraid of the water, she might say, “I saw you put your face in and blow three bubbles yesterday—that was awesome! How many do you think you can do today? If we get up to six, you can splash me with a kickboard.” It’s all about building trust with the kids and highlighting their acts of courage.

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Imagine the desired result and work backwards

In camp scenarios in which Lardner would feel like yelling at a kid, she would first ask herself whether doing so would help achieve the resolution she’s looking for. And always, the answer would be no. She once had to do a rescue in the water—one child pulled another off her flotation device. Lardner wanted to explode, but instead, she decided to “architect a disaster plan” in her head based on what she wanted the ultimate result to be.

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“I needed them to have a peaceful and safe resolution where everyone felt empowered,” she says. “So I thought, how do I work backwards from there?” She decided to have a talk with both kids about how some children think going underwater is fun, but others find it scary. “I said, ‘See? Everyone was trying to have fun, but we forgot the major rule: No touching each other in the water.’ Lardner says she never wanted the so-called “bad kid” to walk away feeling embarrassed. Instead, she says she “wanted that kid to know what a hero acts like.”

The bottom line: When you start with the premise that kids want to do better and hold them to a higher standard, they’ll often rise to it.

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HER, the dating app for queer women, revamps profiles

HER, the app that provides safe space for queer women to meet, has today revamped the app’s profiles.

The updated profiles allow users to express themselves more fully in the categories of gender, sexuality, pronouns, diet preferences, star signs, drinking, smoking and cannabis habits, among others. HER has also added space for a text bio, which is very common on other dating apps but wasn’t a part of Her.

“It was interesting to reflect on how people have changed,” said founder and CEO Robyn Exton, in reference to text profiles. “People used to worry about writing a bio but now they really want more ways to express themselves, and they want to see other people’s writing skills when they’re browsing profiles.”

There is a downside to text profiles, which the Grindr community is all too familiar with, in that it allows users to also express their discrimination against certain people or groups. That said, HER’s first commitment is to provide safe space to queer women and has thusly built out reporting tools to weed out bad actors.

Perhaps more importantly, HER is providing a ‘What does this mean’ field across the categories of Sexuality, Gender and Pronouns, to help users understand each other more authentically.

Here’s what Exton had to say in a prepared release:

Profiles are a critical space to tell people who we are yet mostly end up becoming a bland wash where everyone sounds the same. Few social apps have invested any time in trying to truly understand and support the expression of queer identity – a limited number of sexualities and genders just doesn’t cut it. By enforcing these limitations, companies are denying LGBTQ+ people the opportunity to truly be ourselves. To express all of our identity, all the tiny, intersecting facets of what makes us, us.

HER launched four years ago, rebranded from Daatch, with the intent to give queer women a space to safely and freely express themselves and meet each other. The profiles on the app have always been slightly more expressive than those of other dating apps, allowing users to post multiple pictures, interests etc., all of which were ‘likeable’ by other users.

The new profiles have refined the options available to users and have implemented multiple select so that no user ever gets put in a box.

Like most dating apps, HER operates with a freemium model, offering premium features to subscribers who pay $15USD/month. The company also makes money off of its events business, which operates in fifteen cities across the U.S.

HER has 4.5 million registered users, and has raised $2.5 million in funding. Exton says that HER has been profitable for several years.

Happy Pride!