U.S. Army to Test Microsoft’s Kinect in Helicopter Cockpits
Motion-tracking game technology found in American living rooms has a shot at making its way into U.S. military helicopters. The Army envisions Microsoft’s Kinect system as a low-cost solution for smarter cockpits that track what pilots see or do — opening the door for smarter war machines capable of responding quickly to human needs during combat.
The Microsoft Kinect for Xbox can already recognize gestures, faces and voices under almost any ambient light conditions for about $150. Such off-the-shelf gaming technology looks like a bargain next to expensive military helmets that track a pilot’s head movements or eye gaze based on infrared detectors or magnetic sensors.
“New technology from the gaming world has the potential to substantially reduce the cost of adding head tracking to conventional helicopters, as well as the ability to do body tracking and gesture recognition to support future intelligent cockpits,” according to the Army’s solicitation for the small-business innovation research program on April 25.
Such intelligent cockpits may feature Minority Report virtual controls and displays, automatically identify targets a pilot is seeing outside the cockpit, report on damage based on where a pilot looks, or even monitor a pilot’s mental and physical health based on his or her motions. That futuristic vision starts with motion-tracking technology.
Having cheaper and more capable motion-tracking technology could especially help military helicopters missing head-tracking systems, such as the Blackhawk, Kiowa Warrior and Chinook. But the same system could also end up helping soldiers inside ground vehicles or at work stations, as well as commercial airline pilots and civilian drivers.
If it succeeds, the Army would only be the latest in a long line of people who have hacked into the Microsoft Kinect’s cheap but powerful capabilities. Geeks have harnessed the Kinect’s power to make virtual clothes-fitting rooms and rescue robots. Archaeologists have even turned the gaming device into a 3D scanner for exploring ancient cities and burial grounds.
Apple Evades Billions in Corporate Taxes, NY Times Reports
The New York Times accused Apple of evading billions of dollars in taxes by setting up subsidiary companies in tax-free or low-tax states and countries.
Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., uses a small office in state-tax-free Nevada to manage and invest its profits, allowing it to bypass California’s 8.84% corporate tax rate. Apple’s Nevada-based subsidiary asset management company is called Braeburn Capital.
Apple has taken its Reno approach worldwide, and the company’s ability to find tax loopholes around the world is functioning as a template for many transnational corporations. The tech giant reduces the amount of taxes it pays by routing its profits to offices in low-tax countries such as the British Virgin Islands, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Citing government and corporate data, The New York Times reported that technology companies are often the least taxed. Corporate tax dodging is nothing new, but Apple’s low-profile offices raise discussion about who is picking up the slack for Apple’s lack of tax payments. Is the liability shifting to everyday taxpayers?
In a statement responding to the allegations, Apple told The New York Times it “pays an enormous amount of taxes, which help our local, state and federal governments. In the first half of fiscal year 2012, our U.S. operations have generated almost $5 billion in federal and state income taxes, including income taxes withheld on employee stock gains, making us among the top payers of U.S. income tax.”
The New York Times findings are significant because it shows how Apple increases its already sky-high profit in its quest to become the most profitable company in the world — without paying the total amount of taxes the company is expected to pay based on its California location. It’s difficult to measure how much Apple and other corporations shell out in taxes because corporations are not required to publically disclose amount of taxes paid.
Although Apple didn’t disclose its amount of U.S. federal and state taxes paid, it did reveal in its last annual report that it paid $8.3 billion in worldwide taxes. That equals an 9% tax rate, compared with, for example, the 24% percent tax rate Walmart pays.
Apple contends it has not done anything illegal or unethical, telling the Times it “has conducted all of its business with the highest of ethical standards, complying with applicable laws and accounting rules.” Then Apple used language it usually reserves for product hype, adding, “We are incredibly proud of all of Apple’s contributions.”
While Apple declined to comment to Mashable about its taxing practices, Robert Hatta, a former Apple employee who oversaw Apple’s iTunes retail marketing and sales in Europe, gave The New York Times an example of how Apple pays lower taxes in Luxembourg instead of paying taxes to the U.S. Britain, France and many other countries.
“We set up in Luxembourg because of the favorable taxes,” Hatta told The New York Times. “Downloads are different from tractors or steel because there’s nothing you can touch, so it doesn’t matter if your computer is in France or England. If you’re buying from Luxembourg, it’s a relationship with Luxembourg.”
Meanwhile, Apple continues to net increasing profits. Last year the company raked in $34.2 billion. Most recently, Apple reported quarterly revenue of $39.2 billion ending March 31. iPhone and iPad sales dominated the company’s profits and showed huge growth from one year ago. In the second quarter of 2012, Apple sold 35.1 million iPhones and 11.8 million iPads. Apple’s tablet device sales soared high reaching an “151 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter” and iPhones sales increase by 88% compared to the year-ago quarter.
A new study by J.D. Power and Associates asked whether drivers would let their car handle basic driving functions. One in five respondents definitely would or probably would buy a car with an autonomous driving capability.
In the beginning, nobody questioned the social networks. They were a great way of keeping in touch with friends and making new ones.
Eventually, concerns started to mount, and new social network applications started popping up, promising users that they would “own their data.”
At Zurker, we’ve taken things a bit further. You don’t just own your data, you own the network. Every Zurker user can very easily become a co-owner (future shareholder) of Zurker.
Why is this cool?
Zurker is a member-owned application.
This means Zurker isn’t owned by a select few venture capitalists who stand to make billions and billions. There is nothing wrong with the idea of venture capitalists making billions from tech investments, but in the case of a social network, the priorities get skewed.
If social networks are owned by VC’s and investment banks (such as Goldman Sachs) and other investors looking purely for profit, they gradually become orientated towards one thing and one thing only: making money. How do we mine more data from the users? How do we monetize their every action? How do we get them addicted to paid apps which improve the bottom line?
It’s not a bad thing for a social network to make money, but if squeezing every last penny from the user base is the abiding concern, the users aren’t going to get the best possible product.
Zurker is driven by democracy.
The traditional way for social networks to innovate has been top-down all the way. A small group of engineers make key decisions about what features should be made available. Sometimes, brilliant innovators (such as Steve Jobs) can come up with mind-blowing applications nobody knew they wanted.
But in many cases, the changes are driven by mundane things such as corporate politics, and the users are forced to adapt to changes because they have no choice.
At Zurker, we believe that if our members own the project, they will enthusiastically contribute ideas and feedback, allowing the Zurker development team to develop the social application most in tune with what people actually want.
Zurker is owned by you.
There are dozens if not hundreds of social applications on the web. All of them want your time, and most of them want you to help them grow by referring your friends. But why should you? The only people who benefit when those apps grow are the founders and their investors. They stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars each if their product takes off, so it’s no wonder they keep pressuring you to help them grow.
At Zurker, you are a co-owner and an investor. You can earn vShares by referring your friends. The more friends you invite, the more equity you earn. Zurker becomes better, and better, as more people join, increasing in value. As Zurker becomes more valuable, your stake becomes more valuable.
Like any other social network, we ask you to refer your friends. We ask you to do some work. But we make sure you get a slice of the pie in return.