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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
After two years of intense pressure — the U.S. trade war with China, its brinksmanship with allies, and finally the government shutdown — the global system is showing signs of cleaving: The U.S. and the rest of the world appear to be tipping into recession, leading nations are taking each other's nationals hostage, and deadly and frequent violence is striking Europe.
Last week we took account of our six 2018 geopolitical forecasts. Now we explain our outlook on this year:
Something is clearly wrong with the global economy, which has left behind swaths of populations around the world, disregarded them in political decisions, and all in all forgotten them in the calculus of power. But, thus far, the only economic reaction has been a backlash against Big Tech.
The economic backlash will wash over into a political reckoning. A sign of the action to come is this now much-circulated Jan. 3 monologue from Fox News firebrand Tucker Carlson: a call to arms against the system and those who would keep it the way it is.
We thought we had already witnessed an explosion of political anger.
Berkeley's two-armed robot, seen at 5x speed. Video: Adriel Olmos/UC Berkeley
Pick up a glass of water, then lift a fork: Without thinking, you chose the best way to grasp each object. Researchers at UC Berkeley have developed a robot that makes the same calculation, choosing on the fly whether to grab an object with pincers or lift it with a suction cup.
Axios' Kaveh Waddell reports: Reliable robot grabbers are the just-out-of-reach holy grail for e-commerce outfits like Amazon and Walmart, who still rely mainly on human hands for the job. Smart picker-uppers would clear a serious bottleneck in shipping and could change the nature of warehouses entirely.
How it works: Berkeley's two-armed robot, seen in the video clip above, first considers the contents of a bin and calculates each arm's probability of picking up an object.
Warehouse robots that can move around merchandise are highly sought after. Amazon is reportedly working on its own "picker" robots, as are several robotics companies.
But, but, but: One limitation of the Berkeley bot is that it can't change its plans once it begins moving to pick up an object, and therefore can't react to its environment — like items resettling in a jostled bin — says Jonas Schneider, head of robotics at OpenAI, who was not involved in this research.
What's next: Mahler says robots will eventually need to place objects in precise orientations and to tightly pack a shipping box. Perhaps most valuable would be a bot that can rummage through a box to find a specific item.
In Warsaw. Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty
U.S. authorities are investigating Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant, for the alleged theft of the tech behind a T-Mobile robot called “Tappy,” reports WSJ.
“I had heard from the company last year that they bought something from Huawei and were surprised to see their own code in it. This is consistent with Huawei’s past practice, dating back more than a decade ... Stealing IP is part of their DNA.”— Jim Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies to Axios
The backdrop: T-Mobile first accused Huawei of thievery in 2014, when the American company had hired the Chinese one to supply phones for its network, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.
The big picture: It’s yet another strike against Huawei, whose CFO has been detained in Canada and is waiting possible extradition to the U.S. — all in the thick of a new era of hostility between Beijing and Washington.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Amazon, the publisher, goes for the book industry (Jeffrey Trachtenberg — WSJ)
The recession alarms are ringing (Dion Rabouin — Axios)
The father of retirement saving dies (Art Carey, Erin Arvedlund — Philly Inquirer)
The most powerful person in Silicon Valley (Katrina Brooker — Fast Company)
100 million public toilets (Kiran Sharma — Nikkei Asian Review)
We receive a lot of tech and product pitches. Mostly they resemble each other, but not one that came in today — Food Cubby, "a semi-circle of BPA-Free, food-grade silicone that suctions to a flat dinner plate."
Food Cubby's ambitions are wide, seeing as how it "not only separates food for those that don’t like their food touching, but makes it easy to scoop against for those having trouble using utensils."
What triggered the brain cells of an inventor to create this device, costing $14 a pair? We had different reactions:
Feel free to check it out yourself here.