Weekly Tech Recap - № 189 - Tesla’s healthy earnings, a robot photo album, the return of Winamp…
Tesla’s healthy earnings
Model 3. © Tesla.
Following a rough patch caused by CEO Elon Musk’s series of bad PR moves, Tesla finally has some good news: it’s in the black. Last Wednesday, the electric car manufacturer published its quarterly returns, unveiling revenues of close to 6.8 billion dollars, far more than the forecast 6.33 billion. It also recorded a net profit of 312 million dollars, compared to its 619 million dollar loss this time last year. The turnaround is driven by surging production of the Model 3. In terms of units sold in the US, the Model 3 comes in fifth place behind Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, Honda Accord and Toyota Corolla. It’s the highest-grossing car, at a little over 3 billion USD. The Toyota Camry retails at between 24,000 and 29,000 USD, while the average sale price for a Model 3 is 59,000 USD. The Model 3 has captured 76% of sales for pure electric vehicles, but it won’t be long before the big manufacturers enter that market, putting up tougher competition.
⇨ Tesla, “Tesla third quarter 2018 update (PDF).”
A robot photo album
Atlas (2013). © Boston Dynamics.
Just like we do, IEEE Spectrum magazine loves robots. Its team just launched a new web site featuring about 200 robots that aims to be a core reference for robotics enthusiasts. For each robot, you’ll find a description along with photos and even videos. The collection includes Unimate (1961), the first industrial robot, and Vector, Anki’s super-cute mini-robot that came out this year. Visitors are encouraged to grade the robots’ appearance, which generates a classification of the creepiest robots. IEEE Spectrum will regularly add to the collection, to maintain its preeminence on the topic. “It is great to see all those robots, photos and videos, organized in one place,” says Marc Raibert, CEO of Boston Dynamics and a robot legend. “A good way to keep track of what is going on.” And who knows, in a few generations, this website might serve as a family photo album for nostalgic robots in search of their roots, back when they still depended on humans.
Speaking of robotics, this video by Boston Dynamics got around the internet last week. If you missed it, here’s a fun dance choreographed on SpotMini:
⇨ IEEE Spectrum, “Explore the World’s Coolest Robots, All in One Place.”
The return of Winamp
As soon as it appeared in 1997, Winamp was the most popular free MP3 player on Windows and also the most downloaded freeware. Its creator, Nullsoft, was bought by AOL in 1999 for around 100 million. Since then, Winamp has been in a slow tailspin, primarily due to bad management decisions and a culture shock between AOL bureaucrats and the libertarian techno geeks at Nullsoft. Apple’s launch of the iPod digital media player in 2001 didn’t help much. Version 3 in 2002 was the next nail in the coffin because most users preferred the previous versions. Winamp could have disappeared in 2005 following the exit of its creators, but for more-or-less obvious reasons, AOL kept the software alive for years. It even adapted the software to Android (2010) and more surprisingly, to MacOS (2011). In November 2013, lacking satisfactory revenues and unable to find a buyer even after discounting it to 5 million, AOL dropped the axe. Winamp’s site was unplugged the following month and the software is done for. And finally, the software was sold in 2014 to Radionomy, a Belgian company that runs an online service where users can create their own streaming radio station. Until last month, there was no further news of Winamp, but an update to the desktop player leaked last month, bringing it from version 5.666 (the last version dating back to 2013) to 5.8. This version solves compatibility problems with Windows 10 and eliminates the paid options — news that will be enthusiastically received by the community who remained loyal to the old software. After the leak, Radionomy took the reins and announced the official arrival of 5.8 on its winamp.com site and simultaneously hinted at the 2019 launch of version 6 with added functionality. Hurray, Winamp is back!
⇨ TechCrunch, “Winamp returns in 2019 to whip the llama’s ass harder than ever.”
iOS 12 thwarts police
Last June, we reported that Apple was working on iOS 12 so that law enforcement would find it much harder to hack locked iPhones. A favourite among police forces, the GrayKey device, which connects to the Lightning port to unlock iPhones, was in the Apple engineers’ cross-hairs. It seems they’ve succeeded. According to Forbes magazine, Graykey can no longer get past the iOS 12 wall. The GrayKey device can only do what’s called a “partial extraction”: unencrypted files and some metadata, such as file sizes and folder structures. “Give it time and I am sure a ‘workaround’ will be developed … and then the cycle will repeat. Someone is always building a better mousetrap, whether it’s Apple or someone trying to defeat device security,” confided John Sherwin, police officer in Rochester, who went on to confirm that iOS 12 was preventing GrayKey from unlocking iPhones.
⇨ Forbes, “Apple Just Killed The ‘GrayKey’ iPhone Passcode Hack.”
Snake Robot. © Kyoto University/University of Electro-Communications.
If you’re not a fan of legless reptiles, you’ll find this video a little creepy. Engineers at Kyoto University teamed up with the University of Electro-Communications in Chofu to develop this roboserpent. This snake-like robot can climb ladders as seen in the video below. The researchers recently unveiled the unsettling robot at the IROS conference on intelligent robots in Madrid.