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A Famous TV Show Just Showed a Different Side of Amazon's Jeff Bezos. It Wasn't Pretty
December 9, 2018 12:01 pm|Comments (0)

I have a feeling it’s happening more often.

As Amazon begins to place a large footprint on every part of America, some people are wondering if that’s entirely a good thing.

Last week, I wrote about a very clever filmmaker who changed the music on Amazon’s latest ad and made the company seem like an alien invader, there to gobble all before it.

Now it’s becoming a trend.

Was he portrayed as an innovative tech genius, bringing joy to all the people of the world?

Not quite.

Instead, here was a man who communicated through a twisted telepathy and spoke in the robotic tones of someone who’d really rather like to immolate you, as soon as you serve no further purpose to him.

He knows how to hit you where it truly hurts.

If you don’t do what he says, he threatens to, gasp, take away your Amazon Prime status.

And who can live without that? 

You might think that anyone who achieves power is likely to face a certain level of ridicule.

What’s different with Amazon is that too may stories are now emerging in which the company appears entirely without heart.

You might imagine there’s little Amazon can do about that.

Growth, after all, is the only characteristic America respects in companies. 

You have to get bigger and bigger until you burst, rather like the average American diner.

Yet Amazon executives are surely concerned that a company claiming to put consumers at its core may become a little more unpopular with those very consumers.

Some might wonder whether, instead of this being Amazon’s prime time, it’s actually the beginning of the end.

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Learn to Fly Sikorsky's New Helicopter in Just 45 Minutes
November 2, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

With the possible exception of Tom Cruise, learning to fly a helicopter demands months of classroom, simulator, and in-air training. The controls feature all the logic of Bop It: Twist one hand, move the other to the left. Push one foot, then the other. Watch the instruments, but don’t forget to look at the horizon. I once spent a full day working with Airbus’ top instructors, and by the end couldn’t even keep the chopper in level flight. I was nowhere near pulling off a low hover, a move that looks simple but requires extraordinary coordination and concentration.

But last month, a group from the US Army, including one person who’d never even been in a helicopter, flew a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter up and over a small watching crowd in Fort Eustis, Virginia, hovered over an adjoining field, dropped down, adjusted their position to dodge another vehicle, then safely landed. And they did it all after as little as 45 minutes of training.

“It’s pretty neat to see the transformation from ‘I have no idea what this system does’ to ‘I can now control this system,’” says Sikorsky helicopter pilot Mark Ward, who put the newbies through their minimalist training. “This is not to say that they’re combat-ready, hardened, ready to go. But it is a testament to the ease with which they can now adapt to a nonlogical control system like a helicopter,” he says.

It’s not like these people are aeronautical savants (no offense) or leather-clad Carrie-Anne Mosses. But computers are key, as given away by the retro blocky graphic on the chopper: “Matrix Technology.” This, as you may have guessed, is no ordinary helicopter. It’s controlled by a hand-held tablet that lets wannabe pilots fly about using familiar gestures and movements, like they would to play a game or fly a quadcopter drone.

Matrix Technology is the name of Sikorsky’s program for rotorcraft that minimize, or even eliminate, the role of the human pilot. It’s part Darpa’s Alias program (that’s the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System). Just as some automakers are approaching self-driving cars with gradually more capable driver assistance tech, the idea here is that making a chopper easier to fly is a step toward letting a computer take control.

The human on board controls the flight using a tablet and a couple of joystick-like controllers called interceptors. “It allows the onboard crew members to rapidly communicate their intent to the autonomy system, which kind of becomes like a co-pilot,” says Igor Cherepinsky, director of Sikorsky’s autonomy program.

DARPA

Instead of learning the steps of the complicated throttle and pedal dance, the human onboard controls the flight using a tablet and a couple of joystick-like controllers called interceptors. The tablet is used for inputting mission changes, like changing the destination. The interceptors are for more immediate inputs, like a push to the right or a quick climb. But unlike in conventional flight, adjusting any of these controls leads to an input into the computer controlling the flight, requesting a change, rather than a direct movement of a flight control surface. This is fully fly-by-wire, under the control of an algorithm.

“It allows the onboard crew members to rapidly communicate their intent to the autonomy system, which kind of becomes like a copilot,” says Igor Cherepinsky, director of Sikorsky’s autonomy program. The human gives orders, the computer executes them.

Although Sikorsky put the humans in the helicopter for this demo, the system could work just as efficiently as a kind of remote control, says Cherepinsky, with the human on the ground below holding the tablet, or in a remote center, dialing in and supervising. Those applications could be useful for first responders like firefighters, who could direct aircraft over forest blazes from a safe distance.

For the military, automating more aspects of flight could help make missions safer. “Really, we want the pilot’s eyes and mind on the fight rather than holding an altitude,” says Graham Drozeski, the Darpa program manager for Alias. For Darpa, Sikorsky is now integrating its system into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, for more mission-driven demonstrations next year.

In the civilian world, increased autonomy, and smarter helicopters in particular, could be a useful stepping stone on the way to fully autonomous air taxis, whisking commuters from building top to building top in Dallas and LA by 2023— if Uber has its way. At the same time, startups like SkyRyse are betting that helicopters with sensors and smarts will show that air trips can be cheaper, quicker to dispatch, and ultimately more useful than they are now. Even before they become fully autonomous, which could take years of technological and regulatory overhauls, they would lower the bar for human pilots.

Sikorsky’s system is all about augmenting the human, at least for now, Cherepinsky says. “We are all marching toward the holy grail of pushing one button on the screen saying ‘get me here,‘ point A to point B.”


More Great WIRED Stories

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An American Airlines Captain Just Did Something Resourceful and Kind for Every Single Passenger on His Flight. His Stunning Story Went Viral
September 9, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

Wichita Falls is a city of about 100,000 people in northeast Texas. It looks like there’s a lot of stunning natural beauty nearby.

But what the airport at Wichita Falls doesn’t have, apparently, is a place to get a nice meal near the airport, especially if 100 or more people unexpectedly show up all at once.

This became relevant last week, when American Airlines flight 2354 from Los Angeles to Dallas-Fort Worth was diverted there due to extreme thunderstorms. Passengers were looking at the likelihood of having to scramble to find a place to stay overnight, to say nothing of finding a bite to eat.

And the captain on their flight came up with a very simple solution.

In short, he called up the local Papa John’s and ordered 40 pizzas for his 159 passengers. As far as we know, he fronted the entire bill, $ 500 or more, himself. And his simple gesture went viral.

The captain’s name: Jeff Raines, according to CNN. His actions–in fact the moments when he found himself running back and forth from the terminal to the Papa John’s delivery car–was all captured on video by an airport worker named Josh Raines (no indication they’re related).

As Josh explained later in his Twitter feed, the passengers were going to travel the rest of the way to Dallas via bus. But Wichita Falls Municipal Airport is actually a mostly military airport, attached to Sheppard Air Force Base. It’s just not equipped for a sudden, unexpected influx of passengers.

Jeff Raines (the captain) apparently followed the whole thing up with an explanation on Facebook:

Thanks for the compliments however this was a “TEAM” effort. My First Officer was on the telephone with crew tracking / hotel desk arranging for our release and hotels for the entire crew.

The Flight Attendants manned a galley cart from the aircraft serving waters, juice, and sodas to all the passengers in the terminal. All while the Envoy SPS Personnel were arranging for a bus, re-booking flights, and answering a flurry of questions from these passengers.

Thanks to everyone for your help – there is no “I” in TEAM.

It’s unclear whether the passengers continued to Dallas via bus, as both Josh Raines and Jeff Raines seem to have suggested, or if they flew there the next morning, as American corporate P.R. says. I suspect it’s possible some passengers might have continued on to Dallas via bus; others waited for the flight the next day.

But the real point here is an airline employee taking it upon himself to do something that’s clearly not listed in the American Airlines handbook, but that has a lot of potential to increase passengers’ affinity for the airline.

We’ve seen this repeatedly lately, for example with the Southwest Airlines captain who rerouted a flight to enable a passenger to get an amazing photo of the Great American Eclipse in 2017, and the Southwest flight attendant who worked to allow a passenger who has Down syndrome to fulfill her dream, at least for a day, of working as a flight attendant.

These little actions help any business’s reputation, and they often pay big dividends. For its pilot’s $ 500 pizza outlay, American clearly got a lot more than $ 500 worth of brand equity or marketing.

It doesn’t even really matter if the passengers like pizza. Simply by making the effort, the captain bought goodwill.

“We are always proud of our crew members who take great care of our customers who fly on American Airlines,” American said in an email. “We are fortunate that our crew members are the best in the business.”

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Facebook’s Stock Just Took a Massive Hit, Wiping Off As Much As $145 Billion in Market Cap
July 26, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Facebook’s problems have reached a boiling point. After months of questions and, often reluctant, disclosures about massive information leaks and about how it handles false information on its site seen by hundreds of millions of people, disappointing user growth caused the social network’s stock to plummet in after-hours trading on Wednesday, shedding over $ 145 billion in market cap.

Investors’ alarm was likely triggered by a failure in growth in its most important markets, the combined U.S. and Canada segment and Europe. U.S. and Canadian traffic was flat from the previous quarter, while Europe shed 3 million average daily users quarter over quarter, down to 279 million.

U.S. and Canadian Facebook visitors provided an average revenue per user (ARPU) in the latest quarter of $ 25.91, the vast majority from advertising, while the ARPU of Europeans was $ 8.76, according to figures provided by Facebook. Other markets offer much less value: Asia-Pacific users rack up just $ 2.61 in revenue, and the rest of the world lumped together, a mere $ 1.91.

The drop in European visitors was potentially due to the continuous revelations highlighted there about Facebook’s breaches and weaknesses, and the implementation of the European Union and related entities’ General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in late May. The GDPR requires more disclosure and opting in to many tracking and ad-related behaviors that aren’t related to the core function of a website.

While the company saw revenue up 42% year-over-year to $ 13.2 billion in its second quarter, that was short of what Wall Street expected. Net income was similarly up, to $ 5.1 billion from $ 3.9 billion the year-ago quarter, but that didn’t assuage investors and institutions. The after-hours plunge came despite Facebook also beating a consensus estimate of earnings per share of $ 1.72 by two cents.

This slowing growth in valuable markets may have provided the jitters that led investors to significant after-hours profit taking. The company had a nearly unbroken steady climb in its stock price since mid-2014, with a blip shedding 15% in a matter of days in March when revelations about alleged data misuse by Cambridge Analytica emerged. Facebook stock recovered gradually, and was up 29% in the last year and 21% in 2018 through the close of regular trading today, rising to a new high of 217.50, before the after-hours tumble. Nearly the last year’s gains have now been lost.

Facebook has no end in sight for scrutiny and oversight, with regulators, prosecutors, and other public and private parties in multiple countries examining the company’s actions, those of nation states allegedly manipulating news and advertising, and that of firms like Cambridge Analytica, which obtained massive amounts of information that many Facebook users likely considered private.

Yesterday, BuzzFeed published a memo by chief security officer Alex Stamos written to staff in March after the initial Cambridge Analytica stories broke in which he urged the company to pick sides on important issues. Stamos reportedly still plans to leave the company next month, following a reorganization that the New York Times said earlier this year took away 98% of the group he managed. Today, Facebook’s chief legal officer announced he’s departing at the end of this year for family reasons.

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How This Keynote Speakers Bureau Hit The Inc 5000 And Nearly Doubled Its Revenue In Just Four Years
June 18, 2018 6:04 am|Comments (0)

Executive Speakers Bureau is one of the most successful speakers bureaus in the U.S. and one of the only speakers bureaus to ever hit the Inc. 5000. Founded by Angela Schelp in Memphis in 1993 (husband and partner Richard Schelp joined as president and co-owner in 2001), Executive Speakers Bureaus offers and books hundreds of keynote speakers nationally and internationally and continues to grow at a pace rarely approached in this competitive industry, nearly doubling its overall revenue and number of bookings in just the last four years, while maintaining a reputation for customer service and community involvement that is widely viewed as second to none.

Micah Solomon, Inc.com: You’ve spoken in passing about the importance of your vision of success.  Can you explain what this means specifically as it relates to commercial success?

Richard Schelp, President and Co-Owner, Executive Speakers Bureau: In order to succeed in a competitive marketplace, you need a true plan or strategy.  Our ability to anticipate some of the challenges we have had to face in the industry and our understanding of how to address those challenges has kept us ahead of our competitors and driven our success in revenue and profitability.

Solomon: I’ve heard you and Angela speak about the power of your company’s culture and the pride you take in your employees.  Can you speak a bit about this? 

Schelp: From the beginning the culture of Executive Speakers Bureau has been built around respect for each other, a true sense of team, and the fact that both what we do within our business and in our community affects many people’s lives.  Very few work environments can promise its employees this kind of value.  

Our employees are some of the best you will see in any industry, and certainly in ours.  It is not just a job to them.  They are proud of where they work, and they truly feel responsible for the success of Executive Speakers Bureau.  This is the reason why they want to stay.  They want to see this thing through to the end.  

Solomon: What in your and Angela’s prior background led you to be able to take this approach and succeed with the culture of your company and your relationship to your employees?

Schelp: Both Angela and I have a wealth of corporate experience (IBM, AT&T, and other big firms) in which we have both managed and worked for a number of people.  When you have seen a lot of examples of great and terrible management, you start to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.  All of the previous managers that I respected established environments in which I felt comfortable going to them, and they were the primary reason for me enjoying my job

 Solomon: Your bureau has grown quite quickly. How is life different now that you are an agency of significant size and pull?

Schelp: Life at Executive Speakers Bureau is definitely a little bit different now that we are much bigger.  With that does come a level of responsibility and respect.  Because of our increased size, we now have a larger role within our industry association.  As a matter of fact, I will become the president of the association next Spring. 

Also, in the early years of our bureau we used to base our decisions about processes, documents, fee recommendations, etc. on what the larger bureaus were doing.  Now we don’t check with others.  We make our decisions based on what we know and what we think makes the most sense.  Surprisingly many bureaus are following our lead, and they are calling us to ask how we do things. 

Solomon: Many of my readers are entrepreneurs and business leaders themselves. It’s very helpful and enjoyable (!) for them to hear about mistakes you’ve made or tricky situations you’ve endured in the past, what went sideways and how you either dealt with it or learned from it.

Schelp: A few years ago I faced an extremely tricky situation that taught me so many lessons as a business owner in our industry. A high-profile sports figure was supposed to speak for me at a large convention in New York.  He decided to fly in on his private plane the morning of the event.  However, there was a terrible electrical storm that morning, and his plane was grounded, leaving me without a speaker.  I received the call at 6:30AM and the speaker’s presentation was at 10:30AM.  I had four hours to find a replacement for a great speaker and get him to the event on time.  Immediately I went to work by calling all of the speakers and agents who were high quality and could get there-and, ultimately, I was fortunate enough to find a speaker who my client absolutely loved.

The lessons from this incident were numerous, but most importantly I realized just how crucial it is to have access to many resources, so that an emergency situation becomes doable, otherwise it is impossible.  Also, I learned that as long as you are determined and efficient any task can be accomplished.

 

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Are Flags Just a Piece of Cloth, or Are They a Powerful Symbol of Something Greater?
June 14, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

This week is Flag Day, June 14. To Americans, the US Flag is an evocative image. It’s a symbol of our freedom, and of what others have sacrificed to ensure it. It can also be a symbol of protest. The US Supreme Court famously confirmed the right to burn the flag as an act of free speech, and nearly no one has missed the recent debate over standing versus kneeling during the national anthem at sporting events.

Non-national flags are powerful symbols, too. They represent ideals, movements, and aspirations. Even national flags can come to represent controversial issues, as the recent kneeling controversy in football reminded everyone.

No one can deny that flags are powerful symbols. Here are quotes that reflect on the power of flags to rouse passions, one way or another:

1. “The stars and stripes were fluttering bright against the rain, clear blue overhead, and their minds were saying the words before their ears heard them.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder

2. “I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together: black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young, old; gay, straight; men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance under the same proud flag to this big, bold country that we love.” ― President Barack Obama

3. “I believe our flag is more than just cloth and ink. It is a universally recognized symbol that stands for liberty, and freedom. It is the history of our nation, and it’s marked by the blood of those who died defending it.” ― Senator John Thune

4. “A true flag is not something you can really design. A true flag is torn from the soul of the people. A flag is something that everyone owns, and that’s why they work. The Rainbow Flag is like other flags in that sense: it belongs to the people.” ― Gilbert Baker

5. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” ― Colin Kaepernick

6. “Every red stripe in that flag represents the black man’s blood that has been shed.” ― Fannie Lou Hamer

7. “I long to be in the Field again, doing my part to keep the old flag up, with all its stars.” ― Joshua Chamberlain

8. “I prefer a man who will burn the flag and then wrap himself in the Constitution to a man who will burn the Constitution and then wrap himself in the flag.” ― Craig Washington

9. “The American flag represents all of us and all the values we hold sacred.” ― Adrian Cronauer

10. “Standing as I do, with my hand upon this staff, and under the folds of the American flag, I ask you to stand by me so long as I stand by it.” ― President Abraham Lincoln

11. “I don’t judge others. I say if you feel good with what you’re doing, let your freak flag fly.” ― Sarah Jessica Parker

12. “There is a strong tendency in the United States to rally round the flag and their troops, no matter how mistaken the war.” ― George McGovern

13. “America has been the country of my fond election from the age of thirteen, when I first saw it. I had the honour to hoist with my own hands the flag of freedom, the first time it was displayed, on the Delaware; and I have attended it with veneration ever since on the ocean.” ― John Paul Jones

14. “I just bought a Jeep painted like an American flag. No one better question how patriotic I am.” ― Blake Anderson

15. “When I see the Confederate flag, I see the attempt to raise an empire in slavery. It really, really is that simple. I don’t understand how anybody with any sort of education on the Civil War can see anything else.” ― Ta-Nehisi Coates

16. “I’m proud of the U.S.A. We’ve done some amazing things. To wear our flag in the Olympics is an honor.” ― Shaun White

17. “Burning the flag is a form of expression. Speech doesn’t just mean written words or oral words. It could be semaphore. And burning a flag is a symbol that expresses an idea – I hate the government, the government is unjust, whatever.” ― Antonin Scalia

18. “I can understand if you think that I’m disrespecting the flag by kneeling, but it is because of my utmost respect for the flag and the promise it represents that I have chosen to demonstrate in this way.” ― Megan Rapinoe

19. “If a jerk burns the flag, America is not threatened, democracy is not under siege, freedom is not at risk.” ― Gary Ackerman

20. “I savored my time on top of the podium by watching the American flag rise up out of the crowd as the anthem played, thinking about how every single second of training I’ve done was for this minute and how many people played a role in my achievement.” ― Hannah Kearney

21. “In most countries, you have a monarch or some other principal person to whom its officers and its military swear their allegiance. Our officials in this country and our military swear allegiance to the Constitution. We say that when we say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag”. ― Edwin Meese

22. “For any athlete growing up, the Olympics is the one thing you watch with your family, and it’s the one thing you dream about. Seeing your country’s flag go up as you get a gold medal is the best thing you can achieve.” ― Abby Wambach

23. “I can take the steel guitars and fiddles off, we can make it a little more pop, cover ideas that are a little less cowboy. But you got to look at yourself in the mirror and ask, whose flag you are under? For Garth Brooks, I’m steel, fiddles, red, white and blue.” ― Garth Brooks

24. “If anyone, then, asks me the meaning of our flag, I say to him – it means just what Concord and Lexington meant; what Bunker Hill meant; which was, in short, the rising up of a valiant young people against an old tyranny to establish the most momentous doctrine that the world had ever known – the right of men to their own selves and to their liberties.” ― Henry Ward Beecher

25. “Our flag means all that our fathers meant in the Revolutionary War. It means all that the Declaration of Independence meant. It means justice. It means liberty. It means happiness…. Every color means liberty. Every thread means liberty. Every star and stripe means liberty.” ― Henry Ward Beecher

26. “There is not a thread in it but scorns self-indulgence, weakness and rapacity.” ― Charles Evans Hughes

27. “We identify the flag with almost everything we hold dear on earth, peace, security, liberty, our family, our friends, our home… But when we look at our flag and behold it emblazoned with all our rights we must remember that it is equally a symbol of our duties. Every glory that we associate with it is the result of duty done.” ― Calvin Coolidge

28. “‘Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, But spare your country’s flag,’” she said. ― John Greenleaf Whittier

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All The Fighters We Just Saw In 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' On Nintendo Switch, With Three New Ones
June 12, 2018 6:02 pm|Comments (0)
Most read

, I write about video games and technology. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Credit: Nintendo

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Here’s how you know if a Smash Bros. character is coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch. You ask yourself: have they ever been in a Smash Bros. game before? If the answer is yes, then that character is in the game. That character might be in the game even if the answer is no. Nintendo’s tagline from the direct was a succinct “Everybody is Here.” That means that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will have the biggest roster of any Smash Bros. yet, complete with formerly cut characters like the Ice Climbers, Wolf and Pichu.

Lots of these characters are updated to reflect their most recent appearances in other games: Mario will have Cappy, for example, and Link now sports the blue tunic from Breath of the Wild. There are also a ton of alternate costumes as well as “echo fighters,” which are fighters with a very similar style to another fighter with slight differences, like Peach and Daisy. I can’t imagine these are all the characters that will be in the final game, and Nintendo has likely saved a few announcements for later down the road. Maybe a tennis Mario? Shovel Knight, please? The Space Marine from DOOM?

All told, this doesn’t look all that much different from Super Smash Bros. on Wii U, but this is an iterative franchise, after all. Even if it were the exact same game, the simple fact of a Switch release would expose it to a much wider audience and give it a whole new lease on life. Here are all the characters we saw today, along with three new ones in bold:

  • Mario (with Cappy)
  • Samus
  • Kirby
  • Bowser
  • Link from Breath of the Wild
  • Donkey Kong
  • Fox
  • Falco
  • Marth
  • Zelda
  • Sheik
  • Villager
  • Mewtwo
  • Metaknight
  • Sonic
  • Peach
  • Pikachu
  • Ice Climbers
  • Inkling
  • Captain Falcon
  • Zero Suit Samus
  • Wii Fit Trainer
  • Pokemon Trainer (Squirtle, Ivysaur and Charizard)
  • Ness
  • Lucas
  • Ryu
  • Ganondorf
  • Ike
  • Cloud
  • Snake
  • Jigglypuff
  • Pichu
  • Roy
  • Olimar
  • Diddy Kong
  • Lucario
  • Lucina
  • Robin
  • Bayonetta
  • Mr. Game and Watch
  • Greninja
  • Dr. Mario
  • R.O.B.
  • Duck Hunt
  • Pit
  • Dark Pit
  • Palutena
  • Corrin
  • Bower Jr.
  • Toon Link
  • Young Link
  • King Dedede
  • Rosalina and Luma
  • Mii Gunner, Sword and Brawler
  • Wario
  • Little Mac
  • Pac-Man
  • Shulk
  • Wolf
  • Megaman
  • Luigi
  • Yoshi
  • Princess Daisy
  • Ridley

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You Can Pilot Larry Page’s New Flying Car With Just An Hour Of Training
June 6, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

Kitty Hawk, the flying car company founded by Google’s Larry Page has a new personal car model coming to a sky near you. The Flyer, a single-seat vehicle operated by joystick is fully electric and has been described as a mix of a pontoon plane and a drone, though it’s not remotely operated, CNBC reported.

The flying car will start at a speed of 20 miles per hour, and will be able to fly up to 10 feet above ground, with pilots ready to take the skies after just an hour of training, according to Bloomberg. The quick training time makes the flying car more accessible, according to Sebastian Thrun, a self-driving car innovator and CEO of Kitty Hawk. “If it’s less than an hour, it opens up flight to pretty much everyone,” Thrun told CNN. He hopes the cars will one day be able to reach a speed of 100 miles per hour.

Another Kitty Hawk venture includes the Cora aircraft, a two-seat electric pilotless taxi aircraft. So far, the vehicle has been tested in New Zealand. The company’s plan is for its flying vehicles to become “part of a service similar to an airline or a rideshare.”

CNN reporter Rachel Crane, who tested out the Flyer said, “The joystick is so intuitive, but it’s not the most comfortable thing I’ve ever sat in. You definitely feel the vibrations.”

It’s still unclear when the vehicle will be released—and at what price—but according to Thrun, these cars could take to the skies in the next five years.

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The Warriors' Draymond Green Just Taught a Wonderful Lesson in Reacting to Criticism (Yes, That Draymond Green)
May 28, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

If you’re not a Golden State Warriors fan, you likely don’t warm to Draymond Green.

The power forward might seem to you like an arrogant, big-mouthed bully who, just as many bullies do, whines when he doesn’t get his way.

As far as former NBA whining bully Charles Barkley is concerned, well, he offered that Green annoys him so much he’d like to punch him.

The actual quote was: “I want to punch his ass in the face.”

Which conjures too many awkward images for my taste.

I fancy, though, that Barkley’s fist-swing is about as good as his golf swing — uglier and more ineffective than espadrilles in a rainstorm.

However, the former so-called Round Mound of Rebound was suddenly confronted with Green face-to-face after Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference Finals on Saturday night.

Would he take a swing? Or would he merely choose to insult the Warriors star a little more, in that adorable joking-not-joking manner?

And how might Green react?

Well, Barkley cowered somewhat. It was left to fellow TNT panelist Kenny Smith to point out that Barkley, in his dim, distant playing days, wasn’t dissimilar in style to Green.

Barkley claimed this was all “making a mountain out of a molehill.”

The only criticism he could articulate was that Green never admitted to committing a foul. 

And then, perhaps, well, there’s all the physicality — some borderline, some even worse — that Green brings to his game.

For his part, Green could have reacted to Barkley in so many different ways. 

He could have offered a politician’s bluster. He could have offered some bland statement that avoided the question. He could even have snarled.

Instead.

Instead, he just admitted that he knew precisely why some people don’t view him with kindness.

He said that he didn’t think anyone in the NBA thought they ever committed a foul.

But.

“I can get bad with that at times,” he said. “My mom always reminds me of it, my grandmother will say it, my uncle was really hard on me about it. So, I could understand that.”

Criticism is hard to take. The problem is that, occasionally — very occasionally — it’s true.

If you recognize that a criticism is true, there’s something glorious in admitting it.

It’s not easy.

Your ego is vast and vulnerable. Admitting fault feels like losing — or, even worse, exposing an ugly truth about yourself.

Oddly, though, you might find that people respect you more for showing that you at least know how you’re perceived by others.

I confess that, even though I’m a Warriors fan, I’m occasionally exasperated by Green’s highly sensitive reactions to alleged injustice.

Yet seeing him react with poise and honesty was a refreshing reminder that we’re all desperately imperfect.

Privately, we beat ourselves up over these imperfections.

To admit to them in public is the first step to a sane redemption.

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Southwest's Apology to Passengers on Flight 1380 Is Brilliant, and It's Not Just the Cash. Here's Why
April 21, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

For the passengers who survived the emergency landing on Southwest Flight 1380 this week, on which Jennifer Riordan died, the flight must have been a horrifying experience. 

The pilot and copilot have had been hailed as heroes, and Southwest CEO Gary Kelly was praise for the fast apology and condolence statement he offered via video. But you can imagine that the airline might want to continue to respond to the affected passengers quickly.

Apparently, it has. Even as the federal investigation into the incident continues, Southwest reportedly sent letters with personal apologies and quick compensation to passengers from Flight 1380 just a day after the emergency.

Obviously, any big company that faced a debacle like this needs to do something similar and quick.  Many do, but only in exchange for people offering to drop all claims against the company (more on whether that’s happening here, in a second).

But there’s something interesting in how Southwest handled the issue–a combination of what they offered, and how they worded the apology letter, as reported, signed by Kelly:

We value you as our customer and hope you will allow us another opportunity to restore your confidence in Southwest as the airline you can count on for your travel needs. … In this spirit, we are sending you a check in the amount of $ 5,000 to cover any of your immediate financial needs.

As a tangible gesture of our heartfelt sincerity, we are also sending you a $ 1,000 travel voucher…

Our primary focus and commitment is to assist you in every way possible.

What leaps out at me is, oddly, the smallest financial part of the compensation: the $ 1,000 travel voucher. (Although, it’s funny: psychologically people sometimes put a higher subjective value on a tangible thing valued at a certain amount, then they do on cash.)

Even in the wake of tragedy, Southwest is taking steps to try to keep these customers–as customers. 

As some commenters have pointed out, while the uncontained engine failure aboard flight 1380 was terrifying for passengers, and resulted in loss of life and injury, it’s by no means the first time a flight suffered a similar catastrophe and ultimately landed.

Commercial airlines like a 737 are designed to be able to fly with one of the engines disabled, and professional aircrew train and drill on what to do in this kind of situation. The emergency was deftly handled by Captain Tammie Jo Shults and first officer Darren Ellisor.

Part of why this story was so widely reported however, is that passengers were immediately sharing it on social media. One passenger famously paid $ 8 for inflight WiFi even while he thought the plane was going to crash, so that he could broadcast on Facebook Live what was happening and say a farewell to friends and family.

So, connect this to the travel vouchers. Beyond taking a step toward repairing the relationship with these passengers, what better PR result could Southwest hope for than some positive travel experiences and social media posts from one of them, as a result? 

I wouldn’t expect Southwest to articulate this rationale; that would actually undercut it. And, I do have a couple of other questions about how this all works, for which I’ve reached out to Southwest for answers. I’ll update this post when I hear back.

For example, I would assume that the family of the passenger who died on the flight, Jennifer Riordan, would be treated differently, and maybe also the seven passengers who reportedly were injured. 

There’s also the question of whether these are really just goodwill payments, or a way to quickly settle 100 or more potential claims against the airline. If it’s the more traditional, transactional legal strategy of just trying to settle claims quickly, then that undercuts a lot of this.

However, I’m judging based on the experience of one passenger, Eric Zilbert of Davis, California, that this might not be the case. Zilbert reportedly checked with a lawyer before accepting the compensation,” to make sure I didn’t preclude anything.” Based on the lawyer’s advice, went ahead and did so.

Of course, this doesn’t mean every passenger is happy with the gesture. For example, Marty Martinez of Dallas, the passenger who became famous after he livestreamed the emergency landing over Facebook Live, said he’s not satisfied.

“I didn’t feel any sort of sincerity in the email whatsoever, and the $ 6,000 total that they gave to each passenger I don’t think comes even remotely close to the price that many of us will have to pay for a lifetime.”

Even so, Southwest sort of got what they’d probably like to see in his case, anyway: a tangible demonstration that despite the experience aboard Flight 1380, he’s willing to fly with the airline again.

The proof? He gave his quote to an Associated Press reporter, the account said, “as he prepared to board a Southwest flight from New York.”

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