The Microbots Are on Their Way

Tiny sensors with tinier legs, stamped out of silicon wafers, could one day soon help fix your cellphone battery or study your brain.

By Kenneth Chang

Like Frankenstein, Marc Miskin’s robots initially lie motionless. Then their limbs jerk to life.

But these robots are the size of a speck of dust. Thousands fit side-by-side on a single silicon wafer similar to those used for computer chips, and, like Frankenstein coming to life, they pull themselves free and start crawling.

“We can take your favorite piece of silicon electronics, put legs on it and then build a million of them,” said Dr. Miskin, a professor of electrical and systems engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. “That’s the vision.”

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It’s Time to Use Your Imagination With Bluetooth Trackers. We Did.

The tiny tags are typically used to find valuables like house keys, but they are far more versatile than that.

By Brian X. Chen

This week, I’m asking readers to engage in an admittedly odd exercise: to use our imaginations with Bluetooth trackers.

Sounds weird, right?

Bluetooth trackers are those tiny tags that help you find lost items. They attach to your house keys or wallet so that if those things are misplaced, you open a smartphone app and tap a button to make the tracker play an alarm. That sound lets you find the item more easily.

But that’s not all these trackers can do. You can squeeze a lot more value out of the tags by thinking beyond the items that live in your pockets.

I engaged in this exercise over the past two weeks. Bluetooth trackers, which are generally priced between $10 and $35, come in many shapes and sizes from dozens of brands, including Tile, Chipolo and Adero. I tested Tile, the Bluetooth tracker recommended by Wirecutter, a New York Times company that reviews products, in various focal points of my life: the car, my luggage, the living room and even my dog.

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Huawei’s Communist Culture Limits its Global Ambitions

The Chinese telecom giant seeks acceptance in the West, but its structure and value system — patterned after China’s ruling party — could stand in the way.

By Li Yuan

The Huawei Technologies founder Ren Zhengfei once recommended that his senior executives watch a TV series called “Proof of Identity.”In that 2009 series, a Communist spy who had infiltrated the Nationalist army during China’s civil war struggles for years to prove his loyalty and identity after the Communists prevail.

Today, 32 years after he founded the telecom giant with $3,000 of borrowed money, Mr. Ren is struggling to prove that Huawei is a private enterprise and independent of the Chinese government.

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Qualcomm Pegs Payment From Apple at $4.5 Billion to $4.7 Billion

By Reuters

Qualcomm will book a one-time payment of $4.5 billion to $4.7 billion next quarter from its settlement with Apple in a patent battle, the mobile chip maker said Wednesday as it reported its quarterly earnings.

It was the first time investors got a look at how the agreement will help Qualcomm’s bottom line, and the company’s shares fell about 3 percent in after-hours trading. The stock had been up more than 50 percent in recent weeks, reflecting investor relief at the deal. However, Qualcomm’s forecasts suggested that Apple’s licensing fees will not substantially increase revenue as Apple catches up on royalties it didn’t pay while the two companies were feuding.

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Facebook Set to Create Privacy Positions as Part of F.T.C. Settlement

By Cecilia Kang

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission is negotiating a settlement with Facebook that would create new positions at the company focused on strengthening its privacy practices, according to two people with knowledge of the talks.

Facebook has agreed to create a privacy committee to protect its users’ data, as well as an external assessor who would be appointed by the company and F.T.C., said the people, who declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The social network will also appoint a head compliance officer — who could be its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg — to oversee privacy efforts, one of the people said.

The proposed commitments are part of negotiations between the agency and Facebook to settle privacy violations. Both have been talking for months over claims that Facebook violated a 2011 privacy consent decree. Last week, Facebook announced that it expected to be fined up to $5 billion by the agency, in what would be a record financial penalty by the United States against a technology company.

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The Future of A.I., According to Three New Books

By Rachel Riederer

Art and Innovation in the Age of A.I.
By Marcus Du Sautoy

Du Sautoy, a British mathematician, wants to answer the question: “Can computers be creative?” He parses the actions involved in creativity — exploring, combining and transforming — and reveals the history of A.I. through the turning points in which machine learning has progressed toward these milestones. A key moment is a human-versus-machine contest in Go, a Chinese game of strategy believed to be the oldest board game still being played, where the rules and size of the board allow for longer, more fluid play.

When one of the best Go players in the world played a five-game tournament against the computer program AlphaGo, Du Sautoy watched with “a sense of existential anxiety.” He had often compared Go to mathematics and felt that if the computer won, it would be encroaching on his own intellectual and creative home turf. AlphaGo had learned from centuries of human play and also had the benefit of having played millions of games against itself, refining its code to develop strategies for conventional moves as well as shockingly new ones. One referee said, of a particularly surprising gambit by the computer, “It’s not a human move.”

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Wayson Choy, 80, Whose Books Are Windows on Chinese-Canadian Life, Dies

By Daniel E. Slotnik

Wayson Choy, who wrote of the Chinese-Canadian experience in memoirs and novels like “The Jade Peony,” which became a mainstay in Canadian classrooms and led to a revelation about the writer’s own past, died on April 28 at his home in Toronto. He was 80.

Denise Bukowski, Mr. Choy’s agent, said the cause was a heart attack brought on by an asthma attack. He had nearly died from heart attacks related to asthma in the past, episodes he wrote about in “Not Yet: A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying” (2009).

“The Jade Peony,” his debut novel, published in 1995, when he was 56, was one of the first to detail life in a Chinese-Canadian community. It follows a Chinese immigrant family in Vancouver in the 1930s and ’40s as they struggle to make a home in a sometimes hostile country, drawing what support they can from shared traditions, community and folklore.

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What Happened to Harper Lee’s Unpublished True Crime Book?

By Alexandra Alter

There are two intertwined mysteries at the heart of “Furious Hours,” Casey Cep’s meticulously researched narrative about an Alabama preacher accused of multiple murders, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who tried and failed to tell his story.

The first section of the book, a spellbinding true crime story, follows the Rev. Willie Maxwell, who allegedly killed five family members for insurance money in the 1970s. In a stranger-than-fiction twist, Maxwell himself was killed in 1977, shot at a funeral ceremony for one of his alleged victims by one of her grieving relatives.

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Which Tech Company Is Uber Most Like? Its Answer May Surprise You

By Mike Isaac

SAN FRANCISCO — Pop quiz: Which technology company does Uber, the ride-hailing giant on the cusp of an initial public offering, consider itself to be the most like?

Is it Lyft, its rival North American ride-hailing firm? Nope.

How about Didi Chuxing, Uber’s equivalent in China? Nah.

It’s Amazon, the e-commerce giant.

On the surface, the two companies have little in common. Amazon sells books, toilet paper, toys — pretty much everything, really — and it provides cloud computing services and makes artificially intelligent speakers. In contrast, Uber lets people hail rides through a mobile app.

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Tesla Looks to Regain Its Luster in Solar Energy by Slashing Prices

By Ivan Penn and Peter Eavis

Tesla, which lost its status as the nation’s leading rooftop solar company last year, says it has figured out how to get back in the game — by slashing prices.

The company plans to announce on Tuesday that it has started selling solar panels and related equipment for up to 16 percent less than the national average price by standardizing systems and requiring customers to order them online. Tesla executives said these changes should put to rest concerns that the company, better known for its luxury electric cars, has neglected its residential solar business.

But it is not clear whether the strategy will work or is even feasible. Tesla and its chief executive, Elon Musk, have struggled to deliver products on time that they announced with great fanfare, including a $35,000 version of its Model 3 electric sedan. The company has also struggled with quality problems.

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