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Campinas, Brazil

Chaudhuri D.,IAC | Kushwaha N.K.,IAC | Samal A.,University of Nebraska - Lincoln
IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing | Year: 2012

Extraction of map objects such roads, rivers and buildings from high resolution satellite imagery is an important task in many civilian and military applications. We present a semi-automatic approach for road detection that achieves high accuracy and efficiency. This method exploits the properties of road segments to develop customized operators to accurately derive the road segments. The customized operators include directional morphological enhancement, directional segmentation and thinning. We have systematically evaluated the algorithm on a variety of images from IKONOS, QuickBird, CARTOSAT-2A satellites and carefully compared it with the techniques presented in literature. The results demonstrate that the algorithm proposed is both accurate and efficient. © 2008-2012 IEEE.

About.com, the IAC-owned media giant, has today unveiled its first standalone brand in the form of Verywell, a site for information around health. Verywell will launch with more than 50,000 pieces of content ranging from common medical conditions like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis to simple health tips like how to get more sleep or advice on fitness. About.com has spent the last couple of years under the IAC umbrella rebuilding its own technology and organization to offer helpful content on a very wide array of topics. “What we learned in rebuilding what we were is that we don’t want to be that anymore,” said CEO Neil Vogel. “About was built during a different time in the internet, where scale translated to trust. But the internet has changed. No one wants advice on their 401k from the same people that give advice on how to bake a pie.” Learning that, About has shifted its focus to building out verticals around its troves of topic-specific content, with Verywell being the first. Vogel explained to TechCrunch that Verywell should take a far more human approach than competitors like WebMD and EverydayHealth, which tend to be hyper-clinical and (let’s face it) also have a tendency to spark the worst fears about our own health. Verywell content is all created by more than 120 experts, which includes doctors, trainers, dietitians and other health professionals, with every single medical fact being reviewed and approved by board-certified physicians. “If you look at the space, everything is very clinical,” said Vogel. “You can sometimes leave those leading tech health websites feeling like you have a brain tumor. We think this space needs a friendly, approachable, creditable source for information.” One of the greater challenges for About.com will be SEO. The company current has pretty good juice when it comes to Google searches, and launching on a new domain with a new brand could prove difficult to migrate. Still, About is charging forward with the plan to break up its content into verticals. Vogel wouldn’t be specific about which vertical comes next, but he did mention that About.com has promising content in both personal finance and the travel sectors. You can check out the brand new Verywell right here.

News Article | April 11, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

For most Yahoo Mail users in Europe and the U.S., the email website was inaccessible for some and intermittent for others last Saturday, April 9. The social media site, Twitter, saw an influx of status updates from users in the European and American region, even others, citing the incident. Tweets have been tagging YahooCare and YahooMail with hashtags #yahoomaildown and #yahoomail calling for an immediate fix for the problem. But the two accounts have yet to post an official announcement regarding server problems or login solutions. The sub-Reddit community for Yahoo also has a trending topic, "Sorry we were unable to proceed with your request. Please try again," wherein Redditors using Yahoo Mail have been posting their concerns. Other helpful members of the community have also been seen posting their own workarounds. Started by user dudeofedud, he posted that he had encountered a "horrible" error on his account. He's usually signed-in to his Yahoo account but that morning, he had been asked to relog in. The site returned an unsuccessful login attempt which caused him to worry about possible hacking. He further adds, "Does it mean that my account password has been changed, or it is simply [a] server-side error? I'm just a bit worried. Should [I] change my password or [not]?" (Retrieved on April 10 with currently 27 comments) According to some sites that check if a website is down, the Yahoo Mail platform has been tagged with "Possible problems at Yahoo Mail" on Downdetector while others conclude that the Yahoo system was down for several hours. Yahoo was previously reported to be closing some of its operations offered as the company had previously anticipated in 2015 that further decline in their sales could occur the following year. Incidentally, Yahoo has been reported to be putting up its major cores for bids wherein initial transactions are requested by April 11. Confirmed deals will be supposedly released by June or July. The recent glitches in its email platform may cause unpredicted concern among involved bidders, Verizon Communications, IAC/InterActiveCorp and Time, to mention a few. For users who are still encountering sign in problems, Yahoo has several pages on its Help section which may have a temporary fix. Its Reddit sub-board also has a pinned link that redirects to the "Yahoo Help Community" with instructions to follow for reporting snags in the system. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

News Article | January 11, 2016
Site: www.fastcompany.com

Sean Rad, the CEO of Tinder, couldn’t believe all the headlines. Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, had just announced its plan for an IPO, yet many articles made it sound like Tinder itself was going public, rather than Match Group. Some even included a photograph of a beaming Rad. Friends and family immediately started congratulating him by email and text message. "People think Tinder went public and I’m a billionaire," Rad tells me. "Add it to the long list of shit that's misunderstood about me." The reality is that Match Group, a portfolio of dating companies that includes Match.com and OkCupid, is the majority shareholder of Tinder. It's true that the popular app is the crown jewel in Match Group’s roster, a fast-growing service that gives it a strong footing in mobile and with millennials. But as Rad insists repeatedly during the time we spent together for our recent profile of him and his company, Tinder’s future is very much still unwritten. Employees, he says, have stock in Tinder, not in Match Group; Tinder itself has its own board and cap table. "[The Match Group IPO] doesn’t really impact us," Rad explains. "Just like Match Group can IPO out of [parent company] IAC, Tinder can IPO out of Match Group." What’s telling about Rad’s description of Tinder’s relationship with Match Group is not only the lengths he goes to characterize Tinder as "very independent," but also the credit he feels Tinder is owed for Match Group’s success. "There would probably not be [a Match Group] IPO, were it not for Tinder," he says. "It’s cool that we’ve been able to build something so great, that by association another company can go public." At the same time, Rad continues, "what it means for us financially is nothing." He calls Tinder the "stalking horse" of Match Group, and indicates it has a "different plan toward liquidity that’s better than just the Match Group IPO, so we don’t care about it much . . . we have every avenue of liquidity open to us: We can sell the company; we can IPO." Rad still refers to Tinder as a "startup." Rosette Pambakian, Tinder’s VP of communications, tells me, "We are so misunderstood. People are like, ‘Tinder is not a startup. It’s owned by IAC.’ Nobody understands." Rad compares Tinder’s relationship to IAC, which spun off Match Group but retains a controlling interest in the company, to the traditional relationship between a startup and venture capital firm. "IAC is just like one big VC. They're a holding company. They have multiple investments. One of the segments of their investments is dating and social, and [they just spun that part off]," Rad says. He likens it to Facebook and Yuri Milner’s investment group, previously called Digital Sky Technologies (or DST), which became a major investor in Mark Zuckerberg’s social network in 2009. "DST owns a huge piece of Facebook, and DST went public," Rad says. "[It’s a] similar type [of relationship]." The difference is that Milner’s group owned roughly 5% of Facebook, whereas IAC’s Match Group owns a majority stake in Tinder. Milner was never on the board at Facebook, whereas Tinder’s board includes Greg Blatt, the CEO of Match Group and Tinder’s executive chairman, as well as Sam Yagan, the former Match Group CEO who still serves as a senior executive at the parent company. So when Rad stresses to me that Tinder is a "separate company, a separate org," I have to remind him that Tinder’s fate and thus Rad’s is still ultimately in Match Group’s hands. It was Tinder’s board of directors, after all, that temporarily ousted Rad from his CEO role once they determined he wasn’t fit to lead the company, and that his haphazard approach was reflecting poorly on IAC and Match Group (read more about this controversial decision in our feature on the company). Though Rad talks up the potential for a Tinder IPO or even a potential acquisition, when pressed, he acknowledges it "depends on what the board chooses . . . they would have a big say." When I ask Blatt about this subject, he tells me, "Sean has equity in Tinder. His ability to realize value is through the performance of Tinder . . . that's the way we incentivize the employees there. There are no plans to spin it out. The way the arrangements work is that they get guaranteed liquidity through a number of mechanisms regardless, but there's certainly the possibility of doing [spinning Tinder out] if it reached that scale and that sort of level of independence in the same way that Match [has done], meaning Match had an equity system that provided employees liquidity at Match's valuation over time. There came a point where IAC decided to take Match out on its own, and that day could come for Tinder as well. But it doesn't need to in order for the people at Tinder to realize their value." Blatt and Yagan praise this arrangement during our interviews. Just as IAC helped Match Group, they contend, Match Group helps Tinder by leveraging its reach in the online dating category, as well as its industry expertise and resources. Yagan calls it a "pretty optimum" structure. But it raises a question: If the arrangement is so optimum, why does Rad keep trying to distance Tinder from Match Group? It’s widely understood he wanted to take the company independent when it was under the yoke of IAC. To Yagan, who cofounded OkCupid and sold it to IAC before becoming absorbed into Match Group, he understands what Rad is going through more than most. Tinder, like OkCupid, is a massive success, but because it is chained to a controlling entity, it’s perceived as more of a subsidiary than a startup. Tinder is arguably a unicorn by some estimates, but it’s not really a unicorn. "Because it was within IAC, there wasn’t these valuations of $6 billion! $8 billion! $30 billion! And a new round of financing every six months and blah blah blah—all the things you’d get with a Snapchat, a Pinterest, or a Facebook," Yagan explains. "I think there is something about [Sean] being oh-so-close to it," he continues. "If you play the lotto, you don't expect to win. But if you get five out of six numbers, all of a sudden you’re like, ‘Holy Fuck! I almost fucking won the lottery.’ It makes you feel like you had your hands on the ball and you dropped it. There is always going to be that [feeling of], ‘What could have been?’" Read Fast Company’s profile of Tinder in our February issue here.

News Article | September 12, 2016
Site: www.fastcompany.com

The scientific community was abuzz recently when it was widely reported that Russian astronomers, along with an Italian researcher, had recorded a signal that was, as of then, unexplained. After looking into what exactly was detected—something from the solar system HD 164595 some 94 light-years away—the Russian astronomers issued a statement explaining that the signal was most likely not extraterrestrial. But organizations focusing on the search for alien life, such as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute and the Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) Institute, are continuing to look into the event. Part of the reason is because the signal was received over a year ago, on May 15, 2015, according to a SETI blog post. At the time, though, the discoverers didn’t immediately alert the SETI community, a breach of long-established practice and protocol. How did that breakdown happen? One reason SETI’s protocol likely sputtered is simple. Even though the drafted document has been written and revised for over two decades, the nine rules researchers are supposed to follow when they receive what they think may be an extraterrestrial signal don't necessarily conform to the dynamic nature of the field. Technologies are constantly changing, making it easier to see places we've never seen before, like surface of a comet, for instance. Scientists are still sorting out how best to act on the new data that's coming in all the time. SETI's rules are a set of defensive actions: if x happens, then y next. That makes them similar to the way measures are created in the cybersecurity sector; SETI’s rules exist to protect those involved but are usually carried out during exceptional circumstances. Security professionals generally have plans in place about what to do during an emergency, yet the reality never plays out the same as it did when conceptualized. Perhaps the most glaring example of this was the 2013 Target data breach, which exposed personal and payment information of some 40 million customers. The company had numerous security protocols in place—which, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, may have even detected the hack while it was happening. But when theoretical security planning was pushed into active procedure, several things went awry. While Target was alerted by federal law enforcement about two weeks after the hack, data breaches take an average of 146 days to be discovered, according to a report from Mandiant. The potential receipt of an alien signal likewise needs to be vetted, which can also chew up a considerable amount of time. Franck Marchis, a principal investigator at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute, explained that it's a way to ensure findings are real. Astronomers must "use the scientific method," he said. "Before making an announcement, you contact your colleagues," he explained. "You ask them to confirm that they also see the signal." Researchers are working around the globe scanning the skies for any sort of abnormality they can detect. Every so often, they find something that defies explanation. The reason SETI has prescribed rules in place is to give a semblance of order to the process of figuring out these unknowns. The scientists I spoke to described the protocol as a safeguard to make sure every signal is properly vetted. But as Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute who was part of the committee that crafted the document, told me, the protocol is just a prescription. "It’s recommended behavior," he said. "There’s no force of law." After years of meetings and reviews, the protocol has become widely accepted in the astronomy community. And according to Shostak, it’s a "valuable document." Both he and Marchis pointed to a signal SETI detected in 1997 that ended up being a false alarm. Though it looked promising, after colleagues weighed in, it became clear that the blip was in fact terrestrial. Still, it's not always a smooth experience. If a promising signal is detected, it creates excitement. A scientist emailing a few friends about the discovery could also notify the press. "It spreads very quickly," Shostak explained. Often a finding that has yet to be completely vetted by the entire astronomy community gets leaked. That is also reassuring, according to Shostak. He said that findings can get overlooked by the entities that matter—namely the government and the military. But the press has a way of garnering widespread interest that can then get the community involved in a healthy, global debate. The downside: "What’s actually going to happen is a very messy media story," Shostak said, "with conflicting reports." Yet methodological fissures still remain in the astronomy world. Earlier this year Fast Company reported on the widening difference of opinions when it comes to studying potentially alien lifeforms. While organizations like SETI focus on passively scanning the open skies for any external sign of life, other organizations like METI—Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence—believe it may be more useful to take a more proactive searching approach. Meanwhile, the protocol itself states: "No response to a signal or other evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence should be sent until appropriate international consultations have taken place." Despite this, the scientists I talked with maintained that nearly every expert in the field is at least aware of the protocol and should know how follow it. But in this case, the team that discovered this faraway blip waited for over a year before making any sort of noise. While this may seem odd, there's at least one possible explanation for the announcement’s timing. Claudio Maccone, the Italian researcher (who is also the chair of the International Academy of Astronautics Permanent SETI Committee) who first saw the signal, is scheduled to show his findings at the 67th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara later this month. Still, this doesn’t quite explain why the Russian astronomers already issued a statement saying it was most likely no extraterrestrial. Shostak told me that he asked Maccone why the team didn’t alert others about the finding last year. "He said they were shy," Shostak explained. "I don’t know what that means." Though the protocol has been updated again somewhat recently, it's clear that even the most high-tech scientists can be hampered by rudimentary organizational breakdowns. Do these perceived hiccups actually help push the science forward? Shostak sees the messiness as inevitable; Marchis points to just how important it is that others follow the protocol to truly corroborate findings. Either way, the truth is out there.

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