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Voting rights group More Than A Vote targets young people in NBA 2K

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Video games are popular among young people, which is why voting rights group More Than A Vote has decided to meet them where they are and create a two-part series about voting inside NBA 2K21 — and it drops today, as first reported by Axios. (I should note here that video games are also popular among people who aren’t young.) The episodes were produced by The SpringHill Company, LeBron James’ production company, and they will play on “2KTV,” the show inside the game.

The episodes revolve around basketball (obviously) and include interviews and animation to highlight why it’s important to vote in this particular election. The first episode stars ESPN analyst and More Than A Vote member Maria Taylor, who speaks about her experiences seeing voter suppression in Georgia’s primary elections this June. The second episode, on the other hand, stars Atlanta Hawks player Trae Young, who talks about the history of voter suppression in America and why voting is personally important to him.

More Than A Vote is a group of Black athletes and artists who are committed to activating young voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election. They include luminaries like LeBron James, Offset, and Odell Beckham Jr. — people, in other words, who young people like and respect. That’s why it comes as no surprise that their efforts are ramping up now, as we’re only a few weeks away from Election Day.

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Stunning images show NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft stirring up rocks on an asteroid

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NASA shared astonishing images of its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft touching an asteroid yesterday, revealing how the vehicle stirred up rocks and debris on the object’s surface when it made contact. The goal of the tap was to collect a sample of material from the asteroid, but the engineers behind the spacecraft say they won’t for sure if they collected anything until this weekend, when they spin the vehicle and measure how much material is inside.

However, the OSIRIS-REx team feels confident that they got something. “Bottom line is from analysis of the images that we’ve gotten down so far, is that the sampling event went really well, as good as we could have imagined it would,” Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, said during a press conference. “And I think the chances that there’s material inside… have gone way up way up based on the analysis of the images.”

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Images of the event show how OSIRIS-REx supposedly grabbed some asteroid dirt from the asteroid — named Bennu — on Tuesday. The pictures highlight the end of OSIRIS-REx’s outstretched robotic arm, tasked with gently pressing onto Bennu’s surface. “We were in contact with the surface for about six seconds, and our collection time about five seconds,” Sandy Freund, a mission support manager for OSIRIS-REx at Lockheed Martin, said during the press conference. When it touched Bennu, the spacecraft’s arm released a whiff of nitrogen gas, which caused the rocks and pebbles on the asteroid to dance and twirl about in a frenzy. The hope is that the gas caused some of those rocks to shoot up into the arm itself.

Now it’s just a waiting game as the OSIRIS-REx team pores over the data. On Saturday, the engineers will send OSIRIS-REx into a spin, with its sampling arm outstretched, measuring the vehicle’s inertia. They’ll then compare those measurements to how OSIRIS-REx spun once before, without any sample in its arm. The difference between those measurements should give the team a better idea of how much material the vehicle grabbed on Tuesday.

And if OSIRIS-REx grabbed enough — at least 60 grams — then the mission team will start making preparations for the spacecraft to leave Bennu next year and embark on the long journey home, carrying its precious cargo back to scientists here on Earth.

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Facebook Dating launches in Europe after lengthy delay

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Facebook Dating, the social network’s competitor to Tinder and other dating apps, launches today in Europe after a long delay from its planned Valentine’s Day debut.

The dating service offers the same features in Europe as it does in the US, using the existing profile you’ve created on Facebook to find potential matches. Facebook tailors these matches with your preferences, Facebook activity, and, if you opt in, groups and events.

While the service still only appears as a tab in Facebook’s mobile app, it’s deeply integrated with the rest of the social giant’s products. Your profile can pull stories and photos from Instagram, you can initiate Messenger video calls from chats, and the splashy Secret Crush feature searches both your Instagram followers and Facebook friends for potential matches.

Facebook touts the service’s privacy features, with many of its more personal matching tactics entirely optional. But the close connection Facebook Dating has to the rest of the company’s products has raised concerns in the past. Back in February, Facebook chose to push back the service’s launch after regulators in Ireland took issue with the timing of the planned launch. Companies launching such products must undergo a review called a Data Processing Impact Assessment (DPIA) under the European Union’s GDPR protections, and Facebook reportedly informed regulators too late of its plans, raising concerns about data privacy compliance.

With the problem settled, Facebook Dating is now offered in over 50 countries, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

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Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ software is starting to roll out to select customers

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Tesla sent out the first “Full Self-Driving” beta software update to a select group of customers this week, CEO Elon Musk tweeted Tuesday. On an earnings call Wednesday, Musk said more Tesla owners would get the update as the weeks progress, with the goal of a “wide release” by the end of the year.

Only those customers in Tesla’s Early Access Program will receive the software update, that will enable drivers to access Autopilot’s partially automated driver assist system on city streets. The early access program is used as a testing platform to help iron out software bugs.

Musk said that Tesla was approaching this software update “very cautiously” because the “world is a complex and messy place.” In a letter to investors, Tesla said its Autopilot team “has been focused on a fundamental architectural rewrite of our neural networks and control algorithms. This rewrite will allow the remaining driving features to be released.”

This rewrite, Musk has said, will allow Tesla’s vehicles to interpret their environment in four dimensions rather than two, which should result in a dramatic improvement in performance and faster software updates.

Previously, Musk has described a “feature complete” version of Full Self-Driving as enabling the car to drive from someone’s home to their work without intervention. Drivers will still need to be ready to take control if the car runs into a problem. Some experts have taken issue with the way Musk talks about these features in the past, arguing he is muddying the waters by overselling a Tesla car’s capabilities.

Autopilot can center a Tesla in a lane, even around curves, and adjust the car’s speed based on the vehicle ahead. The “Navigate on Autopilot” feature can suggest — and perform — lane changes to get around slower vehicles, and steer a Tesla toward highway interchanges and exits. Another feature can slow a Tesla to a stop at traffic lights and stop signs. The company has yet to allow its customers hands-off control of the vehicle at medium speeds, where they are more likely to encounter traffic signals, intersections, and other complexities.

Autopilot can’t perform some of these tasks if a road’s lane markers are faded or missing, and it can’t make turns. The driver must have a hand on the wheel at all times, too, or else Autopilot will flash a series of warnings before ultimately disengaging entirely. But when those features work in concert, it can feel like the car is driving itself — but a driver is still liable if the car makes a mistake or crashes. (There have been a number of fatal crashes involving Tesla vehicles with Autopilot enabled.)

On the call, Musk argued that Tesla’s self-driving advantage comes from having a large fleet of vehicles — around 930,000 — already on the road. Those cars record situations and provide training data to improve the neural networks needed for the artificial intelligence software that powers self-driving cars. The company’s approach to autonomous vehicles is primarily focused on computer vision, or using cameras — just like humans — to recognize and understand the world.

“Having on the order of a million cars that are providing feedback, and specifically feedback on strange corner case situations that you just can’t even come up with in simulation — this is a thing that is really valuable,” Musk said.

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