|From: Glenn Petersen||12/10/2020 11:57:05 PM|
|Amazon Wants to Train 29 Million People to Work in the Cloud|
New programs seek to help people from Montana to Nigeria attain roles ranging from tech support to machine learning
By Chip Cutter
Wall Street Journal
Updated Dec. 10, 2020 3:41 pm ET
Amazon. AMZN -0.09% com Inc. announced an effort Thursday aimed at helping 29 million people world-wide retrain by 2025, giving them new skills for cloud-computing roles as the pandemic upends many careers.
The online giant committed $700 million last year to reskilling 100,000 of its own workers in the U.S. The new effort will build on existing programs and include new ones in partnership with nonprofits, schools and others.
Amazon’s latest initiative is geared toward those who aren’t already employed at the company. The idea, it says, is to equip people with the education needed to work in cloud-computing at a number of employers seeking to fill high-tech positions. While some participants might find jobs at Amazon, it is more likely they would get hired at other companies, including many that use Amazon Web Services, the online retailer’s cloud division.
The free training could support those looking to prepare for entry-level support positions or in helping existing engineers broaden their expertise in areas like machine learning or cybersecurity, the company says.
Teresa Carlson, a vice president at Amazon Web Services, says the company hears almost daily from its clients that they can’t find the right people to fill technical jobs as many organizations move their applications and processes to the cloud.
“We need our customers to have the right skills if they’re going to go through a digital transformation,” she said.
Employment data showed the pace of hiring slowing substantially in November. WSJ’s Eric Morath breaks down why the labor-market recovery has lost its momentum. Photo: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
Amazon declined to disclose the cost of its new training programs, but improved industry education benefits the company in other ways. It has hired 275,000 full- and part-time employees in the U.S. since the start of the year. Ms. Carlson says that Amazon finds it must retrain some new hires after discovering their technical capabilities are lacking once they are in the door.
“When you spend as much time as we do hiring people and getting the right people on board, it’s kind of frustrating when you bring them on and you’re having to spend another year or more getting their skills up to speed,” she said. “We see it ourselves, so we put these programs into place. We hear it from our customers and our partners, and it’s the right thing to do.”
More sophisticated cloud skills might be crucial to Amazon’s business. The company’s cloud division has become one of its most important profit drivers. It posted $11.6 billion in sales in the quarter that ended Sept. 30, up 29% from a year earlier.
Cloud computing, which was hot before the pandemic, has become even more central to many companies as they speed up their adoption of such digital tools. Amazon’s cloud rivals, including Microsoft Corp. and Google-parent Alphabet Inc., also have seen strong growth in the sector as users embrace their services, as have companies such as Zoom Video Communications Inc. that provide cloud-based products to facilitate remote working and teaching.
Most of Amazon’s courses can be taken remotely, through Amazon itself or via partners that focus on helping people find new careers. Those organizations are located in places ranging from Newark, N.J., to Missoula, Mont., and internationally from Nigeria to Australia.
The content varies widely. One two-day program prepares students to work as entry-level fiber-optic fusion-splicing technicians, an in-demand field that involves testing and installing the delicate cables made up of minuscule glass tubes that power cloud data centers. Another course, called Cloud Practitioner Essentials, covers the basics of the AWS cloud, while other training focuses on more advanced skills, such as machine learning.
The push could help millions of workers navigate career changes without incurring steep debt at a time when many find themselves out of work and burdened by student loans.
A report commissioned by Amazon and conducted by researchers at consulting giant Accenture PLC found that 33 million Americans could double their income, earning a median salary of $35 an hour, by gaining new training in what the authors describe as “opportunity jobs,” or those in industries deemed at low risk of automation that are expected to grow. Many of those positions are in digital fields.
The obstacles to retraining or learning a new skill can be great. Many people in low-paying jobs or out of work might struggle with child care issues or a lack of time to undertake a new program, to say nothing of the “change fatigue” some feel in pursuing new career paths, said Kelly Monahan, a global talent lead researcher at Accenture. Still, digital skills are likely to be a career differentiator.
“The technical side of work is becoming so paramount,” she said.
Jarred Gaines started 2020 working as a fitness director and personal trainer at a Boston area gym. The 35-year-old planned to launch his own fitness facility later in the year, but the pandemic squashed those ambitions. In May, he started a 12-week course through a free, Amazon-supported
Mr. Gaines—who said he still is passionate about fitness but doesn’t miss the 5 a.m. client appointments—says a technical career hadn’t been on his radar. “My experience with tech was mostly upgrading my cellphone for the newest one Apple told me to,” he said.
He hopes to take on increasingly sophisticated cloud and engineering roles, and continues to take community college courses, but he acknowledges a career shift takes additional effort. “Be ready to grind,” he said.
Amazon says it is on track in its own efforts to retrain its workforce. The company trained 15,000 workers in the first year of its upskilling pledge announced in 2019 and says it would meet its goal of reaching 100,000 staffers by 2025. The most popular retraining program internally so far has been Amazon Career Choice, in which the company subsidizes community college courses, setting up employees to eventually leave Amazon. Most courses so far have focused on health care, transportation or technical jobs but can vary regionally, a spokeswoman said.
Write to Chip Cutter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Appeared in the December 11, 2020, print edition as 'Amazon Offers Plan to Train Millions to Work in the Cloud.'
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|From: Glenn Petersen||12/15/2020 8:32:17 AM|
|Amazon launches Live Translation mode for Alexa|
Kyle Wiggers @Kyle_L_Wiggers
December 14, 2020 9:15 AM
Amazon today rolled out Live Translation, a new Alexa feature that aims to assist with conversations between people who speak two different languages by leveraging speech recognition and machine translation technology. Amazon says that Live Translation can interpret between a number of dialects in real time, including English and French, Spanish, Hindi, Brazilian Portuguese, German, or Italian.
The pandemic appears to have supercharged voice app usage, which was already on an upswing. According to a study by NPR and Edison Research, the percentage of voice-enabled device owners who use commands at least once a day rose between the beginning of 2020 and the start of April. Just over a third of smart speaker owners say they listen to more music, entertainment, and news from their devices than they did before, and owners report requesting an average of 10.8 tasks per week from their assistant this year compared with 9.4 different tasks in 2019. And according to a new report from Juniper Research, consumers will interact with voice assistants on 8.4 billion devices by 2024.
Launching Live Translation requires asking Alexa on an Amazon Echo device to translate one of the supported languages. The command “Alexa, translate French” will translate between English and French, for example, while “Alexa, stop” will end the translation session. The Echo will beep during the session to indicate when to speak in the other language, and Echo devices with a screen like the Echo Show will display a transcription of the conversation. Users can take pauses between sentences, and Alexa will automatically detect the language in which they’re speaking and translate each side of the conversation.
“We see a number of ways customers may interact with this Alexa feature,” an Amazon spokesperson told VentureBeat via email. “[Customers can use Live Translation to] communicate with friends and family that speak a different language [and] practice speaking and learning phrases in new languages.”
The new feature could be especially useful in hospitality, where guests, hosts, and hotel staff might not speak the same language. Though Echo speakers are growing in popularity from a consumer standpoint, helping users control their doors, lights, and search the web using nothing but their voice, Amazon hopes to target the service industry with programs like Alexa for Hospitality. Wynn Resorts has been installing thousands of Amazon Echo speakers in its hotels since last summer, and as of April, Alexa can place phone calls in hotel rooms.
Live Translation is akin to Google Assistant’s Interpreter mode, which supports real-time, turn-by-turn translation in dozens of languages across a range of smart devices. And it builds on Alexa’s multilingual mode, which enables Echo devices to speak in and recognize multiple languages at once.
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|From: Julius Wong||12/20/2020 9:48:02 AM|
|Amazon’s Zoox unveils electric robotaxi that can travel up to 75 mph|
Kirsten Korosec @kirstenkorosec / 10:30 AM EST•December 14, 2020
Image Credits: Zoox
Six years ago, Zoox launched quietly with a mighty mission: build and commercialize just about every aspect of a robotaxi service from the self-driving software stack and on-demand ridesharing app to the management of the fleet and an unconventional vehicle that would transport passengers.
Now, it’s finally lifting the veil on its multi-year effort. Zoox, which was acquired earlier this year by Amazon, unveiled the electric, autonomous robotaxi it built from the ground up — a cube-like vehicle loaded with sensors, no steering wheel and a moonroof that is capable of transporting four people at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour. The vehicle can drive bidrectionally and has four-wheel steering, capabilities that Zoox said were included to allow it to maneuver through compact spaces and change directions without the need to reverse. In other words, dense urban environments.
The vehicle has a four-seat, face-to-face symmetrical seating configuration, similar to what a train traveler might encounter. It’s also equipped with a 133 kilowatt-hour battery that Zoox said allows it to operate for up to 16 continuous hours on a single charge. Zoox didn’t provide a mileage range for the battery.
There are other design goodies packed in and around the vehicle, including an airbag system for bidirectional vehicles and carriage seating that envelops passengers. Zoox said this is equal to five-star crash safety protections for all four seats. The vehicle has cameras, radar and lidar that gives it a 270-degree field of view on all four corners of the vehicle, which Zoox said lets it consistently track objects next to and behind it, including pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users.
Zoox L5 fully autonomous, all-electric robotaxi interior. Image: Zoox
Zoox CTO Jesse Levinson said building the vehicle from the ground up gave the company an opportunity to reimagine passenger safety, shifting from reactive to proactive measures. “These include new safety features such as our airbag design, redundant hardware throughout the vehicle, a unique sensor architecture, and a custom AI stack that detects and mitigates potential risks,” Levinson said, adding that the vehicle has passed key Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards crash tests.
What is not yet known is if Zoox has received approval by the FMVSS to operate the vehicle. These federal standards require manufacturers to build vehicles with specific features such as steering wheels. The Zoox vehicle doesn’t have one since it was designed to drive on its own. Earlier this year, autonomous delivery startup Nuro became the first company to receive a driverless exemption from the federal government.
The exemption granted by the the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is for Nuro’s new low-speed electric vehicle called the R2 that will be used for local delivery service for restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses. While Nuro’s vehicle doesn’t have a steering wheel either, it’s also designed just for delivering goods, not people.
Despite this final and important regulatory hurdle, completing the vehicle is a milestone for the company. Zoox CEO Aicha Evans said it marks an important step on the company’s journey toward deploying an autonomous ride-hailing service.
Zoox is testing the purpose-built vehicle on private roads, and will then move to public roads, the company said in an email exchange. “This is an important step, as Zoox wants to ensure that the vehicles on the road have been thoroughly tested, vetted, and are ready for the public to use,” the spokesperson said in the email. “Zoox is still on our journey on the path of launching a commercial ride-hailing service.”
Zoox, which operates as an independent subsidiary of Amazon, is currently testing in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Foster City. The company intends to handle all aspects of the robotaxi service and could eventually expand to delivering packages, according to an interview Evans had with Bloomberg.
See Photos at
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|From: Glenn Petersen||12/29/2020 12:36:28 PM|
|How Twitch kept its crown in a controversial year|
Its head may hang heavy, but Twitch is still the streaming king.
Jessica Conditt, @JessConditt
December 29, 2020
Whenever Twitch announces a new approach to handling harassment on the platform, there’s been a common, overwhelming response from streamers: “Please, please, be more than just words. Please follow this up with actions.”
That’s how Twitch Partner Jennifer Rynn, who streams under her last name, responded to the company in June. A deluge of reports of sexual abuse in the streaming community that month forced Twitch to release a statement pledging to investigate the accusations and punish aggressors, and Rynn was one of many streamers begging the company to follow through.
In June alone, streamer Jessica “JessyQuil” Richey compiled allegations against more than 60 streamers in a Medium post, and found many of them had multiple alleged victims. On June 21st, in a series of detailed videos, two women accused one of the most popular streamers on Twitch, Thomas “Syndicate” Cassell, of rape. He denied the allegations.
Hours after the videos went live, Twitch published its statement on Twitter, opening with, “We take accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct extremely seriously.”
Judging by the replies, most streamers didn’t buy it.
@TheTeaWrex: “Gonna need to see some actions this time folks.”
@DomesticDan: “These are good words. Please follow up these words with actions.”
@UnicornyLithia: “Actions speak louder [than] words ever will.”
@KaraCorvus: “o rly.”
On top of being the No. 1 live-streaming platform by a wide margin, Twitch has earned a reputation as a hotbed for sexual abuse and inconsistent moderation policies. For years, women in particular on Twitch have dealt with unchecked harassment and confusing clothing-based bans, and the company has consistently failed to clarify its calls.
For instance, Syndicate was not banned and Twitch never publicly discussed its investigation into the allegations against him. He’s still a Twitch Partner today, with more than 3.1 million followers.
However, the June reckoning had a profound impact on Twitch. The company ended up permanently banning one of its top names, Dr Disrespect, plus popular Destiny 2 streamer SayNoToRage, iAmSp00n, BlessRNG, WarwitchTV, DreadedCone, Wolv21, and others. In December, the company unveiled new, more descriptive policies on hateful conduct and harassment, including the addition of a discrete section for sexual harassment.
“With this update we’ve separated sexual harassment into its own category and adopted a much lower tolerance for objectifying or harassing behavior,” Twitch wrote in a blog post.
The new rules go into effect on January 22nd, giving streamers and viewers time to change their behavior, if necessary. This has widely been viewed as a positive step from Twitch, as the fresh regulations directly address long standing issues like slut-shaming and the sharing of repeated, unwanted comments about someone’s appearance. Twitch said it will take the context of reported comments into account when moderating under the new rules, allowing friendly banter to stand.
On Twitter, there are signs that the Twitch community is willing to put faith in the company this time around. Instead of pages of replies demanding less talk and more action, streamers and viewers have been more concerned with debating the content of the update. The most common criticism revolves around whether Twitch will apply the policy equitably.
“We are holding you to this @twitch and politely request that you make sure it applies to your partnered ‘top’ streamers too,” streamer KawaiiFoxita said. Responding to a comment, she added, “There’s been enough pressure lately & it may have shaken something up behind closed doors. I won’t place bets, but I’ll keep an open mind.”
With a fresh approach to harassment on the horizon, Twitch is ending 2020 in an enviable position. Twitch is the undisputed king of live streaming platforms, with more than 10.5 million unique channels, compared to about 913,000 for YouTube Gaming and 268,000 for Facebook Gaming, according to Streamlabs. Between July and September this year, Twitch clocked more than 4.7 billion hours watched, while YouTube hit about 1.7 billion and Facebook got just over 1 billion.
One of Twitch’s rivals, Mixer, shut down in the summer, and even though Microsoft attempted to push its audience toward Facebook Gaming, most streamers ended up on Twitch. Following his exclusive gig on Mixer, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, the most popular streamer in the world, re-joined Twitch in September. He currently has the most followers of anyone on the platform, with 16.5 million.
Twitch isn’t out of the woods, but it’s built a nice cabin there and is settling in for the long haul. The company is currently dealing with a rash of DMCA takedowns, and every day, it’s attempting to strike a balance in its moderation policies. In late December, Twitch suspended professional Valorant player Taynha “Tayhuhu” Yukimi after her three-year-old wandered onto her live stream and interacted with the chat, alone, while she was answering the door. Twitch’s terms prohibit anyone under the age of 13 from streaming, though children have made appearances on other channels without issue. She shared the news of her suspension on Twitter, and calls for Twitch to reverse the decision rolled in. Her channel was reinstated two days after her Twitter posts with no official word on what happened.
That last part is the trickiest bit for Twitch. With a history of inconsistent moderation practices and poor communication, transparency will be critical to Twitch’s reputation in the years ahead. Now that the company has outlined fresh policies on harassment and bans, it has a solid foundation for explaining its future decisions, and it needs to take full advantage of this reset. When high-profile streamers are banned or otherwise punished, Twitch should publicly explain why. When a notable streamer, developer or community member is accused of abuse, Twitch needs to share the steps it’s taking to investigate. If the company finds evidence of wrongdoing, it has to act quickly and take steps to prevent future infractions, but also explain the situation clearly to the community.
So, yes, Twitch needs to provide the actions to back up its words — but in 2021 and beyond, the inverse is also true.
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|To: SirWalterRalegh who wrote (164180)||1/5/2021 7:43:47 PM|
|From: Sr K|
|Some more details from finanz.dk|
Amazon officially announced a deal today that has been consummated months ago: the purchase of 11 aging Boeing 767-300 jets, seven from Delta that it had retired in the second quarter and four from Canadian airline WestJet, to be converted to freighters and enter operations for Amazon Air.
The four WestJet planes, which Amazon today said it had acquired in March, are now undergoing cargo conversion and are expected to enter Amazon Air operations this near. The seven Delta planes will enter operations in 2022.
On August 31, the FAA had issued a direct registration to Amazon.com Services LLC for the first of the 11 planes, Paxex.Aero reported in early September. The plane had originally entered passenger air service in 1991 for Quantas and for the past five years flew for West Jet. In March, WestJet put it into storage. In mid-August, it was moved to Amazon.
Until this purchase, Amazon had only been leasing its cargo jets. But given the collapse in passenger air traffic, and the many planes parked around the globe, it was time to go shopping.
“Having a mix of both leased and owned aircraft in our growing fleet allows us to better manage our operations, which in turn helps us to keep pace in meeting our customer promises,” Amazon said in the statement.
In June 2020, Amazon announced leasing an additional 12 converted 767-300 cargo jets from Air Transport Services Group (ATSG), for a ten-year term. One of the planes entered Amazon Air cargo operations in May 2020. The remainder will be delivered this year. That batch brought its leased fleet “to over 80 aircraft.” The purchases announced today will bring its total fleet – leased and owned – to over 90 aircraft.
All of Amazon’s aircraft are operated by third-party air carriers, and the purchased aircraft will also be operated by third-party carriers, Amazon said today.
These third-party carriers include Atlas Air, Sun Country, and ATSG through its subsidiaries such as ABX Air (formerly Airborne Express). Sun Country was bought out by private equity firm Apollo Global Management in 2017. Atlas Air, Sun Country, and ATSG have sold warrants to Amazon, which it still holds, giving Amazon the right to purchase shares of these companies at a set price, and have some influence.
One of Amazon Air’s leased planes, operated by Atlas Air on a regular trip from Miami to Houston, crashed in February 2019 into Trinity Bay, about 30 miles southeast of George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Both crew members and the only passenger were killed. Muscling into the air transportation business is not without risks.
Amazon has moved fast. It started getting into the air cargo business in 2015 with trial cargo runs out of Wilmington Air Park. By December that year, it announced that it would launch its own cargo airline. At the time, it was already negotiating to lease 20 Boeing 767 aircraft.
Now Amazon has two air hubs, one at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and one at Leipzig/Halle Airport in Germany. It has regional hubs and “Gateway facilities” – used for one-day shipping – at airports across the US and in numerous cities around the world. And it will soon have over 90 cargo planes in service. These are starting to be substantive air cargo operations that have come practically out of nowhere.
These air cargo operations complement Amazon’s ballooning empire of ground delivery services and fulfillment centers.
Just over the month of December 2020, effectively in the three weeks from December 1 through 22, Amazon announced eight new facilities: seven fulfillment centers and a delivery station.
December 22, 2020: Announced a new 1 million square-foot fulfillment center in a suburb of Lafayette, Louisiana.December 22, 2020: Announced three new facilities in San Antonio, Texas, a new 1 million square-foot fulfillment center, a new 750,000 square foot fulfillment center, and a new 350,000 square-foot delivery station.December 18, 2020: Announced a 640,000 square-foot fulfillment center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.December 17, 2020: Announced a new 1 million square-foot fulfillment center in North Little Rock, Arkansas.December 7, 2020: Announced a new 1 million square-foot fulfillment center in Missouri City, Texas, where “associates will work to pick, pack, and ship bulky or larger-sized customer items such as patio furniture, outdoor equipment, or rugs,” in a sign of our times, given the surge of online purchases of these items during the Pandemic.December 3, 2020: Announced a new 1 million square-foot fulfillment center in Oklahoma City, where, you guessed it, “associates will work to pick, pack, and ship bulky or larger-sized customer items such as patio furniture, outdoor equipment, or rugs.”
Fulfillment centers fall under the commercial real estate category, “industrial,” and this category, unlike retail and hotels, has been white-hot throughout the Pandemic, with Amazon being the biggest player in it.
In addition, Amazon has massively expanded its ground delivery operations. One of the elements is perhaps the most visible: The Delivery Service Partners program, under which Amazon helps launch smaller independently owned companies “with up to 20-40 vans,” Amazon-branded vans. These companies are totally dependent on Amazon, with Amazon not only being their only customer, but also the provider of the software services needed for the deliveries, leasing of the vans, etc. I now see those vans in San Francisco all the time. They’re everywhere.
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