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Quantum computing startup sued over report’s hoax claims • The Register

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Quantum computing startup IonQ is facing a securities fraud lawsuit after a barrage of accusations came to light in a blistering report from Scorpion Capital, which claims the company lied about the maturity (and even existence of) its quantum device in addition to a smattering of claimed financial fictions.

The Scorpion Capital report, issued May 3, provides a rigorously scathing assessment of the IonQ technology, which is described as “a useless toy that can’t even add 1+1” as assessed by internal experiments run by unnamed but numerous quantum experts hired by Scorpion and exhaustively detailed in the full report [PDF].

It’s not just the company’s technology on the chopping block, either. Scorpion Capital calls the startup “a part-time side-hustle run by two academics,” one of whom, CEO and founder, Peter Chapman, “appears to be making up his MIT educational credentials,” something we’ll get to momentarily.

Today, Los Angeles-based law firm Glancy Prongay & Murray announced it has filed a proposed class-action complaint against IonQ, built on and referencing the Scorpion report’s claims. The lawsuit seeks to represent those who invested in IonQ securities between March 30, 2021 and May 2, 2022. The complaint also includes a number of alleged misrepresentations and omissions in SEC and other company filings, as well as in marketing and website documents issued by the publicly traded IonQ.

IonQ’s stock price fell nine percent on the release of the Scorpion report, and is down about 30 percent over the past month.

First and most damning are the lawsuit’s allegations that, as the law firm summarized, “IonQ had not yet developed a 32-qubit quantum computer” and that their existing “11-quantum qubit computer suffered from significant error rates, rendering it useless.”

In addition to claiming the flagship 32-bit quantum computer never existed and the tiny one they had was so error-prone, and that the technology was “not accessible despite being available through major cloud providers,” the lawsuit also alleges some financial misdeeds, including a claim that “a significant portion of IonQ’s revenue was derived from improper round-tripping transactions with related parties.”

In colloquial fashion, Scorpion Capital added that “IonQ’s top holders are the some of the usual purveyors of SPAC trash” and with no disguise for disgust, Scorpion goes on to add that “no charade is complete without Softbank popping up as a top holder, and it appears that Silver Lake, Google, and Michael Dell’s family office have been bamboozled as well. We further note the Quantumscape (QS) CEO’s appearance on IonQ’s advisory board. We published a report on that SPAC last year, which is down 61 percent since.”

Haters gonna hate…

All of this sounds damning, to be sure, but we should urge some caution: these are allegations.

Scorpion Capital is run by Kir Kahlon, who is focused exclusively on finding and calling out what he sees are fraudulent securities. Kahlon, a noted short-seller with a stated Harvard MBA, has worked for a number of top-tier investment firms, including Tiger Global, Seligman Investments, and Bain & Co, as well as founded “an enterprise software company” where he raised $15 million in capital, according to his LinkedIn. We’ve reached out to Kahlon for comment.

IonQ addresses Kahlon and common short-selling techniques in its public statement following the report: “As the first public ‘pure-play’ quantum company, IonQ is an easy target for questionable stock manipulation tactics such as publishing misinformation and betting against the company through a short-selling strategy.”

IonQ’s CTO Jungsang Kim, and chief scientist Christopher Monroe, added, “The report is riddled with disinformation, demonstrating a breathtaking ignorance of the quantum computing industry in general and IonQ technology in particular. However, the disclosure page is clear – it admits that Scorpion has a financial incentive for devaluing IonQ, it does not vouch for the accuracy of any of the report contents, and it acknowledges editing interviews with paid experts and former employees while suppressing positive opinions on IonQ.”

Scorpion has a financial incentive for devaluing IonQ, it does not vouch for the accuracy of any of the report contents

We can find many references to the work of Dr Kim, a Duke University professor, and Monroe of the University of Maryland, and their years of work in the quantum computing field. This stands in stark contrast to the lack of public information about short-seller extraordinaire, Kir Kahlon. It is the fact that these two academics retain “real jobs” that leads Khalon to claim IonQ is a “side hustle.”

On the point of concerns about the company’s CEO and his claim to MIT fame, Scorpion Capital said Chapman’s narrative is that he is a “child prodigy who began programming at the MIT Artificial Laboratory at age 16” but that this was a pre-adult experience and not a graduating degree.

As the Scorpion report goes: “Far from being a child prodigy, we suspect his purported gig at MIT at age 16 was simply nepotism. Chapman has stated his father was an astronaut, who we believe to be Philip Chapman, whose Wikipedia profile states did his doctorate at MIT in the 1960s and then appears to have remained in the Cambridge/Boston research scene. We note that Peter Chapman’s profile on the IonQ site and in SEC filings not only fails to list MIT, but lists no educational credentials at all.”

We have reached out to Chapman for comment and clarification.

But here’s why you read this to begin with….

The reason this story matters is because it (too easily) gives you what you wanted: a toothy tear-down of a technology that is so difficult to describe and compare that it is ripe territory for actual fraud.

The Scorpion report deals some solid savagery for what it calls a “quantum Ponzi scheme” and a “brazen hoax.” For those in the words business, as we are, it is clear this report, which is far from a dry academic assessment of performance and claims, that you are meant to feel something. And after all, isn’t that what guides investment decision-making when real data is scant?

From the report: IonQ’s tactics are “reminiscent of Nikola’s shenanigans, our research indicates that IonQ’s purported 32-qubit “world’s most powerful quantum computer” is a brazen hoax. The machine is featured near the top of its homepage and is its claim to fame as well as the basis of its SPAC. We believe that IonQ’s only actual machine is a useless, experimental, error-ridden toy with far fewer qubits, similar to science projects one can use for free from its competitors.”

It would be foolish to say there is not a general appetite for quantum technology company tear-downs that provide meaty detail and rabid attack language. After all, in the real world – the one we all knew back in the boring old CMOS days – you had to prove what you did worked. How dare these upstarts walk away with millions in funding to develop something that is a roving Schrödinger’s cat: both real (funded/employing people) and dead (because it never materializes in the real world). ®

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Lego releases Atari Video Computer System set • The Register

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Lego has followed up its Nintendo Entertainment System retro throwback with one celebrating the Atari Video Computer System (VCS).

The set, retailing at a heart-stopping $239.99 (£209.99 in the UK), is a non-functional replica of the iconic game console, although only the model with four switches rather than the six of others in the range. Not that those switches do an awful lot in Lego form.

In fact, compared to the cheaper Nintendo Entertainment System set (with all its twiddly technic bits and separate television), we’d have to describe the VCS set as a bit of a disappointment if it weren’t for the nostalgia factor.

The plastic bricks also fail to include a mock cartridge of the best game on the VCS, Combat. Asteroids, Centipede, and Adventure simply don’t cut it in comparison even with the reproduction of the hopelessly optimistic cover art so beloved by ’80s and ’90s designers and some neat Lego vignettes themed after the games.

Lego also opted to skip E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, described as the worst game ever. We can imagine an appropriate model for that example and the impact it had on the industry of the time.

Still, the 2,500-plus pieces will make for a fun build and includes a replica of the classic Atari joystick and a mini-fig scale 1980s room which pops up when the front is slid forward.

The price does seem high for what is effectively a plastic throwback to simpler times. Then again, other attempts to recreate that retro magic could cost you a lot more and potentially leave you without even a pile of plastic bricks to play with.

Or one could always take the plastic assembly and stick something like a Raspberry Pi (preloaded with an emulator) into it. Similar things were done with Lego’s Nintendo Entertainment System where the Technic guts of the television were removed and replaced with a Pi and an LCD screen to create something on which one can play games (ROM ownership notwithstanding).

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It is a shame that Lego did not see fit to include a television with the Atari VCS in the way it did with the NES, and also limited interaction to a pop-up 1980s room and some switches. However, the design looks good and is a reminder of an age when sticking something that looked like wood on the front of the console and squeezing games into kilobytes rather than gigabytes was state of the art.

Otherwise there are many examples of the VCS that can be had on various auction sites for considerably less than Lego’s asking price that are a good deal more interactive. ®

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4 reasons hybrid working looks set to stay for young professionals

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From priorities to practicalities, Dr Amanda Jones of King’s College London explains why hybrid working may be here to stay and outlines the pitfalls that younger employees will need to avoid.

Click here to visit The Conversation.

A version of this article was originally published by The Conversation (CC BY-ND 4.0)

We’re in the middle of a remote working revolution. In the UK, though remote working was slowly growing before the pandemic, in 2020 the number of people working from home doubled.

While this rapid rise can be explained by Covid lockdowns, a recent survey my colleagues and I conducted with 2,000 London workers found that six in 10 employees still regularly work from home despite restrictions no longer being in place. And most don’t want that to change.

Findings from other parts of the world similarly point to a substantial increase in the number of work days being undertaken from home.

For young professionals, the shift has been particularly significant. Before the pandemic, employees in their 20s were by far the least likely to work from home.

In 2022, 64pc of 16 to 24-year-olds we surveyed reported working at home for at least part of the week. This figure is in line with 25 to 49-year-olds (65pc) and in fact higher than for people over 50 (48pc).

Other research also shows that young professionals now engage in hybrid working – dividing their time between their home and their workplace – and may prefer this model to being in the office full time.

US and European data shows that around four in 10 jobs can be conducted from home. But this figure may be higher if we consider that some jobs could be at least partly done from home. In particular, jobs in finance and insurance, information and communication and education are among the most conducive to being performed remotely.

Technologies which support remote working, such as Zoom and Slack, have been available for a number of years. While the pandemic has served as a catalyst for the rise in remote working among younger employees, I would argue that other factors have also contributed to this shift – some of which were already evident before the pandemic.

Importantly, each of these factors suggest this change to the way young professionals work is here to stay.

1. Priorities

Evidence suggests that even before the pandemic, young people were becoming more focused on their own goals, wanted greater flexibility and control, and sought a better work-life balance compared with previous generations. The reasons for this may be related to the changing nature of organisations and careers, which I’ll discuss later.

Our own and other research indicates that remote working, especially working from home (as opposed to, say, at client sites), can boost feelings of flexibility and control and enhance work-life balance. So working remotely could help younger people achieve these goals in a way that traditional working arrangements can’t.

In fact, research indicates that many young people would now rather switch jobs than compromise on the flexibility they gain from hybrid working. So for employers, supporting hybrid working may be necessary to attract and retain the best employees.

2. Practicalities

Across all age groups, participants in our research picked avoiding the commute as the biggest benefit of working remotely. While this has long been a recognised advantage of remote working, it’s important to note that we surveyed London workers – and the commute may be less of an issue for people in other places.

Aside from the time and hassle involved in commuting, travelling to work every day can be expensive. The cost of working in the office goes up if you also factor in lunches, coffees and after-work social activities.

This may be difficult for younger people – who are contending with the rising costs of living, often on lower salaries – to manage. Working remotely can help reduce spending, making it an attractive option – and even a potential lifeline – for younger employees.

3. Career trajectories

Studies show that a move towards less hierarchical, more efficient and flexible organisations results in a “new deal” of employment. Employers no longer guarantee job security and progression for employees, but gain their commitment by providing opportunities – including training programmes – that enhance their employability.

The onus then moves to employees to manage their own career progression, which remote working may help them with. For example, we know working from home can reduce distractions and improve productivity.

Taken with the commuting time saved, young professionals may have more time to dedicate to development opportunities, such as studying for additional qualifications. This could increase their attractiveness in the job market.

Indeed, young professionals seem to be the most likely to switch jobs. If they don’t expect to remain with an organisation long term, they may be less motivated to build strong relationships with colleagues and managers, and unwilling to put their own goals aside for those of the organisation.

4. Managers’ behaviour

Research shows many more managers now work remotely compared with before the pandemic. This change has two important effects.

First, managers who work remotely are likely to find it harder to stop juniors from doing the same. Managers’ ability to monitor and develop their junior staff in person, a common reason for prohibiting remote work in the past, is also reduced if managers are away from the office themselves.

Second, as more managers work remotely, younger employees may feel more confident that doing so won’t prevent them achieving success. Managers serve as role models to junior employees and evidence shows that younger professionals seek success by copying role models’ behaviour.

Avoiding the pitfalls of hybrid working

Despite the positives, younger employees, with comparatively limited experience and networks, may face disproportionately negative outcomes from remote working in terms of recognition, development and networking opportunities.

So if you’re a young professional working remotely, how can you avoid the pitfalls of hybrid working?

Setting your own goals can keep motivation and performance high. Meanwhile, proactively communicating your challenges and achievements to senior and peer-level colleagues can ensure that you receive guidance and recognition.

It’s a good idea to plan some of your time in the office to coordinate with team members or managers. At the same time, it’s useful to try to schedule office visits on different days of the week. This can help maintain key relationships but also help build networks through bumping into colleagues you don’t necessarily work as closely with.

Finally, upping attendance at external conferences and events could increase your value to the organisation through encouraging innovation and fresh ideas, while keeping you aware of external employment opportunities.

The Conversation

By Dr Amanda Jones

Dr Amanda Jones is a lecturer in organisational behaviour and human resource management at King’s College London.

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Kids’ tech: the best children’s gadgets for summer holidays | Gadgets

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With the long school summer holiday well under way, you may need a bit of help keeping the kids entertained. From walkie-talkies and cameras to tablets, robot toys and fitness trackers, here are some of the best kid-aimed tech to keep the little (and not-so-little) ones occupied.

Robot toys

Sphero Mini – about £50

Sphero Mini robotic ball.
Sphero Mini robotic ball. Photograph: Bryan Rowe/Sphero

Lots of tech toys are fads but my longtime favourite has stood the test of time as a modern update to remote control fun. Sphero is a ball you control using a smartphone or tablet, and has hidden depths, with games and educational elements also available.

The mini Sphero ball is a lot of fun to drive around and small enough that overexuberant indoor excursions won’t result in broken furniture and scuffed-up paintwork. The Sphero Play app has games, while the Sphero Edu app is great at fostering creative learning.

Kids or big kids can learn to program, follow examples, get the robot to do all sorts of things, or go deeper and write some code for it in JavaScript. Higher-end versions such as the £190 BOLT take the educational elements to the next level, too.

Tablets

Amazon Fire 7 Kids – about £110

Amazon Fire 7 Kids edition tablet.
Amazon Fire 7 Kids edition tablet. Photograph: Amazon

If you would rather not lend your precious breakable phone or iPad to your little ones, Amazon’s practically indestructible Kids edition tablets could be just the ticket.

The cheapest and smallest Fire 7 has just been updated and is available in a range of bright-coloured cases with a pop-out stand. If your offspring do manage to break it, Amazon will replace it for free under its two-year “worry-free” guarantee.

It does all the standard tablet things such as movies, apps, games, a web browser if you want it, and parental controls to lock it, set time limits and age filters. There’s even an option restricting access to curated child-safe sites and videos but it doesn’t have access to the Google Play store, only Amazon’s app store.

The Kids edition comes with a one-year subscription to Amazon Kids+ (£3 to £7 a month afterwards), which is a curated collection of child-friendly text and audio books, movies, TV shows and educational apps.

The larger £140 Fire HD 8 and £200 Fire HD 10 are available in Kids versions, too, if you want something bigger, or Amazon’s new Kids Pro tablets start at £100 with additional features aimed at school-age children.

Alternatives include LeapFrog’s various educational tablets, which are fine for younger children, or hand-me-down or refurbished iPads (from £150) in robust cases, which can be locked down with some parental controls.

Cameras

VTech Kidizoom Duo 5.0 – about £39

VTech Kidizoom Duo 5.0 kids’ camera in pink.
VTech Kidizoom Duo 5.0 kids’ camera in pink. Photograph: VTech

Before the advent of smartphones, standalone cameras were the way we visually documented our lives, and they still can be a bit of creative fun and inspiration for kids.

The VTech Kidizoom Duo 5.0 is a “my first digital camera” of sorts made of rugged plastic and simple in operation, which VTech reckons is suitable for three- to nine-year-olds. It captures 5MP photos of reasonable quality and can shoot from the back for selfies, too, all viewable on a 2.4in screen.

The optical viewfinder helps them line up the shot, which they can transform with fun filters and effects. It even shoots video, too. The kid-centric nature of it might turn off older children but every award-winning photographer has to start somewhere before the smartphone takes over.

It needs an SD card for storage and takes four AA batteries at a time, and chews through them fast, so buy some rechargeables to help save money and the planet.

For older children, rugged and waterproof action cams could be the way to go, shooting video and photos. Budget no-brand cams cost from about £80 but secondhand or refurbished models from the big boys such as GoPro and DJI go for about £100 and on eBay and elsewhere.

Fitness trackers

Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 – from about £55

Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 Star Wars edition.
Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 Star Wars edition. Photograph: Garmin

Your child may not need any encouragement to tear about the place but if you are after a gadget to “gamify” and reward their activity – as well as giving them a smartwatch-esque gadget to play with – the Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 could be a winner for ages four and up.

Its watch-like form comes in various themes and designs, including with various Star Wars, Marvel and Disney characters, with custom watchfaces to choose from. The user-replaceable coin-cell battery lasts a year, so you don’t have to worry about charging it. Water-resistance to 50 metres means swimming should be no problem either.

It tracks steps, activity and sleep with motivational messaging. It has mini games to play once your child has hit their goals, and can all be managed from a parent’s phone or tablet, so you can keep an eye on their data. Parents can even set goals, competitions with their own activity levels, chore reminders and tasks that can earn virtual coins for them to trade for rewards with you.

It is button-operated rather than touchscreen, and the backlight doesn’t stay on long to preserve the battery.

If you are a user of Google’s Fitbit trackers yourself, then the firm’s Ace 3 (£50) means you can compete on activity, but it needs charging every seven or so days. Other cheaper adult-focused fitness trackers such as the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 (about £29) may be better for older children.

Walkie-talkies

Motorola T42 Talkabout – about £35 for three

Motorola Talkabout T42 two-way radios.
Motorola Talkabout T42 two-way radios. Photograph: Motorola Solutions

Walkie-talkies are a great replacement for phones, allowing kids and big kids to keep in touch without fear of fees or smashed screens.

There are plenty of child-centric options available with various character themes but basic units usually work better. Motorola’s T42 Talkabout comes in various colours and multipacks.

They are simple to set up, with a pairing button and multiple channel selection to find a clear one. Once going, just push to talk, even over long distances. Their quoted 4km range might be a bit ambitious but they should be good for at least 500 metres in urban environments, or much further in the open air.

They take three AAA batteries each, which last about 18 hours of talking or roughly three to four days in active use, so you might need a small army of rechargeable batteries.

They have a belt clip and loop for hooking to a carabiner (metal loop) or similar, and are fairly rugged, too, so should survive being launched across a room or two.

Nestling’s camouflage walkie-talkies (about £26) are also a popular choice but there are lots of choices under £30 available on the high street.

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