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Tag Archives: datemodified

Subscription video services’ recommendations aren’t working, study claims

Streaming video services invest heavily in technology to improve their ability to show users a set of personalized recommendations about what to what next. But according to a new research study released today by UserTesting, it seems that consumers aren’t watching much recommended content – in fact, only 29 percent of the study’s participants said they actually watched something the service recommended. On some services, those figures were extremely low – for example, only 6 percent of HBO NOW users said they watched recommended content. That’s probably because consumers found it difficult to locate HBO NOW’s recommendations in the first place. The service was given a low 16.8 “ customer experience”  score on this front, the study says. That’s a much lower score than all other services analyzed, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and YouTube TV – all of which had scores in the 80’s. (See first chart, below). To be fair, HBO NOW doesn’t really do recommendations in the same way as the others. Its app offers a “Featured” selection of content for all users, and, if you scroll down further, there are a couple of editorial collections, like “Essential HBO” or “14 Hidden Gems You Missed the First Time.” A separate “Collections” section includes more of these suggestions, like “New Movies,” “Just Added,” “Last Chance” and others. The lack of personalized, easily located recommendations also impacted HBO NOW’s overall score in the UserTesting study, which rated the services across a variety of metrics including availability of content, friction-free viewing, ease of scrubbing and episode scanning, and other factors. HBO NOW was also was dinged by survey respondents for lagging, freezing and buffering issues, though they said they appreciated its clean design. Netflix’s overall score was 89.5, making it the highest-rated streaming service among those analyzed due to having the most relevant recommendations, overall high ease-of-use, and a speedy service

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Epic Games will pump $100 million into Fortnite eSports competitions

Epic Games doesn’t want the party to stop. The gaming company announced today that it plans to funnel $100 million into Fortnite eSports competitions for the “2018-2019 season,” a move which will undoubtedly drive talent and enthusiasm to the battle royale title. The company announced the investment in a short blog post : In the 2018 – 2019 season, Epic Games will provide $100,000,000 to fund prize pools for Fortnite competitions. We’re getting behind competitive play in a big way, but our approach will be different – we plan to be more inclusive, and focused on the joy of playing and watching the game. Fortnite has had an explosive period of growth over the past several months since the release of its battle royale flavor following the popularity of PUBG, but Epic Games seems to be doubling down on ensuring the continued popularity of the recent multiplayer gameplay trend. Unlike a lot of popular eSports titles, Fortnite is available across a pretty wide variety of platforms beyond just the PC, with console and mobile flavors also available. Epic hasn’t released much in the way of usage numbers lately, but the game hit 2 million concurrent players in January and it has undoubtedly surged in popularity since then. Whether the young title can continue to draw attention and crowds in the face of fresher talent  moving forward will depend heavily on streamers and eSports leagues continuing to show interest, but $100 million in investment in prize pools will almost certainly prove to be quite helpful.

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Uizard raises funds for its AI that turns design mockups into source code

When you’re trying to build apps, there is a very tedious point where you have to stare at a wireframe and then laboriously turn it into code. Actually, the process itself is highly repetitive and ought to be much easier. The traditional software development from front-end design to front-end html/css development to working code is expensive, time-consuming, tedious and repetitive. But most approaches to solving this problem have been more complex than they need to be. What if you could just turn wireframes straight into code and then devote your time to the more complex aspects of a build? That’s the idea behind a Copenhagen-based startup called Uizard . Uizard’s computer vision and AI platform claims to be able to automatically turn design mockups — and this could be on the back of napkin — into source code that developers can plug into their backend code. It’s now raised an $800,000 pre-seed round led by New York-based LDV Capital with co-investors ByFounders, The Nordic Web Ventures, 7percent Ventures, New York Venture Partners, entrepreneur Peter Stern (co-founder of Datek) and Philipp Moehring and Andy Chung from AngelList . This fundraising will be used to grow the team and launch the beta product. The company received interest in June 2017 when they released their first research milestone dubbed “pix2code” and implementation on GitHub was the second-mosttrending project of June 2017 ahead of Facebook Prepack and Google TensorFlow.

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SpaceX rocket will make a pit stop 305 miles up to deploy NASA satellites before moving on

Tuesday is the planned launch for a SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying two payloads to orbit — and this launch will be an especially interesting one. A set of five communications satellites for Iridium need to get to almost 500 miles up, but a NASA mission has to pop out at the 300 mile mark. What to do? Just make a pit stop, it turns out. Now, of course it’s not a literal stop — the thing will be going thousands of miles per hour. But from the reference frame of the rocket itself, it’s not too different from pulling over to let a friend out before hitting the gas again and rolling on to the next destination. What will happen is this: The rocket’s first stage will take it up out of the atmosphere, then separate and hopefully land safely. The second stage will then ignite to take its payload up to orbit. Usually at this point it’ll burn until it reaches the altitude and attitude required, then deploy the payload. But in this case it has a bit more work to do. When the rocket has reached 305 miles up, it will dip its nose 30 degrees down and roll a bit to put NASA’s twin GRACE-FO satellites in position. One has to point toward Earth, the other toward space. Once in position, the separation system will send the two birds out, one in each direction, at a speed of about a foot per second. The one on the Earth side will be put into a slightly slower and lower orbit than the one on the space side, and after they’ve spread out to a distance of 137 miles, the lower satellite will boost itself upwards and synchronize with the other.

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Alibaba’s newest initiative aims to make Hong Kong a global AI hub

Alibaba is teaming up with SenseTime, the world’s highest-valued AI startup, to launch a not-for-profit artificial intelligence lab in Hong Kong in a bid to make the city a global hub for artificial intelligence. Alibaba, which is SenseTime’s largest single investor thanks to a recent $600 million round at a valuation of $4.5 billion , is providing financing for the “HKAI Lab” through its Hong Kong entrepreneurship fund . SenseTime said it will contribute too, although the total amount of capital backing the initiative hasn’t been revealed. The partners of the project — which also includes the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) — said the aim is to “advance the frontiers of AI,” which includes helping startups commercialize their technology, develop ideas and promote knowledge sharing in the AI field. That’s all fairly general — Alibaba has a track record of politicking through technology investment schemes in Greater China and Southeast Asia — but one tangible project is a six-month accelerator program planned for September which will welcome AI startups to the HKAI Lab. Alibaba’s Cloud business and HKSTP are among the backers that will help the program offer early-stage funding to successful applicants, while Alibaba and SenseTime will help with mentoring and development during the program. “Alibaba sees AI as a fundamental technology that will make a difference to society,” Alibaba executive vice chairman Joe Tsai said in a statement. “We envision the Hong Kong AI Lab to be an open platform where researchers, startups and industry participants can collaborate and build a culture of innovation.” China and the U.S. are the two biggest players in the global AI battle; this project alone won’t divert that, but it could stir up potential in Hong Kong. Alibaba maintains tight relationships in Hong Kong, particularly through the fund which is around $130 million in size.

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Last chance to get a table in Startup Alley at TC Tel Aviv 2018

Startups, TechCrunch Tel Aviv 2018 is coming for you in just 2 weeks! As you may know, we’re hosting our   first inaugural day long conference at the Tel Aviv Convention Center on 7 June. The event will feature TechCrunch’s signature stellar programming on Mobility, and we will also have new expo area called Startup Alley , where hundreds of rockstar startups from ALL verticals demo their products to attendees. Check out the current list of startups that will be at the event!  Want to be part of this awesome lineup of startups? For 1700 ILS, you’ll get one full day to exhibit, two tickets to TechCrunch Tel Aviv 2018, a demo table, wifi, power, linens, and a branded table-top sign. You can secure your exhibit spot here . Remember, TechCrunch events are the ideal place to show off your company to prospective customers, gain media attention, meet investors, and take your startup to the next level. If you’re a pre-Series A, early-age startup, we want to see you on our showcase floor. Buy yours before we run out — space is limited, and feel free to email startupalley@techcrunch.com if you have any questions. Hope to see you in a few weeks!

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Whisk, the smart food platform that makes recipes shoppable, acquires competitor Avocando

Whisk , the U.K. startup that has built a B2B data platform to power various food apps, including making online recipes ‘shoppable’, has acquired Avocando, a competitor based in Germany. The exact financial terms of the deal remain undisclosed, although TechCrunch understands it was all-cash and that Whisk is acquiring the tech, customer base, integrations, and team. Related to this, Avocando’s founders are joining Whisk. “The team is joining Whisk to help scale a joint global vision to help leading businesses create integrated and meaningful digital food experiences using cutting-edge technology,” says Whisk in a statement. To that end, Whisk’s “smart food platform” enables app developers, publishers and online supermarkets/grocery stories to do a number of interesting things. The first relates to making recipes shoppable i.e. making it incredibly easy to order the ingredients needed to cook a recipe listed online or in an app. Specifically, Whisk’s platform parses ingredients in a recipe, and matches it to products at local grocery stores based on user preferences (e.g. “50g of butter, cubed” matched to “250g Tesco Salted Butter”). It then interfaces with the store to fill the users basket with the needed items. The second is recipe personalisation. Based on user preferences (e.g

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Microsoft acquires conversational AI startup Semantic Machines to help bots sound more lifelike

Microsoft announced today that it has acquired Semantic Machines , a Berkeley-based startup that wants to solve one of the biggest challenges in conversational AI: making chatbots sound more human and less like, well, bots. In a blog post, Microsoft AI & Research chief technology officer David Ku wrote that “with the acquisition of Semantic Machines, we will establish a conversational AI center of excellence in Berkeley to push forward the boundaries of what is possible in language interfaces.” According to Crunchbase , Semantic Machines was founded in 2014 and raised about $20.9 million in funding from investors including General Catalyst and Bain Capital Ventures. In a 2016 profile, co-founder and chief scientist Dan Klein told TechCrunch that “today’s dialog technology is mostly orthogonal. You want a conversational system to be contextual so when you interpret a sentence things don’t stand in isolation.” By focusing on memory, Semantic Machines’ AI can produce conversations that not only answer or predict questions more accurately, but also flow naturally. Instead of building its own consumer products, Semantic Machines focused on enterprise customers. This means it will fit in well with Microsoft’s conversational AI-based products, including Microsoft Cognitive Services and Azure Bot Service, which are used by one million and 300,000 developers, respectively, and virtual assistants Cortana and Xiaolce.

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After tens of thousands of pre-orders, high-end 3D headphones startup Ossic disappears

After taking tens of thousands of crowd-funding pre-orders for a high-end pair of “3D sound” headphones, audio startup Ossic announced this weekend that it is shutting down the company and backers will not be receiving refunds. The company raised $2.7 million on Kickstarter and $3.2 million on Indiegogo for their Ossic X headphones which they pitched as a pair of high-end head-tracking headphones that would be perfect for listening to 3D audio, especially in a VR environment. While the company also raised a “substantial seed investment,” in a letter on the Ossic website , the company blamed the slow adoption of virtual reality alongside their crowdfunding campaign stretch goals which bogged down their R&D team. “This was obviously not our desired outcome. The team worked exceptionally hard and created a production-ready product that is a technological and performance breakthrough. To fail at the 5 yard-line is a tragedy. We are extremely sorry that we cannot deliver your product and want you to know that the team has done everything possible including investing our own savings and working without salary to exhaust all possibilities.” We have reached out to the company for additional details. Through January 2017, the San Diego company had received more than 22,000 pre-orders for their Ossic X headphones. This past January, Ossic announced that they had shipped out the first units to the 80 backers in their $999 developer tier headphones. In that same update, the company said they would enter “mass production” by late spring 2018. In the end, after tens of thousands of pre-orders, Ossic only built 250 pairs of headphones and only shipped a few dozen to Kickstarter backers. Crowdfunding campaign failures for hardware products are rarely shocking, but often the collapse comes from the company not being able to acquire additional funding from outside investors. Here, Ossic appears to have been misguided from the start and even with nearly $6 million in crowdfunding and seed funding, which they said nearly matched that number, they were left unable to begin large-scale manufacturing.

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After tens of thousands of pre-orders, 3D audio headphones startup Ossic disappears

After taking tens of thousands of crowd-funding pre-orders for a high-end pair of “3D sound” headphones, audio startup Ossic announced this weekend that it is shutting down the company and backers will not be receiving refunds. The company raised $2.7 million on Kickstarter and $3.2 million on Indiegogo for their Ossic X headphones which they pitched as a pair of high-end head-tracking headphones that would be perfect for listening to 3D audio, especially in a VR environment. While the company also raised a “substantial seed investment,” in a letter on the Ossic website , the company blamed the slow adoption of virtual reality alongside their crowdfunding campaign stretch goals which bogged down their R&D team. “This was obviously not our desired outcome. The team worked exceptionally hard and created a production-ready product that is a technological and performance breakthrough. To fail at the 5 yard-line is a tragedy. We are extremely sorry that we cannot deliver your product and want you to know that the team has done everything possible including investing our own savings and working without salary to exhaust all possibilities.” We have reached out to the company for additional details. Through January 2017, the San Diego company had received more than 22,000 pre-orders for their Ossic X headphones. This past January, Ossic announced that they had shipped out the first units to the 80 backers in their $999 developer tier headphones. In that same update, the company said they would enter “mass production” by late spring 2018. In the end, after tens of thousands of pre-orders, Ossic only built 250 pairs of headphones and only shipped a few dozen to Kickstarter backers. Crowdfunding campaign failures for hardware products are rarely shocking, but often the collapse comes from the company not being able to acquire additional funding from outside investors. Here, Ossic appears to have been misguided from the start and even with nearly $6 million in crowdfunding and seed funding, which they said nearly matched that number, they were left unable to begin large-scale manufacturing. The company said in their letter, that it would likely take more than $2 million in additional funding to deliver the existing backlog of pre-orders

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Does Google’s Duplex violate two-party consent laws?

Google’s Duplex , which calls businesses on your behalf and imitates a real human, ums and ahs included, has sparked a bit of controversy among privacy advocates. Doesn’t Google recording a person’s voice and sending it to a data center for analysis violate two-party consent law, which requires everyone in a conversation to agree to being recorded? The answer isn’t immediately clear, and Google’s silence isn’t helping. Let’s take California’s law as the example, since that’s the state where Google is based and where it used the system. Penal Code section 632 forbids recording any “confidential communication” (defined more or less as any non-public conversation) without the consent of all parties. (The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press has a good state-by-state guide to these laws.) Google has provided very little in the way of details about how Duplex actually works, so attempting to answer this question involves a certain amount of informed speculation. To begin with I’m going to consider all phone calls as “confidential” for the purposes of the law. What constitutes a reasonable expectation of privacy is far from settled, and some will have it that you there isn’t such an expectation when making an appointment with a salon. But what about a doctor’s office, or if you need to give personal details over the phone? Though some edge cases may qualify as public, it’s simpler and safer (for us and for Google) to treat all phone conversations as confidential. What we know about Google’s Duplex demo so far As a second assumption, it seems clear that, like most Google services, Duplex’s work takes place in a data center somewhere, not locally on your device. So fundamentally there is a requirement in the system that the other party’s audio will be recorded and sent in some form to that data center for processing, at which point a response is formulated and spoken. On its face it sounds bad for Google. There’s no way the system is getting consent from whomever picks up the phone. That would spoil the whole interaction — “This call is being conducted by a Google system using speech recognition and synthesis; your voice will be analyzed at Google data centers

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Does Google’s Duplex violate two-party consent laws?

Google’s Duplex , which calls businesses on your behalf and imitates a real human, ums and ahs included, has sparked a bit of controversy among privacy advocates. Doesn’t Google recording a person’s voice and sending it to a data center for analysis violate two-party consent law, which requires everyone in a conversation to agree to being recorded? The answer isn’t immediately clear, and Google’s silence isn’t helping. Let’s take California’s law as the example, since that’s the state where Google is based and where it used the system. Penal Code section 632 forbids recording any “confidential communication” (defined more or less as any non-public conversation) without the consent of all parties. (The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press has a good state-by-state guide to these laws.) Google has provided very little in the way of details about how Duplex actually works, so attempting to answer this question involves a certain amount of informed speculation. To begin with I’m going to consider all phone calls as “confidential” for the purposes of the law. What constitutes a reasonable expectation of privacy is far from settled, and some will have it that you there isn’t such an expectation when making an appointment with a salon. But what about a doctor’s office, or if you need to give personal details over the phone? Though some edge cases may qualify as public, it’s simpler and safer (for us and for Google) to treat all phone conversations as confidential. What we know about Google’s Duplex demo so far As a second assumption, it seems clear that, like most Google services, Duplex’s work takes place in a data center somewhere, not locally on your device. So fundamentally there is a requirement in the system that the other party’s audio will be recorded and sent in some form to that data center for processing, at which point a response is formulated and spoken. On its face it sounds bad for Google. There’s no way the system is getting consent from whomever picks up the phone.

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YouTube TV adds Tastemade and The Young Turks as it expands its digital media content

In April, YouTube TV confirmed rumors it was expanding its service by way of digital-only networks by launching two news channels from Cheddar.  The streaming service was also expected to roll out channels from Tastemade and The Young Turks soon, reports said — something YouTube TV hoped would differentiate its service from the now numerous live TV streaming rivals, while leveraging the power of big-name online brands to attract new subscribers. On Thursday, YouTube TV alerted customers by way of email it had added new channels Tastemade and TYT, along with Cheddar and Cheddar Big News, which arrived earlier. The company also confirmed the news in an interview with Variety, where the company explained how it saw this as the first step toward YouTube TV fulfilling its original promise of delivering a streaming service that combined traditional TV content with that from YouTube publishers. Those efforts will continue, as YouTube TV says it’s in talks now with other partners to carry their digital media content on its network, too. One challenge for YouTube TV in going about these new deals involves getting the publishers to craft unique content for its service — otherwise, the service could even blur the lines too much between YouTube proper, where some of the digital content may currently reside, and its paid, subscription-based TV service. In Tastemade and TYT’s case, the publishers committed to producing original shows for YouTube TV, equating to several hundred hours of programming for subscribers, Variety noted. That’s 10 new series from Tastemade this year, and four from TYT Network at launch, with more to follow in 2018. For the networks themselves, the deal allows them to reach new viewers who may have before only had minimal or no exposure to their content. And for Tastemade in particular, the channel will benefit from YouTube TV’s lack of food and travel channels — the service doesn’t carry Scripps/Discovery networks, which produce a lot of this type of content. Despite the advantages with YouTube TV distribution, these digital publishers are by no means putting all their eggs in one basket — they expect to do similar deals with other over-the-top services

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Ucare.ai is using AI to make healthcare more efficient in Southeast Asia

AI is being applied across the board in many industries worldwide, and its scope of influence is only likely to continue to expand as Kaifu Lee, a noted AI expert who was formerly head of Google China, recently told TechCrunch . The main battle appears to be between companies in the U.S. and China, but this week a startup in Southeast Asia came out of stealth mode to show that innovation is present elsewhere in the world. Ucare.ai  is focused on applying AI on the healthcare system to increase efficiencies and help patient coverage. It focuses on three distinct audiences: patients, health providers and those who pay the bills. In particular, the company uses deep learning and neural network algorithms to predict healthcare patterns in patients, and beyond, to reduce preventable hospitalization, and, in turn, save on costs and hassles. That also allows medical professionals and insurers to focus on the more obvious risk patients, Ucare.ai said. The company was founded in 2016 by Neal Liu, an MIT graduate who career includes five years with Google and stints with Microsoft, eBay and others. The company picked up seed funding in 2016, finance executive Christina Teo came on board as CEO (Liu is CTO) a year later and this week Ucare.ai came out of stealth with the announcement of its $8.2 million Series A round from backers that include Walden International and Singapore’s Great Eastern. Singapore is gaining ground as startup destination that locates founders within striking distance of Greater China whilst also giving them access to Southeast Asia, a nascent but fast-growing market where the ‘internet economy’ is tipped to reach $200 billion by 2025 according to a recent report co-authored by Google . Ucare.ai spent its initial two years developing its core AI smarts, the backbone of its service, by stitching together de-identified healthcare data using a mix of publicly available information and data from private partners, before then building out products for the health sector. “Healthcare costs are only going in one direction as people are living longer and chronic diseases become more prevalent,” Teo told TechCrunch an interview. “That means that costs are going up, and payers are paying more, while corporate health is receiving a lot of attention with corporate clients expecting cost coverage and intervention programs.” Ucare.ai CEO Christina Teo (left) and CTO Neal Liu (right) That’s the ecosystem Ucare.ai has set out to impact. With hospitalization one of the most significant costs, the startup wants to reduce that through AI-powered predictive services

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Amazon picks up Nazi-hunting series produced by Jordan Peele

Amazon has given a 10-episode, straight-to-series order to The Hunt , a show created by David Weil and executive produced by Get Out writer-director Jordan Peele. The series follows a group of Nazi hunters living in New York City in 1977, who discover a broader Nazi conspiracy. As with other contemporary stories about fighting Nazis , I’m sure this will have absolutely no resonance with our current politics and culture . Amazon is already the home of  The Man in the High Castle , an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s alternate history novel in which the Nazis won World War II. Deadline reports that Sonar Entertainment (which is producing the series with Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions) was in talks with another network before Amazon jumped in. This is Amazon’s first series pickup since hiring NBC executive Jennifer Salke to take over Amazon Studios in February, following the departure of Roy Price amidst sexual harassment allegations . It also comes after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has reportedly pushed the studio to focus on bigger, more mainstream shows. Peele, meanwhile, who recently won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for writing Get Out , has a new movie in the works and is also producing Lovecraft Country for HBO . “When David Weil first shared The Hunt with me, I immediately knew that we had to be involved,” Peele said in a statement. “It’s cathartic. It’s noir

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