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Carvana acquires Car360 for $22M to improve its car buying platform

Carvana is already an innovative way to shop for a car and it could get better thanks to Car360. The two companies share an interest in improving the car buying experience through enhanced imagery. Car360’s approach is different from Carvana’s as it’s focused on photos shot with a mobile device. This approach could allow Carvana to accelerate and scale its operations as it currently leans on expensive DSLR rigs to capture most of its imagery. The deal cost Carvana $6.7M in cash and issued $15.2 million in new stock putting the total acquisition price around $22 million. All 16 of Car360’s employees, including Founder Bruno Francois, CEO John Hanger and Chief Computer Vision Scientist Grant Schindler, Ph.D., will stay with Carvana. Car360 had raised $3.9M through two funding rounds including funding from Mark Cuban after the app appeared on Shark Tank. “Carvana and Car360 both believe in the power of putting amazing technology in the hands of the customer so they can make one of the largest purchase decisions of their life with transparency and confidence,” said Ernie Garcia, founder and CEO of Carvana. “Bringing the Car360 team into the fold, we add even more entrepreneurial strength in computer vision, AR and app based photo capture. This technology unlocks a number of exciting capabilities that will further our mission to change the way people buy cars.” Car360 uses 3D computer vision, machine learning and AR tech to improve images taken of vehicles through a smartphone. Carvana raised $300m through 3 rounds of funding before going public in April of 2017. After an initial bust , company’s stock has doubled since its public debut and is currently trading up on the day following this news.

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LG promises to speed up bringing Android updates to its smartphones

LG is making efforts to improve the user experience on its devices after it opened a “Software Upgrade Center” in its native Korea. The new lab will be focused on “providing customers worldwide with faster, timelier, smartphone operating system and software updates,” the company explained in a brief statement . The idea is to help get the latest versions of Android out to more users at a faster pace than it does right now. That’s a genuine problem for Android OEM who are tasked with bringing the latest flavor of Android to devices that already in the market. Issues they have to deal with include different chipsets, Android customization and carriers. The issue has been pretty problematic for LG. Android Oreo, for example, announced by Google last September only began rolling out to the first handful of LG devices last month. The Korean firm said that one of the first priorities for this new center is to get Oreo out to Korea-based owners of the LG G6 — last year’s flagship phone — before the end of this month. After that, it will look to expand the rollout to G6 owners in other parts of the world. Beyond Android updates, the center will also focus on stability update to make sure that the newest features work on devices without compromising performance. This move is one of the first major strategies from new LG Mobile CEO Hwang Jeong-hwan, who took the top job last year . He came directly from the company’s R&D division, which suggests that he identified the update issue as a fairly urgent one to address. His bigger challenge is to stop LG’s mobile division bleeding capital. LG Electronics itself is forecasting record Q1 financial results  later this month, but its smartphone unit is likely to post yet another loss that drags the parent down .

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Spectral Edge’s image enhancing tech pulls in $5.3M

Cambridge, U.K.-based startup  Spectral Edge  has closed a $5.3M Series A funding round from existing investors Parkwalk Advisors and IQ Capital. The team, which in 2014 spun the business out of academic research at the University of East Anglia, has developed a mathematical  technique for improving photographic imagery in real-time, also using machine learning technology.  As we’ve reported previously , their technology — which can be embedded in software or in silicon — is designed to enhance pictures and videos on mass-market devices. Mooted use cases include for enhancing low light smartphone images, improving security camera footage or even for drone cameras.  This month Spectral Edge announced its first customer, IT services provider NTT data, which said it would be incorporating the technology into its broadcast infrastructure offering — to offer its customers an “HDR-like experience”, via improved image quality, without the need for them to upgrade their hardware. “We are in advanced trials with a number of global tech companies — household names — and hope to be able to announce more deals later this year,” CEO Rhodri Thomas tells us, adding that he expects 2-3 more deals in the broadcast space to follow “soon”, and enhance viewing experiences “in a variety of ways”. On the smartphone front, Thomas says the company is waiting for consumer hardware to catch up — noting that RGB-IR sensors “haven’t yet begun to deploy on smartphones on a great scale”. Once the smartphone hardware is there he reckons its technology will be able to help with various issues such as white balancing and bokeh processing. “Right now there is no real solution for white balancing across the whole image on smartphones — so you’ll get areas of the image with excessive blues or yellows, perhaps, because the balance is out — but our tech allows this to be solved elegantly and with great results,” he suggests. “We also can support bokeh processing by eliminating artifacts that are common in these images.” The new funding is going towards ramping up Spectral Edge’s efforts to commercialize its tech, including by growing the R&D team to 12 — with hires planned for specialists in image processing, machine learning and embedded software development. The startup will also focus on developing real-world apps for smartphones, webcams and security applications alongside its existing products for the TV & display industries. “The company is already very IP strong, with 10 patent families in the world (some granted, some filed and a couple about to be filed),” says Thomas. “The focus now is productizing and commercializing.” “In a year, I expect our technology to be launched or launching on major flagship smartphone devices,” he adds. “We also believe that by then our CVD (color vision deficiency) product, Eyeteq, is helping millions of people suffering from color blindness to enjoy significantly better video experiences.”

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