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  • (Reuters) — President Donald Trump signed into law on Tuesday legislation that bans the use of Kaspersky Lab within the U.S. government, capping a months-long effort to purge the Moscow-based antivirus firm from federal agencies amid concerns it was vulnerable to Kremlin influence.

    The ban, included as part of a broader defense policy spending bill that Trump signed, reinforces a directive issued by the Trump administration in September that civilian agencies remove Kaspersky Lab software within 90 days. The law applies to both civilian and military networks.

    “The case against Kaspersky is well-documented and deeply concerning. This law is long overdue,” said Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who led calls in Congress to scrub the software from government computers. She added that the company’s software represented a “grave risk” to U.S. national security.

    Kaspersky Lab has repeatedly denied that it has ties to any government and said it would not help a government with cyber espionage. In an attempt to address suspicions, the company said in October it would submit the source code of its software and future updates for inspection by independent parties.

    U.S. officials have said that step, while welcomed, would not be sufficient.

    In a statement on Tuesday, Kaspersky Lab said it continued to have “serious concerns” about the law “due to its geographic-specific approach to cybersecurity.”

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  • Japanese construction equipment manufacturer Komatsu will work with Nvidia to use artificial intelligence to make construction sites safer.

    Santa Clara, California-based Nvidia announced the deal at its GTC Japan event, where CEO Jensen Huang said that Nvidia graphics processing units (GPUs, which can be used for AI processing) will power visualization and analysis of construction sites for safety issues.

    Nvidia’s Jetson AI platform, a credit card-sized device designed to drive robots and drones, will serve as the brains of heavy machinery.

    “Artificial intelligence is sweeping across industries, and its next frontier is autonomous intelligent machines,” Huang said in a statement. “Future machines will perceive their surroundings and be continuously alert, helping operators work more efficiently and safely. The construction and mining industries will benefit greatly from these advances.”

    Construction is the latest in a series of industries in which Nvidia has signed agreements with companies to use AI to change how they operate. Among these are partnerships with GE Healthcare and Nuance in the area of medical imaging; Fanuc in the field of robotics; and more than 225 car makers, startups and research houses — among them Audi, Tesla, Toyota, and Volvo — for autonomous driving.

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  • Soldiers of the Universe isn’t pretty — and it’s not supposed to be. Turkish studio Rocwise Entertainment created a first-person shooter about fighting terrorists from a Middle Eastern perspective, not a Western viewpoint. It’s the team’s first game, and it’s out now on PC.

    Developer Can Cankatlı says that dealing with the topics of terrorism and war is a natural byproduct of geopolitics. Terrorism is a very real threat in Turkey, in part because of the border it shares with the embattled Syria. In 2016, Turkey suffered a devastating attack to Atatürk Airport, with 41 people killed and over 200 injured. In January, a gunman killed 39 people in Istanbul.

    Soldiers of the Universe draws its inspiration from these real struggles as well as locations. However, the characters and organizations are fictional. It follows a group of secret military operatives called the Akinci Warriors, who battle terrorists in Istanbul and the southeastern Anatolian region of Turkey, as well as neighboring areas like northern Syria.

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  • Game Insight announced that Guns of Boom for iOS and Android has blasted its way to 20 million downloads in six months, and the company is unveiling a new mode for esports players.

    The Vilnius, Lithuania-based company has a big hit in the 4-versus-4 cartoony multiplayer shooter, which looks a lot like Valve’s Team Fortress 2 PC team shooter on mobile. The new esports Pro Play mode is a partnership with esports teams including NaVi,, and SK Gaming. Guns of Boom is featured in the Apple App Store’s Best of 2017 as part of their Real-Time Competition games category, thanks in part to its mix of 3D touch (a iOS feature that detects additional finger pressure) and standard controls.

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  • Investment and technology integration of Sandhills’ properties to enhance FR8Star marketplace for connecting shippers and carriers of flatbed and oversize/overweight loads

    OAKLAND, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–December 13, 2017–

    FR8 Revolution, creators of the marketplace for open deck carriers and shippers, today announced it has completed a technology partnership and undisclosed investment from Sandhills Publishing, a leading information processing company.

    This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

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  • As high profile tech executives, companies, and investors continue to speak out against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s upcoming vote to repeal existing net neutrality rules, mayors across the U.S. are also increasingly joining the conversation.

    Today, Kansas City Mayor Sly James published an op-ed in Startland News, a blog that covers Kansas City tech news, in support of existing net neutrality rules. Mayor James argues that repealing these rules will hamper Kansas City’s efforts to become a digitally inclusive city.

    “Equal access ensures that all consumers, regardless of income, zip code, and perspective, can access any website or that all websites, regardless of content, size, and profit margin, are accessible to consumers. Repealing net neutrality means that ISPs will become the gatekeepers of online content, enabling them to control Internet speeds, restrict bandwidth, and create paywalls,” Mayor James wrote in the op-ed.

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  • Microsoft and The PUBG Corporation released PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on the Xbox One today, and the unfinished last-player-standing shooter, which is available for $30 in the Game Preview program, needs a lot of performance optimization. But one area that the designers have already figured out is how to control this complex game with a joypad. The button layout enables players to do a stunning number of actions, and it is a leap forward for console shooters.

    People will struggle to figure out how to do some very basic things in PUBG on Xbox One when they first start it, but that’s because it is deviates from other shooters, like Call of Duty. It also uses a smartphone-like concept of quick taps and long holds to enable each gamepad button to handle multiple functions — this even includes the triggers and D-pad.

    Let’s get into some examples.

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  • Last month, I traveled to Singapore to moderate a panel on Love 3.0 at the IMI Festival. The goal of the discussion was to assess whether technology has changed our definition of love, sex, and relationships. Seeing as many of us have become overzealous, right-swiping Tinder addicts, I would be inclined to say that it has. But the topic does not start and end with dating apps.

    The panel was made up of four speakers: Dema Tio, cofounder and CEO of Vibease, a smart vibrator that can be used remotely in long-distance relationships and synced with erotic audio playbooks; Erin Chen, a sex and relationship counselor and founder of SPARK Fest Asia; Krystal Choo, founder and CEO of Wander, an app that allows users to chat in groups by topic of interest; and Louise Troen, the global brand director at Bumble, a social networking app that allows women to make the first move. (Note: Bumble started as a dating app but now also has friend-finding and career-networking versions.)

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  • Google has massively cut prices for its managed cloud machine learning service just two weeks after AWS released a competing offering at its re:Invent user conference.

    The company has introduced massive price reductions for its Cloud Machine Learning Engine managed services. For example, customers using basic-tier compute for training a machine learning system will pay 43 percent less than they did earlier this year. Google also offered customers more clarity on what they’ll be paying for those jobs.

    Information of the price reductions was first included in a blog post that appeared briefly yesterday on Google’s website, then vanished. A representative for the company declined to comment further on the news when reached for comment.

    The price reductions come just weeks after Amazon Web Services introduced SageMaker, a service that’s supposed to help developers train and run custom machine learning models. Google’s ML Engine service offers similar functionality, including automatic tuning of algorithm parameters, along with a wealth of prebuilt machine learning systems.

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  • Studio MDHR has sold an estimated 1.5 million copies of Cuphead for the PC and Xbox One since the challenging run-and-gun game debuted on September 29. It’s a surprise hit of the fall, made by a family-run company whose leaders mortgaged their homes to finish it.

    Chad, Jared, and Maja Moldenhauer of Studio MDHR talked about making Cuphead and the reaction to it in the opening fireside chat at the MIGS 2017 game event in Montreal. The talk was moderated by Jason Della Rocca, former head of the International Game Developers Association. The talk in front of a crowded room of game developers was like the end of a years-long fairy tale — and struggle — that the Cuphead developers journeyed through as they finished their 1930s-style-cartoon inspired platform video game.

    Last week, Cuphead won awards for best debut indie game, best independent game, and best art direction at the prestigious The Game Awards, which you should (or shouldn’t) consider to be the Oscars of video games.

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  • Artificial intelligence will be one of the key drivers of the economic growth in the next few years. But what will drive the AI industry itself? Some consider AI technologies a secret weapon of a few high-paid engineers. In fact, the success of an AI solution is mainly defined by the low-paid workers in developing countries. Here’s why.

    Who holds the keys

    By 2025, AI technologies and AI-driven services will become a nearly $60 billion market — $59.75 billion in Tractica’s view, an increase from less than $1.38 billion in 2016. The AI software industry will grow by 52 percent annually. Large corporations have also put huge funding on the table — last year, the total investment in AI was in the range of $26 billion to $39 billion, according to McKinsey, with over 60 percent spent on machine learning algorithms.

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  • Crowdfunding platform Indiegogo announced today on its website that it will begin listing a select number of initial coin offerings, in yet another step by the company to move beyond perk-based crowdfunding.

    While ICOs will be listed on Indiegogo, interested backers will have to go to a portal called First Democracy VC to invest. First Democracy VC is an SEC-registered equity crowdfunding portal that was developed through a partnership between Indiegogo and equity crowdfunding site MicroVentures. Indiegogo first partnered with MicroVentures last year to host equity crowdfunding campaigns that comply with the regulations established through the 2012 JOBS Act. According to an Indiegogo blog post, 30 companies raised $7.53 million during First Democracy VC’s first year of existence.

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  • Ever since the Chinese Government banned Facebook in 2009, Mark Zuckerberg has been making annual trips there attempting to persuade its leaders to let his company back in. He learned Mandarin and jogged through the smog-filled streets of Beijing to show how much he loved the country. Facebook even created new tools to allow China to do something that goes against Facebook’s founding principles — censor content.

    But the Chinese haven’t obliged. They saw no advantages in letting a foreign company dominate their technology industry. China also blocked Google, Twitter, and Netflix and raised enough obstacles to force Uber out.

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  • Seasonal events bring new game modes, but many Overwatch fans especially look forward to the new costumes. The second Winter Wonderland, which starts today and lasts until January 1, adds some good-looking skins.

    The event adds seven new Legendary skins, the highest rarity in the game. You can unlock them with 3000 in-game credits or through loot boxes which you can earn by playing or buy with real money. Interestingly, this year’s additions don’t feature any Christmas or holiday theming, instead opting for a more general “winter” aesthetic.

    So, let’s look at these new costumes.

    Above: Hoot!

    Image Credit: GamesBeat

    After a long streak of getting squat, Ana get’s her second Legendary skin in a row! And it’s another awesome one!

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  • Overwatch has gotten into the holiday spirit with the launch of Winter Wonderland, a seasonal event that is now live for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC team-based shooter.

    Overwatch doesn’t charge players for new content, just the base game. Instead, Blizzard Entertainment makes its post-launch money by selling loot boxes that contain random cosmetic items. During seasonal events, unique costumes, sprays, animations, and more become available for a limited time. While loot boxes have become a hot topic thanks to Star Wars: Battlefront II, some gamers are more forgiving of them if they only give out cosmetic items that don’t give players an in-game advantage.

    This is Overwatch’s second Winter Wonderland. Last year, it introduced a unique multiplayer mode, Mei’s Snowball Offensive, that had players engaging in a one-hit-kill competition. It returns this year, but Blizzard also added Mei’s Yeti Hunt, which has a team all playing as the cold-loving heroine as they go up against another player controlling Winston, Overwatch’s genius ape, in his Yeti outfit.

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  • Diversity is a major topic of conversation in tech, but so far, that conversation hasn’t significantly improved representation of women and minorities in the industry. In a recent survey conducted by First Round Capital, nearly 68 percent of founders across the country believe that the tech industry will not become representative of the general population in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity for at least 10 years, if not more than 20 years.

    Among the reasons the founders gave were a lack of women and minorities going into tech, unconscious bias, poor college recruiting into STEM, and lack of industry mentors or role models. This does not bode well for company performance — research conducted by McKinsey found that companies outperform non-diverse companies by 35 percent.

    But in Illinois, over 34 community organizations, incubators, and accelerators are trying to close that representation gap much sooner.

    By my count, there are 16 organizations in the state that focus on promoting gender diversity in tech, 12 that focus on promoting ethnic and racial diversity, and 6 that make it their goal to promote both. Many of these organizations came into being in the past few years as a direct response to the increasing concerns around lack of diversity in tech nationwide.

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  • Manticore Games, a startup founded by former Zynga and Electronic Arts executives, has raised $15 million from Benchmark Capital.

    That’s a hefty amount to invest in a new studio, but the round was led by Mitch Lasky, a former Activision and Jamdat Mobile game maker, who is now a general partner at Benchmark, which is one of Silicon Valley’s most well-known venture capital companies. Lasky will join Manticore’s board.

    The San Mateo, California-based company was started by Frederic Descamps and Jordan Maynard, who were the founders of social game startup A Bit Lucky in 2010. They were acquired by Zynga in 2012, and stayed there four years, working on games such as Solstice Arena, Empires & Allies, and Mountain Goat Mountain. They left Zynga in the summer of 2016 and started their new game company in November 2016.

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  • Life Is Strange

    Square Enix announced today that it is bringing its episodic adventure game Life is Strange to iOS. The first three episodes will come out on December 14, with the final two following during the first quarter of 2018.

    Life is Strange came out for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC in 2015. It sold over 3 million copies and spawned a prequel series, Before the Storm, that released this year. Square Enix is also working on Life Is Strange 2.

    “Follow the story of Max Caulfield, a photography senior who discovers she can rewind time while saving her best friend Chloe Price,” Square Enix detailed in a press release sent to GamesBeat. “The pair soon find themselves investigating the mysterious disappearance of fellow student Rachel Amber, uncovering a dark side to life in Arcadia Bay. Meanwhile, Max must quickly learn that changing the past can sometimes lead to a devastating future.”

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  • Presented by Intel

    Grab Games and its founder Anthony Borquez are always chasing new experiences; always getting excited about new platforms and technologies. The team got into mobile gaming early and later dabbled in the social gaming space, but now they think the future is in VR and, a bit further off, AR. And it might also be on your tabletop.

    Borquez and Grab have been exploring VR and AR since 2013, as that first wave of excitement was just starting to gain momentum. “We got in there really early,” says Borquez. It was even before people started talking about motion-sickness. It was almost a foreign concept to put a headset on someone’s face and build a 360 VR game. It was out there.”

    It meant the studio could get back into PC gaming and, after building a shooter, it got the attention of Lionsgate, eventually spawning the John Wick VR first-person shooter, John Wick Chronicles, that was designed in partnership with Dead By Daylight publisher and PayDay developer Starbreeze Studios.

    Borquez’ ambition, in regards to VR, is to create the type of AAA experiences that Grab’s designers enjoy both as gamers and developers — games like John Wick Chronicles and the studio’s upcoming boxing title, Knockout League, which landed on Steam Early Access back in January. But on the AR side of things, he’s looking further into the future and beyond games — at least beyond just playing them.

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  • Facebook has announced plans to restructure its global tax affairs so that it records ad revenue locally rather than channeling it through its international HQ in Dublin, Ireland.

    The social networking giant, along with other technology firms, has faced growing criticism over the way it reports its taxes, particularly in the European Union. A number of technology companies have been accused of setting up elaborate structures to minimize the amount of taxes they pay.

    With Europe currently exploring new ways to tax tech giants such as Facebook, the company has taken the initiative and announced that changes are coming over the next couple of years.

    “We believe that moving to a local selling structure will provide more transparency to governments and policy makers around the world who have called for greater visibility over the revenue associated with locally supported sales in their countries,” explained Facebook chief financial officer (CFO) Dave Wehner, in a blog post.

    The company’s international HQ will continue to be in Dublin, but in countries where Facebook has local offices already supporting advertisers, the company said that it intends to begin implementing changes throughout 2018 and into 2019 so that it can file ad revenues there.

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  • DeepFrame is a next-gen MR technology that seamlessly blends physical reality and digital holograms – glasses not required

    COPENHAGEN–(BUSINESS WIRE)–December 12, 2017–

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  • A new company in town is trying to make companies’ software better — by getting them to intentionally break it. Gremlin emerged from stealth today with the mission of making chaos engineering more accessible to companies around the globe.

    Chaos engineering practices emerged from high-scale internet companies — like Amazon and Netflix — that needed to know their systems could stand up to massive loads without breaking. To help with that, engineers put together software that would stress systems in various ways, with the idea of finding where they might break in a more naturally occurring event. Armed with that knowledge, it’s easier for companies to fix problems before they cause critical outages.

    Gremlin wants to scale that practice by providing services that let companies set up stress tests with the press of a button. Using Gremlin’s services, businesses can set up agents that simulate things like intermittent network issues, servers with overtaxed processors, and DNS failures. Administrators can schedule those issues and others, or have agents randomly kick in on a particular environment during a specified range of time.

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  • Simility, which develops a fraud detection platform that uses machine learning, has announced a $17.5 million round of funding led by Accel, with participation from new strategic investor PayPal. Existing investors The Valley Fund and Trinity Ventures also contributed.

    Founded in 2014, Palo Alto-based Simility is one of a number of companies using machine learning to help those working in the fraud detection realm collect and analyze data. Simility’s software is aimed at companies of all sizes, from enterprises to SMBs, and is designed to prevent various kinds of fraud. This includes account takeover (ATO) fraud, whereby someone tries to gain access to another person’s online account. Here, Simility looks at various session, device, and behavioral biometrics and builds a profile for what constitutes “normal” user login behavior.

    Simility can also help prevent account origination fraud, where a bad actor tries to set up a new account using stolen or fake identities. For example, the company’s software analyzes various session-related indicators, including time spent across pages, keyboard patterns, and so on, while it may also use data garnered form third-party sources to establish the credibility of information provided during setup.

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  • Say goodbye to emails for work with external partners, vendors, customers, and teams

    MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–December 12, 2017–

    Zillable today announced the release of a new feature that’s set to give the work email a run for its money. The all-in-one collaboration platform has added multi-network workspaces to connect separate organizations, creating a common space where two or more companies can communicate and make full use of the native collaboration and innovation features on Zillable. A powerful, customizable enterprise collaboration platform, Zillable is making it easy to communicate, work together, and share documents between companies and teams of any size safely and securely – and without the endless email chains.

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  • Advanced Micro Devices is launching its major update for its Radeon graphics software, dubbed Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition. And this one has improvements for both gamers and game developers.

    Going beyond minor graphics driver updates, AMD is starting to treat its releases of Radeon Software as big events that give gamers new features. That’s one reason why the software has been downloaded more than 250 million times over the past three years, said Scott Wasson, senior manager of product marketing at AMD, in an interview with GamesBeat. 75 games have launched with built-in Radeon Software support.

    “We believe that hardware and software add value to each other,” Wasson said.

    For gamers, the updated driver software features the Radeon Overlay, a seamless in-game user interface that allows gamers to monitor the performance of their graphics processing unit (GPU) while they are playing a game in real time. I saw a demo of the software, and it showed the frame rate of the game and other relevant features as well.

    The overlay provides one-click access to Radeon ReLive, Performance Monitoring, Radeon Chill (a power-saving feature that lets you control the temperature of the computer), Frame Rate Target Control (FRTC), Radeon FreeSync (for display performance) and color settings. The FRTC lets you set maximum frame rates for games if you want to highlight graphics quality.

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  • It was a landmark event. Earlier this year, Bancor raised an eye-watering $153 million through its ICO.

    What got everyone fired up about Bancor? The company promised that it could enable smart tokens to serve as legitimate currency. In other words, Bancor addressed the need for a smart token standard to link all cryptocurrencies together into an autonomous and decentralized liquidity network.

    Six months after that meteoric raise — one that set the tone for ICOs going forward — what has happened at Bancor, and what has the team learned?

    The first lesson nods to the issue of time, and how blockchain changes everything at a cultural level.

    “Token economies are the epitome of networks — they take time and care to build properly,” Bancor cofounder Galia Benartzi told me. “Just like a community doesn’t form or become truly resilient overnight, but rather over years and even generations, to build a new ecosystem from the ground up to be sustainable and durable to change takes years.”

    Patience and understanding are critical to a successful project, according to Benartzi.

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  • When Adobe decided to retire its Flash software, it was a big moment for FlowPlay. Fortunately, the Seattle maker of social games had anticipated the demise of Flash, which is scheduled to end in 2020. And today, FlowPlay is announcing it has converted its flagship social casino game, Vegas World, to an open-source, cross-platform development technology known as Haxe.

    The effort took two years and the transition of 1.4 million lines of code to convert the Flash-based code base to Haxe. As such, it is the largest ever project to leverage Haxe, according to the Haxe Foundation.

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  • Nintendo has announced that its Switch game console has now sold 10 million units globally.

    The news comes just ten months after the Japanese gaming giant launched the hybrid console to consumers around the world.

    The 10 million milestone perhaps shouldn’t come as a major surprise given recent sales figures. In October, Nintendo announced that the Switch drove the company’s sales growth by 175 percent in the six moths ending September 30. It reported net sales of around $3.29 billion for the six-months, compared to the previous year’s figure of $1.2 billion, while its profits grew from $337 million to $463.4 million.

    Nintendo had sold 4.7 million Switch consoles by the end of June, a number that had jumped to 7.63 million by the end of September, it’s effectively maintaining a sales rate of roughly 2.3 million (give or take) Switch consoles every couple of months. The company had previously said that it expected to hit roughly 14 million Switch units sold by the end of March, 2018, so it is pretty much on track to achieve that goal.

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  • Partnership with WeFunder Opens Door to Other Companies Interested in Using New JCO Model that Merges Blockchain, Crypto, and Crowdfunding

    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–December 12, 2017–

    Finova Financial, a digital financial services provider transforming the future of global banking, announced today that it is partnering with crowdfunding platform WeFunder to make Finova’s JOBS Crypto Offering (JCO)-the world’s first equity-linked token-available to investors large and small. Finova’s token will carry the unique attribute of being linked to a share of equity in Finova and will provide for an ERC-20 Ethereum token standard that can not only be traded in cryptocurrency but is also backed by assets in a U.S. corporation.

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  • Jam City has signed an agreement with Warner Bros.’ game division to make a mobile game dubbed Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, a role-playing game based on the wizarding world of J.K. Rowling.

    The RPG will be set at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where fans can choose their own path as a student at the school. The title is a big one for Los Angeles-based Jam City, which has begun to focus on big brands for its games as the $50 billion mobile game market becomes increasingly competitive.

    Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has licensed Jam City to make the game under a new label, Portkey Games, which is dedicated to creating gaming experiences inspired by the magic and adventures of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World.

    “We feel this is among the biggest and best intellectual properties in the world,” said Josh Yguado, president and chief operating officer at Jam City (and a speaker at our upcoming GamesBeat Summit 2018 event in April), in an interview with GamesBeat. “It’s also one of the least-exploited IPs in the mobile game space, and we love that. We think people are going to love it.”

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  • Significant Implications for Transportation Companies Operating Driverless and Human-Driven Fleets

    BERLIN & LAUSANNE, Switzerland & SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–December 12, 2017–

    IVU Traffic Technologies, the leading software company for public transportation and logistics solutions, and BestMile, providing the first platform for the operation and optimization of autonomous fleet and new mobility services, have partnered to provide mobility solutions fully integrating autonomous vehicles in traditional transportation systems.

    This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

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  • Apple’s acquisition of Shazam is without a doubt big news for Europe’s striving startup scene. What’s less clear is whether it’s good news or bad news.

    Founded in 2004, in the pre-iPhone era, Shazam represents a remarkable tale of endurance. But just three years ago, the company was reportedly on track for a $1.2 billion IPO as its music-recognition app passed the 100 million download mark.

    Then, just a few months later, there was talk that the IPO had been pushed back to 2015. Instead, the company raised $30 million in a Series F funding round in February 2015, bringing its total funding to $143.5 million.

    Surely the backers saw something when they looked at the numbers. But that something apparently never materialized.

    Because, by those measures, the $400 million that TechCrunch reported Apple paid to acquire Shazam ain’t much. It’s hard to imagine that the Series F backers got a return for their troubles, though maybe they at least got their money back.

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  • (Reuters) — Uber said on Monday that it had appealed regulations that have barred it from accepting cash fares in the Mexican state of Puebla, in a new challenge to clampdowns on the ride-hailing service in Latin America.

    Uber stopped accepting cash payments in the Mexico City-adjacent state on Friday, responding to demands from state authorities, and filed an appeal to a federal judge against the regulation the same day.

    But the company said cash fares are crucial to reach Mexican consumers who do not have credit cards.

    “To continue being a transportation option for people who pay in cash and to maintain the earnings of driver-partners, the company has decided to take, as a last resort, the corresponding legal actions and request an appeal,” Uber said in a statement on Monday.

    Authorities from Mexico to Brazil have tried to rein in Uber’s use of cash payments, in Brazil because of concerns that cash makes drivers targets of crime, and in Mexico because of worries that allowing cash puts Uber in direct competition with traditional taxis.

    In Puebla, specifically, lawmakers responded to the murders of two female college students who had used ride-hailing services with new rules in October aimed at improving companies’ vetting of drivers.

    The rules specify that the companies should use “electronic payments,” but Uber continued offering users in the state the option to pay in cash after the law went into effect on Nov. 7.

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  • Jaunt debuted in 2013 as a platform for viewing virtual reality movies and 360-degree entertainment. Now it is expanding beyond that with its Jaunt XR platform.

    The platform from the San Mateo, California-based company will now be expanded to include augmented reality and mixed-reality content, with the latter referring to content that combines various types of real, augmented, and virtual content.

    Jaunt XR will be a white-label distribution platform, meaning big brands and media could adopt it to launch their own stores or web sites for mixed-reality content.

    “The next generation of digital media is immersive and media companies and brands are embracing this evolution. The challenge for these companies to meet the demand of the market has been in the ability to distribute in their own channels,” said Jaunt CEO George Kliavkoff, in a statement. “Jaunt has deep experience with immersive media and we are unique in being a cross-platform provider that has perfected the creation and distribution of immersive content. Now we’ve decided to bring these tools to market to help our partners with scalable immersive solutions.”

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  • EFF is fighting another attempt by a giant corporation to take advantage of our poorly drafted federal computer crime statute for commercial advantage — without any regard for the impact on the rest of us. This time the culprit is LinkedIn. The social networking giant wants violations of its corporate policy against using automated scripts to access public information on its website to count as felony “hacking” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a 1986 federal law meant to criminalize breaking into private computer systems to access non-public information.

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  • Accounting and tech consultant Deloitte released its predictions for the technology industry in 2018, covering topics from the growth of augmented reality to the triumph of live programming on the Internet.

    The predictions are part of the company’s 17th annual Technology, Media, & Telecommunications report. Some of the predictions are for tech growth in 2018, while other predictions refer to growth in future years.

    “We have reached the tipping point where adoption of machine learning in the enterprise is poised to accelerate, and will drive improved business operations, better decision making and provide enhanced or entirely new products and services,” said Paul Sallomi, vice chairman of Deloitte, in a statement.

    Here’s the nine major predictions and the explanations for them:

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  • Atari will start taking preorders for its Ataribox game console starting December 14. The New York company will also start its crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo at that time.

    In an email blast, Atari said, “We at Atari are thrilled to introduce you to our first new gaming hardware in over 20 years. Welcome to Ataribox. Preorders will officially open on December 14, 2017. Our community is the absolute backbone of Atari, and we’d like to offer our earliest supporters a chance to grab Ataribox at an exclusive discount. Keep an eye on that inbox for your chance to order yours.”

    Back in September, Ataribox creator and general manager Feargal Mac told GamesBeat that the machine will run Linux on an Advanced Micro Devices processor and cost $250 to $300.

    Mac (short for Mac Conuladh) said the Ataribox would launch in the spring of 2018. The Ataribox will launch with a large back catalog of the publisher’s classic games. The idea is to create a box that makes people feel nostalgic about the past, but it’s also capable of running the independent games they want to play today, like Minecraft or Terraria.

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  • (Reuters) — Newly launched bitcoin futures on Monday suggested that traders expect the cryptocurrency’s blistering price gains to slow in the coming months, even as it blasted above $17,000 to a fresh record high in the spot market.

    Chicago-based derivatives exchange Cboe Global Markets launched the futures late on Sunday, marking the first time investors could get exposure to the bitcoin market via a large, regulated exchange.

    The one-month bitcoin contract opened at 6 p.m. local time on Sunday at $15,460. By late afternoon on Monday in New York, it was trading at $18,650, roughly 8 percent above bitcoin’s spot price of $16,900 on the Bitstamp exchange BTC=BTSP.

    Bitcoin earlier hit a record high of $17,270.

    Its steep gains and rapid rise have attracted investors around the world as well as intense scrutiny from government regulators, which is the very opposite of what its creators wanted when it first launched bitcoin more than eight years ago.

    “The bitcoin founder should be horrified seeing it rise so quickly, as any serious focus on it and its recent explosive move higher will soon end its freedom,” said John Taylor Jr, president and founder of research firm Taylor Global Vision in New York.

    Taylor believes that based on his charts, bitcoin has not yet peaked, but as soon as the “upmove ends, it will crash.”

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  • Amazon Web Services today announced the general availability of its second Chinese cloud region. It’s located in the Ningxia autonomous region in central China and is made up of two separate Availability Zones, each comprising a collection of datacenters.

    Ningxia Western Cloud Data Technology Co. Ltd. will operate the datacenters there and will provide many of the AWS services that are available in other regions. That arrangement mirrors the one that AWS has with Sinnet to operate its Beijing cloud region.

    China is a rapidly growing market for technology services, and this new region could help AWS capitalize on that demand. While the region can provide computing capabilities for Chinese companies, it will also give businesses outside the country an execution environment for their technology inside China.

    As with the rest of the cloud market, AWS faces heavy competition. Microsoft operates a pair of cloud regions in China, with datacenters in Shanghai and Beijing. In addition, homegrown tech titans like Tencent and Alibaba have their own cloud computing services. Those two companies offer compute capacity both inside and outside China.

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  • The traditional two-analog gamepad is a versatile input tool, but when it comes to something like a flight simulator, nothing beats having a joystick and a throttle. On Xbox One, that is now an option thanks to the introduction of Thrustmaster’s T.Flight HOTAS One for $80. This wired, USB hands-on-throttle-and-stick controller gives you all the buttons you’d get on a traditional Xbox One joypad. And Thrustmaster has even worked with Frontier Developments to ensure it works flawlessly with its space sim Elite Dangerous.

    I got my hands on the HOTAS One, and I’ve spent some time with it in Elite Dangerous on the Xbox One. That experience was pretty magical. Frontier recently updated its game for Xbox One X support, so I was sitting in my living room, playing Elite Dangerous in 4K, and using a HOTAS stick to control my ship. This was especially immersive because the stick and throttle is the exact same size and shape as Thurstmaster’s HOTAS One.

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  • When new technology platforms emerge, traditional retail typically gets disrupted — and often in painful ways. Consumers generally benefit from the added convenience and cost reductions from e-commerce in the short-term. However, the dominance of companies like Amazon has resulted in many retailers and small businesses closing up shop and laying off employees.

    Fortunately, the next emerging tech platform, augmented reality (AR), could result in a resurgence of in-person retail shopping. I’ve interviewed several AR influencers who discuss how the technology can reverse the implosion of retail and incentivize customers to physically visit shopping locations.

    Reducing customer churn

    The broader trend in retail, particularly among millennials, is a shift in focus from products toward experiences. For this reason, many customers still choose to visit a physical shop even if it may be more convenient to order the item online. People still, at large, value the interaction and experience that comes with physical location shopping. For retailers, this presents an opportunity to leverage technology to literally augment the value of their products for their customers.

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  • Microsoft and developer The PUBG Corporation are making good on a promise to launch the battle-royale shooter PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on Xbox One before the end of the year. The last-person-standing competitive game launches tomorrow into the Game Preview program for unfinished products on the Xbox Store for $30. I just spent a few hours with it, and I think that the intense, frightening encounters have survived the adaptation. That’s going to make for an excellent console experience … once The PUBG Corp is able to do something about the framerate.

    I’ve spent more than 400 hours with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on the PC. So I bring a lot of baggage with me to the first console release, but I repeatedly found that this version has a adapted the complex controls for a gamepad in a clever way. One of the big things here is that most buttons have multiple functions depending on if you tap or do a long press. For example, if you tap the right bumper, you’ll toggle between first and third person. If you hold the same right bumper, you’ll have the option to look all around you while continuing to run in a different direction. Or on the D-pad, you can press down to cycle through your health items, but you can hold down to use them.

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  • The Pollen Music Group has done sound design and composed the music for over two dozen virtual reality films now, including Glen Keane’s Duet and Patrick Osborne’s Pearl, which is the first VR film to be nominated for an Academy Award. Most recently, it created Sonaria, a VR experience for the Google Spotlight Stories platform. Partnering with Chromosphere, it’s the first time Pollen has both directed the visuals as well as the sound. It’s available now on iOS and Android through the Google Spotlight Stories app, as well as on HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift through Steam.

    Sonaria follows the journey of two seals in a colorful world filled with geometric creatures. It has a pleasingly minimalist aesthetic, and it’s meant to be a relaxing experience that’s largely driven by the environment’s sounds.

    Pollen started in 2010, originally composing for traditional TV and film such as Pixar’s short Presto. In 2012, Presto‘s director Doug Sweetland was working on some projects for Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group, and he introduced Pollen CEO Scot Stafford to the idea of 360-degree storytelling.

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  • Technology loves a good bit of shorthand, the shorter the better. Which is why, as we collectively try to wrap our heads around the confusing mass that is automation, robotics, machine learning, chatbots, et al., we grasp gratefully at the two letters “A” and “I” and slap them together on anything that moves.

    AI, or artificial intelligence, is used in common parlance to refer to anything from an in-car telematics unit to the Bluetooth speaker squatting on your kitchen counter. Yet “true” artificial intelligence bears little resemblance to the things we’ve been labeling as it — at all.

    MIT scientist John McCarthy coined the term “artificial intelligence” in 1955 when he laid out seven aspects for machines to achieve true intelligence. In reality, even the most sophisticated technologies achieve two or perhaps three of these. The rest isn’t technically possible.

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  • SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–December 11, 2017–

    A cross-section of experts who understand the challenges of buying and selling internet infrastructure globally have signed on as investors in the seed round for San Francisco-based Inflect.

    The $3 million Series Seed round includes both sides of the industry: internet startup veterans with first-hand knowledge of the challenges faced when searching for and buying internet infrastructure globally, as well as the service providers who struggle to reach buyers directly.

    Investors in the round include:

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  • It’s been a long time coming for road warriors — artificial intelligence is finally infiltrating the travel industry, and it’s bringing a host of new conveniences and capabilities with it. From personalized recommendations and booking to digital concierge service, here’s how AI will help make traveling a little less hectic.

    Plan your next vacation through bots

    AI stands to make a big impact in travel planning. Airlines and travel agencies alike use chatbots to automate the booking process and answer questions without involving an actual agent. And if an agent is needed, AI-powered apps can make smart suggestions based on context to help travelers complete the booking process faster.

    And let’s not forget the power of machine learning for offering consumers personalized recommendations. Apps like Google Trips make the whole process a snap. All you have to do is tell the app where you want to go, and AI takes it from there. You can easily book accommodations, plan an itinerary that you can update anytime, and keep all your documents and confirmations in one place.

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  • Google’s DeepMind subsidiary released a tool that’s designed to help people learn to play Go like its superhuman AlphaGo program. The system, called AlphaGo Teach, lets users click through the opening moves of a game, viewing AlphaGo’s expected win probabilities for different moves.

    It’s an interactive tool, so users can see how the program reacts to different lines of play, as well as what it sees as its odds of a player winning using the black stones. Users can view the line that AlphaGo would take playing itself, as well as the most popular moves that human players made in the same situation.

    This is a move by DeepMind to help Go players better understand the behavior of AlphaGo, which “retired” from competitive play earlier this year after dominating humans at the top of the game in two separate tournaments, alongside a series of online matches. During its competitive run, AlphaGo was known for its dominance against human players, and its occasional use of unorthodox moves that went against conventional wisdom but nevertheless secured it a win.

    AlphaGo Teach won’t turn Go novices into grandmasters, but it could help established players better understand what the machine learning-based program sees in particular situations. People who are unfamiliar with Go entirely likely won’t find the tool all that useful for learning the game, considering that it presumes a level of knowledge about Go objectives and gameplay on the part of the player.

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  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is launching soon on Xbox One, and I’m playing it right now on Mixer. You can join us and watch me die early and often.

    PUBG is already out in Early Access on Steam. It will go into its 1.0 retail-release version December 20. On Xbox One, it is launching into Microsoft’s Game Preview program for $30 on Tuesday — but you can also pick up a code at retail in traditional packaging.

    Check out the game in action below. I’m playing live for the next hour or so. If I get a Chicken Dinner, I will also declare my supremacy over all Xbox One players, so stick around for that:

    Submit your PC game by December 14th for free testing and be entered to win an @intel​ CORE i9 PROCESSOR worth $1000, an iBUYPOWER​ Revolt 2 Pro Z370 worth $1750, or an ASRock​ X299.

    ENTER & WIN: Submit your PC game to the Intel Game Dev Program

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  • Funcom announced today that its open-world survival game, Conan Exiles, will leave Early Access and officially launch or PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on May 8.

    Conan Exiles went into Early Access on PC in January. It sold 320,000 copies in one week. The survival game debuted on Xbox One Game Preview in August. The PlayStation 4 version will not have any kind of early access before the official launch.

    Lengthy Early Access periods are the norm for survival games, but many of them have been committing to full releases recently. Ark: Survival Evolved had its official release in August.

    The PC version will cost $40 in May, while the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions will go for $50. If you buy Conan Exiles while it’s still in PC Early Access, you can get it for $30. The Xbox One Game Preview version costs $50, so you can’t save any money there.

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  • Pete Hawley joined Telltale Games as its new CEO a couple of months ago, and he is coming up for air to talk about it.

    Five years ago, Telltale had its breakout hit with The Walking Dead: Season One. The game was a gut-wrenching tale that forced players to make choices about who to save or who to abandon to the zombie horde. Under founders Dan Connors and Kevin Bruner, Telltale started taking on a load of new games. It expanded to more than 350 employees and started working on titles such as Batman: The Enemy Within, Minecraft: Story Mode, Game of Thrones, and others.

    During 2017, the company published 17 episodes across all of its franchises. But not every one of those was as polished as it could be. Hawley has decided to scale back, take more time on each game, and focus on fewer titles. The company laid off about 90 of its employees, or about 25 percent of the staff, shrinking down the total to about 250.

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  • Minecraft is more than a game. It’s a cultural force and a living service. Microsoft, which bought the block-building exploration adventure and its studio in 2014, has spent the time since then unifying Minecraft and finding ways to unlock its creative potential. The Minecraft Marketplace is the key to Microsoft’s vision, and it’s the community that powers the Marketplace with their creations that they build for and sell to other fans. Now, GamesBeat is working directly with Microsoft and developer Mojang to uncover how players are using this opportunity to build something they love while also generating cash.

    Starting today, GamesBeat will publish a monthly top 10 chart that tracks the most-downloaded paid pieces of content on the Minecraft Marketplace. The in-game store features fan-created skin packs, texture packs, and worlds. They can transform the standard Minecraft into a magical kingdom or a prehistoric dinosaur realm. Back in September, Microsoft revealed that the Minecraft community had already earned $1 million from Marketplace sales after just two months.

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  • Amazon today announced that Alexa-enabled devices like the Echo and Echo Plus can now be set to a specific song, playlist, podcast for alarms. Setting a music alarm is a bit like when you ask the smart speaker to play music, except you ask Alexa to “set an alarm” or “wake me up,” so now you can say “Alexa wake me up to ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ at 7 am”  or “Alexa, wake me up to BBC News on TuneIn at 6 am.”

    Music alarms can be set with Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, SiriusXM, iHeartRadio, and Amazon Music.

    Amazon Music customers can also preset alarms with music based on their mood, activity, or remembered song lyrics by saying “Alexa, wake me up to relaxing music at 7 am” or “Alexa, set an alarm at 7 a.m. to the song that goes ‘I’ve paid my dues time after time.'”

    Alongside other Echo devices, the new feature is likely to be put to use on the Echo Spot, due out December 19, which Amazon bills as a smart alarm clock. It’s also sure to be a source of competition (or tension) between audiophile couples with good taste in music. Good luck, you brave souls.

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  • Gary Shapiro is the showman of the greatest technology show on Earth. As the president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), he presides over CES, commonly known as the Consumer Electronics Show. CES 2018 is just around the corner, running from early press events starting on January 7 through January 12.

    The big tech trade show drew 184,498 people earlier this year, and Shapiro is planning for another record-breaking event in January. The show will likely have more than 4,000 exhibitors across 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space, though final numbers will be out later. I talked to Shapiro in our annual ritual, getting a preview of the event that sets the tone for the tech industry for the coming year.

    More startups will be coming this year to the Eureka Park section of the event, which will have 800 companies compared to 600 a year ago. At least 118 government leaders will be there, and many of them will be engaging on the topic of net neutrality, which the FCC is in the midst of dismantling. I’ll be among the 7,000-plus media at the event.

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  • A fledgling lidar startup is launching out of stealth today, backed by more than $30 million in investors’ money. San Francisco-based Ouster has officially unveiled its OS1 lidar, which it said represents a “step-change in lidar sensing technology” compared to what is currently available elsewhere on the market, with “marked improvements in mass, form factor, and power requirements.”

    Ouster said that in addition to improvements in form factor and power requirements, its 64-channel lidar sensor, which is shipping now, also matches the resolution of the highest performing automotive lidar technology available today.

    Above: Installing an OS1 on an Ouster vehicle

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  • Laser League, a unique team-based multiplayer game where players have to avoid lasers in an arena, is hosting a closed beta this weekend on PC via Steam. It will start on December 15 and go on until December 17. You can sign up for the beta here.

    We checked out Laser League at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. We were impressed enough to give the game the Unreal E3 Award for Most Addictive.

    Betas give developers a chance to test a game before launching it. This is especially important for multiplayer and competitive titles, where studios have to tune all mechanics to provide a fair experience for all players. But betas can also be a marketing tool. They work as a demo, giving people a way to try a game ahead of its launch.

    Laser League will become available on Steam via Early Access sometime in early 2018.


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  • On-demand, full-access in-home vet care focuses on extending preventive pet health

    SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–December 11, 2017–

    Fuzzy Pet Health, the subscription-based pet healthcare company, announced the close of $4.5M in seed round financing today, along with the launch of its mobile app and expanded in-home vet care options. Co-led by Eniac Ventures and Crosscut Ventures, with participation from Precursor Ventures, SV Angel, Accelerator and FJ Labs, this financing will enable the company to continue expanding its veterinary services and geographic markets, keeping up with growing customer demand.

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  • Almost two dozen high-profile technologists have penned an open letter requesting that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) cancel an upcoming vote to repeal existing net neutrality rules.

    December 14 could prove to be a key day for internet freedom in the U.S., after FCC chair Ajit Pai scheduled a vote he hopes will remove the regulations that currently prevent telecommunication companies from creating a “tiered internet,” or one that would treat various kinds of online content differently. Many claim that the order, dubbed somewhat dubiously the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order,” would reverse over a decade of work to protect internet users and preserve net neutrality.

    Now, as a last-ditch attempt to stave off changes to existing net neutrality regulation, 21 renowned internet pioneers and engineers have written to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, as well as the House Energy Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, asking them to “urge FCC Chairman Pai to cancel the FCC’s vote.”

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  • Cybersecurity startup Menlo Security has closed a $40 million series C round of funding from American Express Ventures, Ericsson Ventures, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, General Catalyst, Sutter Hill Ventures, Osage University Partners, and Engineering Capital.

    Founded out of Menlo Park, California in 2013, Menlo Security seeks to protect organizations from cyberattacks by blocking malware from the web, documents, and email. The Menlo Security Isolation Platform (MSIP) basically sits between the end user’s device and the internet. All web access requests are proxied via the MSIP, which connects to a site and then streams a safe version of the website to the end user’s device.

    The company claims “millions of users” at “hundreds of companies” are currently protected by its cloud-based platform, including Macy’s and Fujitsu.

    The company had previously raised a total of $45 million, and with its latest cash injection said it plans to grow its sales and marketing efforts globally.

    “Customers are demanding more durable approaches to malware prevention, versus a long legacy of solutions that remain perennially vulnerable to the latest attacks,” said Menlo Security CEO Amir Ben-Efraim. “This funding allows us to respond to this opportunity by continuing to expand our deployments globally to meet this growing demand, while delivering on our vision of eliminating the phishing, ransomware, and malware risks from email, web, and document downloads.”

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  • Lyft announced today that all Lyft drivers who have completed 10 rides in the last three months will receive discounts of 5 to 20 percent off courses from Guild Education. The online education company works with more than 80 universities to deliver thousands of courses, ranging from GEDs to bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as certifications, vocational courses, and English as a Second Language offerings.

    Each prospective Guild Education student receives coaching and counseling toward an education goal.

    According to an annual survey of Lyft drivers due out next year, 47 percent of Lyft drivers in the United States do not have a college degree, a spokesperson told VentureBeat. Lyft currently has more than 700,000 drivers.

    Lyft chose to work with Guild Education to meet drivers’ frequent request for flexibility and help them achieve personal and professional goals, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat.

    Other companies, like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Taco Bell, also offer employees discounts on Guild services.

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  • IBM today announced two new ways for developers to quickly get things done, with the launch of code patterns and IBM Bot Asset Exchange.

    Code patterns were made for quickly launching projects in areas like AI, blockchain, and cloud computing. Each package comes with a one-click GitHub repository, documentation, and a collection of resources to get the job done. More than 120 code patterns are available at launch.

    The IBM Bot Asset Exchange is a place for third-party developers to share and build upon bots powered by IBM Watson Conversation Service. The exchange launches with more than 60 conversational interfaces in categories like banking and finance, health and fitness, enterprise, retail, and productivity. It makes it possible to quickly deploy the backend logic necessary to create conversational interfaces, like chatbots for popular messaging apps or voice apps for Amazon’s Alexa.

    IBM Watson product manager Anamita Guha created the Bot Asset Exchange. More ways for developers to communicate directly with one another to discuss their enterprise bots may be added soon.

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