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  • The Internet of Things continues to slowly change the world. It integrates with numerous industries and can be found in many homes around the world. Research firms like Gartner and the International Data Corporation (IDC) also predict monumental growth in terms of connected devices and profits.

    Its rising position, however, may not be wholly due to its own efforts. Rather, the IoT’s intersection with artificial intelligence brings about advantages including workplace efficiency, cost savings on utility bills, and convenience. The two operating in tandem make work and life easier and more enjoyable.

    While the benefits are good, the intersection of AI and the IoT still has a ways to go. Consumers, designers, developers, government leaders, and manufacturers worry about various aspects of the combined technologies. And those items must be addressed to allay the fears surrounding AI and the IoT and develop a positive, forward-looking roadmap.

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  • We’re living in an era of extraordinary technological change. From smartphones to drones, the evidence is in our pockets, in the sky, at the office, and in the streets. The pace of technological evolution, though, can be even harder to keep up with than the Kardashians.

    When asked to think about cutting-edge tech, I’ll be the first to admit that vending machines aren’t the first innovation to come to mind. However, the technology behind today’s most advanced vending machines is some of the most disruptive in the book.

    Like today’s smartphones, which barely resemble the clunky, tethered machines of yesteryear, vending machines have undergone massive upgrades since holy water dispensing in the first century and their official debut in the 1880s. Trends like robotics, machine learning, self-service, and cashless pay are inspiring some truly amazing innovations and otherwise transforming the face of retail.

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  • The VR industry is slowly inching closer to six degrees of freedom (6DOF) tracking on mobile-based headsets. But while Google toils away on standalone headsets with positional tracking, another studio has used its ARCore tech to implement positional tracking on Gear VR.

    FusedVR recently posted a video using Android’s new AR platform enables 6DOF movement on what’s long been a 3DOF headset. You can see the headset, which has a Galaxy S8 smartphone fitted inside, moving through the virtual space just like it would on a Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

    It’s going to be interesting to see if ARCore and its Apple-made rival, ARKit become widely adopted by VR developers as a means of implementing positional tracking on mobile VR. As it stands, companies like Oculus are currently using proprietary methods of inside-out tracking on standalone headsets like its Santa Cruz device.

    3DOF VR looks set to stay for some time, though, as companies are also introducing standalone devices that only include this type of tracking, like Oculus Go.

    This story originally appeared on Uploadvr.com. Copyright 2017

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  • Building the right team is hard. What’s more challenging is hiring for several roles at once and trying to determine how all the pieces will come together in the end. You’re trying to assess individual performance, how the team will gel, and where the gaps will be. It’s like drafting a full basketball team all at once and hoping you have the right balance of scoring, rebounding, and defense. And when it’s a single hire, it often feels that much more critical.

    When we founded our company in April, our objective was to build a team from diverse backgrounds, expertise and sectors to create an exceptional foundation for our business. The added challenge was doing it in a very condensed amount of time. To say it was (and is) like using our draft picks early in the season when the team is still trying to gel is an understatement.

    What I’ve taken from my own hiring experiences — both when hiring at my previous company, Carbon Black, and now at my current company — is that the power of hiring is based on several key principles. Incredible teams are built when those who are hiring truly understand what qualities are key for their success. While yours may differ, many of us have embraced the powerful yet simple-to-remember dogma: passion, capacity, humility.

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  • The Nintendo Switch might have outsold the PlayStation 4 in September, but it’s Sony video game console that’s ruling the TV screen, leading in ad impressions month after month.

    GamesBeat has partnered with iSpot.tv, the real-time TV ad measurement company with attention and conversion analytics from more than seven million smart TVs, to bring you a monthly report on the TV ad impressions generated by the gaming industry’s biggest campaigns. These are the ads, and by extension the games, that game makers are putting major muscle behind.

    Below are the top five most-seen gaming industry brands from September 16 through October 15.

     

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  • Almost nine years after Bitcoin launched, trading cryptocurrency with fiat currencies remains difficult and expensive, with the space dominated by centralized exchanges charging high transaction fees and not always delivering the user experience and level of service you expect.

    Exchanges like Coinbase and Kraken (and many more like them) force you to go through time-consuming anti-money laundering and know-your-customer (KYC) processes before they allow you to trade any significant amounts. After submitting your photo ID and other documents, you’re often left waiting weeks for the exchange to process your request, due to difficulties they have handling the influx of new users. When your identity has been verified and you want to deposit or withdraw funds, you have to deal with the long waiting times of international bank transfers, and the processing fees from the exchange. For anyone doing frequent or large transactions, these fees add up.

    The many incidents of exchanges losing or misplacing customer funds — Mt. Gox in 2014 being the biggest and most famous breach, with Bitfinex last year on second place — have given the exchanges a bad reputation among both traders and holders of cryptocurrency, who refrain from storing their coins on the exchanges when possible.

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  • Georgia State University (GSU) has received a $300,000 Digital Economy Initiative grant from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the largest community foundation in the world, in collaboration with Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility, to propel students, especially those underrepresented in the tech scene, to pursue a technology career.

    “One of the biggest challenges facing technology organizations is finding talent to successfully navigate the next digital revolution, with new technologies such as the Internet of Things transforming the globe,” Phil Ventimiglia, GSU’s chief innovation officer, told Hypepotamus. “To be successful, students need to be able to effectively communicate, collaborate, and solve problems digitally.”

    The three-year grant will fund a new Digital Learners to Leaders program, an initiative to encourage students to use IoT technology — from data sensors and machine learning to smart city software — to create solutions for challenges within their community.

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  • The Blade Runner film series has always been about authenticating what is true and what is fake. Reality takes on a new meaning when you are surrounded by Replicants, or human clones who are built for our pleasure and service. Uncovering what is true and what is not is the theme of a new Oculus Rift virtual reality experience, Blade Runner 2049: Memory Lab.

    The small game is one of a series of VR experiences being created in the Blade Runner universe by Magnopus, a Los Angeles studio that built the title for the Oculus Rift. It was released on October 19. I went through a hands-on demo of the 25-minute experience and then interviewed Ben Grossman, executive producer at Magnopus.

    In this cross between a game and a film, you play the role of a silent replicant whose job is to function as a Blade Runner. The Replicant’s task is to hunt down and kill runaway Replicants for the Wallace Corp., the malevolent corporation in Blade Runner 2049. Sadly, you are not such a good Blade Runner, because you accidentally kill a human for no justifiable reason, mistaking the human for a Replicant. You are sent to the Wallace Corp. Memory Lab, where a woman tries to unravel what happened. Your memory of the events will be thoroughly investigated and scrubbed.

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  • One of our biggest stories of 2016 was the reveal of TPCast’s wireless adapter for the HTC Vive and for good reason; cutting the chord on PC-based headsets could do wonders for immersion in VR. But Oculus Rift owners won’t be missing out on the fun.

    TPCast this month announced that it is also working on a wireless adapter for the Oculus Rift, which it intends to release in Q4 of this year. It’s not entirely clear if this is a separate product to the wireless Vive kit or additional functionality for that same device, but we’ve reached out to TPCast to clarify. The company is promising support for 2K video transmission at 90fps with less than 2 milliseconds of motion to photon latency added on top and a five-hour battery life.

    The company’s Vive kit works by communicating with a transmitter that users place in their room just like they would a base station. It’s been available in China for some time, but pre-orders for the US and Europe opened last month and are expected to ship soon.

    It’s worth noting that TPCast itself is a member of the Vive X VR accelerator, which offers support to startups looking to do more in the VR/AR space.

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  • (Reuters) — Bitcoin surged to a record high of more than $6,000 on Friday, pushing its market capitalization to $100 billion at one point, as investors continued to bet on an asset that has a limited supply and has paved the way for a whole slew of crypto-currencies.

    The original virtual currency has gained over 500 percent this year, more than any other tradable asset class. Bitcoin though is very volatile – posting gains and losses as high as 26 percent and 16 percent respectively on any given day.

    On Friday, bitcoin hit a record peak $6,000.10 BTC=BTSP on the BitStamp platform, and was last at $5,964.24, up 4.7 percent on the day.

    Bitcoin is a digital currency that can either be held as an investment, or used as a foundation for future applications through the blockchain, its underlying technology. The blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions.

    It is more scarce though than most people realize. The number of bitcoins in existence is not expected to exceed 21 million.

    Analysts said it was a combination of factors that drove Friday’s surge in price.

    Charles Hayter, co-founder of data analysis website Cryptocompare in London said hopes that China will soften its regulatory stance on crypto-currencies helped bitcoin’s cause.

    “As China … fears fade, the price is unlocked and driven by demand and buyers entering the markets,” said Hayter.

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  • From Siri and Alexa becoming household names to Apple recently announcing its new HomePod smart speaker, artificial intelligence finally seems to have made the jump from the world of futuristic science fiction straight into our own homes. The variety of tasks that AI creations are taking on is increasing. AI can vacuum our floors, create expensive works of art, and even debate the meaning of life.

    With AI technology permeating the public consciousness, tech companies are eager to ride the hype and emphasize the AI aspects of their products. Everyone is claiming to be an AI company, showcasing their neural networks or their bots. But with a narrow and specialized focus, those companies are often missing the big picture. The companies that will rise to the top and stay there are full-stack AI companies.

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  • Netmarble Games is preparing to publish its blockbuster mobile game Lineage 2: Revolution in the West, and it has enlisted TV late-night comedian Conan O’Brien to help it raise awareness in the U.S. and Europe.

    The O’Brien appearance is part of an aggressive marketing campaign as the company prepares to launch the free-to-play, massively multiplayer online action role-playing game in the U.S. and Europe on November 15, said Seungwon Lee, chief global officer of Netmarble Games, in an interview with GamesBeat. The stakes are high, as Lineage 2: Revolution scored an astounding $176 million in revenues in its first month in South Korea alone. More than 1 million people have signed up for the global version.

    “We really hope this game will do well in the U.S. and Europe,” Lee said. “We are being much more aggressive with this launch than we have been before for any other game.”

    Lineage 2: Revolution December 2016 in South Korea, and it expanded to 11 other countries in Asia in June. Tencent plans to publish the game in China. Netmarble is showing the multiplayer gameplay off this weekend at TwitchCon in Long Beach, California, where livestreamers and broadcasters are gathering for a convention.

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  • After You is a psychological horror game and the debut from Normal Wholesome Games, a studio that developer Andy Sum founded. It’s a big departure from his previous work — he co-created the family-friendly mobile game Crossy Road and developed the meme-laden shooter 420Blazeit. It will be out on PC, with no release date yet.

    “I’ve always tried to understand the things that scare me, and making games is a great way to do that,” said Sum in a press release. “I can’t handle anything horrific – movies, games, or anything – so that intrigued me: why do so many people enjoy these things that are inherently unpleasant? So I started making a game in a genre that terrifies me.”

    Normal Wholesome Games is keeping the details sparse, saying that it wants the story to be a surprise. According to the short teaser trailer, it seems like players will be exploring a dark environment armed only with a flashlight. Rather than combat, players may be asked to make moral choices instead, such as deciding whether to kill another character or save her.

    “It’s extremely uncomfortable to test my own game, just designing it has been giving me nightmares,” said Sum. “How messed up is that?”

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  • I’m wondering out loud about the weather when my preschooler says, “Mama, you should ask Siri. She knows everything.”

    “Gahhh! What the what?” is what the privacy fanatic and data scientist inside me shouts. Out loud, I choose to respond with the more neutral route: “That’s interesting. What makes you say that?”

    “Because at school when you have a question, you can ask Siri and she knows all of the answers,” she tells me.

    This is how I realized that bots are becoming part of my family’s everyday life, whether I like it or not. None of this connectivity happened overnight, but it made me think more about how we talk to kids of all ages about emerging technology and the issues surrounding them, like data privacy.

    Bot, chatbot, or intelligent virtual assistant?

    What we call bots have been around more than 50 years and started with basic chatbots programmed to interact through mediums like messaging programs and audio. The first bots were limited by costs of processing power and algorithms. Fast forward to today, where simple interactions are now real-time automations powered by artificial intelligence and natural language processing (NLP), both of which have advanced significantly over time.

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  • Zain Jaffer, who founded mobile ad firm Vungle and was its CEO until this week, was arrested on Tuesday for felony assault, lewd act upon a child, and other related charges.

    [Update 10/20/17 3:05 pm : The police filed a report for attempted murder. The district attorney did not file that charge and filed a charge for felony assault instead].

    On Thursday, the San Francisco-based maker of a video ads platform announced that the board of directors had placed Jaffer on an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons. It replaced Jaffer as CEO with Vungle chief operating officer Rick Tallman.

    The first details of the arrest for 29-year-old Jaffer surfaced on Friday. San Mateo County records show he was arrested for attempted murder and other charges. But the district attorney dropped the attempted murder charge. Instead, Jaffer has been formally charged with felony assault, child abuse, battery upon an officer and emergency personnel, lewd act upon a child, and oral copulation with a person under 14, said Steve Wagstaffe, district attorney for the county of San Mateo, California, in an interview on Friday afternoon. He said the battery charge was for resisting arrest.

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  • The healing sniper Ana in Blizzard‘s class-based team shooter Overwatch got a new pirate-themed skin as part of this year’s Halloween event, but some fans are unhappy with Blizzard for promising parrots without actually delivering any birds. The new skin, which you can get in loot boxes or for 3,000 in-game credits, shows the avian friend of all scurvy scoundrels sitting on Ana’s shoulder when you equip it in the menus.

    Players have noted, however, that the parrot doesn’t actually join you in-game, and that’s made for some sad pirates.

    “I thought the parrot was permanently on the shoulder,” poster Abbendys wrote on the Blizzard message boards. “Please, Blizzard!”

    This may be frustrating for some people because they spent their money or in-game currency to get the skin based on the image with the parrot. Reddit user Pushaxc posted on the Overwatch forum said they bought it because they liked the look of the parrot and not because they like playing as Ana, who many consider weak at the moment.

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  • Super Mario Odyssey hits Nintendo Switch next week, but we’re already learning about one of the many outfits the game’s Italian hero will get to wear. The box art for the Wedding Peach interactive Amiibo toy, which features the Mushroom Kingdom princess in a white dress for her special day, reveals that Mario can also wear … (and this is a spoiler) the same dress himself.

    Images for the art appeared online thanks to YouTube channel Family Gamer TV. During an unboxing, Family Gamer turns the box for Wedding Peach, and you can clearly see Mario looking fierce and needing something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

    Check it out:


    Above: Oh, “I do!”

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  • Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Watson, Zo, Buddy. As AI bot making continues to take off, bot developers and marketers have been keen on giving their bots names that sound human. They’re also giving them a face and their own distinct personality.

    However, as intelligent bots or virtual assistants move towards becoming an $11 billion industry by 2024, bots with personalities, which have been programmed from the inside out — rather than the outside in — have been behaving badly.

    Many of these problems have derived from a common issue: While bots understand what a human may be telling them at a baseline level, they fail to understand the intention and personality of the human they are conversing with.

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  • The annual TwitchCon fan event for livestreamers and their fans is happening right now in Long Beach, California,, and Amazon’s video platform told its assembled audience about some new features it is rolling out.

    As part of a keynote presentation, Twitch chief executive Emmett Shear and director of programming Marcus “DjWheat” Graham talked about how the service will change in the future. Some new tools will help broadcasters better understand their audiences and use them to help grow other channels. Other features will gamify the Twitch Partner process. The company is doing all of this to grow both its total audience size as well as how engaged that audience is.

    Here’s a breakdown of the biggest additions to the Twitch platform:

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  • Inside Cincinnati’s burgeoning startup ecosystem, one perhaps unlikely sector is making some waves: water tech.

    Thanks to Pipeline H2O, a water tech accelerator launched in part by the Hamilton Mill, disruptive water technology companies from across the world are looking to Cincinnati. Pipeline launched its inaugural accelerator class earlier this year and received nearly 70 applications from companies across five continents, ultimately selecting six startups for its first class.

    The goal, program director Antony Seppi said, is to find promising water tech startups, give them resources to help them succeed, and use the city of Cincinnati as a test bed for their technology before hopefully rolling their solutions out on a national — or global — scale. Two companies are awarded $25,000 grants each after finishing the program.

    “We’re looking for startups that are going to impact the world,” Seppi said. “Cincinnati, a lot of people don’t realize this, but it has the most water related patents per capita in the country.”

    Cincinnati is home to an EPA lab, which Pipeline startups have access to, Seppi said. But the city also has another feather in its cap when it comes to water innovation: Hamilton, Ohio has been consistently ranked as the best city in the world for tap water.

    “Cincinnati is a real hub of innovation around water tech,” Seppi said.

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  • Finally, a 15-inch Surface. Microsoft added yet another form factor to its Surface lineup this week, and while I’m excited — this is exactly the size of Surface I’ve always wanted — I can’t help but feel there are now too many any options.

    At the Canalys Channels Forum in Venice earlier this month, Canalys CEO Steve Brazier declared Microsoft would kill off its Surface business in 2019. Lenovo COO Gianfranco Lanci suggested this might happen even sooner than that, and a Dell executive hedged his bets by saying Microsoft might slow down the Surface product cycle.

    Microsoft has had more Surface launch events this year than any other. I’ve tried to attend every Surface event so far, either in person or simply by watching the livestream, and I’d argue only the Dell dude is close.

    Most important, let’s remember that this market research firm and these PC makers don’t have any insider knowledge. They’re simply stating their opinion. And I’d like to add mine: Surface isn’t going anywhere.

    Could Microsoft kill off Surface next year, in 2019, or in 2020? Sure, anything is possible in tech. But based on what I’ve seen, Microsoft is investing more, not less, into Surface.

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  • Star Wars E3 2016 03


    Hello, and welcome to another GamesBeat weekly roundup! This time, we check out Star Wars: Battlefront II’s solo campaign, Lego Dimensions runs out of bricks, and Overwatch passes 35 million players.

    Enjoy, and have a great weekend!


    Pieces of flair and opinion

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  • PayPal peer-to-peer (P2P) payments can now be sent in Facebook Messenger. The service will begin to roll out to customers in the United States starting today, PayPal COO Bill Ready said in this morning’s blog post.

    Payments can be made with Facebook chat extensions, a feature brought to Messenger earlier this year.

    “When composing a message in Messenger with one person, or even a group, people can tap on the blue plus icon, and then select the green Payments button to quickly send or request money,” Ready said. “People can then choose PayPal as their funding source when making a P2P payment with their Messenger contacts.”

    PayPal also today launched a customer service Messenger bot for help with their account or to challenge payments or account activity.

    This year, PayPal has also launched a P2P bot for payments on Slack and struck partnerships with Mastercard, Visa, Vodafone, and Alibaba.

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  • For most city dwellers, going without internet is almost unthinkable. Every day we connect to the internet via ubiquitous Wi-Fi or 4G connections, with the occasional dropped call or slow video being the perfect example of “first-world problems.”

    But get outside of an urban area, even just several miles, and connectivity changes dramatically. According to the FCC, 53 percent of the people living in rural communities in the U.S. — about 22 million people — lack access to broadband speeds that reach even 25 mbps. To put that in context, our urban populations and businesses have become accustomed to internet speeds four times faster than this and peak 4G speeds that are twice as fast at 50 mbps.

    Speed accounts for only a portion of the divide, however. Intermittent connectivity is also a huge problem, and it can cripple business and innovation. Many rural areas now can be characterized as “internet deserts,” and the connectivity divide is a major reason rural America has been left out of the post-recession economic growth seen in major cities.

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  • The board game Settlers of Catan is becoming a free-to-play multiplayer app, Catan Universe, for Android and iOS on November 15.

    Catan Universe is already available on PC. All versions will feature crossplay, meaning that iOS users can compete against PC players, for example. The mobile release is launching with the base game, the Cities and Knights add-on, the Seafarers add-on, and the Rivals for Catan introductory card game. You can buy the base game and all add-ons for a one-off in-app purchase, or you can access them temporarily with in-game scrolls.

    The Steam version of Catan Universe has “Mostly Negative” recent reviews, with many players complaining that the game is not really free-to-play and contains bugs.

    The Settlers of Catan board game first released in Germany in 1995. It has since sold more than 22 million copies around the world. Asmodee Digital and Experiment 7 are working on a virtual reality version of the game.

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  • Star Wars Battlefront


    The video game industry received a shock to the system this week as Electronic Arts rebooted its story-based Star Wars game and shut down Visceral Games, a studio that made some beefy blockbusters like Dead Space and Battlefield Hardline.

    EA said that it was moving Star Wars project from Visceral to another studio in Canada, and it would do what it could to place the 70 employees of Visceral in other jobs. EA executive vice president Patrick Söderlund said that the game industry is evolving faster and more dramatically than ever before, and those changes had an impact on the Star Wars game that Visceral was making, led by Uncharted creator Amy Hennig.

    “It was a very sad day,” said one of the leaders of the game business, in a private conversation with me.


    Above: Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts.

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  • Every year, companies spend 1.3 trillion dollars on 265 billion customer service calls. That’s five bucks a call. On average, the cost to find and hire a call center agent costs $4000 (not including salary), with an additional $4,800 for training — and with frustrated agents tending to drop like flies in the face of an often brutally stressful job, these costs mount up.

    AI, or what IBM calls cognitive computing, is changing that. Autodesk began piloting the IBM Watson Conversation Service in June 2016 as a virtual agent called OTTO, later enhancing it and renaming it AVA (Autodesk Virtual Agent) in February 2017. The return on investment has been tremendous, says Rob High, IBM vice president and Watson chief technology officer and one of the featured speakers at VB Summit coming up on October 23 and 25 in Berkeley, CA.

    With AVA, Autodesk has been able to reduce time-to-resolution from an average of one and a half days to literally minutes – a jump in speed of 99 percent. An automated case takes only 5 to 10 minutes to solve — and that’s just because a customer can only type so fast.

    With their problems resolved more quickly, customers are happier and their satisfaction shoots up, the company reports. With AVA and a scripting tool already in place, they’ve seen customer service levels rise by 10 points.

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  • Lyft, Uber’s main rival in its domestic U.S. market, announced a gargantuan $1 billion funding round yesterday, led by Alphabet’s CapitalG. This takes Lyft’s total funding to more than $3.5 billion. Today, Uber’s dominant Southeast Asian counterpart, Grab, announced a fresh $700 million cash injection (in debt financing), taking the Singaporean company’s total funding past the $4 billion mark.

    These two mammoth funding rounds come as Uber fights a potentially costly trade secret lawsuit with Alphabet’s Waymo division in the U.S. and faces battles over losing its license in London, one of the company’s biggest markets globally. Though Uber’s London debacle is still subject to an appeal, Lyft is thought to be eyeing the U.K. capital as one of its first international markets.

    Put simply, recent activities suggest that rival companies and investors are applying the proverbial boot while Uber is facedown on the ground.

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  • There are a lot of smart speakers out there today, but only one with Microsoft’s Cortana inside. The long-anticipated Harman Kardon Invoke, which first made its debut this spring at the Microsoft Build conference, is a fun, smart, and powerful speaker. Cortana still has more integrations and features to add, but the speaker does not disappoint.

    The Invoke goes on sale in the United States on Sunday at Microsoft stores, Best Buy, and online for $199. It comes in black and white. No date has been set for availability in markets outside the U.S., a Harman spokesperson told VentureBeat.

    Sound and size

    At 9.5 inches tall, the Invoke is roughly the same height as an Amazon Echo.

    Atop the device is a 360-degree array of seven far-field microphones. At the bottom are three high-frequency, and three mid-range drivers.

    Compared to the first-generation Echo and Google Home, the Invoke may be a bit better in terms of sound quality, particularly in its ability to deliver smooth mid-range tones.

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  • (Reuters) — Singapore-headquartered Grab, the main Southeast Asian rival of Uber, said on Friday it had secured debt facilities of up to $700 million to help expand its car rental program.

    Grab, which said the debt funding was a record for a southeast Asian startup, said the facilities were secured from global and regional banks.

    Grab, whose leasing program helps in growing its driver network, said it would have the largest car rental fleet in Southeast Asia by the fourth quarter of 2018.

    It said it would make more cars available for rent, and provide more favorable terms and services for drivers, increasing the supply of vehicles on the road. The company said it has more than 1.8 million drivers in its regional network.

    The company also said it had signed a partnership with Singapore’s SMRT, which will give it exclusive access to SMRT’s taxi and private car fleet management capabilities, in addition to its network of taxis and Strides private-hire cars.

    SMRT is a public transport operator, whose services include trains and buses. It has a fleet of more than 3,300 taxis.

    A previous tie-up between the two firms enabled SMRT drivers to use Grab as the only ridehailing app for taxi bookings.

    Grab provides private car, motorbike, taxi, and carpooling services across seven countries in Southeast Asia. In July, it announced a $2.5 billion fundraising round.

    It said it has a current market share of 95 percent in third-party taxi-hailing and 72 percent in private vehicle hailing.

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  • Computer vision is emerging as a major boon for tech companies looking to bring machines up to speed and perform tasks hitherto only achievable by humans.

    In the past few months alone, eBay has revealed big plans to roll out a new search feature that lets you use existing photos to find similar items, while online clothing retailer ASOS announced something similar in the fashion realm. Taking things to the next level, Shutterstock last week unveiled a neat new experimental feature that allows users to search for stock photos based on their spatial composition, and a few days back Google’s Photos app garnered a new image recognition feature for pets.

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  • Presented by Intel


     “Someone brought one of the headsets into work, and that was literally the moment I realized I had to work on VR. It was that impressive to me.”

    Jason Morris had been working at Blizzard for 10 years as an art lead on games like World of Warcraft and Titan before the sci-fi MMO was cancelled. But the moment he got his hands on a VR headset he knew that was what he had to work on, even if it meant starting from scratch and doing everything slowly by founding his own company, Stonepunk Studios.

    Primordian is the result of that; a VR FPS set on an alien world at the center of the universe. It’s very much a world of two halves, as one side is constantly shrouded in darkness, while the other enjoys infinite daylight. This has given rise to two distinct cultures who typically keep to their own half of the planet, but a solar eclipse is coming, inspiring those stuck on the dark side to launch an invasion. Players will be one of those invaders.

    Aside from the music, Morris is doing everything himself. “I love every aspect of the process of putting games together,” he says enthusiastically. His experiences, working with engineers, designers, and producers at Blizzard have given him some insights, but there’s also been a lot of trial and error, and a great many YouTube tutorials.

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  • (Reuters) — Big cash infusions for startups from an ever-expanding group of financiers, led by SoftBank and Middle East sovereign wealth funds, have extinguished hopes that the technology IPO market would bounce back this year.

    These deep-pocketed financiers, which have traditionally invested in the public markets but are seeking better returns from private tech companies, have enabled startups to raise more money, stay private longer and spurn the regulatory hassles of an IPO even as they become larger than many public companies.

    At The Wall Street Journal D.Live conference this week in Southern California, a number of venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, IPO experts and dealmakers spoke with Reuters about the surprisingly low number of IPOs and pointed to investors such as SoftBank for changing the business of startup financing.

    “It’s not surprising if these companies get 10 term sheets,” said Nicole Quinn, an investing partner with Lightspeed Venture Partners, referring to formal offers of investment.

    The result is a protracted IPO slump that has contributed to a 50 percent drop in the number of U.S. public companies over the last two decades, according to the Nasdaq. IPOs have fallen especially precipitously since 2014 — the year public market investors, including mutual funds, ramped up investment in private tech companies.

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  • Earlier this week, PC gaming editor Jeff Grubb said something that I thought was me just having a fever dream as I battled a persistent cold: “I’m writing about playing Divinity: Original Sin 2 on my smartphone.”

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  • (Reuters) — Apple Inc’s shares fell nearly 3 percent on Thursday on signs of weak demand for the iPhone 8 that caused analysts and investors to question the company’s staggered release strategy for its latest phones.

    Wireless carriers in the United States and Canada have reported slow third-quarter customer upgrades. While some expect a pickup after the iPhone X goes on sale in November, others cautioned that phone’s high price tag could weigh on demand.

    The chief executive of Rogers Communication, Canada’s largest mobile network, on Thursday said appetite for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which went on sale in September, had been “anemic,” the latest sign of weak sales for those phones ahead of the Nov. 3 launch of the pricier iPhone X.

    But some analysts said overall phone production looked in line with their earlier expectations, and that it is unclear whether weak iPhone 8 sales would hurt iPhone revenue and margins because users may still be buying more profitable older models with more memory.

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  • On Wednesday, just a few months after its AI assistant Bixby made its debut, Samsung announced plans for a revamped version open to developers, with Viv Labs tech. Viv, from the creators of Apple’s Siri, was acquired by Samsung a year ago.

    The glitz of the carefully crafted keynote presentation at the Samsung Developer Conference, delivered via screens the size of a convention center, had much wow factor, but questions from developers at sessions held later in the day made clear just how much ground Bixby needs to cover to catch up.

    No date has been set for the release of the Project Ambiance dongle for quick Bixby integration into devices like TVs or speakers. Much was said about personalization at day one of its developer conference, but Samsung does not yet have plans to incorporate voice recognition for its devices like Google and Amazon have done.

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  • A gaming mouse isn’t always just a gaming mouse. Take Razer’s new Basilisk. The PC gaming gear company built it specifically for first-person shooter games. It’ll work with everything else, but it has specialized features to maximize its performance for the likes of Battlefield 1. And if those are the games you play most of the time, you should probably consider something like the Basilisk.

    The Razer Basilisk is available now for $70.

    What you’ll like

    Comfortable, high-quality design

    The Basilisk is a delight to use because of how comfortable it is. It has a similar design to the excellent DeathAdder Elite, and like that mouse, the Basilisk fits sugly into my palm without me having to overextend my fingers. But Razer has tweaked this design with a thumb rest. This makes it easier for you to stay right on top of your extra mouse buttons as well as the new sensitivity clutch.

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  • Emotional Fugitive Detector is an imposing silver box from a dystopian future in which personal expression has been outlawed. It’s a co-op video game installation by graduate students from New York University’s game design program, who have taken it on tour to the Game Developers Conference and the IndieCade Festival, where it was a finalist.

    An explanation on the side of the box explains that it’s a test from the Human Management Bureau, which has outlawed emotions. When I tried it at IndieCade, I sat on one side of the box, resting my head in the “Evaluation Aperture.” My partner sat on the other side. Our task was to fool the machine, which uses facial recognition technology to detect traces of emotion.

    The computer showed me three prompts: anger, happiness, and sadness. I had to keep my expression blank so that the computer didn’t pick up any traces of them, but I still needed to indicate to my partner which prompt I’d just seen. His job was to pick which emotion I was trying to communicate.

    Unfortunately, we failed to trick the machine, which printed out an execution notice. I was officially an emotional fugitive and was scheduled for termination.

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  • In May, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, discussed AI applications for digital pathology in his keynote speech to an audience of millions at Google’s annual I/O event. Five weeks earlier, the FDA announced it had approved the first whole slide imaging system for primary diagnostic use in pathology. Both events point to the future of pathology and laboratory medicine: Software will soon dominate.

    Over the past 20 years, software has taken over the world. Retail was dominated by Amazon, Netflix put Blockbuster out of business, and Uber used software to take over the taxi industry. The one space that has yet to see a large software disruption is health care, with pathology as a prime example of an industry that has changed only minimally over the past hundred years.

    Of course, there are skeptics who say things like “Tissue is and will always be physical” or “A computer could never capture the complexity of cancer the way a human can.” There’s truth to all of these statements, yet software is already starting to find its way into the core functions of pathology, signaling a paradigm shift in the way cancer is diagnosed.

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  • With increasing frequency, video games are depicting tattoos that very closely resemble those inked on the bodies of prominent professional athletes.  While many would assume these tattoos belong exclusively to the wearer, the legal reality is that their depiction in video games might be illegal because tattoo artists can copyright the designs that they ink.  Exactly how far copyright protection for these tattoos extends has yet to be decided by a U.S. court, but a recent lawsuit against the developers of the NBA 2K video games, Take-Two Interactive, might provide guidance to tattoo artists, video game developers, and athletes.

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  • Presented by Intel


    Assassin’s Creed Origins is probably the most anticipated game of the year, and it’s looking absolutely gorgeous. You’ll be traveling across the shifting desert sands of Egypt and stumbling on half-buried ancient ruins filled with treasure, fording the Nile, wandering through the storied city of Alexandria. The story is more compelling and complex than ever, but there’s still plenty of leaping from great heights, great feat of acrobatic grace, and stabbing.

    You can get your hot little hands on it when it comes out on October 27, and shell out the cash – or you can enter to win your own free copy in our weekly giveaway with Intel.

    But wait, there’s more, and it’s even better.

    There’s also $700 worth of new PC gear up for grabs: two lucky winners could win the kind of gear that makes game play – and game development — as flawless and breathtaking as it’s supposed to be.

    First drawing is on October 27 — and there are even bigger prizes to follow in coming weeks.

    Be a part of the Brotherhood: Enter right now to win!

    Grand Prize: PC Hardware (SSD Package and i7 Processor Package) for 2 winners (1 winner selected on 10/27 and 1 winner selected on 11/3)

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  • A doctor in Boston touches a screen to assess a patient’s infection risk. A banker in New York wires $1 million to London with a few keystrokes. A student in San Francisco cracks her first quadratic equation on a tablet.

    And they all did it with software from … Wisconsin.

    Most people are surprised when we mention these examples of high tech from the Heartland, because the story of American entrepreneurship has shifted overwhelmingly to the coastal tech hotbeds in California, Massachusetts, and New York.

    But Wisconsin — home to banking software giant Fiserv, hospital electronic medical record innovator Epic Systems, and academic software leader Renaissance Learning — reminds us that the Heartland of our country has a thriving entrepreneurial culture stretching back generations.

    Those of us who have been working with these companies for 25 years know what’s driving these founders and how they’re building their companies, oftentimes with little to no institutional capital until a very late stage.

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  • Fast-growing mobile advertising firm Vungle today announced that its founder, Zain Jaffer, has taken a leave of absence for personal reasons.

    San Francisco-based Vungle said recently that it had reached a $300 million run rate for annualized revenues from its performance-based in-app video ad platform. The company also said it is profitable, which is not an easy feat in the highly competitive mobile ads business.

    The board of directors has placed Jaffer on an indefinite leave of absence and appointed Vungle chief operating officer Rick Tallman to the role of CEO.

    Jaffer was a colorful personality, and he spoke at our recent GamesBeat Summit 2017 event about the future of mobile advertising. As leader of Vungle, he bet on video advertising to be the big driver in mobile apps and games.

    The board voted to replace Jaffer as CEO immediately after being informed of personal issues unrelated to his employment, though no other details were provided. Tallman has been with Vungle since May 2015. He previously held executive roles at British Telecom, International Network Services, and Nortel.

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  • The latest AI-powered home security technology is smarter than ever before, but can you really trust a robot with your family’s security? Privacy is the main concern for most people, so doing your homework on a home security system before you trust it to protect your kids is essential. Luckily, the best AI home security systems have features and safeguards to keep your family safe and secure while integrating seamlessly with your wired-in lifestyle.

    What is AI-powered home security?

    Even the best home security systems aren’t quite sentient yet, which may be good news for humanity if you watch a lot of sci-fi movies. Still, the use of basic artificial intelligence systems is opening up new frontiers in home security. The latest systems incorporate machine learning to adjust for your habits and schedules or track unfamiliar noises and events. Next-generation systems like the Flare from BuddyGuard even use facial recognition algorithms to track visitors to your home.

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  • Back in 2006, rumors were swirling about Apple’s new iPhone, but most of us were still carrying around clamshell phones or old-school BlackBerrys. A handful of kids had their hands on T-Mobile’s new Sidekick, which came with a hidden QWERTY keyboard to make texting faster but without a decent handheld device to actually support gameplay, video games were still reserved for console systems.

    One company out of France focused entirely on mobile games, with a vision that U.S. gamers would quickly adopt the platform. Gameloft (now a subsidiary of Vivendi) first began in 2000 by Michel Guillemot, who is one of five brothers that founded videogame developer and publisher Ubisoft.

    Gameloft hired me, and between 2006-2012, I wrote over 150 mobile video games for the publisher. Mobile gameplay was limited in those early days, but by 2008, the iPhone 3G became available and the App Store was born. Developers were scrambling to release titles for $5 a pop, and consumers gobbled them up, all to feed a growing addiction of gaming on the go.

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  • Work matters. Next to family and health, work is often the most important thing in an individual’s life. It provides a livelihood, is an outlet for passion, and drives purpose and happiness. Few decisions have a greater impact on the shape of our lives than our career choices.

    But finding the right job (or hiring the right employee) is fraught with challenges. The odds have been historically stacked against finding the best fit. Unequal access to job information, human biases, pressures for immediate income (or the need to fill a job), and the inefficiency of old processes are a few of the hundreds of reasons why people end up in the wrong job.

    These are complex problems to solve, though the internet and AI technologies have begun to fundamentally change the way people hire and search for jobs. A single goal of aggregating all the jobs for use with an easy-to-use search engine has changed the way information is disseminated and gone a long way toward democratizing access to jobs. While providing visibility to millions of jobs is a great start, how does a candidate find the best jobs relevant to their circumstances?

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  • Publisher Stardock is preparing the return of its Star Control series. The studio acquired the license from the rubble of Atari’s 2013 collapse, and it will finally launch a reboot called Star Control: Origins next year. You can preorder the space adventure sim now on GOG or Steam, and you can also buy Star Control: The Ur-Quan Masters (the first and second game) and Kessari Quadrant (the third game) right now for the first time on Steam.

    Star Control: Origins is separate from the Ghosts of the Precursors followup from the original developers of Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters, which is still coming at some point in the future.

    Stardock also launched a bundle that includes the preorder for Star Control: Origins as well as The Ur-Quan Masters and Kessari Quadrant for $27. That’ll jump to $30 when the Origins goes live in 2018.

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  • The most interesting Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL feature, to me, is Now Playing. If you’ve ever used Shazam or SoundHound, you probably understand the basics: The app uses your device’s microphone to capture an audio sample and creates an acoustic fingerprint to compare against a central song database. If a match is found, information such as the song title and artist are sent back to the user.

    Now Playing achieves this with two important differentiators. First, Now Playing detects songs automatically without you explicitly asking — the feature works when your phone is locked and the information is displayed on the Pixel 2’s lock screen (you’ll eventually be able to ask Google Assistant what’s currently playing, but not yet). Secondly, it’s an on-device and local feature: Now Playing functions completely offline (we tested this, and indeed it works with mobile data and Wi-Fi turned off). No audio is ever sent to Google.

    It’s worth noting that Now Playing is turned off by default. You have to explicitly turn it on in the setup flow when first starting your Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, or in Settings (as shown above).

    We asked Google to explain how the feature works.

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  • A Canadian company called AdHawk Microsystems is announcing that it has created small motion-tracking sensors that could be a boon for augmented reality glasses and virtual reality headsets.

    Current AR and VR products are oversized for consumers, and bulky camera-based sensors are a big part of that problem. But AdHawk has created eye-tracking sensors that are small chips made from microelectrical mechanical systems (MEMS), which are commonly used in gyro chips.


    Above: AdHawk sensors are tiny MEMS chips.

    Image Credit: AdHawk

    The Kitchener, Canada-based company has raised $4.6 million in a funding round led by Intel. AdHawk Microsystems said that its smaller, faster, more power-efficient motion-tracking solutions will render camera-based eye tracking obsolete. And they will pave the way for a new generation of highly immersive AR/VR experiences.

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  • Today, Microsoft and the Green Bay Packers football team announced that each organization will be investing $5 million, doled out over the course of the next five years, to fund the creation of an accelerator, an early-stage VC fund, and a business development lab in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

    The building, called Titletown Tech, is tentatively scheduled to open next fall, and will be housed in Titletown District, an approximately 45-acre business and recreational development west of Lambeau Field that’s largely been funded by the Green Bay Packers.

    “We want to ensure that the great talent in the Fox River Valley has the same economic opportunities that are found in large cities across the country,” Microsoft president Brad Smith told VentureBeat via email. “By combining the Green Bay Packers’ deep community engagement with Microsoft’s technology expertise, TitletownTech represents a one-of-a kind partnership.”

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  • Facebook has launched advertisements to monetize a new type of popular casual game, dubbed Instant Games, which people play on the Facebook Messenger feed.

    The company launched Instant Games for Messenger last year, enabling developers to create games that are playable in a Messenger feed. The games are easy to play and accessible, and usually resemble older arcade experiences. Since the launch, billions of games have been played.

    “Since our launch, the platform continues to evolve with more games and features for developers to build flexible, rich gameplay,” said Mike Weingert, product manager for Messenger at Facebook. “This includes leaderboards and tournament support, visually engaging and customizable game messages and CTA buttons, along with the option to introduce meaningful re-engagement capabilities with game bots. Today, we’re kicking off the next phase of the Instant Games platform’s evolution by rolling out tests of interstitial and rewarded video ads with select game developers.”

    The monetization is in testing now. Right now, Instant Games will use demand from Facebook’s Audience Network to deliver ads in-game, and players can expect to see ads during gameplay sessions in apps such as Blackstorm’s Everwing and FRVR’s Basketball FRVR.

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  • Lyft today announced it has raised $1 billion, lifting the company’s valuation to $11 billion, up from $7.5 billion this spring. The funding round was led by Alphabet investment fund CapitalG, and follows $600 million in funding the ride-sharing app raised in April.

    CapitalG partner David Lawee will join Lyft’s board, the company said in a blog post today.

    The investment comes as Lyft begins to consider expansion outside the United States. Last month, just days after Uber lost its taxi license in London, Reuters reported that Lyft executives met with city transportation officials.

    Lyft passed the 500 million ride mark earlier this month, and now serves 95 percent of the U.S. population, up from 54 percent earlier this year.

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  • At Google’s annual Playtime developer event in Berlin and San Francisco, the company made a series of Google Play announcements. In terms of momentum, Vineet Buch, Google Play’s director of product management, shared that the number of developers making over $1 million per month on Google Play has grown by more than 30 percent since the beginning of the year. Buch also added that Google Play now sees more than 8 billion new installs per month globally (this excludes preinstalled apps). In short, Google wants developers to know the Play store is doing well and that it’s continuing to invest in the ecosystem.

    Google Play has over 1 billion monthly active users, which the company argues makes it “the world’s largest app distribution platform.” Last year, Google Play users installed apps 82 billion times, so if the 8 billion monthly figure holds, the store will surpass its previous record in 2017.

    Google is adding new Google Play and Google Play Console features to help developers track and improve app quality as well as test their apps. Here’s the rundown:

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  • Mark Thompson is taking us to the Dark Side. The director for the single-player campaign of Star Wars: Battlefront II has created a story where you can play the baddies. In this story, you play as Iden Versio, an Imperial special forces commander who happens to be on Endor as the second Death Star blows up at the end of The Return of the Jedi.

    I played the prelude and first two chapters of Battlefront II’s single-player campaign, and then I interviewed Thompson about it afterward. In the multiplayer version of Battlefront II, you’ll be able to play villains and heroes from every Star Wars era, including Kylo Ren, Rey, Darth Maul, Yoda, and Iden Versio. But in the single-player campaign, you are rooted in the post-Death Star explosion timeline and Versio’s story.

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  • There’s a new company on the block that’s aiming to help AI take some of the busy work out of jobs that rely on handling requests like IT and HR. The startup, called Spoke, uses machine learning to help businesses automate requests for information.

    It’s designed to save humans’ time by dealing with the questions that would require a boilerplate response, like requests for information on how to log into a payroll system. Getting directions to a website and details on how to reset a password isn’t the sort of thing that should require a human response, and Spoke’s goal is to reduce the instances of people needing to chime in.

    Here’s how it works: An admin sets up Spoke and feeds it information from the company’s knowledge base, then route requests through Spoke’s ticketing system, which works like Jira Service Desk or ServiceNow. As humans respond to those tickets, Spoke’s AI will try to pick up on the right responses, and then start pitching in itself when it has enough confidence about the right answer.

    In the event someone asks a question that the AI doesn’t know the answer to, it’ll direct that query to a human. If the AI response is unhelpful, questioners can similarly redirect their queries to a human being, which Spoke will learn from and use to inform future answers.

    It’s designed to be most useful for companies above 100 people, but with fewer than 1,000 employees.

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  • Star Wars: Battlefront II is coming in hot, and Electronic Arts is revealing the first details of the single-player campaign where you play as a commander in the Imperial special forces.

    Battlefront II debuts on November 17 on the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. In the story, you suit up as Iden Versio, commander of an elite Imperial special forces unit that happens to be on Endor when the second Death Star explodes at the end of The Return of the Jedi.

    I played the prologue and the first two chapters of the Battlefront II single-player campaign at an event at EA’s headquarters in Redwood City, California. I also interviewed Mark Thompson, the game director for the single-player campaign at the EA Motive studio in Montreal. While playing, I had to do a double take, as I was seeing the world from the Empire’s point of view.


    This preview has narrative spoilers — Ed.

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  • Facebook revealed a new open source tool today that’s designed to help developers build more complex apps with less work by detecting bugs that are typically difficult to suss out and squash. Called RacerD, it’s a system that examines code for nasty issues known as race conditions and helps identify how to prevent them.

    Race conditions appear when coders try to implement concurrency in their programs, so that an app can work on multiple tasks at once. That’s all well and good, but gnarly bugs can crop up when two or more parts of the program try to change the same data at the same time. In that case, it’s possible for both operations to get the incorrect result, screwing up things further down the line.

    But finding race conditions is incredibly difficult. It’s basically impossible to test for all the potential problems in an app, and the bugs resulting from a race condition can be inconsistent and hard to diagnose. That’s where RacerD comes in.

    Facebook’s system runs when a piece of code is compiled, producing a report about where in a program possible race conditions could arise. Peter O’Hearn, a research scientist at Facebook, said in an interview that while RacerD isn’t guaranteed to catch all of the race condition bugs, it will find most of them.

    Using RacerD, Facebook’s Android team caught over 1,000 race condition bugs while they converted that app’s news feed to use concurrency. The conversion provided a 5 percent performance increase for the app, which is a significant improvement in this case.

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  • Hiya, the company behind the caller ID and spam-blocking app of the same name, has raised $18 million in a series A round of funding as it looks to “transform mobile calling worldwide,” according to a statement.

    By way of a quick recap, Hiya was spun out of online directory services Whitepages as a standalone company way back in April 2016, having previously been known as WhitePages CallerID. Founder and CEO Alex Algard resigned his lead role at Whitepages last September to focus all his efforts on the new spin-off company.

    In a nutshell, Hiya offers a consumer-focused app for Android and iOS that tells users who is calling — regardless of whether the incoming number is in their local address book. Users can also decide to auto-block certain numbers they know to be scam- or robo-callers, and nuisance numbers flagged by the community can be filtered out too. Hiya also partners with smartphone manufacturers, such as Samsung, and carriers, including AT&T’s Call Protect and T-Mobile’s Name ID, to better integrate its services.

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  • Customizable DOCSIS 3.1/OFDM test tools bundled with true spectrum analyzer for quickly verifying and troubleshooting next generation HFC networks

    SAN JOSE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–October 19, 2017–

    Deviser Instruments, Inc., a manufacturer of high-quality, feature-rich, network field-test solutions for communications service providers (CSPs) and equipment manufacturers, today announced the launch of the DS2831 Digital TV Spectrum Analyzer Family for facilitating a smooth transition to OFDM/DOCSIS 3.1 networks. The spectrum analyzer is being unveiled at the upcoming SCTE Cable-Tec Expo (Booth # 331) in Denver Colorado on October 19th and has been announced as a finalist for the Broadband Technology Report’s Diamond Technology Review Awards.

    This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20171019005894/en/

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  • Presented by Providence Ventures

    Fourth in the series, “Strategic VC as a Secret Weapon in Healthcare.”


    Financing for innovative healthcare technology start-ups has reached unprecedented levels. However, for venture investors, it can be daunting to sort through myriad “not ready for prime time” opportunities in order to find scalable innovations that can potentially transform the healthcare system by solving important “needle-moving” problems.

    One way for investors to cut to the chase is to syndicate with a strategic venture firm that works deeply within the healthcare ecosystem, and has fundamental expertise, as well as an important stake, in driving the success of its portfolio companies.

    Previously, we shared insights about Providence Ventures’ healthcare-focused investment model. We also discussed the areas of healthcare most in need of innovative solutions, and provided examples of how we work with a few of our portfolio companies that are addressing these challenges. Now we turn to Providence Ventures’ process, and how our operational partnerships with business leaders and clinicians within PV’s parent organization, Providence St. Joseph Health (PSJH), and our clear understanding of its strategic priorities, are keys to guiding successful investments.

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