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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Can This AI-Powered Baby Translator Help Diagnose Autism?

With enough data from the Chatterbaby app, researchers could mine irregularities in cry patterns for signals about hunger, pain—and maybe one day, autism.
Source: Wired

Save Lives With Slower Streets—Not Self-Driving Cars

Autonomous vehicles could save lots of lives, someday. Right now, we need better street design.
Source: Wired

Microsoft Enabling Javascript in Excel Has Security Pros Anxious

Enabling JavaScript should make Excel more powerful, but increasing access points makes it even more of a web security nightmare than it already is.
Source: Wired

How Facebook Binds, and Shatters, Communities

If a platform can provide community, we’ll gladly give up privacy—as we have throughout human history.
Source: Wired

China’s Didi Chuxing suspends carpooling service following murder of a passenger

Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-hailing service, has suspended its Hitch, one of its carpooling services, for one week as it investigates the murder of a passenger.

The victim was a 21-year-old air stewardess identified only as Ms. Li. State-run news agency Global Times reports that the incident took place in the evening of May 5, when she used Hitch — which lets people headed to the same destination take a ride together — to summon a ride home from Zhengzhou airport, Henan Province, after finishing work. The publication cites police reports that say Li was murdered by her driver using a weapon.

Didi has used facial recognition technology to verify its drivers since 2016. The technology is used to speed up registration of drivers when they initially sign-up, and also to prevent fraud when they log in to start a shift. The idea is that the app will only unlock when the driver account owner takes a selfie which should match with the record Didi has.

In the case of this tragic incident, that safeguard failed.

The suspect — who has been named as Liu Zhenhua — is not registered on its platform, according to Didi, but he was able to access it, and take rides, using a verified driver account belonging to his father. Didi said it did not prevent this because its facial recognition feature was “defective” that day.

It looks like there was a warning sign, however. The company said that the account had received a sexual harassment complaint before the incident — it isn’t clear if that was from the father, or his son accessing the account — but Didi was unable to reach the account despite trying to make contact an apparent five times. Yet, despite the complaint, the account was allowed to log-in and take rides.

“Due to the imperfection of the arbitration rules of the platform, the complaint was not handled properly in subsequent days,” Didi admitted in a statement.

Hitch is an inter-city carpooling service focused on commuting and distance-traveling that lets passengers cover the cost of fuel and a driver’s basic costs. Didi’s commercial carpooling services are not affected. The Hitch suspension starts tomorrow — May 12 — and Didi said it will use the time to review all of its registered drivers for “any cases involving mismatch of drivers and vehicles.”

The company also pledged to revamp its operational approach and customer support system.

In a prior statement provided to TechCrunch, Didi expressed its “deep remorse” at the incident which it said it has “undeniable” responsibility for. The company added that it must “step up to win the trust of our users.”

We are deeply saddened by and sorry about the tragedy that happened to Ms. Li while using DiDi Hitch. No words can express our deep remorse in the face of such an enormity. We give our sincere condolences and apologies to the family of Ms. Li. We need to step up to win the trust of our users. Our responsibilities in this case are undeniable.

Our special task force is working closely with law enforcement agencies with the utmost effort. The murderer needs to be brought to justice; and Ms Li and her family deserve a just answer.

We apologize again to the family of the victim and the public. Please be assured we will review thoroughly all our business practices to prevent such an incident from happening again.

Global Times reported that Didi is offered a reward of one million yuan (just over $150,000) for information about the alleged murdered, although Didi did not confirm that when we asked.

Didi is facing pressure from rival Meituan Dianping, which started out in local services but recently introduced ride-sharing services and moved into dockless bikes with the acquisition of Mobike.

This is not the first time that Didi, which became China’s single-largest ride-hailing company when it bought out Uber’s local business in 2016, has dealt with the murder of a customer. Two years ago, a woman in Shenzhen was robbed and murdered by a Didi driver.

Uber and Lyft have had fatal incidents, too.

In the U.S., those range from a seven-year-old girl being run over by an Uber driver in San Francisco in 2014, to a driver in Michigan murdering six people while on duty for the ride-hailing service in 2016. Other fatalities have taken place in Australia, Lebanon, Singapore and India.

This year, Uber’s autonomous vehicles have also been involved in civilian deaths. In March, a woman died after being struck by a self-driving Uber SUV in Tempe, Arizona. While police said Uber wasn’t responsible for the incident, the company paused its autonomous vehicle testing following the fatal crash.


Source: TechCrunch

Silver Lake makes a $3B offer to buy property portal Zoopla, the Zillow of the UK

The UK housing market has cooled down on the heels of the EU/Brexit referendum vote, but that hasn’t stopped M&A activity around property market companies. Property portal Zoopla — a leader in the UK market with 50 million visits across its apps and sites, and 25,000 business partners integrated with its platform — has announced that Silver Lake has made a cash offer of 490 pence per share for the company, equivalent to about £2.2 billion ($3 billion at current rates).

The figure represents a doubling of the company’s valuation since it went public in 2014 at a valuation of $1.5 billion (it trades as ZPG on the London Stock Exchange). It’s also a 30 percent premium on the company’s last closing price, and makes the deal one of the biggest tech acquisitions to come out of the UK.

Zoopla will still have to put the offer to the vote of shareholders and meet other regulatory approvals before the deal is sealed, and if all goes as planned it will close in the third quarter of 2018, Zoopla said. So far, the company directors — led by CEO Alex Chesterman, who founded the company in 2007 — and significant shareholder DMGT (the Daily Mail group), which owns about 30 percent of Zoopla — have both endorsed the offer.

“Silver Lake is the global leader in technology investing and I am firmly of the belief that ZPG will benefit from their technology expertise and global network which will help accelerate our growth,” Chesterman said in a statement. “The terms of the Acquisition represent an attractive premium that recognises the quality of ZPG’s businesses and the strength of its future prospects and allows shareholders to realise today in cash the potential future value of their holdings. I am very excited about the opportunity this offers to our employees, customers and partners as we move to the next stage of ZPG’s development and growth.”

Zoopla said that Silver Lake first entered negotiations with it on April 16. The two parties kept the deal very quiet. There has been a surge in Zillow’s share price last week, although this might have been due to the company selling the Australian division of one of its analytics subsidiaries, Hometrack, to Australian group REA for £71 million.

From what I understand, Zoopla had not been shopping itself around but was approached by Silver Lake unsolicited.

In its acquisition offer announcement, Zoopla did not provide any updated figures on its financials. It is due to report half-year results on May 23. In fiscal year 2017, Zoopla reported £244.5 million ($331 million) in revenues, up 24 percent on the year before, with £37.4 ($51 million) million in profit.

As a point of comparison, this puts Zoopla at a just over a quarter of the size of its similarly-named US counterpart Zillow, which this week reported revenues of $299.9 million for the previous quarter. The US company has a market cap of $7.32 billion and is trading slightly up before the market opens.

“ZPG is a great growth technology company,” said Simon Patterson, MD of Silver Lake, in a statement. “It has established strong positions in property classifieds, home and financial services markets by innovating in product and marketing. We are delighted to partner with Alex Chesterman, one of Europe’s leading and most accomplished technology entrepreneurs, to invest in ZPG’s continued growth.”

Zoopla is one of the biggest property portals in the UK, with several other brands including uSwitch, Money, PrimeLocation and SmartNewHomes under its wing.

Competing against the likes of Rightmove, the company grew quickly by tapping into the UK house-buying and selling boom, particularly in London and the southeast, and by the huge shift that we’ve seen in the property market, where people start their initial searches both for homes — and to figure out the many other aspects of moving (such as what you can afford, purchasing insurance, finding mortgages and more) — online.

Like Zillow in the US, Zoopla’s primary business lies in providing a portal where people can search for homes and commercial property to buy or rent in the UK and abroad. It gets a cut on referrals and for providing service to real estate agents, who use the service to help their properties get more visibility. 

In addition to this, the company offers other property related services such as valuation calculators, property market analytics and other business intelligence tools for those in the property industry, such as business leads. Other brands in this second category include Hometrack, Calcasa, TechnicWeb, Ravensworth, Alto, Jupix, ExpertAgent, PropertyFile and MoveIT. 


Source: TechCrunch

LightTag is a text annotation platform for data scientists creating AI training data

LightTag, a newly launched startup from a former NLP researcher at Citi, has built a “text annotation platform” designed to assist data scientists who need to quickly create training data for their AI systems. It’s a classic picks ‘n’ shovels move, in that the bootstrapped Berlin-based company is hoping to take advantage of the current boom in AI development.

Specifically, LightTag aims to solve one of the main bottlenecks of ‘deep learning’-based AI development: what you get out is only as good as the labeled data you put in. The problem, however, is that labelling data is laborious, and since it’s a job carried out by teams of humans it is prone to inaccuracy and inconsistency. LightTag’s team-based workflow, clever UI, and in-built quality controls is an attempt to mitigate this.

“What I’ve taken from [my previous positions] to LightTag is an understanding that labeled data is more important to success in machine learning than clever algorithms,” says founder Tal Perry. “The difference in a successful machine learning project often boiled down to how well the gathering and use of labeled data was executed and managed. There is a huge gap in the tooling to consistently do that well, that’s why I built LightTag”.

Perry says LightTag’s annotation interface is designed to keep labellers “effective and engaged”. It also employs its own “AI” to learn from previous labelling and make annotation suggestions. The platform also automates the work of managing a project, in terms of assigning tasks to labellers and making sure there is enough overlap and duplication to keep accuracy and consistency high.

“We’ve made it dead-simple to annotate with a team (sounds obvious, but nothing else makes it easy),” he says. “To make sure the data is good, LightTag automatically assigns work to team members so that there is overlap between them. This allows project managers to measure agreement and recognise problems in their project early on. For example, if a specific annotator is performing worse than others”.

Meanwhile, Perry says acquiring labeled data is one of the silent growth sectors in the recent AI boom, but for many sector-specific industries, such as medical, legal or financial, outsourcing the job is not an option. That’s because the data is often too sensitive, or too specialist for non-subject experts to process. To address this, LightTag offers an on-premise version in addition to SaaS.

“Every company has huge text datasets that are unstructured (CRM records, call transcripts, emails etc). ‘Deep Learning’ has made it algorithmically feasible to tap that data, but to use Deep Learning we need to train the model with labeled datasets. Most companies can’t outsource labelling on text because the data is too complicated (biology, finance), regulated (CRM records) or both (medical records),” explains the LightTag founder.

Operating in various pilots and in private beta since December 2018, and publicly launched this month, LightTag has already been used by the data science team at a large Silicon Valley tech company that wants its AI to understand free-form text in profiles, as well as by an energy company to analyse logs from oil rigs to predict problems drilling at certain depths. The startup has also done a pilot with a medical imaging company labelling reports associated with MRI scans.


Source: TechCrunch

Moto Z3 Play kicks the home button to the curb – CNET

This is according to a recent leak. It doesn’t look like there’s a headphone jack though. Boo.
Source: CNET

Solo: A Star Wars Story verdicts are in (and they're loving Lando) – CNET

This ain’t no Solo project.
Source: CNET

AT&T reportedly hired Trump lawyer Michael Cohen for advice on Time Warner bid – CNET

What insights the longtime real estate attorney could offer on telecom mega-merger aren’t clear.
Source: CNET

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