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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Scotty Labs raises $6 million for remote-controlled autonomous car platform

Scotty Labs, a tele-operations company that is working on technology to enable people to remotely control self-driving cars, has raised a $6 million seed round from Gradient Ventures with participation from Horizon Ventures and Hemi Ventures. Gradient Ventures is an early-stage venture fund housed within Google.

“Usman and I founded Scotty on the belief that human intelligence is critical to solving the autonomous driving problem,” Scotty co-founder and CEO Tobenna Arodiogbu wrote in blog post. “The company exists to answer the fundamental questions — what role do humans play in the future of robotics and automation, and how do we leverage human and machine intelligence to build a better future?”

That’s what led to the creation of the company’s first product, a tele-operations platform that lets humans virtually control cars. The idea, Arodiogbu wrote, is this type of human intervention will help “solve some of the hardest edge cases of driving, while allowing AV companies and their teams to focus on what they do best — building and improving their autonomous driving technology.”

If something goes wrong, a human could theoretically intervene from the safety of their home, rather than from the car itself. Scotty Labs’ first partner is Voyage, an Udacity spin-out that’s aiming to build a fully self-driving taxi platform. In October, Voyage began testing its self-driving vehicles in retirement communities.

“We decided to work with Voyage as a partner because we are excited by and fundamentally believe in the work they are doing,” Arodiogbu wrote. “We believe it is critical to provide autonomy to the communities that need it the most. We also both share a belief that human intelligence will be needed to achieve level 4 autonomy, and we share a deep and uncompromising focus on safety above speed in the deployment of fully autonomous systems. We will continue to support Voyage in the coming months and years as they achieve their goal of building a level 4 autonomous fleet.”

Source: TechCrunch

Microsoft can ban you for using offensive language

A report by CSOOnline presented the possibility that Microsoft would be able to ban “offensive language” from Skype, Xbox, and, inexplicably, Office. The post, which cites Microsoft’s new terms of use, said that the company would not allow users to “publicly display or use the Services to share inappropriate content or material (involving, for example, nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence, or criminal activity)” and that you could lose your Xbox Live Membership if you curse out a kid Overwatch.

“We are committed to providing our customers with safe and secure experiences while using our services. The recent changes to the Microsoft Service Agreement’s Code of Conduct provide transparency on how we respond to customer reports of inappropriate public content,” said a Microsoft spokesperson. The company notes that “Microsoft Agents” do not watch Skype calls and that they can only respond to complaints with clear evidence of abuse. The changes, which go into effect May 1, allows Microsoft to ban you from it services if you’re found passing “inappropriate content” or using “offensive language.”

These new rules give Microsoft more power over abusive users and it seems like Microsoft is cracking down on bad behavior on its platforms. This is good news for victims of abuse in private communications channels on Microsoft products and may give trolls pause before they yell something about your mother on Xbox. We can only dare to dream.

Source: TechCrunch

Microsoft’s Windows 7 Meltdown update granted access to all data in memory

Microsoft reportedly fixed an issue on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 that enabled applications to access all data stored in memory. The vulnerability appeared after Microsoft’s Meltdown patches were issued in January.

The post Microsoft’s Windows 7 Meltdown update granted access to all data in memory appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

Best Buy’s one-day Apple flash sale includes up to $400 off the MacBook Pro

If you’ve been in the market for a bit of Apple hardware, then you’ll definitely want to check out Best Buy’s flash sale that ends at 9:59pm PT today. You’ll find MacBooks, iMacs, and iPads all on sale, which is a rare thing to see, especially discounted this much.

The post Best Buy’s one-day Apple flash sale includes up to $400 off the MacBook Pro appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

The Case of the Missing Dark Matter

Physicists have discovered a galaxy 65 million light years away with so little dark matter that it may contain none at all.
Source: Wired

Neighbor, a p2p self-storage marketplace, bags $2.5M seed

Neighbor is another startup with designs on your spare space. Not for letting to guests to bed down in, like Airbnb, but for self-storage. The 2017 founded, Salt Lake City based startup is announcing $2.5 million in seed funding today, raised from Peak Ventures and Pelion Ventures.

The core business idea is to build a trusted marketplace for storage needs by offering people with items on their hands what it bills as a cheaper (and potentially easier) alternative to traditional self-storage solutions — and, on the host side, a platform to earn a little money for not having to do too much (just having space where you can let stuff safely sit).

There’s a social element in that Neighbor is plugging into Facebook’s Graph API and another of its APIs (called All Mutual Friends) so that users who sign in with Facebook can make use of a “store with a friend” feature — which shows which (if any) of their Facebook friends or mutual friends are also hosts or renters on the platform.

The idea being that a degree of linked acquaintance will help Neighbor offer users “more personalized, localized and trustworthy storage options while helping hosts advertise their storage spaces to friends and family on social media”, as it puts it.

The startup claims this feature is “completely unique to the sharing economy space”, though it has been used by other apps — such as dating app, Tinder, to (in that case) enable people to hook up with friends of friends.

Neighbor says it’s banking on the Facebook connection to help it build trust between users and grease activity for a marketplace that’s otherwise essentially asking a pair of strangers to agree to store/host others’ items in their home.

Co-founder Preston Alder says he came up with the idea for the business when he was a student about to move to Peru for a summer internship and needed to find a nearby place to store his stuff — but didn’t want to fork out on traditional storage costs.

“On the two hour drive to a friend’s house who had agreed to store his stuff, he realized there were probably a lot of people with extra storage space who lived closer that would agree to store his stuff for the summer —  he just didn’t know how to find them,” say other co-founders Joseph Woodbury (also CEO) and Colton Gardner.

The team put up a basic landing page was put up in early 2017 — initially fielding enquiries by phone. In March 2017 they launched a website to meet early demand.

“During that time, we won grants from Get Seeded, the Opportunity Quest, the New Venture Challenge, and the Utah Entrepreneurship Challenge, which helped us build out the website and do some basic local marketing,” they add. “We then turned down the jobs we had lined up post-graduation to keep building the business. Since then, our primary focus has been to build out the platform — we’re just now coming to a point where we’re going to double down on marketing.”

A year on from the website launch they say they have “thousands” of users in 11 different US states — claiming this is mostly organic as they’ve only done a regional marketing rollout in Utah thus far.

They are about to step up on that front now though, with the VC cash injection — including with discount offers for people wanting to rent space to store stuff.

“The seed funding will be used for continued platform improvements and to market the service more broadly across the US,” they tell TechCrunch. The funding will also go towards “technologies to foster trust”.

“Trust is our central focus at Neighbor — it’s why we chose to call our company ‘Neighbor’,” they add. “Our goal is not just to provide you storage, but to provide the safest option available on the market.”

To back up that claim the startup says it’s carrying out verification of users (both hosts and renters) — including by ID verification and background checks.

“We require the submission of a government ID or passport, and any user can request that a background check be performed,” they say. “A host can request the check on their renter or a renter on their respective host.”

On the trust front there are some pretty obvious risks when strangers are caching unknown items in other people’s home. So there’s also a list of banned items — such as firearms, toxins, drugs and so on.

Space renters are also required to submit a list of the exact items that will be stored for Neighbor and the host to approve ahead of a transaction getting the go ahead.

“If a renter is caught misleading a host or Neighbor about their items, then they are promptly evicted and fined,” they say. “It is worth noting that there is an excellent sifting mechanism that occurs due to Neighbor’s business model. Because of the high amount of personal interaction that occurs on Neighbor, individuals seeking to store prohibited items are likely to avoid Neighbor because they are concerned about keeping their items concealed from their host. We anticipate renters with illicit items will naturally prefer industrially zoned storage facilities.”

Who’s liable if something goes wrong? “Neighbor assigns liability in the same way as a self-storage facility,” the team says. “The host is liable for gross negligence (i.e. the host knocks over one of the renter’s boxes and the contents break). The renter, however, is liable for all other instances (i.e. fire, flood, etc). For this reason we provide a $10,000 guarantee to the renters and encourage renters to obtain a renter’s insurance policy through our local insurance partner.”

Another perhaps more sticky potential issue vis-a-via insurance is whether a host might be risking voiding any existing buildings or contents insurance they have by using the service and thereby opening their home to a third party (and their stuff).

Neighbor says it recommends hosts verify with their insurance provider “on a case by case basis”. Though it also claims there hasn’t yet been a single host insurance dispute in the history of the company.

“Storing a neighbor’s items is a longstanding and accepted practice,” it adds, saying it doesn’t currently have any plans to offer hosts insurance packages.

In terms of other logistics, space renters are asked on sign up how long they estimate they’ll need to store their stuff to give hosts an idea of the time commitment.

“Once their stuff makes it into storage, the renter starts paying a monthly subscription that can be cancelled anytime by the host or renter with 30 days notice. So the length of storage time is ultimately up to both the host and renter,” they add.

While hosts can set their own flexibility in terms of providing renters with access to their stuff — from 24/7, to ‘upon request’ — which, in turn, renters would be agreeing to ahead of time.

Hosts can also set their own pricing for the space rental, with Neighbor charging renters a 15% service fee on top of that to make its cut.

Hosts aren’t charged for listing their space on the platform. And while they are free to choose how much to charge for their space, Neighbor also says it’s using algorithmic pricing to recommend how much they charge — with the aim of keeping prices on the platform at half the cost of a traditional self-storage facility. So it sounds confident it can nudge hosts to set the kind of prices that will drive custom.

“When we saw what Neighbor was doing, we were blown away by the potential,” said Chad Packard, investor at Pelion Ventures, commenting on the funding in a statement. “The concept is simple and straightforward, the market potential is incredibly high, and the team is whip-smart. We knew really quickly that we wanted to work with them.”

So what are early Neighbor users using the service to store at this point? All sorts of stuff, according to the founders — although the biggest chunk of current business (~35%) involves big but moveable stuff: Boats, vehicles, trailers or RV’s.

Then they say another 25% is household goods; another 25% large furniture items; and the remaining 15% is “comprised principally of small business inventory”.

On the competitive front, the team names Spacer (based in Australia but with a US presence) and Stowit as US operating rivals with similar business models. Internationally, it lists the likes of Stashbee and Costockage but says that 80 percent of the global storage market is in the US — arguing that “no one has won that market yet”.

Source: TechCrunch

Hire by Google makes it easier to find the right job candidates

Hire by Google, the company’s service for recruiters and hiring managers, is getting a couple of new features today that’ll make it easier to find the right candidates among the pool of potential employees who previously applied to a position at a company.

The idea here is to make better use of a company’s existing candidate database, given that the candidates in it are clearly interested in working for the company, even if they weren’t necessarily a great fit for a previously open position.

“For every person hired, a company typically engages with 250 candidates,” Omar Eduardo Fernández, a product manager  on the Hire team, writes in today’s announcement. “Often, many of the 249 that don’t get hired are a great fit for future openings—but companies haven’t always had an easy way to identify past candidates that might be a good match for new jobs.”

To better mine this pool of past job applicants, the new so-called ‘candidate discovery” looks at the job description, title and location of a job ad and then matches that to a list of past candidates. As Google notes, Hire uses the company’s search smarts to better understand the recruiter’s intent. That means that the service can easily parse a job’s location, for example, even if it isn’t explicitly specified in a ‘location’ field but only part of the text.

While we’ve seen quite a few announcements around Google’s overall job search efforts in recent months, most of these focused on helping job searchers find potential positions. Now, it looks like Google is ready to put the focus back on Hire by Google (a.k.a. Google Hire, depending on who you ask), so I expect we’ll hear quite a bit more about the service in the near future.

Source: TechCrunch

Spoke looks to create a simpler workplace requests management tool

When Jay Srinivasan’s last company got acquired by Google, he and his co-founders were ready to get going right away — but they couldn’t figure out how to get ramped up or where things were.

That’s sometimes a refrain you’ll hear from employees of companies that are acquired, or any employees really, who suddenly have to get used to a new system of doing things. It can go all the way down to just getting a new laptop with the right software on it. And it’s a pain point that convinced Srinivasan and his co-founders Pratyus Patnaik and David Kaneda to start Spoke, a new tool for trying to solve those workplace management and request tickets — and finally getting your laptop ready so you can get to work. Spoke is launching for general availability to day, and the company says it has raised $28 million to date from investors like Accel, Greylock, and Felicis Ventures.

“Some internal ticketing systems you can use are searchable — as you imagine it finds all the answers, the problem is when you have all that many people you get 10,000 results,” Srinivasan said. “There’s too much to look at. In a larger company, the breaking point tends to be that there are probably a bunch of relevant answers, but there’s no way to find the needle in the haystack. So I really wanted to figure stuff out from scratch.”

With many companies switching to internal collaboration tools like Slack, the theory is that these kinds of requests should be made wherever the employee is. So part of Spoke is an actual bot that exists in Slack, looking to surface the right answers right away from a database of employee knowledge that’s built up over time. But Spoke’s aim, like many workplace tools that look to be simple, is to hide a lot of complex processes behind that chat window in terms of creating request tickets and other employee queries so they can pop in and pop out quickly enough.

The other side for Spoke is for the managers, which then need to handle all of these requests. Spoke converts all those requests made through Slack (and, theoretically, other platforms) and streams them into a feed of tickets which they can then tackle one-on-one. Rather than a complex interface, Spoke aims to create a simple array of buckets that managers can pop in and pop out in order to plow through those requests as quickly as possible. As Spoke gets more and more data about how those requests are initiated — and solved — it can over time get smarter about optimizing that ticketing flow.

“If I’m the IT manager, I don’t want you to have to log into a ticketing system,” Srinivasan said. “We allow you to make a request through Slack. You’re in slack and talk to Spoke and say, hey, I need a new laptop. I want you to stay in slack or teams. And a lot of time is spent on a specialized tool like a ticketing tool — it’s the same thing as a salesperson spending time in a CRM. Slack is a good way to get an input to that tool, but I still need a specialized standalone tool.”

You could consider Spoke as one interpretation of a couple of approaches to make data about the workplace more accessible. While Spoke is going after the bot-ish, come-to-me results route, there are others looking to create more of a centralized Wiki that’s easy to find and search. At the end of the day, both of these are trying to compress the amount of time it takes for employees to find answers to the information that they need, in addition to making it less frustrating. For the latter, there are some startups like Slab that have also raised venture financing.

For Spoke, the more challenging parts may actually come from the platforms where it lives. Slack, for example, is working on tools to make information much more searchable and accessible. It’s investing in tools to, for example, help users find the right person to ask a question in order to get information as fast as possible. As Slack — and other platforms — get more and more data, they can tune those tools themselves and potentially create something in-house that could be more robust. Srinivasan said the goal is to target the whole process of the workplace request in addition to just the search problem that he hopes will make Spoke something more defensible.

“You’re not looking for knowledge, you’re looking for services,” he said. “Let’s say I need a new laptop — by all means you can search Slack to get the answer of who you need to contact. But you still need to follow up and essentially create a request with them. Slack sometimes could solve the information access to knowledge access problem, but even then it doesn’t solve the service issue. Ticketing and request management consists of requests and responses with accountability. You have to make sure nothing falls through the cracks”

Source: TechCrunch

Siren raises $3.4 million for smart socks that track diabetic health

Siren, a startup that has develops fabric with embedded microsensors, has unveiled its product, a sock for people with diabetes. Siren also announced a $3.4 million investment from DCM, Khosla Ventures and Founders Fund.

Powered by its Neurofabric technology, the diabetic sock can monitor foot temperatures with the idea that those with diabetes will be able to detect potential foot injuries.

“What we do is we take proven technology and we put it inside of socks so people can use it easily,” Siren co-founder and CEO Ran Ma told me. “If you get injured and have diabetic nerve damage, it’s hard to feel pain. The pain can go unnoticed, become infected, turn into an ulcer and lead to an amputation.”

Each sock is fitted with six sensors, so 12 sensors for every pair of socks. They’re also machine-washable and don’t need to be charged.

Siren sells for $19.95 a month, which gets people an initial pack of five pairs of socks, access to fresh socks every six months and access to the Siren Hub for monitoring.

Since its conception, Siren has had a few versions of its socks. Over the years, Siren has fine-tuned its development process to more seamlessly integrate the technology into the socks. Last January, Siren Care won TechCrunch’s Hardware Battlefield at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Moving forward, the plan is to create additional products in the health space with this technology.

“It’s very easily scalable,” Ma said. “It’s the same process. You just switch out the component. We already know sensors and electronics are getting cheaper and smaller every single day. So we just take advantage of this trend. Most of this stuff is made for wearables but we’re hijacking it and putting it in your clothes. And we think that’s the best use case.”

Source: TechCrunch

Pandora takes on Spotify with dozens of personalized playlists built using its Music Genome

Just ahead of Spotify’s public debut planned for early April, Pandora is punching its rival where it hurts: personalized playlists. Spotify’s playlists customized to its individual users – like Discover Weekly, Release Radar and Daily Mix – have been a key draw for its service, but Pandora believes it can do even better. The company today is launching its own take on personalization with playlists built to fit users’ moods, activities, and genres, which are all powered by Pandora’s Music Genome.

The Music Genome is Pandora’s biggest asset in its battle with Spotify. This music information database has been in development for over a decade and is capable of classifying music at the song level across 450 different attributes – “genes” that can be as specific as what types of strings are on the guitar, for example.

The Music Genome already powers Pandora’s other personalization efforts, like its Thumbprint Radio, or the feature where it can automatically play similar music when you reach the end of a playlist you created. But it’s never yet been used to build specific playlists for Pandora users like this.

“We’ve been building out, for many years, a collection of well over 75 machine learning algorithms and techniques to help drive content discovery and delivery,” explains Chris Phillips, Pandora’s Chief Product Officer, of the personalization technology. “What we’re doing is what we believe is the bleeding edge of deep learning algorithms,” he says.

The new playlists are built using these various machine learning algorithms, combined with the raw audio analysis from the Music Genome, more traditional collaborative filtering methods, and in-house editorial curation.

At launch, Pandora is capable of creating over 60 personalized playlists – but that doesn’t mean users will log in and see 60 new playlists immediately.

Instead, Pandora will roll them out in response to users’ listening activity. For example, if you’re playing a lot of upbeat pop music, you may see a playlist appear called “Your Party Soundtrack.”

There are also playlists for things like chilling out, focusing, working out, and more, as well as those for various moods – like “happy” or “rainy days” – or favorite genres, like hip hop or pop. And Pandora plans to quickly expand the types of playlists it offers here, with new ones arriving for certain events or cultural activities – like the holidays – and others.

The playlists won’t contain just those tracks you explicitly liked – meaning those you thumbs’d up or added to a playlist of your own. They’ll also surprise you with tracks Pandora believes you’ll like, such as new releases, deep cuts from favorite bands, or other songs that fit well and make sense for you, as determined by Pandora’s algorithms and analysis.

“When we think about what the competition’s doing, they’re really putting more generic buckets of music together,” says Phillips, seemingly referencing Spotify’s personalized playlists. “And they have a generic name for the playlist, whereas I can go right in [to Pandora’s personalized playlists] and say, “oh this is mood I’m in,’ and it’s spot on.”

That’s not to say that other music services don’t have playlists available for users’ moods or activities – it’s just that they’re not personalized to the individual.

In addition, after using Spotify for some time, it can be hard to find the right selection of music you want to hear from its longer list of “Daily Mix” playlists, as it continues to create more mixes over time.

Pandora, on the other hand, is going after a more lean-back experience – something that ties into its radio roots, where it builds custom stations you like and continue to configure with a thumbs up or down. Spotify, meanwhile, has begun to overly rely on the power of its popular curated playlists – like Rap Caviar – to cement its importance in the world of music. (And Rap Caviar’s curator just left Spotify for YouTube.)

Spotify’s more recent launches, in terms of new personalized playlists, haven’t been as innovative as Discover Weekly. It has since rolled out fun – but not as useful – playlists like those that look back on your summer fun, and one with nostalgic tracks from your youth.

Pandora’s new playlists will start rolling out today to Pandora’s Premium subscribers. That’s the top tier of Pandora’s paid offerings, and Pandora’s equivalent to Spotify or Apple Music. If a playlist is created for you, it will appear in the “Browse” section under “Featured Playlists” in the Pandora mobile app.

Once live, the playlists will be updated weekly to keep them fresh – so if you want to save a playlist in full, you’ll need to duplicate it to your own collection.

You can also share the playlist with friends, including free users, through Pandora’s newer “Access” feature.

This offers Pandora users a way to temporarily access Premium by watching a video ad first. It’s a way to test drive the Premium product without paying, then transition back to the free radio service after your session. The feature was launched in December, and has since been used by “millions,” Phillips says.

The addition of personalized playlists could help Pandora give its subscription business a jump at a time when it’s starting to see some growth. The company reported in Q4 a 25 percent year-over-year increase in subscribers, which now number 5.48 million. In total, Pandora counted 74.7 million active users in the quarter.

That still puts it behind Spotify, which claims 157 million active users, 71 million of whom are paying customers. And Spotify said it’s projecting as many as 96 million subscribers by year-end 2018. Apple Music, meanwhile, is well ahead of Pandora in terms of paying customers too, with 38 million subscribers. Even Amazon has a stake in this market, with 16 million (estimated) subscribers.

Pandora says a certain percentage of its Premium users will start seeing personalized playlists appear as soon as today.


Source: TechCrunch