Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘artificial intelligence’ Category

Good Grammar

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An update on the HKMap live app that Hong Kongers were using to keep abreast of protests in the semiautonomous city. Apple has now removed that app from its App Store just days after approving it.

This after the People’s Daily published an editorial hat accused Apple of aiding “rioters” in HK, according to a report in the NY Times. “Letting poisonous software have its way is a betrayal of the Chinese people’s feelings,” said the editorial.

Apple’s response: “…This app violates our guidelines and local laws.”

The Times: “With its reversal, Apple joins a growing list of corporations that are trying to navigate the fraught political situation between China and Hong Kong, where antigovernment protests have unfolded for months.”

Uh, more like a minefield.

Today’s funding feature: Grammarly, the nifty AI tool that currently helps 20M+ correct their written grammar, has raised an additional $90M round that brings its total to $200M and a valuation of $1B.

Grammarly is currently available via a number of web browsers and in Microsoft Word. The company will use this investment to suppor more platforms and focus more on the enterprise.

I look forward to leveraging Grammarly to address the elephant in the room and to do a deep dive..now, let’s take this offline!

Written by turbotodd

October 10, 2019 at 10:31 am

Diablo Winds

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Buenos dias.

The “diablo” winds have pushed CA’s Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to an unprecedented power shut-off that will affect up to 600K customers.

Those dry, warm winds can reach speeds upwards of 70 MPH, especially coming down mountain slopes,. P&E is playing offense by shutting the power down to try and avert any fire catastrophes like those witnessed in Paradise, CA last year.

Stay safe, my western amigos.

Meanwhile, Wired is reporting on a braindrain of astrophysicists leaving academia to work in the data science realm (particularly in machine learning). The lure? Job security, no tenure-track bottlenecks, money, and interesting work.

More interesting than studying the cosmos?! Apparently, as studying human beings can be just as complex and complicated as the heavens.

Back here at home on our little blue marble, right here in Austin, Austin AI startup SparkCognition has raised $100M in a Series C led by March Capital Partners, making that a total of $175M.

SparkCognition focuses on AI for specific industries, including oil and gas, defense, utilities, aviation, and financial services, and recently partnered with Boeing to form SkyGrid, a joint venture focused on unmanned aircraft system traffic management.

#whyaustin

Written by turbotodd

October 9, 2019 at 9:59 am

Big Builds, Bigger Dogs

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Yesterday it was AI and agriculture, today it’s AI and construction. Built Robotics is a company looking to make construction equipment autonomous and has raised a $33M Series B round. Recognizing that the industry is facing a labor shortage, Built is building systems that would allow one equipment operator to oversee a fleet of vehicles working autonomously in parallel. 

But there’s plenty more VC money sloshing around where that came from…Wordpress parent Automattic raised $300M in a Series D round from Salesforce Ventures, valuing the company at $3B. Thirty-four percent of the world’s top 10 million websites now run on WordPress. No word yet if that means everyone at the company gets an “automattic” raise! 

There’s also more consolidation on the developer tooling front with GitHub’s acquisition of code analysis tool Semmle. Semmle streamlines security testing and offers developers a query languages to allow researchers to more easily test their code. No price on the deal, but Semmle was born from Oxford just last year and had raised a $21M Series B round led by Accel.

And app performance monitoring firm Datadog raised $648M in its U.S. IPO, valuing the company at $7.83B. Datadog had previously declined a buyout offer from Cisco.

Written by turbotodd

September 19, 2019 at 9:45 am

Retail Therapy

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The retail industry makeover continues.

According to various reports, clothing retailer Forever 21, Inc. may or may not file for Chapter 1 bankruptcy protection as early as Sunday. And according to a WSJ report could close some 700 of its stores in any case.

Yet another online retail outfit, Shopify, has acquired another e-commerce automation startup, 6 River Systems, for some $450M.

6 River System uses its Chuck autonomous vehicles that can move packages around warehouses, and according to VentureBeat, believes those robots can increase the speed and reliability of its warehouse operations “by empowering on-site associates with daily tasks, including inventory replenishment, picking, sorting, and packing.”

Considering the tight labor market, these AI and automation deals I’ve recently written about make a lot of sense. If companies can’t find employees to take those jobs, they hire robots and increase automation. But what happens in a down labor market?

See a recent report published by IBM’s Institute for Business Value: As many as 120M workers from the world’s largest economies may need to be retrained as a result of AI and automation. Summary of that post here. 

Written by turbotodd

September 13, 2019 at 12:13 pm

Closing the Widening Skills Gap

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IBM’s Institute for Business Value released a study on Friday focused on the impact of AI on the workplace.

The study revealed over the next three years, as many as 120 million workers from the world’s largest economies may need to be retrained because of AI advances and intelligent automation.

But less than half of CEOs surveyed said they had the resources needed to close the skills gap brought on by these new technologies. And the time it takes to close a skills gap through training has increased by more than 10X in just four years.

The study also revealed that new skills requirements are quickly emerging, while others are becoming obsolete. In 2018, the two top skills were behavioral: A willingness to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change, and time management skills and ability to prioritize.

How to close the gap? The core recommendation is to take a more holistic approach by focusing on reskilling our workforce through development that’s multi-modal, personalized to the individual and built on data, learning journeys that are delivered through “experiential learning.”

You can read a summary of the research here.

Written by turbotodd

September 9, 2019 at 3:52 pm

AI Time

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Happy Monday. Reminder that tomorrow’s the big autumn Apple launch event. Keynote starts at 10 a.m. PDT tomorrow and is expected to introduce a range of new products, as well as release info for the company’s various OSes. Oh, and expect a launch date for the Apple Arcade.

Meanwhile, if you’re an AI professor, life has never been so good. A U of Rochester study was conducted that found 153 AI professors in N. American universities left their posts for industry over the past 15 years, with an additional 68 working there while retaining part-time professorial duties.

This has led to graduating students being less likely to build new AI companies, and when they did, attracting smaller amounts of funding. The study argues this AI brain drain could hamper innovation and growth across the economy. Who else is going to teach those self-driving cars to rear-end unsuspecting human drivers??!

A NY Times opinion piece suggests there are larger problems looming on the AI front…namely, that current AI systems don’t grasp basic concepts like time, space and causality. Example they use, via a simple Google search: “Did George Washington own a computer?” None of Google’s first 10 search results gave the correct answer.

I guess asking about the cherry tree is a non starter.

Written by turbotodd

September 9, 2019 at 9:54 am

Deepfake Left On One!

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If you’re concerned about deepfakes, fear not: Facebook, Microsoft, the Partnership on AI coalition, and academics from seven universities have launched a contest to find better ways of identifying deepfakes.

Participants in the Deepface Detection Challenge will be given access to a collection of deepfake videos that Facebook plans to release in December, and will feature professional actors who consented to having their faces used in deepfakes (in other words, out of work actors).

From Facebook’s AI Blog: “‘Deepfake’ techniques, which present realistic AI-generated videos of real people doing and saying fictional things, have significant implications for determining the legitimacy of information presented online. Yet the industry doesn’t have a great data set or benchmark for detecting them.”

“…The goal of the challenge is to produce technology that everyone can use to better detect when AI has been used to alter a video in order to mislead the viewer. The Deepfake Detection Challenge will include a data set and leaderboard, as well as grants and awards, to spur the industry to create new ways of detecting and preventing media manipulated via AI from being used to mislead others.”

Written by turbotodd

September 6, 2019 at 10:05 am

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