Turbotodd

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

Posts Tagged ‘AI

New (Google Ad) Rules

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Google is jumping on the political advertising guard rail bandwagon, announcing new limits on its microtargeting to age, gender, and general location (zip code). Google will also continue to allow retargeting based on content of website visits.

They will no longer allow ads to be directed to specific audiences based on public voting records or political affiliations (“left-leaning,” “right-leaning,” etc.)

The policies will impact both Google search results, on YouTube, and via the Google Content Network which displays ads on other sites.

The move left many politicos stunned, for in past campaigns they have leaned mightily on microtargeting specific sets of voters, an efficiency that makes many grassroots campaigns financially feasible.

Also on the GOOG front…remember Google Duplex, the creepy-crawly AI that would sound like a human and call to make your hair appointments? Well, Duplex is now officially moving beyond the confines of voice ops and launching as “Google Assistant in Chrome” as a streamlined workflow to help you buy movie tickets.

Next up: Streamlining the process of renting a car. And then?…maybe using Google Duplex to more easily buy political search ads from Google??!

Written by turbotodd

November 21, 2019 at 10:32 am

Making Copies

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Happy Monday.

Only 10 days to Turkey Day. Get ready to gobble gobble.

I’ll tell you who’s not making copies. That would be HP, the board of which rejected Xerox’s acquisition bid over the weekend claiming the $22/share bid undervalued HP and was not in the best interest of shareholders.

Operators of Yahoo sites in Japan and the Line chat app have reached agreement on a merger, one where SoftBank Group and SK internet firm Naver will form a joint holding company. The new entity is expected to become the largest internet player in Japan.

On the funding front: AI-driven news app SmartNews has raised a $92M round at a valuation of $1.2B. The app is said to use machine learning (rather than human curation) to generate personalized news experiences.

The company is focused initially on Japan and the U.S. as key markets.

Self-driving startup Wayve has raised $20M in a Series A to help teach cars to drive autonomously using reinforcement learning, simulation, and computer vision.

Wayve is looking to improve AI through simulation and knowledge transfer to the real world, rather than “hand-coded” rules. It plans to launch a pilot fleet of autonomous Jaguar I-Pace cars in Central London which will include, for now, safety drivers. 

Written by turbotodd

November 18, 2019 at 10:53 am

Streaming to the Max

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Details are emerging on HBO Max, HBO’s new live streaming service.

It’s $15/month (U.S.), which is what existing HBO costs…but AT&T is planning to bundle free subscriptions for some customers of its other services.

Compare that to Apple’s $5/month and Disney’s $7/month (Netflix comes in between $9 and $16/month, depending on what flavor you get).

On the subject of money, Sony announced a Q2 operating profit of $2.56B, jumping 16% on its 102.8M total unit sales of the PlayStation 4 (now larger than the original PlayStation).

Funding Rounds: Duality, which makes privacy-preserving data analysis tools w/ homomorphic encryption, raised $16M in a Series A led by Intel Capital. And Quill raised a $2M seed and $12.5M Series A for its messaging product and Slack competitor.

At today’s TensorFlow World conference in Santa Cruz, Google launched TensorFlow Enterprise, an “optimized” version of its open source machine learning framework for large businesses.

Tonight: It’s the Houston Astros vs. the Washington Nationals in a winner-take-all game 7. On the mound, Zack Greinke for Houston & Max Scherzer for Washington. It’s hard to believe it came down to a game 7, but that’s late October for ya!

Play ball!

Written by turbotodd

October 30, 2019 at 2:29 pm

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

FarmBots

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If you thought automation was limited to e-commerce warehouses and factory floors, think again. TechCrunch is reporting that a number of robotics and autonomy firms are looking next to agriculture.

From farm to C3P0 to table.

According to a report from TechCrunch, Ag robotics firm FarmWise just raised $14.5M to continue development of an autonomous weeding vehicle.

Though they are currently prototypes, the large machines scan the ground for invasive weeds among crops and carefully pluck them out. 

From the company’s press release on the fund raise: “FarmWise’s autonomous, AI-enabled robots are designed to solve farmers’ most pressing challenges by performing a variety of farming functions — starting with weeding, and providing personalized care to every plant they touch.”

The company suggests that machine learning models, computer vision and high-precision mechanical tools will allow sophisticated robots to cleanly pick weeds from fields, leaving crops with the best opportunity to thrive while eliminating harmful chemical inputs.

FarmWise is supported by a team of 25 farming and AI experts from MIT, Stanford, and Columbia. 

Written by turbotodd

September 18, 2019 at 10:05 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

Shelf Life

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On Tuesday California legislators passed AB5, a landmark bill that requires companies like Uber and Lyft to treat contract workers as employees. Workers must be designated as employees if a company exerts control over how they perform their tasks or if their work is part of a company’s regular business.

Expect Uber and Lyft’s autonomous vehicle efforts to speed up (as well as their lobbying efforts to gain an exception for its drivers to remain contractors). All those pesky humans, demanding rights like fair wages and health insurance!

On the subject of robots, Simbe Robotics has raised $26 million for autonomous inventory robots to inventory grocery shelves. A VentureBeat story indicates the brick-and-mortar automation market will be worth $18.9B by 2023.

Simbe’s robot, Tally, drives around a space to create a store map and then uses computer vision to “see” what products aren’t on a shelf and identify any missing facings, using RFID for its inventory counts.

VentureBeat reports a single robot can scan 15K to 30K products per hour, compared to the 10K-20K an average human employee can do in 20 to 30 hours. Human, 10-20K, 20-30 hours, Tally, 15K-30K per hour.

Humans will still do the restocking…for now. 

We’ll see how long their shelf life is.

Written by turbotodd

September 12, 2019 at 10:10 am

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