Category: artificial intelligence

June 5, 2019 Off

Microsoft and Oracle link up their clouds

By Jill T Frey

Microsoft and Oracle announced a new alliance today that will see the two companies directly connect their clouds over a direct network connection so that their users can then move workloads and data seamlessly between the two. This alliance goes a bit beyond just basic direct connectivity and also includes identity interoperability.

This kind of alliance is relatively unusual between what are essentially competing clouds, but while Oracle wants to be seen as a major player in this space, it also realizes that it isn’t likely to get to the size of an AWS, Azure or Google Cloud anytime soon. For Oracle, this alliance means that its users can run services like the Oracle E-Business Suite and Oracle JD Edwards on Azure while still using an Oracle database in the Oracle cloud, for example. With that, Microsoft still gets to run the workloads and Oracle gets to do what it … Read the rest

June 3, 2019 Off

Fitness startup Mirror nears $300M valuation with fresh funding

By Jill T Frey

Today, Peloton is a bonafide success. The company, which sells $2,245 internet-connected exercise bikes, boasts a $4 billion valuation and a cult following.

That hasn’t always been the case. For years, Peloton battled for venture capital investment and struggled to attract buyers. Now that it’s proven the market for tech-enabled home exercise equipment and affiliated subscription products, a whole bunch of startups are chasing down the same customer segment.

Mirror, a New York-based company that sells $1,495 full-length mirrors that double as interactive home gyms, is closing in a round of funding expected to reach $36 million, sources and Delaware stock filings confirm, at a valuation just under $300 million. It’s unclear who has signed on to lead the round; we’ve heard a number of high-profile firms looked at Mirror’s books and passed. The company has previously raised a total of $38 million from Spark Capital, First Round Capital, Lerer … Read the rest

June 3, 2019 Off

Twitter bags deep learning talent behind London startup, Fabula AI

By Jill T Frey

Twitter has just announced it has picked up London-based Fabula AI. The deep learning startup has been developing technology to try to identify online disinformation by looking at patterns in how fake stuff vs genuine news spreads online — making it an obvious fit for the rumor-riled social network.

Social media giants remain under increasing political pressure to get a handle on online disinformation to ensure that manipulative messages don’t, for example, get a free pass to fiddle with democratic processes.

Twitter says the acquisition of Fabula will help it build out its internal machine learning capabilities — writing that the UK startup’s “world-class team of machine learning researchers” will feed an internal research group it’s building out, led by Sandeep Pandey, its head of ML/AI engineering.

This research group will focus … Read the rest

May 31, 2019 Off

Teams autonomously mapping the depths take home millions in Ocean Discovery Xprize

By Jill T Frey

There’s a whole lot of ocean on this planet, and we don’t have much of an idea what’s at the bottom of most of it. That could change with the craft and techniques created during the Ocean Discovery Xprize, which had teams competing to map the sea floor quickly, precisely and autonomously. The winner just took home $4 million.

A map of the ocean would be valuable in and of itself, of course, but any technology used to do so could be applied in many other ways, and who knows what potential biological or medical discoveries hide in some nook or cranny a few thousand fathoms below the surface?

The prize, sponsored by Shell, started back in 2015. The goal was, ultimately, to create a system that could map hundreds of square kilometers of the sea floor at a five-meter resolution in less than a day — oh, … Read the rest

May 31, 2019 Off

Facial recognition startup Kairos settles lawsuits with founder and former CEO Brian Brackeen

By Jill T Frey

Facial recognition startup Kairos, founded by Brian Brackeen, has settled its lawsuit with Brackeen following his ouster from the company late last year. In addition to forcing him out of the company he founded, Kairos sued Brackeen, alleging the misappropriation of corporate funds and misleading shareholders. In response, Brackeen countersued Kairos, alleging the company and its CEO Melissa Doval intentionally destroyed his reputation through fraudulent conduct.

Now, both Kairos and Brackeen are ready to put this all behind them. Both parties have dropped their respective lawsuits and reached a settlement, which entails continuing to recognize Brackeen as the founder of Kairos.

“We are pleased to be putting this episode behind us, and the opportunity to keep the business focused on growth,” Doval said in a press release. “We thank Mr. Brackeen for working towards a resolution, and wish him the best for his future endeavors.”

Brackeen tells TechCrunch he’s … Read the rest

May 31, 2019 Off

Diving deep into Africa’s blossoming tech scene

By Jill T Frey

Jumia may be the first startup you’ve heard of from Africa. But the e-commerce venture that recently listed on the NYSE is definitely not the first or last word in African tech.

The continent has an expansive digital innovation scene, the components of which are intersecting rapidly across Africa’s 54 countries and 1.2 billion people.

When measured by monetary values, Africa’s tech ecosystem is tiny by Shenzen or Silicon Valley standards.

But when you look at volumes and year over year expansion in VC, startup formation, and tech hubs, it’s one of the fastest growing tech markets in the world. In 2017, the continent also saw the largest global increase in internet users—20 percent.

If you’re a VC or founder in London, Bangalore, or San Francisco, you’ll likely interact with some part of Africa’s tech landscape for the first time—or more—in the near future.

That’s why TechCrunch put together … Read the rest

May 30, 2019 Off

Audi works with Fleetonomy to monitor and manage fleet utilization for its on-demand program

By Jill T Frey

Audi just completed a trial with Israeli company Fleetonomy as part of a potential wider rollout of the Israeli company’s fleet monitoring and management services designed to improve utilization.

Using Fleetonomy’s tools that provide predictive analytics of fleet utilization, Audi was able to improve the overall efficiency and utilization of its on-demand services.

“Audi has always aspired to provide a great experience by advancing through innovation and technology. By taking an innovative multi-service approach, Fleetonomy’s platform showed great success in improving fleet efficiency while simultaneously reducing costs associated with utilization and operation according to fleet constraints,” said Nils Noack, Mobility Strategy, Audi Business Innovation GmbH. “We’re looking forward to exploring further the opportunity to leverage Fleetonomy’s AI-based fleet management platforms and to pushing Audi’s vision of innovative mobility services.”

Car companies around the world are rolling out on-demand or rental programs for their fleets as a way to replace traditional … Read the rest

May 30, 2019 Off

OpenAI’s Sam Altman and Greg Brockman will tell Disrupt about tomorrow’s jobs

By Jill T Frey

OpenAI’s co-founders Greg Brockman and Sam Altman aren’t afraid of Terminator robots. At TechCrunch Disrupt SF in October, they’ll tell our audience why it’s the more subtle repercussions of artificial general intelligence like its impact on employment, cyberwarfare, and concentration of power that shake the duo.

But the epic potential for the technology to generate widescale abundance for humanity led Altman to leave his gig as the head of iconic accelerator Y Combinator to become CEO of OpenAI.

“I really do believe that the work we’re doing at OpenAI…will not only far eclipse the work I did at YC but the work that anyone in the tech industry does,” Altman said recently.

Brockman and Altman will join us on stage at Disrupt to talk about why they’re building potentially the most lucrative startup of all time, yet plan to cap returns for investors at 100X and donate the … Read the rest

May 30, 2019 Off

Machine learning startup Weights & Biases raises $15M

By Jill T Frey

Weights & Biases, a startup building development tools for machine learning, has raised $15 million in its second round of funding.

The company was started by CrowdFlower founders Lukas Biewald and Chris van Pelt, along with former Google engineer Shawn Lewis. (Under its new name Figure Eight, CrowdFlower was acquired by Appen for up to $300 million in March.)

When Weights & Biases launched last year, Biewald (who I’ve known since college) said he wanted to create the tools needed to “build and deploy great deep learning models.” Its initial product allows companies to monitor those models as they develop and train them.

“When people build machine learning models they need to track everything that happens — the code that went into the model, the hyperparameters that go into the model and then basically how well the model does,” Biewald told me this week. “You add a couple … Read the rest

May 29, 2019 Off

This robot learns its two-handed moves from human dexterity

By Jill T Frey

If robots are really to help us out around the house or care for our injured and elderly, they’re going to want two hands… at least. But using two hands is harder than we make it look — so this robotic control system learns from humans before attempting to do the same.

The idea behind the research, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, isn’t to build a two-handed robot from scratch, but simply to create a system that understands and executes the same type of manipulations that we humans do without thinking about them.

For instance, when you need to open a jar, you grip it with one hand and move it into position, then tighten that grip as the other hand takes hold of the lid and twists or pops it off. There’s so much going on in this elementary two-handed action that it would be hopeless to ask a … Read the rest