Priscilla Chan to discuss Chan Zuckerberg Initiative at Disrupt SF

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is one of the biggest philanthropic organizations in the world, and the most technology-forward foundations in history. By integrating technology, CZI believes it can affect social change at a much more rapid pace than by simply infusing initiatives with cash. With that said, we’re absolutely thrilled to have Priscilla Chan join us on the Disrupt SF stage in September. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in 2015 upon the birth of Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s first daughter Max. The $45 billion organization first launched with a focus on personalized education, and has moved into the areas of justice and science since then. The overall goal of the education initiative at CZI is to ensure that all children are able to realize their full potential by the age of 21, including the ability to earn a living wage, achieve independence, and identify and pursue their passions.
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Fb Messenger auto-translation chips at US/Mexico language wall

Facebook’s been criticized for tearing America apart, but now it will try to help us forge bonds with our neighbors to the south. Facebook Messenger will now offer optional auto-translation of English to Spanish and vice-versa for all users in the United States and Mexico. It’s a timely launch given the family separation troubles at the nations’ border. The feature could facilitate cross-border and cross-language friendships, business, and discussion that might show people in the two countries that deep down we’re all just human. It could be especially powerful for US companies looking to use Messenger for conversational commerce without having to self-translate everything. Facebook tells me “we were pleased with the results” following a test using AI to translate the language pair in Messenger for US Facebook Marketplace users in April. Now when users receive a message that is different from their default language, Messenger’s AI assistant M will
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Microsoft and Nintendo release Minecraft trailer focused on cross-play

In the world of gaming, cross-compatibility between platforms has always bene a bit of a white whale. While most players hope for it, console makers and game publishers haven’t always been so willing. Until recently. Microsoft, Nintendo and PC game makers have started making games more cross-compatible. Most notably, the companies have made Fortnite Battle Royale, the biggest game of the year, cross-compatible on the Switch, Xbox, iOS, and PC. Yes, there is a big name missing from that list. Sony has yet to budge, forcing PS4 players inside of a walled garden. Obviously, players have been outraged. But today, Microsoft and Nintendo are seemingly putting salt in the wound with a new trailer for Minecraft. Rather than focusing on the game, the trailer’s entire thesis is centered around the fact that it offers cross-play between Xbox and the Switch. In the video, you can see a Switch player
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States will be able to charge sales tax on online purchases thanks to the Supreme Court

In a five-to-four decision issued today, the Supreme Court ruled that states can make online businesses collect sales taxes — even if they don’t have a physical presence in that state. Today’s ruling overturns a decision from the Court in 1992 that paved the way for the explosion of online retail in the United States.

At issue was the Quill Corp. v. North Dakota decision, which ruled that companies need to have at least some physical connection with a state for that state can require that company to pay taxes. Today’s ruling caused publicly traded e-commerce companies share prices to tumble, with Shopify, Etsy, Amazon, eBay, Alibaba all recording losses in midday trading on their respective U.S. exchanges. It’s a huge win for vendors with physical storefronts which have long argued that

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Google adds a search feature to account settings to ease use

Google has announced a refresh of the Google Accounts user interface. The changes are intended to make it easier for users to navigate settings and review data the company has associated with an account — including information relating to devices, payment methods, purchases, subscriptions, reservations, contacts and other personal info. The update also makes security and privacy options more prominent, according to Google. “To help you better understand and take control of your Google Account, we’ve made all your privacy options easy to review with our new intuitive, user-tested design,” it writes. “You can now more easily find your Activity controls in the Data & Personalization tab and choose what types of activity data are saved in your account to make Google work better for you. “There, you’ll also find the recently updated Privacy Checkup that helps you review your privacy settings and explains how they shape your experience across
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Bag Week 2018: The Nomadic NF-02 keeps everything in its right place

Nomadic, a Japanese brand sold by JetPens in the US, makes some of my favorite bags and backpacks . The Wise Walker Toto was an amazing little bag and I’ve always enjoyed the size, materials, and design. The $89 Nomadic NF-02 is no different. The best thing about this 15×7 inch backpack is the compact size and internal pouches. The Nomadic can hold multiple pens, notebooks, and accessories, all stuck in their own little cubbies, and you can fit a laptop and a few books in the main compartment. This is, to be clear, not a “school” backpack. It’s quite compact and I doubt it would be very comfortable with a much more than a pair of textbooks and a heavier laptop. It’s definitely a great travel sack, however, and excellent for the trip from home to the office. The bag comes in a few colors including turquoise and navy and
bag week 2018
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Zume adds a robotic arm to its automated pizza kitchen

Earlier this year, Zume made it pretty clear that it was exploring life beyond pizza. Coffee, steamed buns and frozen yogurt have all been floated as possibilities for the newly formed Zume Inc. Of course, for its subsidiary Zume Pizza, the titular foodstuff is very much its bread and butter.

In fact, the company’s increasing the number of in-kitchen robots its implementing, with the addition of an arm into the mix. The ABB robotic arm, nicknamed “Vincenzo,” pulls pizzas from the 800-degree robotic oven and places them on nearby shelves, filling an entire rack in around four and a half minutes. Zume cites a stat from Cintas that blames restaurant gigs for as much as one-third of occupational burns. So, better robot arms than human. 

The company also used the occasion to announce another, more human, addition to the team. Rhonda Lesinski-Woolf will be joining up as president

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Google Assistant’s ‘Continued Conversation’ feature is now live

Google I/O was awash with Assistant news, but Duplex mystery aside, Continued Conversation was easily one of the most compelling announcements of the bunch. The feature is an attempt to bring more naturalized conversation to the AI — a kind of holy grail with these sorts of smart assistants.

Continued Conversation is rolling out to Assistant today for users in the U.S. with a Home, Home Mini and Home Max. The optional setting is designed to offer a more natural dialogue, so users don’t have to “Hey Google” Assistant every time they have a request. Google offers the following example in a blog post that just went up,

So next time you wake up and the skies are grey, just ask “Hey Google, what’s the weather today?”… “And what about tomorrow?”… “Can you add a rain jacket to my shopping list”… “And remind me to bring an

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Bag Week 2018: WP Standard’s Rucksack goes the distance

WP Standard – formerly called Whipping Post Leather – makes rugged leather bags, totes, and briefcases and their Rucksack is one of my favorites. Designed to look like something a Pony Express rider would slip on for a visit to town, this $275 is sturdy, handsome, and ages surprisingly well. There are some trade-offs, however. Except for two small front pouches there are no hidden nooks and crannies in this spare 15×15 inch sack. The main compartment can fit a laptop and a few notebooks and the front pouches can hold accessories like mice or a little collection of plugs. There is no fancy nylon mesh or gear organizers here, just a brown expanse of full grain leather. I wore this backpack for a few months before writing this and found it surprisingly comfortable and great for travel. Because it is so simple I forced myself to pare down my
bag week 2018
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Facebook expands fact-checking program, adopts new technology for fighting fake news

Facebook this morning announced an expansion of its fact-checking program and other actions it’s taking to combat the scourge of fake news on its social network. The company, which was found to be compromised by Russian trolls whose disinformation campaigns around the November 2016 presidential election reached 150 million Americans, has been increasing its efforts at fact-checking news through a combination of technology and human review in the months since. The company began fact-checking news on its site last spring, with help from independent third-party fact-checkers certified through the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network. These fact checkers rate the accuracy of the story, allowing Facebook to take action on those rated false by lowering them in the News Feed, and reduced the distribution of those Pages that are repeat offenders. Today, Facebook says it has expanded this program to 14 countries around the world, and plans to roll it out to
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Inside Atari’s rise and fall

By the first few months of 1982, it had become more common to see electronics stores, toy stores, and discount variety stops selling 2600 games. This was before Electronics Boutique, Software Etc., and later, GameStop . Mostly you bought games at stores that sold other electronic products, like Sears or Consumer Distributors. Toys ’R’ Us was a big seller of 2600 games. To buy one, you had to get a piece of paper from the Atari aisle, bring it to the cashier, pay for it, and then wait at a pickup window behind the cash register lanes. Everyone had a favorite store in their childhood; here’s a story about one of mine. A popular “destination” in south Brooklyn is Kings Plaza, a giant (for Brooklyn) two-story indoor mall with about 100 stores. My mother and grandmother
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Urban Airship raises another $25M

Urban Airship has raised $25 million in Series F funding. The company started out as a platform supporting push notifications, but has since expanded to include other marketing channels like email, SMS, mobile wallets and voice assistants. The goal is to be the platform managing messaging and unifying customer data across all these channels. Altogether, Urban Airship said it’s now delivered more than two trillion messages, doubling the number from a year ago. Recent product additions include voice notifications on Amazon Alexa (which is still in beta testing) and automated in-app messaging. The company has signed up new enterprise customers like AMC, Harley Davidson and Sonos. This funding was led by Foundry Group (which previously led the company’s Series B), with participation from True Ventures, August Capital, Intel Capital, Verizon Ventures, QuestMark Partners and Franklin Park Associates. Brett Caine, who joined as CEO in 2014, said Urban Airship
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AT&T launches a low-cost live TV streaming service, WatchTV

AT&T this morning announced the launch of a second TV streaming service, called WatchTV, days after its merger with Time Warner. The lower-cost alternative to AT&T’s DirecTV Now will offer anyone the ability to join WatchTV for only $15 per month, but the service will also be bundled into AT&T wireless plans. This $15 per month price point undercuts newcomer Philo, which in November had introduced the cheapest over-the-top TV service at just $16 per month. With WatchTV, customers gain access to over 30 live TV channels from top cable networks including A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, CNN, Discovery, Food Network, Hallmark, HGTV, History, IFC, Lifetime, Sundance TV, TBS, TLC, TNT, VICELAND, and several others. (Full list below). Shortly after launch, it will add BET, Comedy Central, MTV2, Nicktoons, Teen Nick, and VH1. There are also over 15,000 TV shows and movies on demand, along with premium channels and music streaming
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Taste test: Burger robot startup Creator opens first restaurant

Creator’s transparent burger robot doesn’t grind your brisket and chuck steak into a gourmet patty until you order it. That’s just one way this startup, formerly known as Momentum Machines, wants to serve the world’s freshest cheesebuger for just $6. On June 27th, after 8 years in development, Creator opens its first robot restaurant. We got a sneak peek…err…taste. When I ask how a startup launching one eatery at a time could become a $10 billion company, Creator co-founder and CEO Alex Vardakostas looks me dead in the eye and says “the market is much bigger than that.” Here’s how Creator’s burger-cooking bot works at its 680 Folsom St location in San Francisco. Once you order your burger style through a human concierge on a tablet, a compressed air tube pushes a baked-that-day bun into an elevator on the right. It’s sawwed in half by a vibrating knife before being
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Intel’s CEO resigns as information about a ‘past consensual relationship’ surfaces

In a press release touting “another record year,” Intel dropped a a bombshell, announcing that CEO Brian Krzanich is resigning, amid revelations of a “past consensual relationship” with an employee.

“Intel was recently informed that Mr. Krzanich had a past consensual relationship with an Intel employee,” the company notes in the release. “An ongoing investigation by internal and external counsel has confirmed a violation of Intel’s non-fraternization policy, which applies to all managers. Given the expectation that all employees will respect Intel’s values and adhere to the company’s code of conduct, the Board has accepted Mr. Krzanich’s resignation.”

Krzanich is stepping down from both the chief executive position and the company’s board of directors half a decade after being appointed to the role. CFO Robert Swan has been named the company’s interim CEO in his stead. Swan has been in the CFO role since late-2016, having previous held the

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Uber drivers made more than $600 million in tips in one year

Since finally launching in-app tipping for drivers last year, Uber has facilitated more than $600 million worth of payments in tips to its drivers. In August, Uber hit $50 million in tips. Since introducing mid-trip ratings and tips in May, there has been a 30 percent increase in tipping, Uber product manager Dhruv Tyagi wrote in a blog post. In April, Lyft announced drivers hit $500 million in tips since its launch, with tip averages increasing by nearly 8 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. Lyft, of course, is not available in nearly as many markets as Uber. Lyft only operates in the U.S. and Canada, while Uber operates in the U.S., Canada, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. So, more continents and cities means more opportunities for tipping. Uber drivers
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Twitter acquires anti-abuse technology provider Smyte

Twitter this morning announced it has agreed to buy San Francisco-based technology company Smyte, which describes itself as “trust and safety as a service.” Founded in 2014 by former Google and Instagram engineers, Smyte offers tools to stop online abuse, harassment, and spam, and protect user accounts. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but this is Twitter’s first acquisition since buying consumer mobile startup Yes, Inc. back in December 2016 Online harassment has been of particular concern to Twitter in recent months, as the level of online discourse across the web has become increasingly hate-filled and abusive. The company has attempted to combat this problem with new policies focused on the reduction of hate speech, violent threats, and harassment on its platform, but it’s fair to say that problem is nowhere near solved. As anyone who uses Twitter will tell you, the site continues to be filled with
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China’s VIPKID, which links native English speakers with online learners, raises another $500M, reportedly at $3B+ valuation

The online language school market is continuing to heat up, and a startup that connects native English speakers with an audience of students spanning China and 35 other countries for live language tutorials, is helping fan those flames. VIPKID, based out of Beijing, today announced that it has raised $500 million in funding — a Series D+ round that potentially values the startup at over $3 billion, based on reports in April when it was still raising the money. (We’ve reached out to the company to see if we can get more detail on that front.) This latest growth round was led by a group of investors that include both strategic and financial players: Coatue Management, Tencent, Sequoia Capital and Yunfeng Capital — Alibaba chief Jack Ma’s investment company — were all co-leads on the deal. For some context on that valuation and how it has soared in the
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Lydia now supports Samsung Pay

While French banks are just catching up to Apple Pay, French startup Lydia is adding support for Samsung Pay. If you have a recent Samsung phone, you can now add a virtual card to Samsung Pay and pay using your phone in your favorite stores. Lydia started as a peer-to-peer payment app. It works more or less like Venmo or Square Cash in the U.S. After signing up, you can add a debit card to your account and send and receive money for free. You can withdraw your balance to a traditional bank account whenever you want. The company has been adding more features to turn Lydia into the only banking app you need. You can now connect Lydia to your bank accounts, view your balances, get an IBAN, initiate transfers, create Lydia sub-accounts with multiple people and get a physical MasterCard. Some features are now part of a
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Managing risk in machine learning models

The O’Reilly Data Show Podcast: Andrew Burt and Steven Touw on how companies can manage models they cannot fully explain. In this episode of the Data Show, I spoke with Andrew Burt, chief privacy officer at Immuta, and Steven Touw, co-founder and CTO of Immuta. Burt recently co-authored an upcoming white paper on managing risk in machine learning models, and I wanted to sit down with them to discuss some of the proposals they put forward to organizations that are deploying machine learning. Some high-profile examples of models gone awry have raised awareness among companies for the need for better risk management tools and processes. There is now a growing interest in ethics among data scientists, specifically in tools for monitoring bias in machine learning models. In a previous post, I listed some of the key considerations organization should keep in mind as they move
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