IBM’s smart assistant is called…Watson Assistant

You saw this one coming, right? This week at its Think 2018 Conference in Las Vegas, IBM showed off its own take on the growing smart assistant category, aimed firmly at enterprise applications. Naturally, the company’s using the Watson name for the offering, and tacking on “Assistant” for good measure.

Unlike Alexa, Siri and Google’s own offering of the same name, however, Watson Assistant won’t be a chipper, consumer-facing offering loaded up on IBM-branded smart speakers. Rather, the company’s plan here is to operate mostly behind the scenes, white labeling the technology for use by companies.

In fact, the offering is so behind-the-scenes that IBM’s already rolled it out in a bunch of spots, including the Munich Airport and the Royal Bank of Scotland. The big Think unveiling also finds the company adding IFTTT as a partner along with Harman — a bit of an odd choice, given that its

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Andy Rubin and Robert Full will be speaking at TC Sessions: Robotics May 11 at UC Berkeley

We’re gearing up to bring you the second TC Sessions: Robotics on May 11 at the UC Berkeley campus. We’ve got a great show on-tap, with some of the premier names in the robotics/AI/automation world, from research to startups to big companies. As we noted last week, we’ll be joined by Berkley professor Pieter Abbeel and big names from the VC world, including Meyer, Renata Quintini and Rob Coneybeer. Today, we’ve got a pair of new names we’re excited to share with you.

Funding Robotics Startups

Andy Rubin’s love of robotics earned him the nickname “Android” while working for Apple in the late-80s. Rubin leant the name to the software startup he founded in 2003, which was later acquired by Google and formed the basis for the world’s largest mobile operating system. While at Google, Rubin also headed the company’s robotics division. These days, he supports robotics startups as
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Google bought Manhattan’s Chelsea Market building for $2.4 billion

Google has just confirmed its long-rumored purchase of Manhattan’s Chelsea Market building for $2.4 billion — all in all not a bad price, given that a one-bedroom on the West Side is going for around $2.3 billon these days (granted, that’s a rough estimate from someone who lives in Queens).

It’s a prime bit of real estate in one of the New York’s hippest areas, and just a couple of blocks away from the company’s current Manhattan headquarters on 111 8th Ave.

Google’s been slowing trickling over into the space already, moving a few of its New York employees over to rented offices. Along with a smattering of Google employees, the 1.2 million-square-foot building also houses Major League Baseball and the Food Network, along with one of Manhattan’s most beloved and heavily trafficked food courts.

The company’s not revealing specifics on its timeframe for moving the whole

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Jeff Bezos, friend to robots

Today marks the kickoff of Amazon’s annual semi-secret MARS Conference in Palm Springs, which means two things.

  1. No, you weren’t invited.
  2. The start of several days of pictures featuring Jeff Bezos palling around with his best robot friends.

Last year the ‘bot loving billionaire wowed the internet with a fairly menacing shot taken inside 1.5 ton giant mech suit, breaking the apocalyptic ice a bit by comparing himself to Ellen Ripley. This year’s first shot from the event is a bit more subdued, with Bezos taking “my new dog,” the latest iteration of Boston Dynamics’ electric quadruped SpotMini out for a stroll.

Of course, the robot appears to have just been on loan — Bezos and company have been steadily building up Amazon Robotics with logistical automation acquisitions, but

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Microsoft is adding a bunch of accessibility features to Windows 10

Microsoft plans to bring a number of new features for users with visual impairment to Windows 10, the company announced in a blog post earlier today. Chief among the updates, which are due out with the next version of the desktop software, are additions to the Ease of Access setting panel.

The updated page will be grouped together by vision, hearing and interaction, which the most frequently used settings listed first. A number of new settings are being added to to the page, as well, including the ability to “Make Everything Bigger” and “Make Everything Brighter.”

Narrator, the company’s screen-reading app, is being tweaked to be more responsive to keyboard input and offer more continuous control reading. The feature has also been tweaked to offer up more information like “page loading” in the Edge Browser, as well as letting users control text styles with vocal inflections. That means, instead

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Desktop Metal gets another $65 million in a round led by Ford

Desktop Metal has had no issues raising interest (or funding) in the manufacturing world. The metal 3D printing company announced today that it’s score another $65 million in backing, bringing its total to $277 million. This latest round was led by Ford, and also includes addition money from previous backer, Future Fund. 

Ford’s interest in company that 3D prints metal is pretty clear, of course, and the automotive giant is taking things a step further by adding its Chief Technology Officer Ken Washington to Desktop Metal’s Board of Directors.

The tech isn’t quite ready to start printing out cars on Ford’s production line just yet, but the companies told CNBC that they’re working toward that seeming inevitability. Desktop Metal already produces a printer built specifically for factory production.

Slated for release in 2019, the company’s Production system is a push to make its technology scalable on the production line.

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Aerones makes really big drones for cleaning turbines and saving lives

Enthusiasts will talk your ear off about the potential for drones to take over many of our dirtiest, dullest and most dangerous tasks. But most of the jobs we’ve actually seen drones perform are focused on the camera — from wildlife surveying to monitoring cracks on power plant smokestack.

Aerones is working on something much larger. The Y Combinator-backed startup is building giant drones with 28 motors and 16 batteries, capable of lifting up to 400 pounds. That kind of payload means the drones can actually perform a broad range of potential tasks to address the aforementioned three Ds.

The company launched two and a half years ago, led by a trio of founders that had already collaborated on a number of projects, including a GPS fleet management system and an electric race car. The team is still lean, with seven employees, most of whom are engineers. The company was

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