Notes from the first Ray meetup

Ray is beginning to be used to power large-scale, real-time AI applications. Machine learning adoption is accelerating due to the growing number of large labeled data sets, languages aimed at data scientists (R, Julia, Python), frameworks (scikit-learn, PyTorch, TensorFlow, etc.), and tools for building infrastructure to support end-to-end applications. While some interesting applications of unsupervised learning are beginning to emerge, many current machine learning applications rely on supervised learning. In a recent series of posts, Ben Recht makes the case for why some of the most interesting problems might actually fall under reinforcement learning (RL), specifically systems that are able to act based upon past data and do so in a way that is safe, robust, and reliable. But first we need RL tools that are accessible for practitioners. Unlike supervised learning, in the past there hasn’t been a good open source tool for easily trying RL at
RLlib and reinforcement learning
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Four short links: 15 August 2018

Retro Hacks, Timsort, e-ink UI, and Inside Time Zones
  1. TRS-80 Galaxy Invasion on an RC2014 -- I love these retro hacks. This uses a homebrew Z80 with a Raspberry Pi Zero (!) to do the video graphics, which is painful and burdensome otherwise.
  2. Timsort -- all you need to know about Python's sorting algorithm.
  3. PaperTTY -- Python module to render a TTY on e-ink.
  4. Working with Time Zones -- the graphs are such a brilliant way of explaining it!
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With $40 million for AuditBoard’s risk and compliance toolkit, LA’s enterprise startups notch another win

Daniel Kim and Jay Lee, the two founders of AuditBoard, a Los Angeles-based provider of a risk and compliance software service for large businesses, grew up middle school friends in Cerritos, Calif. It was from their hometown Los Angeles exurb, that Kim and Lee first began plotting how they would turn their experience working for PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young (respectively) into the software business that just managed to rake in $40 million in financing led by one of venture capital’s most-respected firms, Battery Ventures. Kim, who had moved on from the world of the big four audit firms to take positions as the head of global audit at companies as diverse as the chip component manufacturer, International Rectifier and the surf and sportswear-focused clothing company, Quiksilver, had complained to his childhood friend about how little had changed in the auditing world since the two men first started working
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What do computers see?

Tricks to visualize and understand how neural networks see. In the last decade or so, computer vision has made tremendous strides forward, mostly because of developments in deep learning. It is not just that we have new and better algorithms—digital cameras and the web have provided us with a near infinite set of training data. And maybe even more importantly, graphics cards developed for computer gaming turn out to have super computer powers when it comes to training deep neural networks. This is all good news for anybody wanting to experiment with deep learning and image recognition. All it takes to build a cat versus dog classifier these days is Keras and a Python notebook with 100 lines of code. But doing this doesn't tell us what computers see. If we wanted to understand how humans see, we could open their skulls and try to figure out how information flows
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Uber is on a hiring spree in Singapore despite ‘exiting’ Southeast Asia

Uber agreed to sell its Southeast Asia business in March, but it isn’t leaving the region. In fact, the U.S. firm is doubling down with plans to more than double its staff in Singapore. That’s right. Uber is currently in the midst of a major recruitment drive that will see Singapore, the first city it expanded to in Asia, remain its headquarters for the Asia Pacific region despite its local exit. Unfortunately for customers who miss having a strong alternative to Grab, Uber won’t be bringing its ride-hailing app back in Singapore or anywhere else in Southeast Asia. Uber’s own job portal lists 19 open roles for Singapore, but the company has contacted headhunting and recruitment firms to help fill as many as 75 vacancies, three sources with knowledge of Uber’s hiring plans told TechCrunch. The new hires will take Uber’s headcount in Singapore to well over
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One week left: Apply to Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin 2018

Anyone with even a tangential relationship to the European tech startup scene knows that Startup Battlefield is one of the most effective launching pads for early-stage startups. All the pitch-competition drama and excitement goes down at Disrupt Berlin 2018 on November 29-30. If you want to spotlight your startup in front of the continent’s brightest innovators, investors and influencers, you have only one week left to submit your application — right here. Last year at Disrupt Berlin 2017, Lia Diagnostics —  makers of the first flushable pregnancy test — won the Startup Battlefield and walked away with the Disrupt Cup, the $50,000 grand prize and an incredible amount of media coverage and investor interest. Could 2018 be your year? Here’s what you need to know about competing in Startup Battlefield. Our TechCrunch editors, steeped in the ways of identifying hot prospects since 2007, will review every application and select approximately
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Karma raises $12M to let restaurants and grocery stores offer unsold food at a discount

Karma, the Stockholm-based startup that offers a marketplace to let local restaurants and grocery offer unsold food at a discount, has raised $12 million in Series A funding. Swedish investment firm Kinnevik led the round, with participation from U.S. venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners, appliance manufacturer Electrolux, and previous backer VC firm e.ventures. It brings total funding to $18 million. Founded in late 2015 by Hjalmar Ståhlberg Nordegren, Ludvig Berling, Mattis Larsson and Elsa Bernadotte, and launched the following year, Karma is an app-based marketplace that helps restaurants and grocery stores reduce food waste by selling unsold food at a discount direct to consumers. You simply register your location with the iOS or Android app and can browse various food merchants and the food items/dishes they have put on sale. Once you find an item to your liking, you pay through the Karma app and pick
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Twitter puts Infowars’ Alex Jones in the ‘read-only’ sin bin for 7 days

Twitter has finally taken action against Infowars creator Alex Jones, but it isn’t what you might think. While Apple, Facebook, Google/YouTube, Spotify and many others have removed Jones and his conspiracy-peddling organization Infowars from their platforms, Twitter has remained unmoved with its claim that Jones hasn’t violated rules on its platform. That was helped in no small way by the mysterious removal of some tweets last week, but now Jones has been found to have violated Twitter’s rules, as CNET first noted. Twitter is punishing Jones for a tweet that violates its community standards but it isn’t locking him out forever. Instead, a spokesperson for the company confirmed that Jones’ account is in “read-only mode” for up to seven days. That means he will still be able to use the service and look up content via his account, but he’ll be unable to engage with it. That means no tweets,
😄
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Y Combinator is launching a startup program in China

U.S. accelerator Y Combinator is expanding to China after it announced the hiring of former Microsoft and Baidu executive Qi Lu who will develop a standalone startup program that runs on Chinese soil. Shanghai-born Lu spent 11 years with Yahoo and eight years with Microsoft before a short spell with Baidu, where he was COO and head of the firm’s AI research division. Now he becomes founding CEO of YC China while he’s also stepping into the role of Head of YC Research. YC will also expand its research team with an office in Seattle, where Lu has plenty of links. There’s no immediate timeframe for when YC will launch its China program, which represents its first global expansion, but YC President Sam Altman told TechCrunch in an interview that the program will be based in Beijing once it is up and running. Altman said Lu will use his network
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This robot maintains tender, unnerving eye contact

Humans already find it unnerving enough when extremely alien-looking robots are kicked and interfered with, so one can only imagine how much worse it will be when they make unbroken eye contact and mirror your expressions while you heap abuse on them. This is the future we have selected. The Simulative Emotional Expression Robot, or SEER, was on display at SIGGRAPH here in Vancouver, and it’s definitely an experience. The robot, a creation of Takayuki Todo, is a small humanoid head and neck that responds to the nearest person by making eye contact and imitating their expression. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s pretty complex to execute well, which, despite a few glitches, SEER managed to do. At present it alternates between two modes: imitative and eye contact. Both, of course, rely on a nearby (or, one can imagine, built-in) camera that recognizes and tracks the features of
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Finding the Goldilocks zone for applied AI

While Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg debate the dangers of artificial general intelligence, startups applying AI to more narrowly defined problems such as accelerating the performance of sales teams and improving the operating efficiency of manufacturing lines are building billion-dollar businesses. Narrowly defining a problem, however, is only the first step to finding valuable business applications of AI.

To find the right opportunity around which to build an AI business, startups must apply the “Goldilocks principle” in several different dimensions to find the sweet spot that is “just right” to begin — not too far in one dimension, not too far in another. Here are some ways for aspiring startup founders to

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Revcontent is trying to get rid of misinformation with help from the Poynter Institute

CEO John Lemp recently said that thanks to a new policy, publishers in Revcontent‘s content recommendation network “won’t ever make a cent” on false and misleading stories — at least, not from the network. To achieve this, the company is relying on fact-checking provided by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact Checking Network. If any two independent fact checkers from International Fact Checking flag a story from the Revcontent network as false, the company’s widget will be removed, and Revcontent will not pay out any money on that story (not even revenue earned before the story was flagged). In some ways, Revcontent’s approach to fighting fake news and misinformation sounds similar to the big social media companies — Lemp, like Twitter, has said his company cannot be the “arbiter of truth,” and like Facebook, he’s emphasizing the need to remove the financial incentives for posting sensationalistic-but-misleading stories. However, Lemp
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“Unhackable” BitFi crypto wallet has been hacked

The BitFi crypto wallet was supposed to be unhackable and none other than famous weirdo John McAfee claimed that the device – essentially an Android-based mini tablet – would withstand any attack. Spoiler alert: it couldn’t. First, a bit of background. The $120 device launched at the beginning of this month to much fanfare. It consisted of a device that McAfee claimed contained no software or storage and was instead a standalone wallet similar to the Trezor. The website featured a bold claim by McAfee himself, one that would give a normal security researcher pause: Further, the company offered a bug bounty that seems to be slowly being eroded by outside forces. They asked hackers to pull coins off of a specially prepared $10 wallet, a move that is uncommon in the world of bug bounties. They wrote:
We deposit coins into a Bitfi wallet
If you wish to participate
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Any Salad Can Be a Summer Roll

There is something extremely satisfying about a summer roll. Though I love a good egg roll, spring roll, or any other fried package of rolled-up food, the lighter, cooler, more chewy summer roll is the one I crave more often than not, particularly during these sweatier months. Read more...

Bird and Lime are protesting Santa Monica’s electric scooter recommendations

Lime and Bird are protesting recommendations in Santa Monica, Calif. that would prevent the electric scooter companies from operating in the Southern California city. We first saw the news over on Curbed LA, which reported both Lime and Bird are temporarily halting their services in Santa Monica. Last week, Santa Monica’s shared mobility device selection committee recommended the city move forward with Lyft and Uber-owned Jump as the two exclusive scooter operators in the city during the upcoming 16-month pilot program. The committee ranked Lyft and Jump highest due to their experience in the transportation space, staffing strategy, commitments to diversity and equity, fleet maintenance strategies and other elements. Similarly, the committee recommended both Lyft and Jump as bike-share providers in the city.

“The Lyft and Uber applications to operate e-scooter sharing programs in Santa Monica demonstrate the desperate lengths CO2 polluting companies will go to for the purpose of

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Smart speaker sales on pace to increase 50 percent by 2019

It seems Amazon didn’t know what it had on its hands when it released the first Echo in late-2014. The AI-powered speaker formed the foundation of the next been moment in consumer electronics. Those devices have helped mainstreaming consumer AI and open the door to wide scale adoption of connected home products. 

New numbers from NPD, naturally, don’t show any sign of flagging for the category. According to the firm, the devices are set for a 50-percent dollar growth from between 2016-2017 to 2018-2019. The category is projected to add $1.6 billion through next year.

The Echo line has grown rapidly over the past four years, with Amazon adding the best-selling Dot and screen enabled products like the Spot and Show. Google, meanwhile, has been breathing down the company’s next with its own Home offerings. The company also recently added a trio of “smart displays” designed by

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StarVR’s One headset flaunts eye-tracking and a double-wide field of view

While the field of VR headsets used to be more or less limited to Oculus and Vive, numerous competitors have sprung up as the technology has matured — and some are out to beat the market leaders at their own game. StarVR’s latest headset brings eye-tracking and a seriously expanded field of view to the game, and the latter especially is a treat to experience. The company announced the new hardware at SIGGRAPH in Vancouver, where I got to go hands-on and eyes-in with the headset. Before you get too excited, though, keep in mind this set is meant for commercial applications — car showrooms, aircraft simulators, and so on. What that means is it’s going to be expensive and not as polished a user experience as consumer-focused sets. That said, the improvements present in the StarVR One are significant and immediately obvious. Most important is probably the expanded FOV
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