Google launches new AI initiatives in Japan

It’s no surprise that Google used its Cloud Next 2018 event in Tokyo today — one of a number of international Cloud Next events that follow its flagship San Francisco conference — to announce a couple of new initiatives that specifically focus on the Japanese market. These announcements include a couple of basic updates like translating its Machine Learning with TensorFlow on Google Cloud Platform Coursera specialization, its Associate Cloud Engineer certification and fifty of its hands-on Qwiklabs into Japanese. In addition, Google is also launching an Advanced Solutions Lab in Tokyo as well. Previously Google opened similar labs in Dublin, Ireland, as well as Sunnyvale and New York. These labs offer a wide range of machine learning-centric training options, collaborative workspaces for teams that are part of the company’s four-week machine learning training program, and access to Google experts.

(Photo by Hitoshi Yamada/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The company also
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Call for smart home devices to bake in privacy safeguards for kids

A new research report has raised concerns about how in-home smart devices such as AI virtual voice assistants, smart appliances, and security and monitoring technologies could be gathering and sharing children’s data. It calls for new privacy measures to safeguard kids and make sure age appropriate design code is included with home automation technologies. The report, entitled Home Life Data and Children’s Privacy, is the work of Dr Veronica Barassi of Goldsmiths, University of London, who leads a research project at the university investigating the impact of big data and AI on family life. Barassi wants the UK’s data protection agency to launch a review of what she terms “home life data” — meaning the information harvested by smart in-home devices that can end up messily mixing adult data with kids’ information — to consider its impact on children’s privacy, and “put this concept at the heart of future
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Sen. Harris tells federal agencies to get serious about facial recognition risks

Facial recognition technology presents myriad opportunities as well as risks, but it seems like the government tends to only consider the former when deploying it for law enforcement and clerical purposes. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) has written the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Trade Commission, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission telling them they need to get with the program and face up to the very real biases and risks attending the controversial tech. In three letters provided to TechCrunch (and embedded at the bottom of this post), Sen. Harris, along with several other notable legislators, pointed out recent research showing how facial recognition can produce or reinforce bias, or otherwise misfire. This must be considered and accommodated in the rules, guidance, and applications of federal agencies. Other lawmakers and authorities have sent letters to various companies and CEOs or held hearings, but representatives for Sen. Harris explained that there is
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Microsoft is putting HoloLens to work with new Dynamics 365 applications

Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality glasses have always been interesting technology, but it’s never been clear how the company would move from novelty device to actual viable business use cases. Today, it made a move toward the latter, announcing a couple of applications designed to put the HoloLens to work in Dynamics 365, giving it a real business purpose. Dynamics 365 is Microsoft’s one-stop shop for CRM and ERP, where a company can work on some of its key business software functions including field service in an integrated fashion. The company has been looking at for HoloLens to bring computing power to a group of field workers like repair technicians for whom even a tablet would be awkward because they have to work with both hands free. For these people, having a fully functioning Windows 10 computer you can wear on your face could be a big advantage and that’s
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Microsoft launches new AI applications for customer service and sales

Like virtually every other major tech company, Microsoft is currently on a mission to bring machine learning to all of its applications. It’s no surprise then that it’s also bringing ‘AI’ to its highly profitable Dynamics 365 CRM products. A year ago, the company introduced its first Dynamics 365 AI solutions and today it’s expanding this portfolio with the launch of three new products: Dynamics 365 AI for Sales, Customer Service and Market Insights. “Many people, when they talk about CRM, or ERP of old, they referred to them as systems of oppression, they captured data,” said Alysa Taylor, Microsoft corporate VP for business applications and industry. “But they didn’t provide any value back to the end user — and what that end user really needs is a system of empowerment, not oppression.” It’s no secret that few people love their CRM systems (except for maybe a handful of
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Symantec offers free anti-spoofing services to US political campaigns and election groups

Symantec is the latest private security company to offer its expertise to vulnerable political targets on the house. Today the company announced that it would extend its “Project Dolphin” service (dolphins eat phish, get it) to political campaigns, candidates and election officials, all “prime target[s] for malicious actors seeking to influence the outcome of the upcoming U.S. midterm elections.” The service allows for anyone to run a check on their own website to make sure no illegitimate or “spoofed” versions of it are floating around and luring unsuspecting victims. Individuals in those qualifying groups can sign up for free for Project Dolphin, Symantec’s AI-powered system that scans for and notifies users of illegitimate websites pretending to be the real thing — just one flavor of the common hacking technique called “spoofing.” Through spoofed sites, much like spoofed email accounts, hackers can steal login credentials and
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Ultimate.ai nabs $1.3M for a customer service AI focused on non-English markets

For customer service, Ultimate.ai‘s thesis is it’s not humans or AI but humans and AI. The Helsinki- and Berlin-based startup has built an AI-powered suggestion engine that, once trained on clients’ data-sets, is able to provide real-time help to (human) staff dealing with customer queries via chat, email and social channels. So the AI layer is intended to make the humans behind the screens smarter and faster at responding to customer needs — as well as freeing them up from handling basic queries to focus on more complex issues. AI-fuelled chatbots have fast become a very crowded market, with hundreds of so called ‘conversational AI’ startups all vying to serve the customer service cause. Ultimate.ai stands out by merit of having focused on non-English language markets, says co-founder and CEO Reetu Kainulainen. This is a consequence of the business being founded in Finland, whose language belongs to a
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Mumford & Sons beware! An AI can now write indie music

A fascinating project called Amadeus Code promises to out-Tay-Tay Tay Tay and out-Bon Bon Iver. The AI-based system uses data from previous musical hits to create entirely new compositions on the fly — and darn if these crazy robot-songs aren’t pretty good. The app, which is available from the iTunes Store but doesn’t seem to be working properly, creates song sketches in minutes, freeing you up to create beautiful lyrics and a bit of accordion accompaniment. The video above is a MIDI version of an AI-produced song and the video below shows the song full-produced using non-AI human musicians. The results, while a little odd, are very impressive. Jun Inoue, Gyo Kitagawa and Taishi Fukuyama created Amadeus Code and all have experience in music and music production. Inoue is a renowned Japanese music producer and he has sold 10 million singles. Fukuyama worked at Echo Next and launched the
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Natural Cycles contraception app told to clarify pregnancy risks

A multi-month investigation by Sweden’s Medical Products Agency into a number of unwanted pregnancies among users of ‘digital contraception’ app Natural Cycles has been closed after the startup agreed to clarify the risk of the product failing. But, on the self-reported data front, the agency said it was satisfied the number of unwanted pregnancies is in line with Natural Cycles’ own clinical evaluations which are included in the certification documentation for the product. In its marketing and on its website Natural Cycles describes the app-based system as “93% effective under typical use” — a finding that’s based on a clinical study it conducted of more than 22,000 of its users. The investigation by Sweden’s MPA began around eight months ago, after a number of users in Natural Cycle’s home market had reported unwanted pregnancies to a local hospital — which then reported the app to the regulator. The Natural Cycles
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Amazon taps Getty to provide images for visual searches on the Echo Show and Echo Spot

On the heels of the Getty family regaining control of Getty Images, reportedly for about $3 billion, the company is announcing a move to expand use of its images to a wider set of eyeballs. It will now work with Amazon to provide images from its catalog of 200 million digital images to populate searches on its screen-based Echo Show and Echo Spot devices. The deal also comes amid rumors of a supposed launch of a screen-based Google Home device (made by the king of search, Google) to compete with the Echo Show, ahead of the holiday season. It’s not clear if the Getty deal will mean that those building skills for the Echo devices will also be able to tap the Getty catalog, or if this is just for Amazon’s basic search feature — or something in between. We have contacted Amazon and Getty to ask and will update
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Base10’s debut fund is the largest-ever for a Black-led VC firm

Adeyemi Ajao (above left), the co-founder and managing director of Base10 Partners, was surprised to hear his firm’s $137 million fund was the largest debut to date for a black-led venture capital firm. He and his co-founder — managing director TJ Nahigian (above right) — found out from none other than their fund’s own limited partners, who told them they should seek out institutions looking to invest in diverse fund managers. “Oh man, I was like, ‘yeah, I know I’m black but so what?'” Ajao told TechCrunch. “I can be a little bit naive about these things until they become extremely apparent.” Ajao is African, European, Latin, and now, having spent a decade in San Francisco, American. Growing up in between Spain and Nigeria, it wasn’t until landing in the Bay Area that he was forced to confront a social dynamic absent in his international upbringing: racial inequality
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Microsoft acquires Lobe, a drag-and-drop AI tool

Microsoft today announced that is has acquired Lobe, a startup that lets you build machine learning models with the help of a simple drag-and-drop interface. Microsoft plans to use Lobe, which only launched into beta earlier this year, to build upon its own efforts to make building AI models easier, though, for the time being, Lobe will operate as before. “As part of Microsoft, Lobe will be able to leverage world-class AI research, global infrastructure, and decades of experience building developer tools,” the team writes. “We plan to continue developing Lobe as a standalone service, supporting open source standards and multiple platforms.” Lobe was co-founded by Mike Matas, who previously worked on the iPhone and iPad, as well as Facebook’s Paper and Instant Articles products. The other co-founders are Adam Menges and Markus Beissinger. In addition to Lobe, Microsoft also recently bought Bonsai.ai, a deep
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Chart: The AI-mazing Patent Race

Chart: The AI-mazing Patent Race

Chart: The AI-mazing Patent Race

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays. Artificial Intelligence is transforming the way we live, and the tech giants are racing to stay ahead of the curve. AI-related funding totaled an estimated $15.2 billion in 2017, a 144% increase over the previous year. The U.S. tech industry leads with a 50% share of those investments, even with China swiftly closing the gap in terms of patents and AI research. AI itself isn’t new, but boosted computing power, increased connectivity, and the sheer volume of data has paved the way for the fourth industrial revolution of AI. “The coming era will be looked back upon as the ‘AI era,’ when AI became the defining competitive advantage for corporations, government agencies, and investment professionals,” predicts David Nadler, founder of Kensho Technologies.

The Potential of AI

Artificial Intelligence is less
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Facebook’s new ‘SapFix’ AI automatically debugs your code

Facebook has quietly built and deployed an artificial intelligence programming tool called SapFix that scans code, automatically identifies bugs, tests different patches and suggests the best ones that engineers can choose to implement. Revealed today at Facebook’s @Scale engineering conference, SapFix is already running on Facebook’s massive code base and the company plans to eventually share it with the developer community. “To our knowledge, this marks the first time that a machine-generated fix — with automated end-to-end testing and repair — has been deployed into a codebase of Facebook’s scale,” writes Facebook’s developer tool team. “It’s an important milestone for AI hybrids and offers further evidence that search-based software engineering can reduce friction in software development.” SapFix can run with or without Sapienz, Facebook’s previous automated bug spotter. It uses it in conjunction with SapFix, suggesting solutions to problems Sapienz discovers. These types of tools could allow smaller teams
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The Future of Collaboration in the Artificial Intelligence Era

The Future of Collaboration in the Artificial Intelligence Era

The Future of Collaboration in the Artificial Intelligence Era

How humans collaborate with one another has been closely linked to technological progress. Before the invention of the telephone, we had to be in the same room to communicate in real-time – and prior to the internet, we had to be in the same building to share our designs, new ideas, or other documents. Collaboration has always been a moving target, and in modern times we shouldn’t be surprised that new technological innovations are again shifting how humans work and coordinate together.

The New Collaboration Cycle

Today’s infographic comes to us from Schneider Electric, and it shows that humans are no longer making things using a linear approach. Instead, modern collaboration is a cyclical process with no defined start or end points – and it often involves more users and stakeholders, continuous access, and an increasingly decentralized workforce.

The 24/7
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All the World's Money and Markets in One Visualization
The War on Cash
Trump's Entire Financial History Video
Currency and the Collapse of the Roman Empire
Buying Power of the U.S. Dollar Over the Last Century
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Facebook rolls out photo/video fact checking so partners can train its AI

Sometimes fake news lives inside of Facebook as photos and videos designed to propel misinformation campaigns, instead of off-site on news articles that can generate their own ad revenue. To combat these politically rather than financially-motivated meddlers, Facebook has to be able to detect fake news inside of images and the audio that accompanies video clips. Today its expanding its photo and video fact checking program from four countries to all 23 of its fact-checking partners in 17 countries. “Many of our third-party fact-checking partners have expertise evaluating photos and videos and are trained in visual verification techniques, such as reverse image searching and analyzing image metadata, like when and where the photo or video was taken” says Facebook product manager Antonia Woodford. “As we get more ratings from fact-checkers on photos and videos, we will be able to improve the accuracy of our machine learning model.” The goal
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Nvidia launches the Tesla T4, its fastest data center inferencing platform yet

Nvidia today announced its new GPU for machine learning and inferencing in the data center. The new Tesla T4 GPUs (where the ‘T’ stands for Nvidia’s new Turing architecture) are the successors to the current batch of P4 GPUs that virtually every major cloud computing provider now offers. Google, Nvidia said, will be among the first to bring the new T4 GPUs to its Cloud Platform. Nvidia argues that the T4s are significantly faster than the P4s. For language inferencing, for example, the T4 is 34 times faster than using a CPU and more than 3.5 times faster than the P4. Peak performance for the P4 is 260 TOPS for 4-bit integer operations and 65 TOPS for floating point operations. The T4 sits on a standard low-profile 75 watt PCI-e card. What’s most important, though, is that Nvidia designed these chips specifically for AI inferencing. “What makes Tesla T4 such
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Ready, Set, Raise is a new accelerator built for women by women

Women in tech are not only significantly under-funded by venture capitalists, but they also often lack access to the early-stage support granted to their male counterparts. To enroll in a startup accelerator like Y Combinator, for example, its expected founders relocate to the Bay Area for three months. Women, who are more often caregivers, might not be able to do that, and even if they can, the program may not cater to their specific needs. Female Founders Alliance (FFA), a relatively new network of female startup founders, has built a free, non-dilutive 5-week accelerator for women by women. Called ‘Ready, Set, Raise,’ its goal is to help more female-founded startups raise VC through workshops, 1-on-1 coaching, legal clinics, communications and speech coaching and more. The accelerator, sponsored by Trilogy Equity Partners, kicked off at the end of August and will culminate with a private demo day with VCs in
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European parliament gives thumbs up to controversial copyright reforms

The European Parliament has just voted to back controversial proposals to reform online copyright — including supporting an extension to cover snippets of publishers content (Article 11), and to make platforms that hold significant amounts of content liable for copyright violations by their users (Article 13).

Today’s plenary vote in the European parliament was on amended proposals that had been rejected by MEPs in a vote in July with parliamentarians arguing for a fuller debate and more balanced measures. The vote is a major victory for MEP Axel Voss who has been driving the copyright reform. MEPs largely backed Voss’ amended proposals today which had narrowed the scope of the rejected text, such as, in the case of Article 11,

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Integrate.ai pulls in $30M to help businesses make better customer-centric decisions

Helping businesses bring more firepower to the fight against AI-fuelled disruptors is the name of the game for Integrate.ai, a Canadian startup that’s announcing a $30M Series A today. The round is led by Portag3 Ventures . Other VCs include Georgian Partners, Real Ventures, plus other (unnamed) individual investors also participating. The funding will be used for a big push in the U.S. market. Integrate.ai’s early focus has been on retail banking, retail and telcos, says founder Steve Irvine, along with some startups which have data but aren’t necessarily awash with AI expertise to throw at it. (Not least because tech giants continue to hoover up talent.) Its SaaS platform targets consumer-centric businesses — offering to plug paying customers into a range of AI technologies and techniques to optimize their decision-making so they can respond more savvily to their customers. Aka turning “high volume consumer funnels”
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