Ucare.ai is using AI to make healthcare more efficient in Southeast Asia

AI is being applied across the board in many industries worldwide, and its scope of influence is only likely to continue to expand as Kaifu Lee, a noted AI expert who was formerly head of Google China, recently told TechCrunch. The main battle appears to be between companies in the U.S. and China, but this week a startup in Southeast Asia came out of stealth mode to show that innovation is present elsewhere in the world. Ucare.ai is focused on applying AI on the healthcare system to increase efficiencies and help patient coverage. It focuses on three distinct audiences: patients, health providers and those who pay the bills. In particular, the company uses deep learning and neural network algorithms to predict healthcare patterns in patients, and beyond, to reduce preventable hospitalization, and, in turn, save on costs and hassles. That also allows medical professionals and insurers to focus
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Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller is an inspiring example of inclusive design

Every gamer with a disability faces a unique challenge for many reasons, one of which is the relative dearth of accessibility-focused peripherals for consoles. Microsoft is taking a big step towards fixing this with its Xbox Adaptive Controller, a device created to address the needs of gamers for whom ordinary gamepads aren’t an option. The XAC, revealed officially at a recent event but also leaked a few days ago, is essentially a pair of gigantic programmable buttons and an oversized directional pad. 3.5mm ports on the back let a huge variety of assistive devices like blow tubes, pedals, and Microsoft-made accessories plug in. It’s not meant to be an all-in-one solution by any means, more like a hub that allows gamers with disabilities to easily make and adjust their own setups with a minimum of hassle. Whatever you’re capable of, whatever’s comfortable, whatever gear you already have, the XAC
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Quip raises $10 million for electric toothbrushes and dental care

The mouth tech industry is continuing to pick up steam with electric toothbrush startup Quip’s latest $10 million funding round from Silicon Valley Bank and its acquisition of dental insurance startup Afora. Afora is a New York-based startup that offers an alternative to traditional dental insurance with plans starting at $25 a month. All of its plans include preventive services like two cleanings per year, annual exams and x-rays, and pre-negotiated pricing for additional work, like root canals. Afora will now be part of Quip’s newly formed venture studio, Quip Labs. The idea with the studio is to fuel innovation in oral health products, platforms and services. Quip did not explicitly mention any other companies it has its eyes on, but the goal with Quip Labs is to enable the startup to explore new ideas in the dental health space, regardless of whether they’re related to Quip’s core offering, 
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Instagram has an unlaunched “time spent” Usage Insights dashboard

Instagram may be jumping into the time well spent movement, following the unveiling of Google’s new time management controls last week. Code buried in Instagram’s Android app reveals a “Usage Insights” feature that will show users their “time spent”. It’s not exactly clear whether that will be your total time spent in Instagram ever, which could be a pretty scary number to some users, or within some shorter time frame like a day, week, or month. By being upfront with users about how much of their lives they’re investing in their favorite apps, tech giants could encourage people to adopt healthier habits and avoid the long, passive, anti-social browsing sessions that can harm their well-being. These features could also help parents keep track of what their kids are doing online. Both might lead people to spend less time on apps like Instagram, but they could be happier with companies like
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I visited a teeth-straightening startup and found out I needed a root canal

Going to the dentist can be anxiety-inducing. Unfortunately, it was no different for me last week when I went to discuss Uniform Teeth’s recent $4 million seed funding round from Lerer Hippeau, Refactor Capital, Founder’s Fund and Slow Ventures. Uniform Teeth is a clear teeth aligner startup that competes with the likes of Invisalign and Smile Direct Club. The startup takes a One Medical-like approach in that it provides real, licensed orthodontists to see you and treat your bite. “For us, we’re really focused on transforming the orthodontic experience,” Uniform Teeth CEO Meghan Jewitt told me at the startup’s flagship dental office in San Francisco. “There are a lot of health care companies out there that are taking areas that aren’t very customer-centric.” Jewitt, who spent a couple of years at One Medical as director of operations, pointed to One Medical, Oscar Insurance and 23andMe as examples of companies
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Fitbit adds menstrual cycle tracking to its smartwatch app

Fitbit announced its new female health tracking feature alongside the Versa at an event back in March. The offering is finally starting to roll out on the company’s iOS and Windows apps, letting users track their menstrual cycle in the space they track their activity and sleep patterns.

The feature is available for both of the company’s first two smartwatches, the Versa and Ionic, making it possible to predict a period and keep track of fertility windows. The offering is a nice addition to Fitbit’s overall health tracking, after the company was initially criticized for producing a smartwatch that was too large for many wrists (to the exclusion of a lot of potential female users). The new, smaller Versa addressed the issue with a smaller, more versatile design.

The feature will be available to Android users at some point later this month.

In the meantime, Google’s mobile OS gets Fitbit

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Why Big Tech is Plotting an Invasion of the Healthcare Market

The idea of using modern tech to transform the multi-trillion dollar healthcare industry has been around for a long time. In 1996, legendary Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jim Clark launched his third startup, Healtheon, which was focused on what he called the “Magic Diamond”. The diamond represented the $1.5 healthcare market in the U.S. and its shape came from the doctors, providers, payers, and consumers slotted into the four outer points. In the middle of the diamond, Clark had placed his new company Healtheon, which he expected to profit immensely from connecting the healthcare world together with the internet.

Before Its Time?

Healtheon had a successful IPO in the middle of the Dotcom bubble, but it never was able to truly achieve its bold and original vision. As signals mounted that Dotcom stocks would implode, the fledgling company merged with WebMD in 1999. Despite the fate of Healtheon, the
Why Big Tech is Invading the Healthcare Market
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UK report urges action to combat AI bias

The need for diverse development teams and truly representational data-sets to avoid biases being baked into AI algorithms is one of the core recommendations in a lengthy Lords committee report looking into the economic, ethical and social implications of artificial intelligence, and published today by the upper House of the UK parliament. “The main ways to address these kinds of biases are to ensure that developers are drawn from diverse gender, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and are aware of, and adhere to, ethical codes of conduct,” the committee writes, chiming with plenty of extant commentary around algorithmic accountability. “It is essential that ethics take centre stage in AI’s development and use,” adds committee chairman, Lord Clement-Jones, in a statement. “The UK has a unique opportunity to shape AI positively for the public’s benefit and to lead the international community in AI’s ethical development, rather than passively accept its consequences.” The 
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Tony Fadell is worried about smartphone addiction

This weekend, former Apple engineer and consumer gadget legend Tony Fadell penned an op-ed for Wired. In it, he argued that smartphone manufacturers need to do a better job of educating users about how often they use their mobile phones, and the resulting dangers that overuse might bring about.
Take healthy eating as an analogy: we have advice from scientists and nutritionists on how much protein and carbohydrate we should include in our diet; we have standardised scales to measure our weight against; and we have norms for how much we should exercise. But when it comes to digital “nourishment”, we don’t know what a “vegetable”, a “protein” or a “fat” is. What is “overweight” or “underweight”? What does a healthy, moderate digital life look like? I think that manufacturers and app developers need to take on this responsibility, before government regulators decide to step in – as with nutritional
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Motiv’s neat little fitness ring gets Android and Alexa support

I was pleasantly surprised by Motiv . Sure, my expectations were low for a fitness tracking ring, but pleasantly surprised is pleasantly surprised is still pleasantly surprised. The $200 Fitbit alternative gets a couple of key software upgrades this week, including, most notably, the addition of Android compatibility, along with some Alexa integration.

Initially launched as iOS-only, the Ring is taking baby steps toward working with the world’s most popular mobile operating system. It’s launching first as part of an open beta with, “a more comprehensive feature set” coming by middle of the year. But adventurous users can download the app from the Google Play Store right now.

The fitness tracking ring now works with Alexa, as well. Users can ask Amazon’s smart assistant to sync data and check their heart rate. More metrics are on the way by year’s end, in an attempt to save having to look at a

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Self-care startup Shine raises $5 million Series A

Shine, an early arrival in market now teeming with self-care apps and services, has closed on $5 million in Series A funding, the company announced today, alongside the milestone of hitting 2 million active users. The round was led by existing investor by Comcast Ventures with betaworks, Felix Capital and The New York Times also participating. The investment comes roughly two years after Shine launched its free service, a messaging bot aimed at younger users that doles out life advice and positive reinforcement on a daily basis through SMS texts or Facebook’s Messenger. At the time, the idea that self-help could be put into an app or bot-like format was still a relatively novel concept. But today, digital wellness has become far more common with apps for everything from meditation to self-help to talk therapy. “We’re proud that we were part of the catalyst to make well-being as
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Walmart reportedly in talks to acquire prescription delivery service PillPack

Walmart is in discussions to acquire medication delivery service PillPack for “under $1 billion,” reports CNBC. CNBC’s sources said the deal isn’t final yet, but talks have been going on for months and Amazon was also a potential suitor for the startup, which delivers medications to tens of thousands of customers in the United States. Launched in 2013, PillPack has raised $118 million in funding from investors including Accel Partners, Atlas Venture and CRV. PillPack doesn’t just fill prescriptions: it also helps patients manage their medications by sorting pills into packets for individual doses, automatically delivering refills to homes and providing 24/7 customer service, all major selling points for seniors and people with multiple conditions. Last year, PillPack also unveiled prescription management software called PharmacyOS, which it described as “the first backend pharmacy system designed specifically for customers with complex medication regimes.” Last November, co-founder and chief executive officer
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Grindr sends HIV status to third parties, and some personal data unencrypted

Hot on the heels of last week’s security issues, dating app Grindr is under fire again for inappropriate sharing of HIV status with third parties (not advertisers, as I had written here before) and inadequate security on other personal data transmission. It’s not a good look for a company that says privacy is paramount. Norwegian research outfit SINTEF analyzed the app’s traffic and found that HIV status, which users can choose to include in their profile, is included in packets sent to Apptimize and Localytics. Users are not informed that this data is being sent. These aren’t advertising companies but rather services for testing and improving mobile apps — Grindr isn’t selling them this data or anything. The company’s CTO told BuzzFeed News that “the limited information shared with these platforms is done under strict contractual terms that provide for the highest level of confidentiality, data security, and user
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Walmart may be acquiring Humana, says report

Walmart is in early stage talks to acquire health insurer Humana, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. Terms of the deal are unknown, but Humana is valued at $37 billion and reported net income of $2.4 billion on $53.8 billion in revenues during 2017. The deal would allow the retailer to strengthen its relationship with a key demographic, seniors, the report explained, and would complement its existing pharmacy and clinic businesses. It’s not clear that there will be an acquisition, or even if regulators would allow it, at this point. But if the deal were to happen, it would be one of many mergers and acquisitions taking place in the industry in recent months, the report noted. For example, CVS Health agreed to acquire Humana rival Aetna for $69 billion in December; Cigna agreed to buy Express Scripts for $54 billion in March. Related to
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Siren raises $3.4 million for smart socks that track diabetic health

Siren, a startup that has developed fabric with embedded microsensors, has unveiled its product, a sock for people with diabetes. Siren also announced a $3.4 million investment from DCM, Khosla Ventures and Founders Fund. Powered by its Neurofabric technology, the diabetic sock can monitor foot temperatures with the idea that those with diabetes will be able to detect potential foot injuries. “What we do is we take proven technology and we put it inside of socks so people can use it easily,” Siren co-founder and CEO Ran Ma told me. “If you get injured and have diabetic nerve damage, it’s hard to feel pain. The pain can go unnoticed, become infected, turn into an ulcer and lead to an amputation.” Each sock is fitted with six sensors, so 12 sensors for every pair of socks. They’re also machine-washable and don’t need to be charged. Siren sells for $19.95
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The 50 Most Important Life-Saving Breakthroughs in History

The 50 Most Important Life-Saving Breakthroughs in History

The 50 Most Important Life-Saving Breakthroughs in History

For most of civilized history, life expectancy fluctuated in the 30 to 40 year range. Child mortality was all too common, and even for those that made it to adulthood, a long and healthy life was anything but guaranteed. Sanitation was poor, disease was rampant, and many medical practices were based primarily on superstition or guesswork. By the 20th century, an explosion in new technologies, treatments, and other science-backed practices helped to increase global life expectancy at an unprecedented rate. From 1900 to 2015, global life expectancy more than doubled, shooting well past the 70 year mark.

Important Breakthroughs

What were the major innovations that made the last century so very fruitful in saving lives? Today’s infographic from AperionCare highlights the top 50 breakthroughs, ranging from pasteurization to the bifurcated needle, that have helped propel global life expectancy upwards. Interestingly, while many
Timeline of innovations affecting life expectancy
Life Expectancy graph
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Monarch is a new platform from surgical robot pioneer Frederic Moll

Auris Health (née Auris Surgical Robots) has done a pretty good job flying under the radar, in spite of raising a massive amount of capital and listing one of the key people behind the da Vinci surgical robot among its founders. With FDA clearance finally out of the way, however, the Redwood City-based startup medical startup is ready to start talking. This week, Auris revealed the Monarch Platform, which swaps the da Vinci’s surgical approach for something far less invasive. The system utilizes the common endoscopy procedure to a insert a flexible robot into hard to reach places inside the human body. A doctor trained on the system uses a video game-style controller to navigate inside, with help from 3D models. Monarch’s first target is lung cancer, the which tops the list of deadliest cancers. More deaths could be stopped, if doctors were able to catch the disease in its
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Peer-reviewed study shows Cardiogram and Apple Watch can accurately determine atrial fibrillation

Over the past year, Cardiogram and UC San Francisco (UCSF) have presented a series of findings on how well consumer wearables like the Apple Watch and Android Wear can detect medical conditions in their users, including diabetes as well as hypertension and sleep apnea. Now, the startup is reaching a new milestone, this morning publishing the first large-N peer-reviewed clinical study showing that the Apple Watch and other wearables can detect atrial fibrillation with a high degree of accuracy. The study, published in JAMA Cardiology, included 9,750 participants who used Cardiogram while enrolled in UCSF’s Health eHeart Study. The company collected more than one hundred million heart rate and step counts from users, and that data was fed into a deep learning model to determine whether a particular user had atrial fibrillation. Results from the study show that the condition can be detected at 97% accuracy (c statistic
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Twitter violates womens’ human rights, according to Amnesty International

Twitter has found itself under fire again. This time, it’s coming from Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization that focuses on human rights. Amnesty International’s new report, “#ToxicTwitter: Violence and abuse against women online,” details Twitter’s failures to ensure safety online and prevent violence and abuse toward women. What Amnesty International is trying to achieve with this report, the organization’s technology and human rights researcher Azmina Dhrodia told TechCrunch, is to look at why and how this is a human rights issue. By framing it as a human rights issue, Amnesty International says it hopes to be able to push Twitter to enforce its own policies consistently and be transparent about how it’s doing so. “Twitter’s failure to adequately and consistently enforce their own policies is leading women to either silence or censor themselves online,” Dhrodia told me. “So women are either leaving the platform, they’re thinking five
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Tradewind Bioscience attacks the physiology of tumors to treat cancer

Cancer remains the one counterpoint to the march of medical progress that has scored human history over the last 200 years. Last year 600,920 people in the U.S. died from cancer, and another 1.7 million received an initial diagnosis of the disease. Globally, one in six people die from cancer, according to the World Health Organization. In the past decade, research in the field has expanded the possible treatments of the disease from surgery (which was the only option until the 20th century), radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy. Among the most promising of these new treatments are those which attack the functions of the tumor itself. New epigenetic therapies, therapeutic viruses, novel nanoparticles, and immune therapies look at external responses to cancerous growths — sequencing out mutations that can lead to cancerous growths; creating new pathogens that only attack cancer cells; building new particles that attack cancer cells;
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