UK’s Zeta Labs Unveils JACE, a Next Generation AI Assistant

Zeta Labs has raised $2.9 million in pre-seed round funding and launched JACE, an AI assistant that can autonomously complete complex tasks. The LLM-powered JACE agent executes in-browser actions on command. In fact, Zeta claims JACE is so autonomous that it eliminates the need to be sitting in front of a computer while it executes requests — just tell it what you’d like it to do and let it go. London-based Zeta says it will use the money to expand its engineering team, host training models and improve JACE’s speed and reliability. Continue reading UK’s Zeta Labs Unveils JACE, a Next Generation AI Assistant

Microsoft to Invest $3.3 Billion in Building New AI Data Center

This week Microsoft announced plans to help establish Southeast Wisconsin “as a hub for AI-powered economic activity, innovation, and job creation,” according to the company’s press release. As part of the broad investment package, the tech giant is planning “$3.3 billion in cloud computing and AI infrastructure, the creation of the country’s first manufacturing-focused AI co-innovation lab, and an AI skilling initiative to equip more than 100,000 of the state’s residents with essential AI skills.” Microsoft’s new data center campus will replace the failed $10 billion Foxconn LCD manufacturing center planned for Mount Pleasant, situated in Racine County. Continue reading Microsoft to Invest $3.3 Billion in Building New AI Data Center

Synthesia Express-1 Model Gives ‘Expressive Avatars’ Emotion

London-based AI-startup Synthesia, which creates avatars for enterprise-level generative video presentations, has added “Expressive Avatars” to its feature kit. Powered by Synthesia’s new Express-1 model, these fourth-generation avatars have achieved a new benchmark in realism by using contextual expressions that approximates human emotion, the company says. Express-1 has been trained “to understand the intricate relationship between what we say and how we say it,” allowing Expressive Avatars to perform a script with the correct vocal tone, body language and lip movement, “like a real actor,” according to Synthesia. Continue reading Synthesia Express-1 Model Gives ‘Expressive Avatars’ Emotion

Minute Media Secures a 10-Year Future for Sports Illustrated

Authentic Brands Group, which owns the rights to Sports Illustrated, has selected the London-based Minute Media to continue publishing the storied magazine in print and digital editions in a deal that runs for 10 years, with an option to extend for up to 20 more years. The Minute partnership will “usher in the future of the SI brand,” announced Authentic, whose portfolio includes fashion and sports, as well as IP rights to celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, who it is leveraging into a chatbot. Minute owns sports and culture resources including athlete-driven The Players’ Tribune, the FanSided network of websites and newsletters, and sports highlights platform STN Video. Continue reading Minute Media Secures a 10-Year Future for Sports Illustrated

AI Video Startup Haiper Announces Funding and Plans for AGI

London-based AI video startup Haiper has emerged from stealth mode with $13.8 million in seed funding and a platform that generates up to two seconds of HD video from text prompts or images. Founded by alumni from Google DeepMind, TikTok and various academic research labs, Haiper is built around a bespoke foundation model that aims to serve the needs of the creative community while the company pursues a path to artificial general intelligence (AGI). Haiper is offering a free trial of what is currently a web-based user interface similar to offerings from Runway and Pika. Continue reading AI Video Startup Haiper Announces Funding and Plans for AGI

DeepMind and Academics Advance General Purpose Robots

“Robots are great specialists, but poor generalists,” according to Google DeepMind, which says models are typically trained for individual tasks, and changing a single variable can mean starting again from scratch. Now the London-based Alphabet subsidiary thinks it’s come up with a way to combine knowledge across robotics for a general purpose machine helper. In conjunction with 33 academic labs, Google DeepMind has pooled data from 22 different robot types to create the Open X-Embodiment dataset. Simultaneously, the group releases the RT-1-X robotics transformer (RT) model derived from RT-1. Continue reading DeepMind and Academics Advance General Purpose Robots

Nothing Phone 2, Starting at $599, Comes to the U.S. Today

London-based fashion phone company Nothing is bringing its second-generation Nothing Phone to the U.S. on July 17, starting at $599. With Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, the Phone 2 is being described as a solid entry in the mid-tier price range. Included is a 32-megapixel front camera, with Sony’s IMX890 the primary sensor. There are also two rear 50-megapixel sensors. The advanced 18-bit Image Signal Processor (ISP) allows the new model “to process camera data up to 4,000 times more than its predecessor,” the company says. Continue reading Nothing Phone 2, Starting at $599, Comes to the U.S. Today

Trendy Beat: TikTok Testing White Label In-App Online Store

TikTok is testing an in-app shopping feature in the UK called Trendy Beat. The products offered for sale are primarily things that have appeared in trending videos, like tools to remove pet hair from clothing or ear wax extractors. The items are shipped from China by Seitu, a Singapore-based subsidiary of TikTok parent ByteDance, according to recent reports. Trendy Beat offers a range of items manufactured and promoted by TikTok for which ByteDance keeps all proceeds. Its preexisting e-commerce pipeline, TikTok Shop, allows third-party vendors to sell merchandise in exchange for a commission to ByteDance. Continue reading Trendy Beat: TikTok Testing White Label In-App Online Store

Apple Is Planning Expansion and Updates to Retail Presence

Apple is reportedly planning at least 15 new retail stores in the Asia-Pacific market, as well as five more outlets in Europe and the Middle East, and four additional locations in North America. Initial reports indicate the expansion is expected to run through 2027 and will also include refurbishing or relocating existing stores in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Overall, the company is exploring 53 new, remodeled or relocated stores over the next four years. Revitalization of the 22-year-old retail operation arrives in the wake of Apple contending with the COVID-19 pandemic downturn and labor unrest at some of its locations. Continue reading Apple Is Planning Expansion and Updates to Retail Presence

National Security Pressure Continues to Build Against TikTok

Regulatory pressure continues to build against TikTok and the company’s Beijing-based owner. Another state has joined the federal fight to ban the short-form video app, with Virginia this month passing legislation prohibiting TikTok and WeChat from use on state government devices. Meanwhile, on Thursday Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) wrote Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen — who also chairs the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. — advising CFIUS  to “impose strict structural restrictions between TikTok’s American operations and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, including potentially separating the companies.” Continue reading National Security Pressure Continues to Build Against TikTok

Cook Hints Apple’s First realityOS Glasses Will Be AR, not VR

Despite speculation that Apple will debut a realityOS (rOS) headset next year, CEO Tim Cook says the metaverse is not yet ready for prime time, telling a European publication he’s “really not sure the average person can tell you what the metaverse is.” On a continental excursion that included a commencement address at the University of Naples Federico II in Italy, Cook appeared bullish on augmented reality, while downplaying virtual reality, the technology around which Meta Platforms is building its future. “I think AR is a profound technology that will affect everything,” Cook told the magazine Bright. Continue reading Cook Hints Apple’s First realityOS Glasses Will Be AR, not VR

Tech Firms Seek Energy Alternatives to Power Data Centers

Hotter temperatures are not only wreaking havoc on residential electric bills and power grids, but also on data centers, which are looking for reliable green backup power to prepare for “the new normal” and keep our planet’s collective knowledge accessible online through record heat. Cooling system failures resulting from the UK’s July heatwave resulted in Google Cloud’s London data centers going offline for a day, creating a ripple effect for customers as far off as the U.S. and in the Pacific region. Oracle’s London cloud-based data center was also impacted by what the company called “unseasonal temperatures.” Continue reading Tech Firms Seek Energy Alternatives to Power Data Centers

Spotify Announces Plan to Acquire AI Voice Startup Sonantic

Spotify will acquire London-based startup Sonantic, a company that creates realistic human voices from text using a proprietary AI engine. Sonantic made a recent high-profile contribution to pop culture by providing the means to simulate actor Val Kilmer’s voice in Paramount’s summer blockbuster “Top Gun: Maverick.” The move expands the music and podcasting streamer to expand into audio technology with broad implications. Spotify vice president of personalization Ziad Sultan says the technology will be integrated into the main platform to allow the company “to engage users in a new and even more personalized way.” Continue reading Spotify Announces Plan to Acquire AI Voice Startup Sonantic

Pixalate Raises $18.1M to Combat Click Tricks and Ad Fraud

Analytics firm Pixalate has announced $18.1 million in growth capital for connected TV and mobile advertising initiatives. The new round brings total capital raised to $22.7 million for the 9-year-old firm, which specializes in fraud prevention, privacy protection and legal compliance via offices in Santa Monica, Palo Alto and London. The move comes as Pixalate rises to meet the challenges of enterprise clients fending off bot attacks, ad fraud and other malicious threats. Malware incursions by intruders like Puppeteer siphon tens of millions of dollars in annual ad revenue, according to Pixalate. Continue reading Pixalate Raises $18.1M to Combat Click Tricks and Ad Fraud

SpaceX Starlink Internet Slated to Go Live Globally in August

Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) has already launched 1,500+ satellites for Elon Musk’s broadband Internet network Starlink that is currently available in about a dozen countries. According to Musk, who spoke at the Mobile World Congress this week, Starlink will be beaming Internet everywhere in the world except polar regions by August. He added that Starlink should have about 500,000 users within the next 12 months and that SpaceX will have invested between $5 billion and $10 billion before cash flow becomes positive. Continue reading SpaceX Starlink Internet Slated to Go Live Globally in August