Startup Using AI to Help Create Effects for Movies, TV, Games

Palo Alto-based startup Arraiy is developing methods for automating part of the often-tedious process of producing visual effects for movies, TV shows and video games. “Filmmakers can do this stuff, but they have to do it by hand,” said CTO Gary Bradski, who has worked with tech companies such as Intel and Magic Leap. The Arraiy team, led by Bradski and CEO Ethan Rublee, “are building computer algorithms that can learn design tasks by analyzing years of work by movie effects houses,” reports The New York Times. “That includes systems that learn to ‘rotoscope’ raw camera footage, carefully separating people and objects from their backgrounds so that they can be dropped onto new backgrounds.” Continue reading Startup Using AI to Help Create Effects for Movies, TV, Games

At CES 2018, Attendees Can Hail a Lyft/Aptiv Autonomous Car

At CES 2018, Lyft and Aptiv, a self-driving software company, will offer rides to show attendees in its automated ride hailing service (with a safety driver in the front seat). The goal, say the two companies, is to “accelerate the availability of automated driving platforms for commercial applications,” by operating in a complex environment such as the Las Vegas metro area. Aptiv is a subsidiary of Delphi Automotive, which split into two companies to emphasize its capabilities in self-driving technologies. Continue reading At CES 2018, Attendees Can Hail a Lyft/Aptiv Autonomous Car

Facebook Buys AI Startup Ozlo to Improve Virtual Assistant M

Facebook just acquired Ozlo, a small AI startup founded four years ago and based in Palo Alto, California. The social media giant made the purchase in order to improve Messenger’s virtual assistant, dubbed M. Ozlo describes its product as “an index of knowledge about the real world,” which implies that a user could ask questions and receive answers about a wide range of topics. The company has 30 employees, and a majority of them will be joining Facebook’s Messenger teams in Menlo Park, California and Seattle, Washington. Continue reading Facebook Buys AI Startup Ozlo to Improve Virtual Assistant M

Ford Pursues Self-Driving Tech, Invests $1 Billion in AI Startup

The Ford Motor Company is extending its foray into self-driving car technology with a $1 billion investment in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence startup. The newly formed startup, led by former Google and Uber self-driving experts, will initially develop the technology for Ford before licensing it to other companies. The move is part of Ford’s strategy to rebrand itself as more than a car manufacturer. The billion-dollar investment will roll out over the next five years. Argo AI will become a subsidiary of Ford that operates out of Pittsburgh, one of the main hubs of autonomous driving research. Continue reading Ford Pursues Self-Driving Tech, Invests $1 Billion in AI Startup

Google to Expand Tests of Wireless Internet to 24 Locations

Google has been testing its wireless-transmission technology using the 3.5 GHz band in Kansas City. Now, a redacted Federal Communications Commission filing reveals that the company has plans to set up its experimental transmitters for 24 months at up to 24 locations in the U.S., including Provo, Utah; Omaha, Nebraska; and Boulder, Colorado. The filing shows that Google is asking for authorization to operate in the range of 3.4 to 3.8 GHz, relying on newly available spectrum. Continue reading Google to Expand Tests of Wireless Internet to 24 Locations

Artists Say ‘Safe Harbor’ is a Shield for Copyright Infringement

As revenue from streaming rose 29 percent last year, artists and the recording industry are renewing their effort to get the U.S. Copyright Office to take a second look at the “safe harbor provisions” of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They say that places the onus on policing copyright infringement on them, protecting services such as YouTube where copyrighted material is uploaded without permission. Katy Perry, Billy Joel and Rod Stewart are among the artists who have put a public face on the debate. Continue reading Artists Say ‘Safe Harbor’ is a Shield for Copyright Infringement

Investment from Media Firms Brings Jaunt’s Funding to $100M

As interest in virtual reality heats up across industries, a number of international media players — including Disney, Sky, Axel Springer, ProSiebenSat.1 Media, China Media Capital and Evolution Media Partners (backed by TPG and Creative Artists Agency) — are investing $65 million in Palo Alto-based VR startup Jaunt. The investment follows other high-profile moves in immersive tech: Google joined venture funds in investing $542 million in Magic Leap last year, and Oculus VR raised $75 million before Facebook picked up the company for $2 billion. Continue reading Investment from Media Firms Brings Jaunt’s Funding to $100M

Should We Expect a Fiat-Apple Partnership in the Near Future?

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne recently commented that he would be open to the possibility of developing a partnership between his auto company and one of the major tech companies. Apple, which has already begun the process of developing an electric car, seems like a logical fit for such a partnership. During Apple’s most recent annual shareholder meeting, CEO Tim Cook was reportedly urged by investors to explore the idea of partnering with Tesla Motors. Continue reading Should We Expect a Fiat-Apple Partnership in the Near Future?

BetterWorks Designed to Track and Improve Work Efficiency

Palo Alto-based BetterWorks, a company with funding and public support from venture capitalist John Doerr, has developed software that not only measures worker performance but also helps employees set individual goals to become more efficient in the workplace. The company’s software makes use of tactics and practices found in social media, fitness trackers and video games to encourage employees to set and accomplish goals in a process that is transparent to bosses and co-workers. Continue reading BetterWorks Designed to Track and Improve Work Efficiency

Security: Government Urges Removing Superfish from Laptops

Some Lenovo laptops that have shipped since August include a pre-installed adware program known as Visual Discovery by Superfish. While Superfish is designed to serve ads, it reportedly does so in a dangerous way that leaves users vulnerable to hackers. While Lenovo claims that it has investigated the tech and does “not find any evidence to substantiate security concerns,” Internet security analysts suggest a major problem still exists. The Department of Homeland Security warns that Superfish makes users vulnerable to SSL spoofing. Continue reading Security: Government Urges Removing Superfish from Laptops

Thinfilm and Xerox Pursue Printed Electronics for IoT Chips

Thinfilm — a Norwegian tech firm with 90+ employees that also does business as Thin Film Electronics USA — has a deal with Xerox to produce electronic chips that print their features atop thin surfaces. Thinfilm could manufacture up to a billion “printed electronics” chips per year for memory, processors, and sensors designed for connected devices and objects as part of the Internet of Things. The company envisions significant cost savings and increased efficiency in teaming “smart labels” with connectivity tech such as NFC and the Internet-connected cloud. Continue reading Thinfilm and Xerox Pursue Printed Electronics for IoT Chips

Social: Facebook Acquires Startup with Siri-Like Technology

Facebook has reportedly acquired Wit.ai, a Palo Alto-based startup with an API that allows developers to make use of voice recognition and natural language processing technology for their products. Although Facebook has not yet disclosed any details about Wit moving forward, it seems that the social network’s instant messaging app Messenger will likely be a part of the plan. The voice recognition technology that Wit provides Facebook is in line with that of Apple’s Siri. Continue reading Social: Facebook Acquires Startup with Siri-Like Technology

Artec Ships 3D Body Scanning Booths for Replicas and More

Artec, a Luxembourg-based 3D scanning company, began shipping 3D body scanners that capture every detail of individuals before allowing users to order mini replicas of themselves. The Shapify Booth, featuring multiple rotating scanners, captures the image in around 12 seconds. During a one-week test, 1,000 people were scanned so that replicas could be created. The results led to the Walmart-owned U.K. supermarket chain Asda to purchase 10 booths, which cost $180,000 each.  Continue reading Artec Ships 3D Body Scanning Booths for Replicas and More

HP to Split PC, Printer Ops from Corporate Hardware, Services

Hewlett-Packard reportedly plans to split its company into two parts, separating its personal computer and printer businesses from its corporate hardware and services operations. According to insiders, the company is expected to outline the plans today. A number of large companies have recently split, in an effort to better mange different growth profiles. The anticipated HP division could result in two publicly traded companies, with each entity worth in excess of $50 billion in annual revenue. Continue reading HP to Split PC, Printer Ops from Corporate Hardware, Services

Internet of Things: Samsung Purchases Startup SmartThings

ETCentric community member Lee Lanselle forwarded us news that Samsung has acquired SmartThings, maker of smart-home controllers, for around $200 million. While SmartThings will continue to operate independently under CEO Alex Hawkinson, its three facilities are expected to move to Palo Alto to become part of Samsung’s Open Innovation Center (run by former Google and AOL exec David Eun). SmartThings, which is owned by Physical Graph Corp., began in 2012 as a Kickstarter project. Continue reading Internet of Things: Samsung Purchases Startup SmartThings

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